With fewer than two weeks remaining in the 2023 session, hundreds of bills still await action under the Gold Dome.
Many of the bills that the Chamber has been working on throughout session are slowly making their way through the legislative process. The legislature is significantly behind schedule this year – and between procedures and politics – we can expect a heavy workload until May 8 (Sine Die).
As legislators cut backroom deals and work on passing priority bills, the Chamber continues to work on either amending or killing several major pieces of legislation that would have a detrimental impact on the business community and the Colorado economy.
However, should the legislature decide to move forward with these measures, the business community has one backstop – a veto from Governor Jared Polis.
Procedurally, during the legislative session, the Governor has 10 days to decide which option will be used for each bill that reaches his desk. He can sign the bill, veto the bill, or allow the bill to become law without his/her signature. It takes two-thirds of the General Assembly to override the Governor’s veto.
Upon the conclusion of the legislative session, the Governor will have 30 days to veto or sign bills passed at the end of the session. The Governor can also simply allow legislation to become law without his signature.
In 2021, Governor Jared Polis issued three vetoes, killing proposals on titling procedures and sales tax requirements for off-highway vehicle transfers, a bill that would have allowed a Lieutenant Governor candidate to simultaneously run for another elected office, and a measure updating a technical error from a 2019 bill on transportation infrastructure projects funding.
In 2022, Governor Polis vetoed four bills, the most substantial being a bill that would have forced developers of new large commercial and multifamily residential buildings to set aside a portion of parking spaces to serve as electric vehicle charging stations. The other bills he vetoed last year dealt with homeowner’s associations reserve funds, a mental health program for county coroners and mortuary workers, and regulations around music therapists.
Polis’s predecessor, Senator John Hickenlooper, averaged three vetoes a year in his two terms as Governor with the most ever in his final year. Hickenlooper rejected nine bills in 2018.
Below are this session’s bills the Chamber hopes Governor Polis will veto – should they make it through the legislature.
*Please note, this list may expand or change in the coming days as legislation moves through the process. This list is not inclusive of all the legislation that will negatively impact the business community this year, and we continue to work on amending or killing other bills still in the legislative process. Rather, we feel that the bills listed below will have the broadest negative impact on businesses and consumers across Colorado.
Senate Bill 105 Ensure Equal Pay for Equal Work
The bill requires the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment to investigate and take enforcement action regarding complaints alleging violations of state pay equity laws and makes updates to job posting and employee notification requirements for employers when hiring employees. The bill increases state expenditures, minimally impacts state revenue, and impacts workload for local governments and other public entities on an ongoing basis.
Chamber Comments: The Chamber has been a major proponent of ensuring equal pay for equal work, and Colorado businesses have been required to provide equal pay for equal work since at least 2021. Lawmakers have been attempting to correct and update additional issues with existing equal pay law via Senate Bill 105.
Unfortunately, many of these updates miss the mark.
The Equal Pay for Equal Work Act of 2019 had laudable goals, but some significant unintended consequences for businesses. For years we have been at the table working with sponsors, General Assembly leadership, the Governor’s Office and other stakeholders to identify and troubleshoot issues created by the 2019 Equal Pay bill and proceeding rulemaking.
While we are heartened by specific provisions of Senate Bill 105, the bill ultimately does more harm than good. When working with stakeholders the last three-plus years, the business community sought amendments to the 2019 law that would make the Equal Pay law clearer and alleviate unintended consequences of the previous rulemaking process.
However, this new law:
- Establishes additional reporting requirements and bureaucratic layers beyond the 2019 law.
- Creates privacy concerns about disclosure requirements to candidates not chosen for the role.
- Raises concerns that the six-year look back is out of step with the length of time employers are required to keep records, making claims indefensible.
- Creates concern that recovering wages over a six-year period is financially untenable and allowing that far of a reach backward disincentivizes timely and efficient remedy for all parties.
- Fails to address remote work.
We have heard in other committees that the remote worker issue has been resolved—but from an economic development perspective, this law puts Colorado out of sync with our peers for remote work, and that creates unnecessary friction for employers looking to hire remote workers and employees looking to find remote jobs.
We remain opposed to this legislation because we don’t think that more regulation, restrictions, reporting and fining helps Colorado businesses or Colorado’s economy. At a certain point, over regulation leads to meaningless compliance – and we fail to help the people who equal pay laws are actually intended to help. We saw that with the 2019 law: if there’s a full salary difference between the posted salary range, it’s not useful information for prospective employees.
Should the bill pass as written, we implore the Governor to veto this legislation so we can address the goals of the initial 2019 law – not create new misaligned requirements on business.
House Bill 1192 Additional Protections In Consumer Code
The bill repeals and reenacts the “Colorado Antitrust Act of 1992” as the “Colorado State Antitrust Act of 2023” and makes several changes, including changes to the Colorado Consumer Protection Act. The bill increases state revenue and state and local expenditures on an ongoing basis.
Chamber Comments: A coalition of Colorado business groups, led by the Chamber, has been urging state lawmakers and the attorney general to press pause on this consumer protections proposal that will catch businesses of all sizes in a litigious trap.
The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Colorado Competitive Council, Colorado Association of Realtors and 16 other organizations sent a joint letter to Attorney General Phil Weiser earlier this month warning of “detrimental impacts” that House Bill 1192 would have on businesses if passed.
The bill seeks to update and clarify several areas of the Colorado Consumer Protection Act (CCPA). Businesses are most concerned with the first section of the bill, which changes the language that defines what a deceptive trade practice is.
In the new proposal, the “mental state” of the business in question is removed, meaning that a business does not have to “knowingly or recklessly” engage in a deceptive trade practice for a claim to be filed under the state’s consumer protection act – erasing the guardrails that prevent misuse of the law and frivolous litigation.
That change seems small, but it would have massive implications for businesses. Without current CCPA standards, the legal risks for day-to-day business fundamentally change, making House Bill 1192 a lawsuit factory for Colorado.
If Section 1 remains intact – we request that Governor Polis veto this bill.
House Bill 1294 Pollution Protection Measures
The bill updates procedures and requirements for air quality control regulations and creates a legislative interim committee. It increases state revenue and expenditures on an ongoing basis.
Chamber Comments: Last week, the sponsors for House Bill 1294 removed some of the requirements that the state Air Pollution Control Division model the impacts of more proposed oil and gas activity before granting a permit. In addition, amendments offered last week also removed some of the sweeping orders to state regulators to include controversial pollution-limiting policies in EPA-required improvement plans, such as limits on commuting miles driven by gasoline cars.
While amended, the bill still contains numerous concerning provisions and a massive fiscal note. And as history has shown, an interim committee simply means more radical legislation next year.
While the Chamber supports renewable energy goals, this session has seen yet another year of blatant attacks on industries that are vital to our state economy – without considering the full picture. The Polis administration, industry trade groups, and the Chamber continue to argue that numerous pollution-limiting policies have already been passed by state regulators, with more likely this year, and those should be given time to take effect.
Between 2019 and 2022, more than 55 pieces of legislation passed at the General Assembly were aimed at complying with the greenhouse gas emission reduction requirements of HB19-1261 or other climate objectives, according to our partners at the Common Sense Institute. That’s a lot of legislation in a short amount of time, creating an overly complicated and complex regulatory framework with constantly moving goalposts and new requirements.
Businesses understand the importance of clean air and clean water and are doing their best to be proactive and comply with rapidly changing law. However, the onslaught of new legislation every year aimed at pollution and greenhouse gas emissions is causing even the most capable of businesses to struggle to update their systems and compliance mechanisms.
The Chamber continues to oppose this measure and will request a veto from Governor Polis should it pass legislative muster.
Senate Bill 291 Utility Regulation
The bill updates transparency, rulemaking, and rate filing requirements for certain electric and gas utilities. It increases state and local revenue and expenditures beginning in FY 2023-24.
Chamber Comments: Senate Bill 291 Utility Regulation is a wide-reaching bill that requires more transparency from utilities and aligns incentives around natural gas spending to better serve customers – at least according to the sponsors.
Senate Bill 291 would significantly change the current energy system, with the laudable goal of preventing future spikes in energy costs from impacting consumers. The proposed bill would allow the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC), which regulates investor-owned utilities, to implement mechanisms to make utility companies bear some of the costs and risks of commodity price spikes to protect customers who can’t shop around for energy at a lower rate.
While there are numerous additional provisions to the bill, it is unfortunately apparent that this legislation is less about saving people money and more about punishing energy providers and socializing the cost of energy.
Sadly, this proposal does nothing to actually stabilize, protect, help, or reduce costs for customers. But if passed as written, this bill will cause key investments in Colorado’s energy infrastructure to come to a crawl – and our joint vision of making Colorado a leader in the clean energy transition will slowly dissipate.
Energy investment comes from incentives, collaboration, good stakeholding 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.
This bill threatens to halt utility investment in our state and puts Colorado in a precarious place with an essential product—a dangerous proposition.
As written, the Chamber continues to oppose this measure and will request a veto from Governor Polis should it pass.
House Bill 1115 Repeal Prohibition Local Residential Rent Control – A Veto Avoided
The bill removes a state prohibition on local government ordinances or regulations that control rent on private residential property, and places conditions on future rent control policies adopted by local governments. It is assessed as having no direct fiscal impact on state or local government.
Chamber Comments: Thankfully, the proposal to allow local rent control laws in Colorado died in the Senate Local Government & Housing Committee on Tuesday evening.
Since 1981, the state has banned local governments from setting limits on how much landlords can increase their rents. A bill in the state legislature would have undone that prohibition, allowing cities to enact rent control or “rent stabilization” policies.
While the Chamber wholeheartedly recognizes Colorado’s affordable housing crisis – this is not the solution. Repealing the prohibition on rent control opens the door to municipalities creating a patchwork of regulations. This prohibition adds artificial pressures on the rental market and will cause new rental construction to grind to a halt, further exacerbating our housing shortage.
Sen. Dylan Roberts, an Eagle County Democrat, joined three Republicans to vote down the measure at a committee hearing on Tuesday of this week. “This one’s really hard for me. I fully agree and see every day that housing is at a crisis,” Roberts said. But, he went on, “I’ve become convinced that rent control, even in a local manner like this, could — and probably would — stifle development.”
We wholeheartedly agree with Senator Roberts, and we thank him for voting no on this bill. The Chamber was instrumental in ensuring our state’s real estate market wasn’t distorted and that development wasn’t repelled by this bill’s provisions, and we opposed it vigorously.
We continue to work on other efforts at the Capitol aimed at increasing our housing supply – helping to drive down costs across the state.
Bills We Took a Position On
Senate Bill 283 clarifies that money from the “Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act” cash fund can be used by the Governor’s Office as project planning support and requires that the State Treasurer transfer $86 million from the general fund to the “Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act” cash fund.
House Bill 1302 modifies the accessible housing standards exception process for building plans submitted after July 1, 2023.
Senate Bill 172 enacts the “protecting Opportunities and Workers’ Rights Act”. In recognition of the extensive stakeholder work that went into this legislation, the Chamber has changed its position from opposed to monitoring. We are grateful that the sponsors and proponents remained engaged with the business community to find solutions that advanced workers’ rights in Colorado without creating an excessively litigious environment.