This past week, the Denver Metro Chamber held its first meeting of the legislative session to take a stance on upcoming legislation. Throughout the session, we will be distributing policy updates every Friday to share our positions, updates with the legislature, and news for the business community.
Governor Polis Announces Policy Priorities for Session
Governor Jared Polis delivered his annual State of the State address to a joint session of the Colorado General Assembly on Jan. 17. This was the first State of the State of his second term, and it followed a wave election for Democrats in November. The floor seats were filled with U.S. Representatives Crow, Neguse, Pettersen and Caraveo; the Colorado Secretary of State; Colorado Attorney General; as well as 32 newly-elected legislators.
The theme of his speech was where Colorado has been and where it’s going ahead of its 150th anniversary as a state, which will occur during Polis’ second term. The event wasn’t quite a Democratic victory lap; rather, Polis tried to put some guardrails on dogmatic, left-leaning policy. Notable comments included:
- “…let’s not forget who we are, let’s not get lost in zero-sum politics, and let’s focus on working together for good results.”
- “We are not California, we are Colorado.”
- “I look forward to exploring common sense solutions with all of you.”
The good news is that there seems to be a general consensus on what our greatest challenges are in the coming year. The Governor highlighted a few key areas for policy innovation that align closely with the policy priorities the Denver Metro Chamber released ahead of session: housing, sustainability and economic competitiveness.
Emphasizing the urgency of the issue, the first topic Governor Polis covered in his State of the State address was remedying Colorado’s housing shortage. As one of the Chamber’s top three policy priorities this session, we were heartened to hear the Governor is not taking the housing crisis lightly. As our president and CEO, J. J. Ament, recently highlighted, “Economic success depends on having a talented and skilled workforce who can afford to live within a reasonable commute to work. We also want families to be able to stay and grow here, which means we need a variety of housing options for ourselves, our seniors and the next generation.”
The big picture: “We need to have more housing for every Colorado budget, close to where jobs are,” said Governor Polis.
- Polis emphasized a statewide housing approach: “This is not just a local problem. Since issues like transportation, water, energy, and more inherently cross jurisdictional boundaries, it becomes a statewide problem that impacts all of us.”
- As the voice of business in the state, we understand that a vibrant and robust workforce is only possible if our region has a wide continuum of housing typologies and price points to attract and retain them. Denver housing prices have doubled in the past 10 years, so we must ensure we are creating a region where our workforce sees opportunity and view Colorado as the preeminent place to live, work and play.
The best way to encourage housing inventory growth is an incentives-based model, not a mandate-centric, one-size-fits-all approach. We support practical solutions that cut regulation, encourage flexible zoning, and let our development community deliver housing to market efficiently and free of onerous regulation.
The big picture: With sustainability being top of mind for many Coloradans, Polis expressed his continued focus on advancing the clean technology space in Colorado by tapping into geothermal and hydrogen energy along with water conservation efforts.
- The Chamber believes in the “all of the above” approach. Making room at the table for all forms of energy is important for a diverse energy sector and a growing economy. The Governor made a point to express the importance of our oil and gas industry by saying, “I’ve already lifted regulatory burdens around trucking hours, truck weight limits, and directed agencies to ease-up on pipeline transporting requirements during the Suncor shutdown.”
- Added regulations are not only burdensome on businesses but also the consumer. Providing reliable and affordable energy, regardless of the circumstance, should be a top priority. The Chamber believes that we can reach a sustainable Colorado with reasonable timeframes and incentives without placing unrealistic emission standards on individuals and businesses.
- “When Colorado is 150, I want our state to have the water resources necessary for our farms, communities and industries to thrive, and the tools in place to protect our state’s waterways and defend our rights,” said the Governor.
As water becomes increasingly scarce, we must focus on ways we can provide adequate storage facilities for conservation and prioritize Colorado’s water usage for our consumption by protecting our water rights. Polis has a water plan set in place that is projected to support $100 million in projects to conserve water through housing density, storage facilities and restoration of streams and waterways.
The big picture: Imbalance in the labor market and crime-strained economic hubs remain two significant threats to Colorado’s economic competitiveness. Polis addressed both in his remarks, and we expect both issues to get a lot of airtime at the Capitol.
- Colorado has two job openings for every unemployed person. Governor Polis also highlighted this statistic, and this discrepancy is a top concern of employers, who are desperately seeking talent. Ensuring the demand for talent is met with a robust supply is an issue that needs collective action from businesses groups, the state and our education system.
- There will be more legislation on workforce and education. Polis reminded the assembly of last session’s work to upskill, reskill and new skill our workforce and the need for ongoing efforts to support innovative new talent pipelines and align K-12 and higher education with employers’ needs.
- “Right now, Colorado falls in the middle of the pack on crime rates, but that’s not good enough. We can and we must do better,” said the Governor.
Polis set a goal to be one of the “top 10 safest states,” which is a ranking we would love to tout when pitching Colorado to companies. He wants to build on last session’s public safety package, which the Chamber supported, by dedicating additional funds for law enforcement officers and community organizations, getting tougher on auto-theft sentencing, improving school security, and collaborating with Colorado’s three largest cities to tackle public safety.
As Governor Polis looks to Colorado’s 150th Anniversary as a state, the Chamber has never forgotten how integral our business advocacy has been for Colorado—we were created before Colorado achieved statehood and have ushered in some of the state’s most important developments and economic successes.
As we continue our work this legislative session, the Chamber remains focused on our three main policy goals: housing, sustainability and economic competitiveness. We look forward to working with the Governor where there is common interest, as well as advocating for our members and the business community to ensure Colorado remains a competitive place to live, work and do business.
Bills We Took a Position On This Week
- House Bill 1017 modifies the electronic Sales and Use Tax Simplification System to streamline various administrative processes and educate retailers and local taxing jurisdictions. This makes doing business easier in Colorado, and simplifying our sales use tax moves the needle to make doing business in Colorado more friendly.
- House Bill 1035 specifies the state statute of limitations for minimum wage violations as two years for non-willful violations and three years for willful violations. This legislation provides clarity and consistency for Colorado’s Minimum Wage rules, creates a more predictable climate for business, and staves off unnecessary litigation.
- House Bill 1039 requires wholesale electricity services in the state to file a report on the adequacy of its electric resources with the regulatory oversight entity responsible for approving resource plans or rates. This legislation allows the state to better understand the feasibility of a wholesale energy transition, especially as we progress toward electrification and a net-zero goal by 2050.
- Senate Bill 1 authorizes the public-private collaboration unit in the Department of Personnel to perform additional functions to provide housing. This bill is effective because it inventories underutilized state lands and repurposes them to build affordable housing, slashing costs to developers and passing savings on to consumers.
Read more on our stances on our current legislation page.
FAMLI’s Impact on Businesses
Our next Monthly Member Meeting is Feb. 1, and we will feature local experts to discuss the impact of FAMLI implementation on businesses. Gold Committee members and up can register to make sure your business is ready for FAMLI!
The Civics Bee is Coming to Denver!
The Denver Metro Chamber is thrilled to announce we are hosting the Denver Civics Bee! Middle school students in Metro Denver are welcome to apply for a chance to win cash prizes and further engage with their community.
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