The 2023 Colorado Legislative Session Hits the Halfway Mark
This week marks the official halfway point of the 120-day legislative session. The Chamber has weighed in on almost 40 bills thus far. You can find all Chamber bill positions on our policy page.
With well over 400 bills introduced and making their way through the legislative process, General Assembly leaders will need to play a vital role in managing the remaining calendar – especially amidst the upcoming March revenue forecast and the following long bill (or budget) negotiations.
While things have been relatively civil and amicable under the Gold Dome, don’t be surprised to see a shift in tone in the coming weeks. Democrats will do their best to manage calendars – complicated by financial appropriations and divisive political issues such as rent control, abortion and guns – and Republicans will do their best to slow the legislative process down as much as possible – expect lots of filibustering, political maneuvering and gamesmanship.
Add-in the fact that legislators will need to prioritize discretionary spending and ultimately decide the fate of high-priced programs and funding priorities – and it will certainly make for an interesting second half of the session.
Prior to the start of the legislative session, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce outlined three priority issues as part of our 2023 policy platform: housing, sustainability and economic competitiveness. As expected, much of the legislation during the first chunk of session has focused on energy and the environment, affordable housing/rental agreements, and employee/employer relations.
Whether it’s predictive scheduling, workplace harassment, equal pay, workers compensation changes, consumer protection issues, and more – there is no shortage of legislation directly aimed at the business community this year – and it is creating some palpable tension. And when legislators are looking for a solution, whatever the policy issue might be, they seem to be landing in the same place – litigating it.
With many issues still being debated by lawmakers, we have seen some shift in priorities in recent weeks, particularly with efforts aimed at access to firearms and health care costs.
When it comes to firearms, Democrats recently announced a package of bills intended to prevent gun violence, including proposals to raise the age to purchase all guns to 21, create a three-day waiting period between when someone can purchase a firearm and access it, and expand the state’s existing red flag law, which lets judge’s order the temporary seizure of firearms from people deemed a significant risk to themselves or others. And just last week, we saw legislation introduced aimed at banning so called “assault weapons” – a contentious topic in Colorado and beyond.
A lot of questions remain about how much political capital and time the gun bills will consume – especially with just 60 days remaining in the legislative session.
At the same time firearm policy has come into the mix, so have health care costs.
Recently, Governor Jared Polis and lawmakers rolled out a package of bills designed to correct issues with the 2021 bills on the public option and prescription drug affordability, as well as require nonprofit hospitals to prove they’re providing community benefits to address the needs of people of color and the unhoused.
Polis said the plan will build on previous efforts to bring down costs and increase transparency – but the health care industry and the business community have some serious concern about what has been brought to the table. Affordability and transparency make good sound bites – but the reality of the bill package is much more complicated – and costly.
There is plenty more to come in the remaining days of the session surrounding current bills, new legislation, and the state budget. As a wise person once said – “There is no such thing as an easy bill.” All bills must face the same legislative process – and the politics that come with it.
Denver Municipal Campaigns and the Future of Denver: The DSA Slate
As a Chamber of Commerce, we are fundamentally invested in the growth of businesses and the economic development of our city. We know, however, that not everyone shares the same view. Denver has a local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, or DSA, and their focus is to “ﬁght for the abolition of capitalism.” Their policy goals include:
- A new political order through a second constitutional convention to write the founding documents of a new socialist democracy.
- Abolish the Senate and the Electoral College.
- Defund the police by rejecting any expansion to police budgets or scope of enforcement while cutting budgets annually toward zero.
- Free all people from involuntary conﬁnement.
- Social ownership of all major industry and infrastructure.
- End “at will” employment.
- Regulate the economy.
The local chapter has been involved in the 2023 municipal elections through endorsements and coordinated campaigning. They endorsed the following candidates in January:
Michaela Iron Shell-Dominguez
They have chosen to endorse a slate of seven candidates, because if all win election they will have a working majority on Denver City Council.
We have been concerned that the political environment in Colorado has become increasingly hostile to business, and in the race for city council, that concern has become overt. We’ve said many times before that there is space for policy making in between utopia and the apocalypse. This municipal election will determine whether our leaders feel the same.
Chamber Supports Denver Ballot Measure 2O
Yesterday, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors voted to support Denver Ballot Measure 2O, joining other leading community groups such as Habitat for Humanity, Apartment Association of Metro Denver, Denver Metro Community Impact, Volunteers for America, Denver Classroom Teachers Association and others. This ballot measure will appear on the Denver Municipal ballot for the April 4 General Election and puts before voters the choice to lift the conservation easement on the current site of the Park Hill Golf Course.
Lifting the conservation easement would make it easier to bring more housing to market, chipping away at the 225,000 housing unit deficit we are experiencing on the Front Range, and increasing housing inventory in the region. If Denver voters approve the measure, the site has the opportunity to be developed into an urban mixed-use neighborhood with multiple housing typologies, including permanently affordable housing, retail space and Denver’s fourth largest park—adding much needed density, housing, and amenities to Park Hill.
About the measure, our president and CEO, J. J. Ament, said, “The Chamber endorses and encourages Denver voters to vote for Measure 2O. Creating Denver’s 4th largest public park and providing affordable and attainable housing for our residents is essential if we’re going to maintain our economic competitiveness and quality of life. Measure 2O honors the important balance we need between protecting and activating open spaces and parks while also providing affordable and attainable housing, access to fresh and healthy food, and new opportunities for economic empowerment for residents. We are proud to support this effort.”
Denver municipal ballots will be sent out starting next Monday, March 13. If you’re a Denver voter, return your ballot before April 4. Also on the ballot are critical races for Denver Mayor, City Council and other ballot measures.
Bills We Took a Position On
- House Bill 1224 makes changes to the “Colorado Standardized Health Benefit Plan Act.” In 2021, the Chamber opposed HB21-1232 because it introduced sweeping and risky legislation that would increase costs for most Coloradans, and this is still the concern for this bill.
- House Bill 1225 modifies certain functions of the Prescription Drug Affordability Board. This bill removes two key elements the Chamber fought for in SB21-175, and we oppose the expansion of a program that has never been utilized and has not been proven to lower drug costs or evaluate pricing.
- Senate Bill 171 requires entertainment venues with 7,000 or more eats to designate 4% of their seats as “substance-free seating.” We believe that large venues subject to this bill best know how to run their businesses, and an added mandate on these venues is onerous and difficult to implement and enforce.
- Senate Bill 172 enacts the “Protecting Opportunities and Workers’ Rights Act.” The unintended consequences of this legislation would provide uncertainty as new standards and judicial interpretations make their way through the court system and are implemented and interpreted.
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