Colorado Capitol Report

Opening Day Speeches from Legislative Leadership Call for Bipartisanship, Common Ground

Opening Day Speeches from Legislative Leadership Call for Bipartisanship, Common Ground

On Wednesday, January 8, leadership of the Colorado General Assembly gave opening remarks on the first day of the 2020 Legislative Session, setting the tone for the months ahead. Broadly, the House Speaker, Senate President, and Minority Leaders of the House and Senate called for lawmakers to come together for the good of all Coloradans. They often criticized the deep partisanship of Washington, DC and the divisiveness of national politics, hoping that both sides of the aisle in Colorado can come to the table.

Issues critical to the business community were addressed by both parties, from paid family leave to health care to transportation and more.

House Speaker KC Becker emphasized the need to “create a more just economy and to make our state affordable for all.” She called on the House to come forward with any and all ideas that will improve the lives of Coloradans.

Speaker Becker laid out several policy priorities for the 2020 legislative session, including lowering the cost of prescription drugs, ending capital punishment, addressing climate change, responsible gun ownership, school safety and mental health initiatives.

She also made it clear that paid family and medical leave is one of her top priorities.

“Last year we promised to deliver on paid family leave. We brought our state closer than it’s ever been to guaranteeing that every working Coloradan can take the time off they need to care for a loved one or a newborn without fear of financial ruin,” Speaker Becker said. “The time is now. We need stakeholders on every side of the issue to return to the discussion and work out a paid family leave program that is fiscally sustainable, workable for business, and makes a real difference for working families.”

Last year’s paid family leave legislation failed due to concerns about the solvency of the program. The Colorado Chamber questioned the cost projections, worried the total cost was vastly underestimated compared to similar programs in other states. Lawmakers tapped the breaks and instead created a task force to study the program further. The Family and Medical Leave Task Force submitted its final report to the legislature earlier this week – with a total cost of up to $2.3 billion per year for the maximum amount of benefits.

Speaker Becker also called for “actual solutions to invest more in transportation.”

“This session, we will once again face the challenge of finding new money to invest in our state’s transportation system. Over the past few years we’ve made great strides to make multi-year commitments and find creative ways to set aside a significant amount of funding for transportation. But there is no secret pot of money hiding in the couch cushions; continuing these investments remains a challenging issue,” the speaker said.

House Minority Leader Patrick Neville cautioned against expensive policies coming from Majority Democrats and how they would impact Coloradans, businesses, and communities.

“A large and money-hungry state government takes the shine off national prosperity. When a government demands more in taxes (whether they’re called taxes or fees), workers have less to share with their children, their families, and their communities. Their incentive to work shrinks,” Rep. Neville said.

Education was a key focus of Rep. Neville’s remarks, noting that it accounts for 37 percent of the state budget with $14,000 allotted per student.

“One area where we’re not prospering is education. There are many great teachers and schools in Colorado. And every year we’re spending more on them,” Rep Neville said. “…The vast majority of our caucus has signed up for education bills this year with a twist: to give parents and their students more choice, to prioritize spending and make better choices for our children. To put students and their families first. These are the values Coloradans support because they know our children will benefit.”

The House Minority Leader was critical of the “one-sided legislation” that came out of the 2019 legislation, particularly the policies that were perceived as anti-business.

“When it comes to business, people should know that we don’t regard business as the enemy of the people. Businesses are the employers of the people. Businesses are the people,” Rep Neville said.

Referring to the conflict between Republicans and Democrats last session, Senate President Leroy Garcia asked lawmakers to put aside partisanship, work together, and find common ground this year.

“I believe we will follow in Colorado’s tradition of coming together to solve this State’s pressing challenges,” Sen. Garcia said.

Sen. Garcia touched on everything from the cost of health care, climate change, affordability issues and higher education. He also mentioned the need for paid family leave in Colorado, but did not elaborate on the specifics of a proposal.

“It is time that we attack the root of the problem and address predatory practices that keep our people in debt, limit their power as workers, and take them from their families during times of need,” Sen. Garcia said. “We need to defend our residents from these injustices and ensure that they are afforded the protections every Coloradan deserves. This means opportunity for affordable higher education, stable housing, and paid family leave. It also means access to quality teachers, job training, and a streamlined transportation system.”

Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert defended the procedural mechanisms Republicans used last session to slow the process on some bills.

“Last year, amidst the furious pace of our first regular session together, we were reminded of other requirements found in the Colorado constitution. Mr. President, while it is understandable that members of the Majority might feel frustration toward the tenacity with which the Minority approached debate last session, it was nonetheless disappointing to hear those principled efforts described as ‘children throwing temper tantrums.’”

Sen. Holbert focused on the importance of dedicating general revenue funding for transportation, pointing out that failed efforts to create new sources of revenue or raise taxes, like Proposition CC last year, failed because voters want a greater return for their tax dollars.

“It is disappointing to find only fifty million dollars coming from the General Fund to address our transportation needs,” Sen. Holbert said. “That is actually a decrease of $250 million from our bi-partisan efforts last session. Members, especially to those who serve on the Joint Budget Committee, let’s please dedicate ourselves to maintaining at least $300 million for roads and bridges in the 2020-2021 budget. It isn’t a matter of taking those dollars from somewhere else. No, in this case, it is simply a matter of leaving that dollar commitment where it is currently.”

He also made education a key issue in his remarks.

“During this session, Senate Republicans will introduce a package of education bills that are designed to make real, positive, changes to our public K-12 education system,” the senator said. “We will address school choice and innovation, taxpayer accountability and transparency, ways to better support great teachers, and ways to address the safety of students, teachers, and staff within our public schools. We are focusing on ways to improve delivery without necessarily asking for more money from taxpayers. We will respond to the taxpayers of Colorado by delivering better return for the increasing number of dollars they send to us.”

Gov. Polis Tackles Key Business Issues in State of the State

Gov. Jared Polis on Thursday delivered his annual State of the State address in a joint session of the Legislature. He expressed optimism for Colorado’s future and laid out his legislative agenda for the 2020 session.

Notably, the governor pushed for lower taxes on businesses and individuals in Colorado, touting the fact that the state income tax will go down to a historic low of 4.5%. He also announced a study group to look at broaden the base and lowering the tax rate to boost economic growth. The comments received applause from some Republicans and hesitation from fellow Democrats.

“In the spirit of collaboration, I am proud to announce today we will be creating a bipartisan study group to make our tax code more fair by looking at ways to broaden the base and lower the rate by the end of my first term, which will lead to more jobs, higher wages, and make balancing the family budget that much easier.”

Gov. Polis also made paid family and medical leave a priority, pushing for compromise and negotiation on the issue to get a bill passed. Last summer, the governor asked the Family and Medical Leave Task Force to consider a solution to the issue that is unique to Colorado, including a private party option for a paid leave program rather than a state mandate. He referenced that request again in his speech:

“I’m hopeful we can construct a unique Colorado solution that provides paid time off to many more Coloradans as soon as possible, without straining state resources or forcing taxpayers to bear the financial risk,” he said.

The governor outlined his proposal for a state public option in health care – a topic that many Colorado Chamber members are watching closely. He also criticized the “special interests” who are fighting the proposal.

“We know there are powerful special interests who have a financial stake in preserving the

current system. Colorado has the 2nd highest hospital profit margin in the country,” Gov. Polis said. “And Front Range hospitals with over $2 billion dollars in profits in 2018 are already using those profits from overcharging patients to run ads against legislation that could save families money… Of course those special interests are going to fight legislation that will bring some sanity to the pricing. But we don’t represent the special interests — we represent the people. And the people are crying out for relief from high health care costs.”

The Colorado Chamber will be closely monitoring all legislation impacting businesses in the 2020 Legislative Session. We look forward to working with the governor and lawmakers to make sure the business community’s voice is heard.

Colorado Bankers Association: 2020 state legislative session begins - what's in store for banks?

The Colorado Chamber’s partnerships with industry organizations are critical to legislative success, allowing us to present a unified front at the capitol on behalf of pro-business policies, and the Colorado Bankers Association (CBA) is a valued member in that effort.

Colorado banks employ tens of thousands of workers throughout the state, and CBA represents more than 90 percent of the $115 billion in assets within the 152 banks operating in Colorado. Jenifer Waller, who was recently announced as CBA’s new president, provided the following update on the 2020 legislative session:

The second regular session of the 72nd Colorado General Assembly kicked off on Wednesday, with 148 bills crossing the desk in the first hours of the 120-day lawmaking term.

During a CBA Government Affairs Committee later that day, CBA President Jenifer Waller noted that the session is expected to be fraught with challenges for the business community, including banks. CBA will continue representing the industry in opposing legislation regarding a state-owned bank, and working to protect the economy by making sure policy such as family medical leave insurance and data privacy is reasonable.

“After a tumultuous legislative session in 2019, we are optimistic that legislative leadership will guide members into more thoughtful stake-holding work to produce more bi-partisan solutions. Already members from both sides are working to find solutions for more transportation funding and ways to balance the state budget. The banking industry will be heavily involved with the myriad of legislation impacting businesses that we expect again in 2020 and continue to promote incentives rather than mandates and market-based solutions rather than government programs,” said CBA’s lead lobbyist Melanie Layton, of Colorado Legislative Solutions. “We’ve appreciated the legislature studying retirement savings options for employees in the private sector and expect an end product that will be a public-private partnership. In addition, the legislature is looking at increased financial literacy for high school students in Colorado. The banking community will work to protect the strong business climate in Colorado and looks forward to partnering with the business-minded legislative leaders in this state.”

Colorado Chamber of Commerce leadership made similar notes. “The business community in Colorado is currently facing an overwhelming amount of new costs due to well-intended, but expensive, policies coming from state and local lawmakers. From increasing minimum wage and new overtime rules to growing health care costs and a potential paid family leave mandate – any one of these policies alone could shutter the doors of businesses across the state. Looking ahead at the 2020 legislative session, we’re asking lawmakers to be mindful of all the new costs employers are incurring; to limit future burdens on business, and to help us sustain economic growth into the next decade,” said Loren Furman, senior vice president of state and federal relations for the Colorado Chamber of Commerce.

View the full newsletter from the Colorado Bankers Association here.

Sponsoring a Policy Council Meeting Gives You the Spotlight at our Exclusive Legislative Strategy Sessions

Sponsoring a Policy Council meeting puts you front and center with key legislators, government officials, and Colorado Chamber members.

 The following Councils are available to all our members:

  • Energy and Environment Council
  • HealthCare Council
  • Labor and Employment Council
  • Governmental Affairs Council
  • Tax Council

Each Council will meet at noon at the Colorado Chamber of Commerce office throughout the session. Lunch is served at each meeting. Sponsorship of council meetings by our members is crucial to maintaining the practice of providing lunch during these important council meetings. We need sponsors for every meeting, so we would like to encourage members to sign up now to sponsor a lunch! Sponsors receive recognition in both email reminders for the meeting and our online Events Calendar, as well as during the meeting. The Colorado Chamber of Commerce does all of the ordering and setup of the lunch and the sponsorship is always a flat rate of $650Please contact Laura Moss for more details or to sign up as a sponsor. We appreciate your ongoing support!

Please see the below for specific dates for each council. Councils always meet from Noon to 1:15 p.m. in our conference room at 1600 Broadway, Suite 1000.

2019-2020 Council Meeting Dates

Energy & Environment Council:
January 29, 2020
February 25, 2020
March 24, 2020
April 29, 2020

Governmental Affairs Council:
January 28, 2020
February 11, 2020
March 31, 2020
April 27, 2020

HealthCare Council:
December 17, 2019
January 16, 2020
February 13, 2020
March 12, 2020
April 16, 2020

Labor & Employment Council:
November 20, 2019
January 22, 2020
February 19, 2020
March 18, 2020
April 22, 2020

Tax Council:
January 17, 2020
February 7, 2020
March 6, 2020
April 17, 2020