Colorado Capitol Report

The Colorado Chamber-Opposed Bill to Allow Workers Unfettered Access to Personnel Files Dies in the House

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CACI-Opposed Bill to Allow Workers Unfettered Access to Personnel Files Dies in the House

Yesterday, on Second Reading, the House voted to “lay over” HB-1342 until May 11th.  The session must end by midnight Wednesday, May 6th.  In effect, the bill is now dead.

The bill was sponsored by Representative Joe Salazar (D-Commerce City), a consistent, outspoken proponent of unfunded mandates and increased taxes on businesses this session.

“This bill represented yet-another arrow shot at employers this session by some House Democrats who seem intent on hamstringing the ability of employers and workers to freely and privately agree on the terms of employment,” said Loren Furman, CACI Senior Vice President, State and Federal Governmental Relations,” but, fortunately, some members of the House Democratic Caucus were opposed to the bill.”

The CACI Labor and Employment Council voted on April 15th to oppose the bill.

On April 16th, the House Judiciary Committee, amended and approved HB-1342 on a party-line, 7-6 vote, which sent the measure to the House Floor for Second Reading.  Loren testified against the bill before the Committee.

Here’s how the non-partisan fiscal note summarized the introduced bill:

Summary of Legislation

The bill allows a current or former employee to make a written request to inspect or request copies of his or her personnel file from his or her private-sector employer. The employer must comply within 30 days of the request. The state of Colorado, state political subdivisions, and financial institutions are exempt from this requirement. If the inspection occurs in person, it must take place during regular business hours at a location at or near the employer’s offices. If copies

are mailed to the employee, the employer must certify in writing the accuracy of the copies and the employee may be required to pay reasonable duplication costs.

An employer is not required to permit personnel file inspection more than once a calendar year, unless: the first request was while the employee was actively employed and the second request is after separation; or a disciplinary action was taken against the employee. The employee may provide written rebuttal information to the employer to be added and retained in the personnel file. This rebuttal must accompany any transmittal or disclosure of the personnel file to a third-party. If an employer fails to comply with these requirements, the following remedies are available:

  • personnel information not included in an inspection or copy may not be used by the employer during a judicial or quasi-judicial proceeding;
  • the employee is entitled to attorney fees if his or her civil action to obtain a court order requiring the production of personnel file documents prevails;
  • in any of these cases, a court or administrative law judge has the discretion to impose a penalty of up to $100 per day to be paid by the employer to the employee each day after the 30th day that the employer failed to comply with the employee’s written request; and
  • a court or administrative law judge may also impose additional penalties, not to exceed $10,000, if the employee can demonstrate an employer’s intent to conceal personnel file documents.

CACI members with questions or comments about HB-1142 should contact Loren at 303.866.9642.

For news media coverage of this measure and related bills being advanced by anti-business, progressive House Democrats, read:

Proposed new employer mandates worry Colorado business groups,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, April 9th.

Bill to Provide Tax Incentives for Data-Centers Tax Survives . . .Only to be Studied

In its introduced form, HB-1158 would have provided limited tax refunds to refurbished and new data centers, which are at the center of state economic development wars because the capitol-intensive centers are used to store corporate “cloud data.”

CACI and its business allies had worked for a year to create the bill, which would have provided sales-and-use tax refunds to companies that put at least $20 million into refurbishing or building a data center.  The state’s economic development community argued that HB-1158 would make Colorado more competitive among other states in attracting data centers.

In the House, the bill’s bi-partisan sponsors were House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso (D-Loveland) and H.ouse Assistant Majority Leader Dan Pabon (D-Denver)

The Achilles tendon of the bill all along, because of the state’s budget constraints, had been the fiscal note because, even with a ceiling of up to $3 million per refund per firm, the total loss of tax revenue to the state, according to the fiscal note, was estimated to be $10.4 million in fiscal year 2016-2017 and, five years later, $18.5 million in fiscal year 2021-2022.

On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee amended the bill, making it into a study, and sent it to the House Floor, where it was debated, amended some more and then passed on Second Reading yesterday.  Today, the House approved the bill on final, Third Reading, which sends it to the Senate.  The first committee to pass the bill was the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee.

The final House version of the bill directs the legislature’s Joint Technology Committee to study the issue and report to the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee as to whether or not Colorado should provide tax incentives to the data center industry.

The bill’s fiscal note, issued after the bill was amended and passed by the House Finance Committee, explains how that version of HB-1158 would have worked:

Summary of Legislation

This fiscal note has been revised based on an amendment approved by the House Finance committee and new information about expenditures from the Department of Revenue. This bill creates a sales and use tax refund for equipment used in qualified data centers. The refund can be claimed for sales and use taxes paid on equipment like computers, cables, switches, climate control, power generation, and back up power. The refund is available for sales and use taxes paid on equipment on or after January 1, 2016. The refund must be claimed between January 1 and April 1 in the year following the year when the sales taxes were paid. The maximum refund is $3 million per year, per taxpayer. In addition to the owner or operator of a data center, tenants making qualified purchases are also eligible to claim a refund.

Data centers must meet certain requirements for the equipment to be eligible for the refund and the Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) must certify that those requirements are met. To qualify as a new data center, it must be at least 25,000 square feet and have at least $40 million in investments in a five-year period beginning January 1, 2011. A qualified refurbished data center must include 25,000 square feet and have a $20 million investment in a two-year period, beginning on January 1, 2014. Investments made prior to December 31, 2015 can be used to qualify as a new or refurbished data center, but no sales tax refunds are allowed on these purchases. Once a data center is certified by the OEDIT, it retains its status as a qualified data center for 20 years. As amended, a data center can only qualify for one 20-year period. Each year, the OEDIT is required to report to the General Assembly the economic benefits of the state sales and use tax exemption on IT equipment used in data centers.

CACI members with questions about HB-1158 should contact Loren Furman, CACI Senior Vice President, State and Federal Relations.

For news media coverage of this bill, read:

Tax break proposal for Colorado data centers runs out of juice,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, April 22nd.

Counting Down the Days: Legislature Must Adjourn on May 8th

Today is the 108st day of the 120-day long, first regular session of the 70th General Assembly.

The legislature must adjourn by midnight, Wednesday, May 8th.  There are only eight working days left in the session after today.

As of this morning, legislators have introduced 654 bills: 377 in the House and 277 in the Senate.

CACI’s legislative agenda stands at 52 bills plus one House Concurrent Resolution.

For information on CACI’s lobbying agenda, contact Loren Furman, Senior Vice President, State and Federal Governmental Relations, at 303.866.9642.

In addition to the bills on the CACI legislative agenda, the CACI lobbying team monitors many more bills for their potential impact on the business community.

CACI-Advocated Senate Bill to Repeal 2013 Anti-Discrimination Law Dies in House Committee

The effort this legislative session by CACI and its business allies to either repeal or amend the 2013 anti-discrimination law, which targeted small businesses, has come to an end, but the result is not what CACI desired.  Unfortunately, the law will remain on the books for the foreseeable future.

One might think that a bill dealing with workplace-discrimination issues would have been assigned by House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst (D-Boulder) to the Judiciary Committee or perhaps to the Business Affairs and Labor Committee.

But such thinking–once again this session–would be incorrect.  The Speaker sent it to her “kill committee.”

On Monday, the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee on a bipartisan, 9-5 vote, effectively killed SB-69, which would have repealed the “Job Protection and Civil Rights Enforcement Act of 2013.”

The measure’s House sponsor, Representative Kevin Priola (R-Henderson), asked the Committee to “postpone indefinitely” SB-69 because, according to an article by statehouse reporter Ed Sealover of The Denver Business Journal, he knew the bill would be killed on a party-line vote by the Committee.

Three Republican lawmakers—Danny Thurlow (Grand Junction), Jack Tate (Centennial) and Yeulin Willett (Grand Junction) then joined the majority Democrats to lay over the bill until June 1st.  The session ends May 6th.

The law was enacted in 2013 when the Democratically-controlled legislature passed HB-1136 and sent it to Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper, who signed it into law.  CACI asked Governor Hickenlooper to veto the bill.  The bill took effect January 1, 2015.

Before HB-1136 became law, state employment law covered all sizes of employers and prohibited employment-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  Workers in small businesses, which are defined as firms with 14 or fewer employees, and employees who claim discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, were not covered by Federal law.

HB-1136 as current law provides the same forms of relief–compensatory and punitive damages—that are available under Federal law.

According to SB-69’s fiscal note, a worker who proves to the Colorado Civil Rights Division (CCRD) “workplace discrimination on the basis of disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, age, national origin, or ancestry may seek equitable relief (e.g., reinstatement) or an award of back pay and prospective earnings.”  The fiscal note then states:

“In cases of intentional discrimination, and subject to certain limits, HB 13-1136 permits an employee who has prevailed at the CCRD. . . . to pursue compensatory and punitive damages in state court.”

Colorado State and local government workers, however, cannot seek punitive damages under HB-1136, but they can seek compensatory damages and the other remedies mentioned above.

Noted advocates of HB-1136 were the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association and the Colorado Employment Plaintiff Lawyers Association, and they also opposed SB-69.

CACI has worked tirelessly for the last two years to either repeal the 2013 law or lessen its impact on small employers.  Small companies were exempted from similar awards under Federal law because the cost of defending against a discrimination lawsuit can put a firm out of business.  In addition, CACI has argued that existing law, CRS 13-21-102, already provides plaintiffs with the opportunity to pursue punitive damages.

A House bill, HB-1172, which would have removed the punitive-damages provision from the 2013 law, died in February at the hands of the House Judiciary Committee.  CACI supported the bill.

CACI members with questions about this issue should contact Loren Furman, CACI Senior Vice President, State and Federal Relations.

For news media coverage of this issue and additional information, read:

Effort ends to soften impact of discrimination lawsuits on small businesses,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, April 21st.

House Bill to Eliminate Punitive Damages from Controversial 2013 Law Dies in Committee,” CACI Colorado Capitol Report, February 20th.

Senate Bill to Repeal Controversial 2013 Anti-Discrimination Law Clears First Hurdle,” CACI Colorado Capitol Report, February 13th.


News Media Coverage

Below is recent news-media coverage of state and federal political, policy and governmental issues of interest to CACI:

Colorado House advances testing reduction bill House Bill 1323,” by Eric Gorski, The Denver Post, April 24th.

Gov’s TABOR plan draws lukewarm reception,” by Marianne Goodland, The Colorado Statesman, April 24th.

Former governors back Hick on student testing standards,” by Vic Vela, The Colorado Statesman, April 24th

Legislature to consider if Colorado should help small-business employees save for retirement,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, April 24th.

Colorado road funding bill gets first approval – but hits troubling opposition,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, April 23rd.

Construction-defects bill sent to Colorado House ‘kill committee,’” by John Aguilar and Joey Bunch, The Denver Post, April 22nd.

Tax break proposal for Colorado data centers runs out of juice,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, April 22nd.

Alternative construction-defects reform package is coming from Colorado Democrats,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, April 21st.

Hickenlooper puts up roadblock to $3.5 billion Colorado highway-funding bill,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, April 20th.