A Look Back on the 2017 Legislative Session

When we look back at the last 120 days of the legislative session, a quote from President Eisenhower comes to mind: “People talk about the middle of the road as though it were unacceptable … Things are not all black and white. There have to be compromises. The middle of the road is all of the usable surface.”

As the session ended last Wednesday and we hosted our annual State of the State luncheon where we reflected with more than 700 of our members, the governor and a number of elected officials and community leaders, there were a number of issues in this legislative session where we found compromise and solutions – where the legislature used that middle of the road.

When we kicked off the legislative session with party leaders at our Legislative Preview, we had clear priorities – some of which had been on our list for a number of sessions: reforming construction defects laws, reclassifying the hospital provider fee and funding transportation.

Here’s how we fared:

Wins at the Capitol
For the past four years, we’ve advocated for a solution to address construction defects litigation – asking for changes in the current policy because it has decimated the development of new entry-level condominiums, preventing workers and families from being able to purchase a home.

But it wasn’t until this session with House Reps. Alec Garnett, Lori Saine and Cole Wist, along with Speaker Crisanta Duran and Sens. Lucia Guzman and Jack Tate, that we saw a group of legislators who were committed to finding a solution and providing a step forward to help our developers get back in the condo business. They – and in particular Rep. Garnett – spent hours talking to stakeholders, including our members and housing coalition, to build consensus and find a middle ground that protects home buyers while allowing developers to move forward on projects. We’re sincerely grateful.

We also continued to ask that the Hospital Provider Fee be established in an enterprise fund so that these dollars would no longer count against the state’s revenue cap under TABOR (Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights). Senate Bill 267 also included provisions to reduce the personal property tax burden on small businesses and requires efficiencies and savings from the general fund. The money freed up from these actions will go to fund transportation and education while ensuring our rural hospitals can keep their doors open. We thank the leaders of this effort: Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, Majority Leader K.C. Becker and Rep. Jon Becker.

These are examples of two critical, long-sought-after solutions that will benefit all Coloradans.

More work to be done
We unfortunately did not find that middle of the road on transportation funding. We were very supportive of a bill that would provide funding for transportation through a sales tax increase, because our members know that failing to fund our transportation system will hurt our ability to ensure economic success throughout our state. While we weren’t able to find a proposal that was supported by key legislators, we did see incredible leadership from Senate President Kevin Grantham on this issue.

Almost 70 percent of Coloradans recognize how critical it is that we invest in our transportation system. We know that Colorado has a $9 billion list of projects that are needed statewide. This is an issue that we can’t afford to ignore or wait to solve – other states are moving forward to address their transportation challenges because they too know that these investments are needed to fuel any economy and save our residents money and time.

We remain committed to working with legislators – whether in a special session or early in next year’s session – to find a path forward and begin putting funding to address Colorado’s deferred maintenance and worsening congestion challenges throughout the state.

Kelly Brough is the president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber.