In this Capitol Report:
Gov. Polis Covers Key Business Issues at Colorado Chamber Meeting
The Colorado Chamber’s Board of Directors on Thursday welcomed Gov. Jared Polis as guest speaker to discuss current legislation and policies impacting Colorado’s business community. Major topics of discussion were workforce development issues, the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, Colorado’s competitiveness, and the COVID-19 recovery.
Workforce development has been a major focus of Chamber leadership as employers across the state struggle with labor shortages and finding skilled workers to fill positions. The governor recognized that some sectors are under more pressure than others – like health care, construction and education. He outlined a series of initiatives at the state level that could help address those issues, from apprenticeship programs to reinventing partnerships with education institutions.
Gov. Polis provided an update on his proposal to backfill the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, which became insolvent in the height of the pandemic.
“It’s key that we avoid costly payroll tax increases,” the governor said. “We’re proposed $600 million and we’re going to need to fight for that.”
He encouraged the Colorado business community to engage with key lawmakers on the Joint Budget Committee over the next several weeks to express how critical it is that this investment is included in the long bill – the budget passed by the state legislature every year.
The governor also laid out his roadmap for navigating this stage of the pandemic, which his office announced last month. The roadmap outlines the four main steps the state will be taking to maintain a level of preparedness and agility in order to keep Coloradans safe and healthy in the event of exacerbated or new public health challenges. Details on his plan, called “Colorado’s Next Chapter: Our Roadmap to Moving Forward,” can be found here.
What We’re Watching: Senate Bill 140
Legislation at the state capitol is starting to move quickly, and we’re keeping an eye on some of the most important bills for Colorado’s business community. This week, we’re focusing on a workforce development bill that would help address the need to cultivate skilled workers.
Senate Bill 140 was heard by the Senate Business, Labor, and Technology Committee this week and the Colorado Chamber’s President & CEO Loren Furman testified in support of the proposal in committee. The bill focuses on the expansion of experimental learning opportunities and will provide incentives for businesses in Colorado to create high quality work-based learning opportunities for adults and youth.
“Any incentives that can be provided to businesses to help them create work-based learning opportunities is a win for job creators statewide,” Furman said in the committee hearing.
In a recent Chamber survey of our members, the top issue identified by business leaders was finding skilled labor – 78% said it’s one of their biggest challenges right now. Lawmakers can help alleviate these challenges by supporting legislation like SB 140 to help job creators offer work-based learning opportunities to Coloradans.
SB 140 will distribute incentive funds in a way that complements other existing incentive programs while maximizing regional diversity and business uptake for eligible entities. With an appropriation of $3 million, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) will provide training to employers to establish and manage these programs, connect them to local education providers, and develop quality expectation guidelines to ensure the needs of businesses, education partners, adults, and students are all being met.
The bill will also appropriate $2 million to CDLE to create a statewide community-based digital navigator program in the hopes of addressing digital inequalities that prevent people from accessing work-based learning, job-training, and employment opportunities. Additionally, $1.1 million will be allotted to invest in virtual career-aligned ESL programming to ensure English language learners have access to these opportunities.
“One CEO recently told me that businesses will have to decide to create their own apprenticeship programs instead of relying on traditional four-year institutions to get certain skill sets,” Furman said. “Some are already doing this now, training high school and college students with skills they desperately need because there aren’t enough options to find workers for the good paying jobs they offer.”
That’s why the Chamber voted to support SB 140 earlier this month – it will address workplace development and take aim at the worker shortage issues that many businesses are facing in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bill passed the Business, Labor, and Technology Committee and will now head to Senate Appropriations for consideration.
Recap of Labor & Employment Council
This week, the Colorado Chamber’s Labor & Employment Council convened and our guest speaker was Senator Robert Rodriguez (D – Denver) who is the Chair of the Senate Business & Labor Committee as well as the Vice Chair of the Legislative Audit Committee, Legal Services Committee and serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senator Rodriguez discussed the bills that he is sponsoring including HB 1272 (Repeal of Atty’s Fees on Motions to Dismiss), SB 97 (Whistleblower Protections) and SB 99 (Sealing of Criminal Records) as well as other labor and employment issues.
The Council took an oppose position on HB 1272 (Repeal of Attorney’s Fees on Motion to Dismiss) which was recently introduced and eliminates the existing provision by which a defendant may be awarded reasonable attorney fees in tort actions if case is dismissed on motion of the defendant prior to trial.
The Council also gave updates on two bills yet to be introduced: collective bargaining for governmental and quasi-governmental entities as well as a potential workplace harassment bill in which negotiations are still being conducted between the CO Chamber, local governmental entities and the Plaintiffs Employment Attorneys and Womens’ Bar Association.
Staff also provided updates on several other bills as follows:
HB 1119 – False Claims Act
HB 1216 – Uniform Restrictive Employment Agreement Act
HB 1100 – Prohibit Discrimination by Employers Covid-19 Vaccinations
HB 1152 – Adverse Action by Employers MJ Use