Legislators will convene at the Capitol on Wednesday for the start to the 2022 Legislative Session. If you joined us at our ninth Business Legislative Preview Breakfast on Monday at the Denver Art Museum, you got a jumpstart on what the General Assembly leadership sees as the top issues that they’ll tackle over the next 120 days.
Senate Majority Leader Stephen Fenberg (D-Boulder), House Speaker Alec Garnett (D-Denver), Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert (R-Douglas County) and House Minority Leader Hugh McKean (R-Loveland) told us their focus this legislative session is on three issues: making Colorado more affordable, increasing public safety and improving our education system. The Denver Business Journal’s Ed Sealover moderated the event.
The Chamber’s Public Affairs and lobbying teams, under the leadership of Adam Burg, the new vice president of government relations, have their eyes on three main issues.
- Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund – The state borrowed $1 billion from the federal government to continue paying unemployed workers after the fund was depleted in August 2020. This fund receives no General Fund money. Employers alone bear the burden to repay that debt and get the fund back to solvency unless the legislature acts. This is the one tax that we have in Colorado that is a direct tax on employment. Whatever you tax you get less of – and the last thing we want less of right now is employment. The best policy would be to use federal recovery dollars to restore the fund’s balance and incentivize hiring.
- Employee Traffic Reduction Program – Legislators are considering putting forward a bill aimed at reducing the number workers commuting to work in single-occupancy vehicles. Last summer, the Air Quality Control Commission considered creating the Employee Traffic Reduction Program, which would have required employers to hire staff to monitor, track and regulate which of their employees could drive their own car to work on which day. According to Toward a More Competitive Colorado, Colorado employment fell by 134,000 jobs from 2019 to 2020, and the struggle many employers are facing right now to fill open jobs is real. With any bill this session, we ask legislators to ask themselves, “Is this legislation making it easier or harder for Coloradans to get or keep a job?” We think legislation requiring employers to mandate whether employees can drive to work on a given day goes too far.
- Labor Peace Act – Legislators are also considering introducing a bill that would allow public sector employees to unionize. We’re worried this would jeopardize the state’s carefully crafted Labor Peace Act, a compromise we’ve respected in Colorado for 75 years. Colorado is home to a unique and very intentional labor status that means employees have the freedom to organize, as well as the right to refrain from organizing should they choose. Would we prefer Colorado to be a right-to-work state? In economic development terms, yes, but we honor the compromise that is the Labor Peace Act and we must uphold it.
At Monday’s event, Chamber President and CEO J. J. Ament made a simple ask of our elected officials during this legislative session: “Let’s work together to create opportunity for Coloradans. Let’s support entrepreneurs and innovation. Let’s continue the work of bringing good jobs to our communities, helping businesses thrive and keeping people employed, and returning to our workforce those who’ve left … We stand ready to be partners in those efforts with you – and commit to being candid when some good intentions meet the economic realities of today’s semi-post pandemic economy.”
So let the countdown begin – 120 days to go in the 2022 Legislative Session. Follow along with our Public Affairs team and subscribe to our policy alerts. We’ll keep you up to date on the issues that may affect our region’s business community.