With just a few weeks remaining in the legislative session, the Colorado General Assembly is not wasting a moment trying to pass legislation prioritized by the Democratic majority. With hundreds of bills still awaiting hearings, it’s long days and weekend work for legislators. And yet, legislators continue to introduce sweeping bills on issues like energy and the environment, school finance, the regulation of psychedelics as required by Proposition 122, and implementation of Proposition 123 – the housing initiative passed by voters in November.
This week, Senate President Steve Fenberg introduced one of the most sweeping pieces of legislation this year, with mere days left on the session calendar. Senate Bill 291 Utility Regulation seeks to make broad, and punitive, changes to Colorado’s energy infrastructure.
The Chamber has come out in strong opposition to the proposal due to our concerns that it would raise costs for Colorado energy consumers, freeze and roll back the clean energy transition, and impose unnecessary, burdensome, and intrusive bureaucratic mandates on energy companies and their employees.
Senate Bill 291 is a knee-jerk reaction to the rising cost of energy and does nothing to stabilize rates for customers. That’s because energy costs have been impacted by an international conflict, an unusually cold winter, inflation and the cost of oil. We are disappointed that this bill creates new bureaucracy and enormous filing burdens on utilities… adding additional, unnecessary costs to operations, costs that will unfortunately be passed on to consumers.
Additionally, Senate Bill 291 creates conflicting mandates on Colorado’s energy transition and undermines the emissions reduction policies of SB19-236 and HB19-1261; the electrification policies of SB19-077 and HB21-1238; the gas utility evolution policies of SB21-264; and the market development policies of SB21-072. Further, it deviates from the Governor’s own climate agenda for this session.
This bill was heard in the Senate Finance Committee yesterday (skipping the Senate Transportation & Energy Committee.) President Fenberg also replaced Senator Mullica, the Finance Committee Chair, with himself to vote on his co-sponsored legislation. The Senate Finance Committee passed the bill in a 4-3 party-line vote on Thursday. The bill will next face the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration.
Raymond H. Gonzales, president of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and executive vice president of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, provided testimony in front of the Senate committee. “Key investments in Colorado’s energy infrastructure will come to a crawl – and our joint vision of making Colorado a leader in the clean energy transition will slowly dissipate,” said Gonzales. “Energy investment comes from incentives, collaboration, good stake-holding, and pragmatic negotiation. It does not come from divisive, political endeavors that increase bureaucracy and create enormous burdens on businesses that are essential to our communities and our state.”
Land Use Changes
Another behemoth bill this session is Senate Bill 213 Land Use, which reimagines land use and zoning in Colorado to increase density and boost housing stock.
The Chamber supports this legislation. Housing is the economic competitiveness issue of our time, and it’s clear that the status quo is not a solution to the state’s crisis-level housing shortage,
Senate Bill 213 faced amendments in committee this week and in order to survive, the committee reduced the footprint of land eligible for upzoning by 70%. The bill was also amended to reduce the burdens and responsibilities of rural resort communities to address the shortage. The many changes (17 amendments adopted in total) made in committee undercut use-by-right in favor of preserving existing density constraints. The Chamber remains committed to working on this proposal because the norm is not a viable option for our housing shortage. Further, this legislation is prompting fraught but necessary conversations about why our housing stock is so low and what can be done to meaningfully respond to the shortage, including readdressing construction litigation reform.
Still confused about the upcoming FAMLI deadline? Join the Department of Labor and Employment’s Virtual FAMLI Town Hall on Thursday, April 27 from 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. to learn more about the program, how it applies to you, and what you need to do to remain in compliance.
Join Us at State of the State!
There have been more than 600 bills introduced by the General Assembly this year, and the clock is ticking to pass bills into law. Many of these bills could have significant impacts on the business community, and the end of the legislative session will tell us which bills are moving forward. Join us for our annual State of the State, presented by Xcel Energy, to be the first to learn about the outcomes of the legislative session.
Come join us on May 9th (the day after Sine Die) and get the inside scoop on what happened during the 2023 legislative session before the ink on bills is even dry!
Bills We Took a Position On
Senate Bill 207, beginning Jan. 1, 2025, allows data centers to claim a refund on all state sales and use tax on purchases for construction materials or data center equipment necessary for construction or operation of the facility.
House Bill 1294 removes the requirement that the Air Quality Control Commission make rules setting conditions and limitations for start-up, shutdown or malfunction of air pollution that justify temporary relief from an emission control regulation.
Senate Bill 291 socializes on-site solar costs to install systems; changes fuel cost modeling; gives discretion to the administrative state to determine the standard of review in cases on a case-by-case basis; mandates disclosure requirements; builds out extensive cost recovery exclusions; requires disclosure of individuals employed by regulated entities; including salaries and wages; establishes “fuel cost sharing” models; eliminates line extension allowances; establishes a study process to shorten depreciation lives; and grants special rights to non-regulated energy providers.
Senate Bill 276 modifies the “Uniform Election Code of 1992” in a number of ways. It allows any form of identification currently specified in the code to be presented electronically, changes requirements for preregistering 17-year-olds for general elections and expands disclosure requirements for candidates. The bill further specifies that the Department of State cannot use public funds for advertising featuring candidates for local, state, or federal government offices.