In this Capitol Report:
Employee Commute Mandate Killed in the House Finance Committee
On Monday, lawmakers struck down House Bill 1138 which looked to reduce single-occupancy vehicle trips by mandating that businesses provide alternative transportation options for employees with the goal of improving Colorado air quality.
The original drafted bill required businesses with over 100 employees to provide alternative transportation options to employees and would have created an income tax credit as an incentive for businesses of all sizes to participate. While Rep. Matt Gray, one of the bill sponsors, offered amendments to the bill, it was rejected in a 9-1 bipartisan vote over concerns about employee privacy and the potential for future mandates.
Ultimately, while lawmakers agreed on the intent of the bill – improving air quality – the $3 million price tag wasn’t justified.
“The concept behind this bill is something we can all get behind. I think it’s incredibly important for all of us to recognize that change is hard but if we don’t seek change, our air is going to be more and more unbreathable,” said Rep. Cathy Kipp, a House Democrat who voted against the bill.
The Colorado Chamber opposed HB 1138 due to its overreaching nature, but has taken a support position for HB 1026, which creates a tax credit incentive for businesses to provide alternative transportation options without the problematic mandates. The bill passed its first panel vote on February 3 and continues to move through the House.
The Colorado Chamber was joined in opposition to HB 1138 by many other business and industry groups in Monday’s hearing, which raised concerns about workers needing to disclose what they do when not working. In addition to privacy violation issues, those who opposed were concerned with the burden the bill would place on business especially with the originally drafted mandate.
Chair of House Finance Addresses Chamber Tax Council
The Colorado Chamber’s Tax Policy Council held a meeting today to discuss 2022 tax legislation and heard from Rep. Shannon Bird, Chair of the House Finance Committee.
Rep. Bird provided an update on HB 1026, a bill she’s sponsoring that would provide tax credits for employers who provide alternative transportation to employees. The Colorado Chamber has taken a support position on the bill, which passed out of the House Finance committee last month and is awaiting a hearing in Appropriations.
Rep. Bird also discussed a competing bill that died in committee this week – HB 1138, which would have created a mandate on employers monitor employee commutes and provide alternative transportation options. The Chairwoman agreed with the Chamber’s position that incentives, rather than mandates, are the appropriate way to address this issue.
She covered several other pieces of tax legislation anticipated this session, particularly due to Colorado’s healthy budget and infusion of one-time dollars from the federal government. This includes tax credit legislation like an advanced industries tax credit bill as well as a proposal that would exempt on-demand aircraft (like cargo planes, air ambulances, and aircraft that serve rural communities) from the sales and use tax.
In addition to hosting Rep. Bird, the Tax Council changed its position on HB 1118, which intends to address bad actors and frivolous claims for sales and use tax refunds. The Chamber took an “opposed” position on the bill in January due to problematic language, but we have been working to make meaningful changes on the bill. Based on the Department of Labor’s willingness to work with the business community, the Tax Policy Council voted to change its position from “opposed” to “amend.”
The Tax Council also discussed recent updates on several other bills, including:
- HB 1039 (support), which is scheduled in Senate Finance for next Wednesday.
- SB 124 (support), which is expecting a strike-below amendment.
- SB 32 (support), which passed Senate Appropriations this week and is expected to be heard on the floor next week.
What We’re Watching: House Bill 1244
With legislative session well underway, the Colorado Chamber has been closely following all of the bills that could impact employers across the state. One major bill of concern that our team is working on this week is HB 1244, which would create a new one-size-fits-all air emissions program that could have a sweeping effect on businesses with industrial or manufacturing operations in Colorado.
For background, Colorado businesses, regulatory agencies, and lawmakers have made significant progress on reducing air emissions in recent years – from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Roadmap to the Clean Power Plan to other recent rulemakings. Electric utilities have also crafted and implemented resource plans to meet ambitious benchmarks moving forward. In addition, the federal EPA and Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment already have extensive regulations in place on hazardous air pollutants in particular.
HB 1244 would impose a completely new and complex layer of law and regulation over hazardous air pollutants, using a strict standard that goes beyond any other state in the country. It applies to all major and synthetic minor emission sources in Colorado, creating impossible barriers for siting new facilities. The bill would allow the state to review or close any facility operating under a minor or major source permit. The bill’s reporting requirements are also incredibly costly and burdensome.
The bill lacks scientific rigor and creates a new standard that contradicts federal regulations and existing Colorado thresholds. The criteria in the bill for a health-based standard process fails to include epidemiologists, toxicologists, and other public health experts from CDPHE, using extremely broad, problematic language.
The bottom line: The impacts of HB 1244 would be far-reaching. It would make Colorado less competitive with other states, creating one more disincentive for companies to locate, remain or expand here. It would create a costly and unsustainable bureaucracy in the regulatory process that lacks a scientific basis.
The Colorado Chamber has assembled a coalition effort in opposition to the bill. If Chamber members would like to participate in the coalition, please contact Laura Moss at firstname.lastname@example.org