Legislative Update

This “Bump” Could Hurt Manufacturers- The Colorado Chamber Is Pushing for More Talks on Ozone

Posted: August 10, 2016

Air quality testing shows increased ozone levels in the Denver Metro/North Front Range area and the regulatory response may be painful for manufacturers. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is currently developing rules to “bump up” the area to a “moderate nonattainment” status. Formal rulemaking is set to begin next week, but The Colorado Chamber is working with members in the utility, energy, and manufacturing sectors to generate more input regarding how certain aspects of the pending proposals could impact Colorado operators and business climate.

Specifically, we’re asking manufacturers who would be impacted by tighter environmental controls on air emissions to contact us before rulemaking goes forward. Under federal law, state regulators have to tighten restrictions on a wide range of industries and potentially on transportation. We’re asking regulators to work with The Colorado Chamber and affected industries to work out a plan that achieves the environmental goal of decreasing ozone emissions in the least burdensome and least costly way possible. If you feel that this rulemaking could impact you, please contact us so we can include you in our efforts.

A Manufacturer’s Quick Guide to Laws Impacting You

Posted: June 14, 2016

For Your HR Team

NEW LAW- Be Advised: New Rules on Pregnancy Accommodations

Manufacturers recognize that a pregnant worker may have certain physical constraints on what she’s able to do, and that accommodating her at this time is generally good business. But there were many concerns about the way HB 1438 was introduced to mandate pregnancy/childbirth accommodations. The Colorado Chamber spent months working with the sponsors to make the bill fair to workers and reasonable for manufacturers. The success of that effort changed our position from opposed to neutral.

Your HR department needs to know what the new law requires, and will need to have an interacting dialogue with the employee to agree on what meets her needs and yours. There are specific accommodations in the law that are by definition “reasonable.” This law goes into effect August 10, 2016. Find a summary here.

NEW LAW- Records Nightmare Averted

For several years, proponents have advanced the idea of providing workers access to their personnel records. Sounds simple, but it’s not. When the employee-of-the-month asks to see her file, no problem. When the worker who asks is someone your loss management team is investigating – yeah, that’s a problem. After three years of fighting this legislation, The Colorado Chamber negotiated an agreement with the proponents of HB 1432 that allowed us to take a neutral stance.

HR department: the bill allows workers access to their records once a year, in the presence of an HR employee. Most significantly, HR needs to know which records are exempt from review. (That includes those involving an active investigation!) This law will go into effect January 1, 2017. Find details here.

Finally, Fewer Audits by the Dept. of Labor

The Colorado Chamber has worked for four years to clarify the rules on unemployment compensation and independent contractors. That electrician who’s been in your plant every day for a month? Contractor or employee? Confusing rules made the answer unclear, leading to audits and fines. Finally, the CO Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) convened a task force and The Colorado Chamber actively worked with business advocates and regulators on common sense reforms which were then incorporated in SB 179. CDLE will clarify the rules and assign a full time employee to provide guidance to businesses. The bill also requires CDLE to conduct an internal process for improving audit consistency. The bill passed unanimously in the General Assembly.

Stopping Bad Proposals

Paid Sick Leave Mandate – Ugh!
Once again, The Colorado Chamber opposed an attempt to layer state sick leave mandates on top of federal requirements. SB 114 would have required all employers to provide an hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked and allowed workers to carry forward accrued leave. If that doesn’t make you queasy enough, the bill would have specified how you have to track that time, and when workers can use it. Surely it’s better for employees to invest in their own disability insurance? There are plenty of perks to this for them, they just need to research the various terms such as ‘disability insurance tax deductible‘ to find out. That way, they’ll be completely covered for any loss of earnings when they’re unwell. The Colorado Chamber lobbied & testified against the bill which was defeated.

You Expect to Be Paid HOW Much?

So you need to hire a mechanical engineer and you got a dozen great resumes. You’d like to know which applicants you can afford before you invest time in interviews, but HB 116 would have prohibited you from asking for salary histories. Not only that, the bill created a new type of discrimination claim under the CO Anti-Discrimination Act, which includes costly legal consequences for employers. The Colorado Chamber lobbied & testified against the bill which died in committee in late March.

No Criminal (Background Check) Allowed

If some lawmakers had their way, not only would you be unable to check salary history, you’d be forbidden from asking potential employees if they have a criminal background before allowing them to enter your recruiting process. The Colorado Chamber objected strongly pointing out that in a five-year study, 77% of felons were re-arrested. Besides the risk the bill posed to manufacturing workplace safety and asset security, there’s legal liability too. If you get sued for negligent hiring, you have a 75% chance of losing that lawsuit, with settlements averaging $1 million. The Colorado Chamber protected your right to choose your policy by successfully lobbying & defeating this bill.

A Bad Plan for Retirement Savings

Proponents of HB 1403 argued that too few employers offer workers a retirement savings plan and proposed HB 1403 which would have created a state-run plan and forced private companies to enroll. The proposal was badly flawed. It gave employers no choice in the plan they would offer their workers, and no choice of the vendor who would manage payroll deductions. The bill also mandated workers to participate in the plan. Audit costs and potential fines also posed a financial liability to businesses. Without having a suitable plan in place for an employee’s retirement, many workers could face the struggle to make ends meet in life after work. But you shouldn’t worry, there are many places you can turn to for help, such as the advice from Key that can explain the option of equity release to you if you are in the position of needing some extra money. But for these workers, the bill doesn’t look very promising. The Colorado Chamber lobbied & testified against the bill and the sponsors withdrew the bill.

The risk of financial worries during retirement age is an understandable concern. So many people are unable to save throughout their life due to external financial issues. If you are married this can be doubly worrying and you will need to be helped as much as possible, and so this is where social security aid comes in. There are many ways this can be administered and discussed with the necessary officials. Social Security survivor benefits vs spousal benefits may be discussed and you can both see how this will have an impact on your retirement incomes.

Ultimately, retirement planning can involve confronting some uncomfortable but necessary financial topics. For example, retirees often decide to use this period of their life to compose a living trust. Essentially, a living trust is a lot like a will, in that you set out your wishes about your assets and your heirs. However, a will only becomes effective when you die and after the probate process. Comparatively, a living trust is effective while you are still alive. You can place several different assets into a living trust, such as property, savings, and investments. Moreover, the trustees will take control of the assets immediately, and this can be very beneficial to you and your family in certain circumstances. You can find more information about living trusts by taking a look at these advantages of a trust.

And Bad Plan for Funding Medicaid

Introduced late in the legislative session, HB 1435 would have imposed a fee on businesses that have 250+ workers if those workers make less than $12 an hour and qualify for public assistance. Sponsors made no bones about the fact this was a way to fund the state’s portion of Medicaid costs. Even though they admitted there were problems with the bill, it passed the House on the second-to-last day of the session. But with The Colorado Chamber’s opposition, it died in Senate committee the same day.

If Colorado’s transportation is important to you and your company…

The Colorado Chamber will continue to support legislation that will increase transportation funding. Two efforts failed this year, but we are going to keep fighting for YOU. Please click on the hyperlinks below for more information on these pieces of legislation:

HB 1420Reclassification of the Hospital Provider Fee as a State Enterprise
SB 210 The Fix Colorado Roads Act

For the extensive list of bills that the State Chamber has worked on throughout the legislative session, please refer to the Legislative Session Summary.