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State Policy News
Legislative Session Concludes Today
The Second Regular Session of the Seventieth Colorado General Assembly will come to a close today as the legislature must adjourn “sine die”, according to the Colorado Constitution.
CACI’s legislative agenda totaled about 50 bills, with about one-third of those falling under the jurisdiction of the CACI Labor and Employment Council.
On Friday, CACI will issue its session summary, which will provide an overview of the session and then detail the fate of the bills that CACI lobbied either for or against. In addition, CACI took a “neutral” position on a few bills after working with the sponsors to amend the bills to CACI’s satisfaction.
For more information about the session and CACI’s legislative agenda, contact Loren Furman, CACI Senior Vice President, State and Federal Relations, at 303.866.9642.
Oil-and-Gas Issues and Bills Fuel Legislative Session
The on-going debate over the oil-and-gas industry continued during the 2016 session and it will probably continue right through the November 8th general election with at least one anti-industry ballot initiative.
Anti-industry activists introduced four bills, all of which died in the Senate:
- SB-129 sought to amend the statutory charge of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in order to focus the Commission on administrative enforcement and cease its current mission to foster the responsible development of oil and gas in Colorado;
- HB-1310 sought to vastly expand the risk of litigation and liability for harms alleged to be caused by oil-and-gas operators and included the creation of a new strict liability standard for damages or harm allegedly caused by industry-induced earthquakes;
- HB-1355 sought to allow local governments to usurp state authority in regulating oil-and-gas operations at the local level; and
- HB-1430 sought to impose a redundant mandate to force operators to disclose development-plan information to county-level governments.
Governor John Hickenlooper created his oil-and-gas task force in 2014 to prevent aggressive, anti-industry ballot initiatives from appearing on the ballot that year. Earlier this year, the recommendations from that task force resulted in the adoption of new rules for industry operators at the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
These new rules, however, have not prevented anti-industry activists from filing about ten ballot measure titles to severely limit or ban oil-and-gas industry activity. Although a number of ballot titles–including the most aggressive “frack ban” initiative–have been withdrawn, it remains highly likely that at least one anti-industry ballot measure will appear on this year’s ballot to impose strict limits on the industry that would have the effect of a de facto ban on production or create new local government authority to limit or ban industry activity regardless of existing state law.
For information about the oil-and-gas bills and ballot initiatives, contact Daniel O’Connell, CACI State Governmental Affairs Representative, at 303.866.9622.
Bill Publicly Disclosing Wage-Law Violations Dies in Senate Committee
On Friday, HB-1347, which would have allowed for the public disclosure of information concerning a company found to be in violation of state-wage laws, but only after all administrative and legal proceedings have been completed, died in the Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee on a party-line 5-to-4 vote.
The bill’s Senate sponsor was Senator Jessie Ulibarri (D-Commerce City).
- CACI worked with the House sponsor to ensure HB-1347 was amended to protect an employer’s confidential information if the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) issues a final determination of a wage violation and the determination becomes public.
- HB-1347 as amended would have treated information regarding a wage law violation as public record and an employer could designate information submitted to the division as proprietary, a trade secret, or privileged information as long as the director of the division is not bound by the employer’s designation. Additionally, before any information is released, the CDLE division’s director would have notified the employer of the potential release and an employer had 20 days to provide documentation showing that the information to be released represents a trade secret.
For more information about HB-1347, contact Loren Furman, CACI Senior Vice President, State and Federal Relations, at 303.866.9642.
For background information on HB-1347, read:
“House Passes Amended Bill to Publicly Disclose Wage-Violation Cases; CACI Takes ‘Neutral’ Position,” CACI Colorado Capitol Report, April 29th.
Senate Committee Kills CACI-Opposed Bill Levying Fee on Employers with Low-Wage Workers
Yesterday, the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee killed on a party-line 3-2 vote HB-1435, a bill that would have levied a fee on corporations employing 250 or more workers and paying them less than $12 per hour but not providing them with health-insurance benefits.
The bill was notable in that one of its co-sponsors was House Majority Crisanta Duran (D-Denver), who is widely considered by statehouse participants to become the House Speaker for the 2017 session. Speaker Dicky Lee Hullinghorst (D-Boulder) is term-limited and will step down when the legislature convenes in January. The other co-sponsor was Representative KC Becker (D-Boulder).
The CACI Governmental Affairs Council opposed the bill.
In brief, the purpose of the bill was to force corporations with low-wage workers enrolled in Medicaid to offset that cost to the State. Revenue from the fees—which would range from 25 cents to $1 per hour per low-wage worker–would have gone into a state-established “enterprise,” which would have been placed in the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, which houses the Colorado Medicaid program. To the degree that the “low-wage employer” provided health insurance to its workers, that expenditure would be credited by the enterprise against the fees owed by the employer to the enterprise
This fee would have clearly increased an employer’s labor costs, and it also would have imposed an unknown administrative cost on the employer to comply with HB-1435 with changes required to the employer’s payroll system. In any event, the added cost of HB-1435 would result in the employer either passing it along to its customers or seeing its net profit reduced, or both.
Before House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee testimony, Representative Becker said that the bill would prevent the corporations from “cost-shifting” the expense of providing health insurance to its workers to the State Medicaid program and that it would “level the playing field” between such corporations and those that do provide health insurance benefits to their workers.
Majority Leader Duran told the Committee that she blames these corporations for paying their workers “so little” that they are forced to go on Medicaid because the corporations do not provide health-insurance benefits. Underlying the bill is a “pooled risk concept,” Majority Leader Duran said, similar to that of other insurance products. She said she wants these corporations to “pay their fair share.”
The intellectual horsepower for HB-1435 came from the liberal/progressive Colorado Fiscal Institute.
For more information about HB-1435, contact Loren Furman, CACI Senior Vice President, State and Federal Relations, at 303.866.9642.
For background information on the bill, read:
“House Committee Approves Bill Levying Fee on Employers with Low-Wage Workers,” CACI Colorado Capitol Report, April 29th.
Here’s a summary of the bill contained in the non-partisan fiscal note
Summary of Legislation
This bill creates an employment-related public benefits enterprise (enterprise) as a government-owned business and type 1 agency within the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF). The enterprise’s stated purpose is to improve the health of low-wage workers and their families and thereby benefit low-wage employers by giving them access to a healthier pool of workers. The board of directors of the enterprise consists of seven members appointed by the Governor, representing employers, organized labor, workers receiving assistance under a state-subsidized health care assistance program, and advocates that provide or support health care services for low-income individuals. The bill specifies the various powers of the enterprise.
Employment-related public benefits fee. On and after January 1, 2017, the enterprise must impose a fee on all low-wage employers. For purposes of the fee, a low-wage employer is defined as any entity that employs 250 or more employees in Colorado and pays some of those employees $12 per hour or less (low-wage employees). The enterprise must set the fee as an amount reasonably calculated to reflect the benefit low-wage employers receive from the provision of state-subsidized health care assistance to low-wage employees, but the fee must be between
25 cents and one dollar per hour worked by each low-wage employee. A low-wage employer may credit health care expenditures to or on behalf of a low-wage employee against the fee for each low-wage employee’s hours. As long as the enterprise meets the constitutional requirements for enterprise status under the taxpayer’s bill of rights (TABOR), fee revenue does not count against the state fiscal year spending limit.
Employment-related public benefits fee fund. The employment-related public benefits fee fund (fund) is created in the state treasury, and all fee revenue and interest and income derived from the deposit and investment of the fund is credited to the fund. The enterprise may expend money from the fund to support and improve health care services provided to individuals who are eligible to receive services under the Colorado Medical Assistance Act and to defray its administrative expenses in implementing and administering provisions of the bill. No money in the fund may be transferred to any other state fund or department or agency of state government.
Prohibitions against retaliation. The bill prohibits employers from firing low-wage employees to avoid paying the fee or from deducting the amount of the fee from employees’ wages. The bill prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for whistleblowing or taking various other specified actions relating to implementation or enforcement of the bill. Such retaliation is defined as an unfair employment practice, and an employee retaliated against may file a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division within the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA). The attorney general and district attorneys are concurrently responsible for the enforcement of the bill.
State enterprises. TABOR defines an enterprise as “a government-owned business authorized to issue its own revenue bonds and receiving under 10 percent of annual revenue in grants from all Colorado state and local governments combined.” Because the share of revenue that an enterprise may receive from government sources is capped, enterprises are largely financially independent of core government agencies. Additionally, enterprises cannot levy taxes.
Type 1 agencies. A Type 1 agency is administered under the direction and supervision of its principal department; however, a Type 1 agency exercises its statutory powers, duties, and functions, including rule-making, independently of the executive director of its principal department. Any functions of a Type 1 agency not specifically established in statute, including all budgeting, purchasing, planning, and related management functions, are conducted under the direction and supervision of the executive director of its principal department.
For news media coverage of this bill, read:
“Bill to impose fee on companies that don’t offer health care passes 1st hurdle,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, April 28th.
“House Democrats take aim at corporations,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, April 6th.
Senate Sends Pregnancy-Accommodation Bill to Governor
The following seven Republican Senators voted for the bill:
- Bill Cadman (Colorado Springs)
- Larry Crowder (Salida)
- Beth Martinez Humenik (Thornton)
- Ellen Roberts (Durango)
- Mark Scheffel (Parker)
- Jack Tate (Centennial)
- Laura Woods (Arvada)
On Friday, the Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee endorsed the bill with a bipartisan 6-to-3 vote, which sent it to the Senate Floor for Second Reading debate. Republican Senators Jack Tate (Centennial) and Laura Woods (Arvada) voted for the bill. The Senate approved the bill on an unrecorded, Second Reading voice vote later that day.
Here is the description of the bill:
- CACI worked with the sponsors of this legislation for several months based on concerns with the introduced version of the bill. The amended version requires employers to engage in a timely, good-faith, interactive process when an employee or applicant requests reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy or physical recovery from childbirth. Reasonable accommodations may include:
- provision of more frequent or longer break periods;
- more frequent bathroom, food, or water breaks;
- acquisition or modification of equipment or seating;
- limitations on lifting;
- temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position or light duty, if available;
- assistance with manual labor or modified schedules, as long as certain conditions are met;
- If requested, employers must provide these accommodations to an applicant or an employee, unless the accommodations place an undue hardship on the employer’s business. “Undue hardship” is defined as an action requiring significant difficulty or expense to the employer.
- Employers must provide written notice of the right to be free from discriminatory or unfair
employment practices related to these requirements to new employees and existing employees within 120 days of the bill’s effective date, and they must post the notice in a conspicuous place.
- The bill also clarifies that it neither increases nor decreases an employee’s rights, under any
other law, to paid or unpaid leave associated with the employee’s pregnancy. The bill also specifies that a court must not award punitive damages in a civil action involving a claim of failure to make reasonable accommodations for conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth if the defendant demonstrated good faith efforts to comply with the requirement.
For more information about HB-1438, contact Loren Furman, CACI Senior Vice President, State and Federal Relations, at 303.866.9642.