In this Capitol Report:
Update: Colorado Chamber and Members Continue to Fight Massive Tax Increase at Capitol
As lawmakers work to fast-track House Bill 1420 – which would increase taxes on businesses large and small in the middle of the worst economic crisis in decades – the Colorado Chamber and its members have banded together in hopes of stopping the bill. It passed through the House on Thursday and is currently making its way through the Senate.
The Colorado Chamber and its members have a long history of working with both sides of the aisle at the capitol and providing constructive feedback to improve legislation, even when we disagree with it. Over the last several months, the Colorado Chamber has been involved in weekly discussions with leadership from both chambers to discuss ways to work together in these challenging times. Unfortunately, the legislative steps that have taken place on this bill did not include the input of employers on one of the most significant business bills of the session.
Unfortunately, this bill is the most damaging pieces of legislation introduced during the 2020 Session. Loren Furman, senior vice president of state and federal relations for the Colorado Chamber, testified in the House Finance Committee on Tuesday evening to express concerns about process and policy.
“The advocates of this bill and the sponsors are claiming that this is about ending handouts for big corporations,” she continued. “That’s completely inaccurate.”
Furman went on to explain that the 199A deduction was specifically created for small businesses, and the Net Operating Loss deduction is also used by small businesses that are making investments in employees, equipment or improvements. She also explained the Colorado Chamber’s significant concern with eliminating the energy manufacturing exemption for businesses, which has been in statute for decades and ensures that businesses are not double-taxed.
Thanks to the aggressive outreach of Colorado Chamber businesses, public officials are raising serious concerns about HB 1420. Gov. Jared Polis has also expressed skepticism about the wisdom of raising taxes on businesses in this current economic climate.
If you haven’t already, please consider taking a few minutes to send an email to your state senator using our easy outreach tool. Stopping this bill is the top priority of the Colorado Chamber right now and we will continue to update our members about the bill’s progress.
Costly Workers Compensation Bill Dies in the Legislature in Major Victory for Business Community
Bills in the General Assembly are moving at a rapid pace as lawmakers close out the end of the legislative session. With a global pandemic and economic crisis setting the stage for difficult debates and negotiations, several costly bills have been introduced under the guise of “coronavirus relief” that could make it increasingly difficult for businesses and their employees to recover.
One of those bills, Senate Bill 216, was successfully killed by the Colorado Chamber and members of the business community on Wednesday. The bill would have shifted the burden of proof in workers compensation claims on employers, creating a presumption that essential workers contracted the virus on the job and requiring employers to prove, at an incredibly high standard of “clear and convincing evidence,” that a worker did not contract the virus at their workplace. Further, the bill wouldn’t have even required that employees get a test to prove that they indeed did contract the virus.
This proposal would have cost all employers around the state hundreds of millions of dollars, increasing workers compensation insurance astronomically when businesses are already struggling to survive. These costs would have inevitably been passed down to public and private sector workers.
“Accusations that companies are creating an environment of high-risk and not providing adequate safety measures for workers is inaccurate,” said Senior Vice President Loren Furman in the Senate Finance Committee this week. “Companies are going to great lengths to provide a safe environment for workers.”
Furman pointed to a survey conducted by the Colorado Chamber April asking businesses what they need most. The top requests from employers were better testing capabilities for their workforce, support for more personal protective and safety equipment for employees, and clear regulatory guidance from public officials.
“These businesses want to protect their workers,” Furman said.
Due to overwhelming concerns and questions on how this would impact the business community, the Senate Appropriations Committee killed the bill, preventing it from reaching the Senate Floor.
EPA Administrator Wheeler Hosts Colorado Chamber Members for Virtual Roundtable Discussion
Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Andrew Wheeler joined members of the Colorado Chamber and National Federation of Independent Business this week for a virtual discussion on the latest guidance for opening up public workplaces.
“These are challenging and unprecedented times for the business community. Employers across Colorado want to open their doors to the public again, but they want to do it safely and take all the precautions needed to protect their valued employees and customers,” Colorado Chamber President Chuck Berry said on the call. “Now more than ever, clear direction from all levels of government is critical as we navigate this public health and economic crisis.”
“We appreciate the work the EPA is doing to reach out and talk directly with businesses about the latest federal guidance on how to properly clean and disinfect their workplaces to safely open and operate,” Berry said.
Administrator Wheeler emphasized the importance of using only EPA approved disinfectant products against the coronavirus. A list of these products can be found here. He also outlined the new disinfecting and cleaning guidelines from the CDC and EPA, and highlighted the need for continued social distancing, hand washing, and testing.
For businesses in large buildings, it’s also important to flush the plumbing and water systems before returning to work. More details on reopening buildings after a prolonged shutdown can be found on the CDC’s website here.