In this Capitol Report:
- Democrat Legislative Leaders Cover the Legislative Waterfront at Colorado Business Day Luncheon
- “Equal Pay for Equal Work” Bill Sure to Stir up a Hornet’s Nest in the Colorado Employer Community
- Don't Miss Your Chance! Attend a Council Meeting and Hear from our Guest Speakers
- Be in the Know: Follow the Colorado Chamber on Social Media
- APCD Meeting Regarding Potential Adoption of Consumer Products and AIM Coatings VOC Standards
- Federal Policy Council dates for 2019 are here!
Democrat Legislative Leaders Cover the Legislative Waterfront at Colorado Business Day Luncheon
Yesterday, House Speaker KC Becker (D-Boulder) and Senate President Pro Tempore Lois Court (D-Denver) discussed a wide range of business issues before about 400 Chamber members and guests at the Ritz-Carlton Denver.
The issues ranged from oil-and-gas production and transportation funding to paid family-medical leave and the state’s complicated sales-and-use tax system. The discussion was moderated by veteran statehouse reporter Ed Sealover of The Denver Business Journal.
Perhaps the most newsworthy item from the discussion was the revelation by Speaker Becker that the Democrats are examining whether surplus TABOR revenue could be used for transportation and education, among other programs. The TABOR surplus is projected to be $350 million the current fiscal year ending June 30th and $700 million in the next fiscal year.
As Sealover noted later yesterday in his article:
Becker said she is still working with elected officials and private-sector leaders to determine exactly what the initiative would say and exactly when statewide voters would be asked to weigh in on it, but she said it’s taken a leading position now in the ongoing discussions about how to fund transportation and education after tax-hike initiatives for both areas got killed in the 2018 election.
Such a move to retain revenue above the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights cap could net the state $350 million it otherwise would have to refund from the current fiscal and as much as $700 million that is expected to be its revenue in excess of the cap in the fiscal year that begins on July 1, Becker told a crowd The Ritz-Carlton, Denver. However, any such plan is likely to meet significant opposition from Republicans, who have argued repeatedly that the Legislature should instead re-prioritize its budget, put more general-fund money to the Colorado Department of Transportation’s $8.5 billion infrastructure backlog and proceed with a $2.3 billion bond-sale initiative on the upcoming ballot that the House and Senate authorized last year.
“It’s money that voters are already giving to us. It’s money that they typically don’t notice us giving to them,” Becker said, referencing tax refunds of TABOR-cap excesses that can sometimes equal just a few dozen dollars. “This is one way where can at least, in the short term, and at a modest amount, address this.”
In addition to bills dealing with oil-and-gas production, Speaker Becker said the Democrats are looking an electric grid modernization, increasing renewable energy and boosting use of electric vehicles.
She wants “the best policy moving forward.” This would include giving local governments a greater role in decisions about the siting of new wells along with regulations to control noise, air pollution and traffic. In this regard, she wants to “empower” local governments.
Concerning the role of Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in the wake of the Martinez decision by the Colorado Supreme Court, Speaker Becker said that the Democrats want to increase public safety, health and environment to an “elevated presence” for the Commission.
The two Democrat lawmakers did not address the question, which Sealover asked, of whether they would support changing the mission of the Commission by statute this session to make public safety, health and the environment priority goals over the current statutory “balance.”
Senator Court said the Democrats recognize the contribution of energy production to the state and the number of workers in the sector, which generated audience applause. She said the Democrats will be “respectful” to the industry and “cognizant” of its economic contribution. “I get that,” she said.
Other topics to be addressed by the legislature’s Democrats include the composition of the Commission members, increasing the number of COGCC inspectors and examining their duties.
In response to a question from Chamber Treasurer Marvin Strait, Speaker Becker said the Democrats will not push a bill to increase the “setback” for oil and-gas wells, given that the voters resoundingly defeated the ballot measure last November to increase the setback to 2,500-feet.
Senator Court said she has not seen any bills yet on eliminating so-called business “tax expenditures,” i.e., exemptions, credits, etc. Last September, the State Auditor released a report as requested by the legislature that examined the efficacy of some tax expenditures.
Governor Polis told the Chamber members in his speech at the Colorado Business Day Luncheon that he favors eliminating tax expenditures that benefit ‘special interests.” He has not defined what he means by special interests.
Speaker Becker said that tax expenditures should be reviewed regularly to make sure “they are in the best interest of Colorado.” She said some of the tax expenditures studied by the State Auditor “are not used at all.” She favors “modernizing” tax expenditures.
Senator Court said she opposes tax expenditures because they have “made the tax code a grant program.” She added that she would like to put a “sunset” clause on tax expenditures to make sure that they are regularly reviewed by the State.
Concerning the brouhaha over new regulations issued in December by the Colorado Department of Revenue (DOR) in response to the Wayfair decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that have been met with loud objections from retailers, especially small ones, Speaker Becker said the DOR “is working hard to fix it.” She said the DOR has delayed implementation of the new rules until the end of May to “get firms on board.”
As a result of that work, this session, SB-6, the “Electronic Sales and Use Tax Simplification System” has been introduced by Senator Angela Williams (D-Denver). Here’s the Legislative Council’s summary of the bill:
Sales and Use Tax Simplification Task Force. The bill requires the department of revenue (department), within existing resources, to conduct a sourcing method in accordance with the applicable provisions of the procurement code, and any applicable rules, for the development of an electronic sales and use tax simplification system (system). The bill also requires the department to involve stakeholders to develop the scope of work.
The bill specifies that on and after the date the system is online the department is required to accept any returns and payments processed through the system for state sales and use tax and for any sales and use taxes that are collected by the department on behalf of any local taxing jurisdiction.
The bill specifies that it is the general assembly’s intent that a certain number of local taxing jurisdictions with home rule charters voluntarily use the system when the system comes online. Additionally, the bill states that it is the general assembly’s intent that all local taxing jurisdictions with home rule charters voluntarily use the system within a specified number of years.
Speaker Becker said that she wants stakeholders involved in discussions about a paid family-medical leave program and a retirement program for workers lacking access to employer retirement plans to “iron out their differences.” She said the Democrats are concerned about “everyday Coloradans” and how they can be helped by the State “to get ahead.” She said bills on these two topics “will not go anywhere” unless proponents negotiate compromises with the stakeholders.
Related Democrat bills will concern “ban the box,” which would require employers to remove from job application forms the question of whether an applicant has a criminal history and allowing local governments to increase the minimum wage above the state minimum wage.
The two Democrat legislative leaders pointed out that their caucus members neither need to show their bills to leadership in advance nor seek their approval. (The leaders have the power, however, to assign bills to committees, including the “kill committee”, which are the House and Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committees.)
Both legislators agreed about the need to reduce health-care costs. The Democrats, Speaker Becker said, are concentrating on increasing transparency of hospitals. Consumers have the right to know what procedures and drugs cost, she said. “Nowhere else do you buy something and not know what it costs,” she said.
Another concern is the high cost of health care in rural areas of the state, including the mountains, Speaker Becker said. One Democrat bill will deal with “reinsurance,” which died last year, she said.
“Equal Pay for Equal Work” Bill Sure to Stir up a Hornet’s Nest in the Colorado Employer Community
One of the more contentious bills being advanced by the legislature’s Democrats will surely be the “equal pay for equal work” measure, SB-85.
The bill actually bundles together several goals that the Democrats have pushed in recent past sessions in separate bills that died in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Called the “Equal Pay for Equal Work Act,” the legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Jessie Danielson (D-Wheat Ridge) and Brittany Pettersen (D-Lakewood). Some of the sponsors have expressed willingness to work with the Colorado Chamber on the language in the bill.
The bill has not yet been scheduled for its first hearing.
The Colorado Chamber’s Labor and Employment Council will discuss the proposal when it meets at 12 Noon, Wednesday, January 23rd, at the Chamber’s Office.
Here’ is the summary of the bill as stated in the introduced version:
The bill removes the authority of the director of the division of labor standards and statistics in the department of labor and employment (director) to enforce wage discrimination complaints based on an employee’s sex and instead permits an aggrieved person to bring a civil action in district court to pursue remedies specified in the bill.
The bill allows exceptions to the prohibition against a wage differential based on sex if the employer demonstrates that a wage differential is based upon one or more factors, including:
! A seniority system;
! A merit system; or
! A system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production.
The bill prohibits an employer from:
! Seeking the wage rate history of a prospective employee;
! Relying on a prior wage rate to determine a wage rate;
! Discriminating or retaliating against a prospective employee for failing to disclose the employee’s wage rate history; and
! Discharging or retaliating against an employee for actions by an employee asserting the rights established by the bill against an employer.
The bill requires an employer to announce to all employees employment advancement opportunities and job openings and the pay range for the openings. The director is authorized to enforce actions against an employer concerning transparency in pay and employment opportunities, including fines of between $500 and $10,000 per violation.
Allowing a worker to go to court over a “wage discrimination complaint” would open the flood-gates for lawsuits against employers. In addition, an employer would be barred from asking a job applicant about the individual’s “wage rate history.”
The employer would be required by SB-85 to “announce to all employees employment advancement opportunities and job openings and the pay range for the openings.” An employer who was found by the director of the labor standards division in the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment to have violated this provision would be subject to “fines of between $500 and $10,000 per violation.”
The bill could create barriers between the employer-worker, private-contract relationship. Faced with such a prospect of costly litigation, employers may reasonably choose to outsource work to decrease the prospect of facing lawsuits.
For more information on SB-85, contact Loren Furman, Chamber Senior Vice President for State and Federal Relations, at 303.866.9642.
Don't Miss Your Chance! Attend a Council Meeting and Hear from our Guest Speakers
HealthCare Council – February 14th
Guest Speaker: Lieutenant Governor Dianne Primavera
Labor & Employment Council – January 23rd
Guest Speaker: Senator Angela Williams, Chair of Senate Business, Labor & Technology Committee and Chair of the Legislative Business Caucus
The Labor & Employment Council will have a discussion on the following legislation:
- HB 1025 by Reps. Herod & Melton – Limits on Job Applicant Criminal History Requirements
- SB 085 Equal Pay for Equal Work Act
- HB 1058 by Rep. Landgraf – Income Tax Benefits for Family Leave;
- Update on 2019 Family Medical Leave Insurance legislation & coalition meetings;
- SB 086 to modify the Colorado Business Corporation Act
- HB 1096 by Rep. Melton – Right to Rest
Visit our online calendar for a complete list of council meetings.
APCD Meeting Regarding Potential Adoption of Consumer Products and AIM Coatings VOC Standards
The Air Pollution Control Division is considering the potential adoption of volatile organic compound (VOC) standards for consumer products and architectural and industrial maintenance (AIM) coatings manufactured or sold in Colorado.
The APCD is holding a public meeting on January 28, 2019, to discuss and hear comments on the potential adoption of consumer products and AIM coatings VOC standards. If you would like to attend this meeting, you can register here.
For more information, please visit the APCD website here.
Federal Policy Council dates for 2019 are here!
August – Congressional Reception Date TBD
Want to see your logo next to these Fed Council alerts? We do too!
Contact Laura Moss, LMoss@COchamber.com, (303) 866-9652 or Leah Curtsinger, Lcurtsinger@COchamber.com, (303) 866-9641 for more information about sponsorships and/or policy issues of interest for future council meetings.