In this Capitol Report:
Legislature Continues to Introduce New Bills During Limited Session…
Several new bills continue to be introduced and scheduled for legislative hearings now that the Colorado General Assembly has reconvened for the 2020 legislative session. The pace is unprecedented since the Legislature plans to recess sometime in mid-June and lawmakers are desperately trying to pass these bills during a very limited amount of time.
The Colorado Chamber and its allies in the business community have been urgently reaching out to lawmakers to address the concerns with these bills and to resolve the increased costs or administrative burdens these bills will have for Colorado businesses through the amendment process where possible. Below is the status of these bills and amendments that have been adopted thus far during this frenetic legislative process:
SB 216 – Workers Compensation Presumption
This bill shifts the legal burden of proof onto the employer for worker compensation (WC) claims associated with COVID-19. Applies to employees that work for construction companies; retail companies; medical providers; first responders; corrections; food processing and agricultural; nursing homes; utility services; airlines; residential care facilities; pharmacists; and public transportation. If a worker claims WC because they believe they contracted COVID-19 at the workplace, the employer must prove otherwise through clear & convincing evidence if an employer chooses to dispute the claim.
Council Position: Oppose
SB 207 –Unemployment Insurance
This bill as introduced cobbled together several different issues – some of which were important to the CO Department of Labor & Employment but others significantly altered current independent contractor statutes. The Colorado Chamber and many other business interests submitted comments and lobbied the bill sponsors and other members of the Legislature over the week in an effort to improve the bill. Amendments were adopted in the Senate Finance Committee that resolved those concerns.
Council Position: Neutral as Amended
SB 205 – Requiring Employers to Provide Sick Leave
SB 205 requires all Colorado employers to provide paid sick leave to their employees including during a pandemic. The Colorado Chamber submitted comments regarding concerns with the bill and lobbied the bill sponsors on our requested changes. The bill was passed this week with several amendments that address several of the concerns raised. Additional amendments will be offered when the bill is heard on Senate 2nd Reading on the Senate Floor.
Recommended Council Position: Amend
HB 1415 – Whistleblower Protections in Public Health Emergencies
This bill prohibits discriminating or retaliating against an employee who raises concerns about workplace safety practices or who voluntarily wears their own protective equipment. The bill also allows an employee to file a complaint with the Division of Labor standards and can bring a civil action in District Court after exhausting those administrative remedies.
Council Position: Pending
SB 218 – CDPHE Hazardous Substance Response – This bill as drafted requires fuel products manufacturers and distributors to pay a $25 per truckload fee to fund a PFAS substances grant program, fund a PFAS substances takeback program and creates such programs. The bill also creates new civil penalties for owners or operators of storage tanks at gasoline dispensing facilities who violate requirements to maintain a vapor collection system and for owners and operators of gasoline dispensing facilities who violate requirements to maintain records.
Council Position: Pending
Please contact Loren Furman@[email protected] with any questions regarding the above legislation.
Leaner State Budget Advances in Legislature
The Colorado House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a leaner version of the state budget, successfully cutting the $3.3 billion needed to make up for the shortfall caused by the pandemic. While the bulk of the budget cuts impact education and state agency funding, the business community was concerned about several provisions that might make it more difficult to recover from the current crisis. Lawmakers did, however, pass several amendments that were seen as a nod to the business community to help with Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund.
The fund is already on the brink of insolvency and will require higher payments from Colorado businesses to replenish, at a time when businesses are stretched thin as it is. Legislators amended the budget to direct any leftover state dollars from the CARES Act to help replenish the fund. The amendments also request future federal stimulus funds to support the fund. If there is CARES Act funding available, this could help reduce some of the potential UI premium increases that employers will experience in January 2021.
The budget now must pass the Colorado Senate. Read more about the draft budget impact on businesses in the Denver Business Journal.