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Chamber’s Legal Advisory Committee Helps Reform Several Bills

This week in policy:

The Chamber’s Legal Advisory Committee (LAC) works throughout the session to collaborate with bill sponsors and other stakeholders on complex legislation that might need amendments or changes to make the legislation more friendly to Colorado’s business community.

Recently, our LAC team has been incredibly successful in providing feedback to legislators that transformed legislation in ways that make business compliance, partnership and growth more feasible. Though the Chamber initially opposed House Bills 1119, 1272, a previous version of 1367 and Senate Bill 176, we have now moved to a neutral position because of changes LAC advanced.

The Chamber originally opposed House Bill 1119 because, when first introduced, the bill created the potential for frivolous litigation for government contractors or businesses that make claims for payment to state and local governments. After our Legal Advisory Committee provided feedback to legislators, over a dozen amendments have been made and adopted to this bill.

Each of the concerns raised by our LAC team were addressed by either the bill sponsors or the Attorney General’s office, including lowering the penalty structure and giving courts more discretion over penalties; clarifying that actual knowledge, rather than negligence, of a false claim is required; and creating safeguards against abuse by whistle blowers and their attorneys. Most importantly, LAC helped to create significant incentives for self-reporting, including lower penalties and a streamlined settlement process.

We have also seen desired change with House Bill 1272. The Chamber originally opposed House Bill 1272 the grounds that attorney’s fees incentivize accountability to file meritorious claims and are a crucial tool to deter frivolous litigation from plaintiffs.

After working with our LAC team, amendments have been made to House Bill 1272 that limit its scope. Now, in lawsuits filed to make constitutional changes, a judge has discretion to dismiss attorneys’ fees. Amendments have also added a good faith provision, and, most importantly, amendments preserve attorneys’ fees in the event of a nuisance lawsuit, providing an important protection for businesses against frivolous litigation.

Thanks to the work and commitment of our legal group, the Chamber is now  neutral on House Bills 1119 and 1272.

Our LAC team also worked vigorously to help reform the Protecting Opportunities And Workers’ Rights Act (POWR), which was first introduced in 2021 as SB21-176. The Chamber opposed this bill last year over our significant concerns that the untested and subjective new legal standards established in the bill would result in a wave of increased litigation and costs for companies without a culture of harassment.

The 2021 version of the bill ultimately died in the Appropriations Committee last year. After substantial interim work between bill proponents and the business community, a compromise was crafted that would create new protections for workers with fewer changes to legal precedent: House Bill 1367. This bill expands the definition of employee to include those in domestic service; extends from six months to 300 days the time that workers have to file a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission; and repeals the prohibition against recovery of certain damages that now applies only to discrimination cases that center around the age of the worker.

Though we are grateful of the work that has been done on this issue, we are cautious of any future legislative attempts to re-write existing legal standards With that in mind, the Chamber is neutral on House Bill 1367.

Despite our efforts to meet a resolution on this issue, the POWR Act died in a late-session hearing in the House Judiciary Committee. Even though this bill did not come to fruition, the Chamber appreciates the ability of bill sponsors and our LAC team to work together in creating a bill that worked more cohesively with the business community.

Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund Bill Expecting Introduction Soon

The Chamber has been closely monitoring the status of the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund (UITF) throughout this session, and it’s now clear that lawmakers are planning to introduce a bill as soon as this week.

Colorado’s unemployment insurance trust fund ran out of money in Aug. 2020, but unemployed workers still got paid due to Colorado getting a loan from the federal government. By April of 2021, this loan had grown to $1 billion.

Even as workers returned to work and employers paid premiums to the trust fund, the federal loan was still more than $1 billion as of April 15, 2022.

The drafted legislation would send about $600 million to the depleted unemployment insurance trust fund to lower this $1 billion federal debt that is weighing on employers across Colorado.

Employers, who bear the sole responsibility of repaying this trust fund, are paying the highest rate possible this year in unemployment insurance premiums in an attempt to replenish this fund. However, even higher payments could be faced in 2023 as a solvency surcharge and the loss of the Federal Unemployment Tax Act credit are added to the list of fees.

While some details are still being negotiated, the bill is also expected to alter certain aspects of Colorado’s unemployment system. The alterations are slated to include continuing a COVID-era fund offering unemployment benefits to people living in the U.S. illegally who aren’t eligible for aid under federal law, as well as making a permanent change allowing people to collect more benefits even if they secure part-time work.

The Chamber is keeping a close eye on this and we expect to see legislation on this issue soon.

Chamber’s State of the State Still Accepting Registrants!

The Chamber’s annual State of the State event has just expanded its location to accommodate a rush in registrations.

With this event just weeks away, members of the community have eagerly been registering to hear from keynote speaker Gov. Jared Polis and an array of panelists that will analyze the outcomes of this legislative session and address the state of Colorado’s workforce.

In addition to Gov. Jared Polis’ keynote address, we will also be hearing from Jake Hirsch-Allen, North America workforce development and higher ed system lead for LinkedIn, Noel Ginsburg, founder & CEO for CareerWise, Dr. Ian Kristic, regional head and industrial/organizational psychologist at the Myers-Briggs Company, and Naeem Isaq, EVP and CFO for Checkr.

Make sure you register for State of the State on May 12 while you can!

Join the Chamber’s Advocacy Network!

We work to keep our members informed about impactful policy and create opportunities for them to take a stance. However, in today’s political and policy climate, it is important to show lawmakers the people behind the businesses they are affecting.

In addition to policy email updates, the Chamber has a new action platform that allows the unique voices of the business community to be heard across the state.

Sign-up to join our advocacy network to help us promote investment, job creation and a competitive business climate in the Colorado and Metro Denver region.

Here are the bills we took a stance on this week.

Neutral

  • While the Chamber originally opposed House Bill 1346, recent amendments have changed our stance to neutral. We originally opposed this bill on the grounds that the current industry ratio requirements allow well-trained professionals to be produced in an efficient manner, and the new ratio enacted by this bill would have been a major hindrance to workforce development in the plumbing industry. The current ratio requirements allow this industry to produce well-trained professionals in an efficient manner, and we are pleased that the amended bill does not alter this, protecting our talent pipeline and lowering costs for consumers and business.

Oppose

  • House Bill 1357 reclassifies motor vehicle insurance and homeowner’s insurance to type I insurance, thereby changing the regulatory structure and authorizing the commissioner of insurance to approve or deny requests for rate increases. We are concerned about the cumulative expenses of providing property and casualty insurance in the state, and how any extra burdens might impact the cost and availability of insurance.
  • House Bill 1370 requires each health insurance carrier that offers and individual or small group plan to offer at least 25% of its plan on the health benefit exchange. It also requires each insurer to demonstrate to the division of insurance that 100% of rebates received are used to lower costs for the employer or individual purchasing the plan and reduce out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs. While we understand and are sympathetic to the goals of this legislation to further decrease the cost impact of high-priced prescription drugs, we cannot support efforts that seek to achieve otherwise laudable goals by simply shifting costs to Colorado’s employers. This would increase the cost of doing business in Colorado and the cost of case for Colorado’s employers and employees.

Testimony

Read our justifications for these positions and more on our current legislation page.

Have questions or concerns about policy? Contact our Government Affairs team.