Photo courtesy of Dave Anderson at InSync Photographer + Design. View all the event photos.
DENVER—Jan. 4, Colorado’s business community heard firsthand from leaders of the Colorado General Assembly about their plans, priorities and predictions for the 2023 legislative session. The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and Colorado Competitive Council’s 2023 Business Legislative Preview, presented by Aetna, a CVS Health® company, provides a neutral platform for both parties to discuss what lies ahead for the business community.
Denver Metro Chamber president and CEO, J. J. Ament, was joined by Senate Majority Leader, Senator Dominick Moreno; Senate Minority Leader, Senator Paul Lundeen; Speaker of the House, Representative Julie McCluskie; and House Minority Leader, Representative Mike Lynch. The conversation was moderated by the president and general manager for PBS12, Kristen Blessman.
“The Denver Metro Chamber knows how important policy is for our members,” said Ament. “It shapes day-to-day operations for every Colorado business, and when incentive-based policy options are provided instead of additional mandates and regulations, organizations can implement creative solutions that meet the unique needs of their employees, industries, and goals,” Ament told the audience of about 300 business and legislative leaders at the Denver Art Museum’s Sturm Grand Pavilion.
The panel of legislative leaders was asked a series of questions focusing on the Chamber’s policy pillars for the upcoming session: housing, sustainability and economic competitiveness.
Blessman started the conversation off by asking legislators how they plan to address the crime wave in Colorado, which has been a leading issue for businesses who are worried about its impact on both employees and consumers.
Speaker McCluskie stressed that crime looks different throughout Colorado, saying, “We know addressing crime is really a local challenge. Crime in my rural communities does not look that same as it does… in our urban corridor.” Senator Moreno agreed that while crime is a local challenge, issues like homelessness are so widespread that “it’s not a local problem anymore… it’s a problem everywhere.”
Representative Lynch homed in on the role of drugs in the crime wave, saying, “I firmly believe a lot of [crime] has come from the illegal drugs that we’ve seen.” In searching for solutions, Senator Lundeen emphasized that the community needs to respect and turn to the law, saying that over the past few years, some policy has, “turned our backs on our respect for the law.”
Blessman later directed the conversation toward housing in Colorado, siting the Common Sense Institute’s Housing Quarterly Update in that the state’s housing deficit is around 225,000 units. She asked the legislators how the legislature will look to address the issue in 2023.
Senator Moreno stressed that housing hasn’t previously had accurate representation at the legislature, stating, “housing wasn’t appropriately represented in any of our committees… there will be a renewed emphasis on the importance of housing and finding solutions to this topic.” Senator Moreno also said that while housing is a local issue, it has slowly begun to become a bigger issue for the state to address.
Representative Lynch took a different approach, saying that, “the best thing we can do [for housing] is get out of the way of the free market… the problem is we’ve overregulated the industry.” He emphasized that the housing market should be freed from burdensome regulations in order to increase construction and availability of housing units.
Regarding sustainability, Blessman asked the legislators about regulations and standards being placed on buildings and communities to keep up with Governor Polis’ goal of being a decarbonized state by 2050, wondering how it’s possible to balance the aspirational with the realistic.
Speaker McCluskie stated, “I think the challenge with where we are today is not being able to get our arms around the technology and innovations fast enough… We have to be willing to embrace what [sustainable change] requires.”
While Speaker McCluskie focused on sustainable building regulations, Senator Moreno stressed the use of electric vehicles as a coming change that should be embraced. “A huge piece of this that we don’t often like to talk about are the vehicles that we drive,” Senator Moreno stated, emphasizing that mobile sources of emissions and pollution are going to play a large role in taking steps toward sustainability.
Senator Lundeen and Representative Lynch spoke differently on the topic, with Senator Lundeen stating, “we’ve got to come up with a better set of answers as we pull forward.” Senator Lundeen also questioned the 2050 timeline for decarbonization, saying that these aspirational goals are unrealistic considering the tangible changes that can actually be implemented. Representative Lynch spoke similarly, saying, “how are we going to get there without putting the citizenry of Colorado in a lot of pain?”
Following the panel, the legislators thanked the business community for coming out and playing a role in the upcoming year’s policy, saying they were looking forward to the expertise and knowledge that can be offered by Colorado businesses.
Ament closed with, “We have the extraordinary freedom to debate political issues from diverse backgrounds and perspectives, and hope that everyone takes the time to listen and learn from all voices, no matter what side of the political spectrum they come from.”
Stay up to date with the Chamber’s stances this session and view the full 2023 policy platform at denverchamber.org/policy/2023-legislative-session/
About the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce
For 155 years, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce has been a leading voice for Colorado’s business community. With a membership that spans the state, the Chamber is an effective advocate for small and large businesses. The Chamber’s family of organizations includes the Metro Denver EDC, the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation, the Denver Metro Small Business Development Center and the Colorado Competitive Council. For more information, go to denverchamber.org.
About the Colorado Competitive Council (C3)
The Colorado Competitive Council (C3), a part of the Denver Metro Chamber family of organizations, provides direct lobbying and advocacy at the Colorado State Capitol and supports like-minded organizations that are dedicated to the mission of enhancing Colorado’s economy. For more information, go to coloradocompetes.org.