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Legislative Session Resumes

Today, state legislators are back at the Capitol resuming the session that was suspended abruptly March 14 by COVID-19. The legislature can meet for about 50 more days, but legislative leaders have expressed a desire to have a condensed session. Though there were 355 bills to be acted upon (and more to be introduced) when the recess commenced, legislators have been working for the past two months to develop an agreed upon list of priorities and bills in hopes they can conclude the session well before the clock runs out.

Some priority bills for the business community, like paid family and medical leave, a state option for health insurance and data privacy, have fallen off the agenda this year. However, it’s clear that new bills will most certainly replace them. Many of the new bills being proposed will likely have some tie to COVID-19. During the recess, we’ve been part of conversations about topics ranging from workers’ compensation and new whistleblower protections to funding Colorado’s reinsurance program, liability relief and a referred measure to repeal the Gallagher Amendment.

The legislature is returning to an economic environment that is quite different than when they started the session. Unemployment has increased from 2.4% in January to 11.3% today, the Joint Budget Committee faced a $3 billion shortfall and day-to-day lobbying will look different as the legislature aligns with social distance requirements under the dome.

We believe this last part of the session will move quickly, and the best way to keep informed is to sign up for our policy alerts here. Even working remotely, your voice will continue to be heard.

And, if you thought recess meant vacation for our public policy team – you were wrong! Not only did things not slow down, but they are working harder than ever over these past few months. Here are some highlights:

Sharing Your Concerns with Legislators
Hundreds of you told us what you need during this challenging time, and we shared your responses with legislators. Here are your four priorities:

  1. Extend tax deadlines from certain taxes, like head taxes, payroll taxes or property taxes, to give you some additional flexibility.
  2. Gain access to capital in the form of low- or no-interest loans to help you pay your employees.
  3. Expand legal protections so you can take all the all the necessary steps to protect the public and your employees and limit the spread of the virus as we get back to work.
  4. Limit new burdens or costs from new state programs or mandates.

We’ve already seen some progress on these areas and will update you as the session progresses.

Building a Coalition Against Electronic Signature Gathering for the Ballot
We worked to build a diverse, statewide coalition in opposition to Gov. Jared Polis’ executive order that allows electronic signature gathering to qualify issues for the November ballot. On April 28, we and 36 other organizations sent a letter to Gov. Polis, arguing that electronic signature gathering is unconstitutional and would lead to inequities in our election process. Our coalition represents rural and urban areas, liberal and conservative groups, and a variety of industries, such as agriculture, energy, education, construction and housing.

On May 15, Gov. Polis issued the executive order, and on May 18, coalition member Colorado Concern and Board Member Dan Ritchie sued the Governor. We quickly organized our coalition to file an amicus brief with 39 signatories in support of the lawsuit. The hearing was held Friday. You can read more about our brief here, as well as arguments outlined by our attorneys here. We expect to receive a ruling this week and will update you on next steps following the ruling.

Advocating Against Additional Changes to Overtime and Minimum Pay Rules
The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) continues to propose changes to the Colorado Overtime and Minimum Pay Standards (COMPS) rules. We sent a letter to CDLE on May 19, arguing that the proposed change to redefine joint employment, when a worker has more than one employer, was vague and confusing. We also believe that the process to engage stakeholders during a pandemic was lacking and took away from the necessary focus on keeping employers viable and employees on payroll. A special thanks to Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation Executive Committee Member Donald Samuels with Polsinelli for his assistance with our comments. CDLE has told us they heard our feedback and are in the process of striking the definition.

Asking for Property Tax Relief

We, along with dozens of other organizations, signed on to a letter to Gov. Polis, asking him to extend an executive order that would allow local governments to reduce the interest charged on late property tax payments. We anticipate a bill to do this will be introduced as the session reconvenes.

Testifying Against New Regulations
On May 12, we testified before the Air Pollution Control Division against a revision to a regulation that would hit the oil and gas industry at a time when they are experiencing a sharp decline in consumption and historically low commodity prices. We argued that the division should pause its rulemaking until the economy stabilizes. The revision would also add costs to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment as the state faces severe budget cuts.

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