In this Capitol Report:
What We’re Watching: House Bill 1326
This week the Colorado Chamber joined with other business leaders to bring awareness of the economic consequences of the fentanyl crisis on the state. According to a new report by the Common Sense Institute, the monetary cost of Colorado’s fentanyl crisis has increased by 750 percent in just five years, taking an $11 billion toll on the Colorado economy.
“I think the more education that we can provide to the workforce on the deadly effects of fentanyl, the better,” Loren Furman said in a press conference on Tuesday. “That’s where I see some real opportunities for employers to make this issue relevant to their employees that are maybe not as educated about it as they should be.”
Business groups, attorneys general, and law enforcement groups have called for lowering the felony threshold for fentanyl possession. Some progress was made on those efforts this week through House Bill 1326. The bill was recently amended to make knowingly possessing more than 1 gram of fentanyl or fentanyl compound a felony in Colorado. This is in response to the rise in drug overdoses and deaths in the state.
While the Colorado Chamber hasn’t taken a formal position on the bill, the economic significance of the fentanyl crisis raises serious concerns for the economic health of our state. In 2021, at least 896 fatal overdoses in Colorado were due to fentanyl. Even a small amount of fentanyl can be deadly – and often users don’t know when it is mixed in with other drugs.
HB 1326 aims to make harsher punishments from fentanyl possession, a direct response to House Bill 19-1263 that passed in 2019. This previous legislation made it a misdemeanor instead of a felony to possess up to 4 grams of many controlled substances, including fentanyl.
Under the amended HB 1326, possessing 1 gram or less of fentanyl would be a level 1 misdemeanor, while possessing less than 4 grams would be a level 3 drug felony. Possessing 4-50 grams of the opioid would be a level 2 drug felony and possessing more than 50 grams of fentanyl would be a level 1 felony.
Updates on Unemployment Insurance, Workplace Harassment, and More Employment Legislation
With only a few weeks left of legislative session, there are some important updates to major legislation impacting businesses. The Colorado Chamber’s Labor and Employment Council met this week to take new positions on several bills moving through the legislative process.
SB 161 – Wage Theft: Voted to OPPOSE
The bill would update and modify laws pertaining to the payment of wages, employee misclassification and workplace safety and the enforcement procedures and remedies for violations of those laws. The bill imposes new financial penalties and puts additional requirements on employers surrounding wages for terminated employees.
The legislation is well intended to address a backlog of wage claims with the department of labor. However, the level of penalties and requirements placed on businesses would be extensive and punishes employers who are acting in good faith. The Chamber’s Government Affairs Council voted to oppose the bill last week as well.
HB 1119 – False Claims Act: Changed position from oppose to NEUTRAL
HB 1119, also known as the Colorado False Claims Act, looks to mitigate unemployment insurance fraud and other types of fraud. The Chamber raised concerns about the bill when it was filed back in February and shared those concerns with the bill sponsors. Due to the sponsors’ willingness to work with the Chamber to address these concerns, the bill was amended and the Labor and Employment Council changed its position to neutral.
HB 1317 – Restrictive Employment Agreements: OPPOSE
This bill would make changes to noncompete agreements in Colorado, placing restrictions on the practice for employers. It would remove the exemption on noncompete agreements for executive and management employees and replace it with a threshold based on whether the employee is considered “highly-compensated” (which currently is an annual salary of $101,250). It also places other requirements on employers related to notice of noncompete agreements, repayment of training, and trade secrets.
The Chamber is concerned that the compensation threshold in the legislation is too high and would exclude many employees who are exposed to proprietary information. The bill also limits the ability for employers to adequately protect trade secrets and other sensitive information.
The bill was amended in Committee, but those changes do not fix the underlying issues with the proposal.
Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund:
The Colorado Chamber has prioritized Unemployment Insurance relief at the capitol as employers face staggering premium increases in the coming year. Legislators have come to an agreement to provide the Governor’s requested $600 million infusion into the UI Trust Fund with some additional reform proposals. Rates are still expected to increase next year, but this assistance will soften the blow.
After the business community defeated last year’s workplace harassment bill due to untested legal definitions and overly broad requirements, Chamber staff have been working closely with lawmakers to find a balanced solution to the issue. A coalition of business leaders offered compromise language to several provisions for a new bill, but conversations stalled until last week, when the proponents abandoned the proposal.
Instead, a new bill (HB 1367) has been filed that makes some minor changes to the state’s workplace harassment laws, including increasing the time limit to file charges from six months to 300 days and making changes to age discrimination provisions.
EXECs | Molson Coors Tours
The EXECs Advocacy cohort spent the day touring the Coors facility in Golden. Peter J. Coors, Director of the G150 Project for Molson Coors, discussed the Coors family history, sustainability, as well as the company’s plans for the future. Additionally, Bob Hunt, Regional Director of Government Affairs, and Kayla Garcia, Community Affairs, discussed legislation, community involvement, and corporate social responsibility. The EXECs cohort will make their way to the Denver Zoo for the May tour.
New Member Orientation
Take full advantage of your membership and get involved with the Colorado Chamber.
Whether you are a new member, or you’re looking for ways to get more engaged, this orientation is designed to help you identify ways to contribute your expertise and get involved with your Chamber in ways that are meaningful to you.
During this lunch and program you will:
- Meet with key Chamber leadership and staff
- Gain an understanding of the Chamber’s Policy Councils
- Learn about the Chamber’s powerful Political Program
- Get familiar with the Chamber’s signature events
- Learn about the Chamber’s leadership and EDI training opportunities
- Meet other new members
Thursday, April 28, 2022
11:45 a.m.-1 p.m.
Includes Lunch, Networking & Program
Location: Colorado Chamber Offices, 1600 Broadway, 10th Floor
In-person only: Please indicate dietary restrictions upon registration.
First-come, first-served: Limit: 30