With just a few days remaining in Colorado’s 2023 legislative session, Governor Jared Polis has signed more than 150 bills into law. By law, signed legislation takes effect in August, 90 days after the general assembly adjourns, unless otherwise specified in the bill.
But the bills signed by Governor Polis reflect just a portion of the legislation introduced this session.
As of Monday, 612 bills have been introduced this year, according to the Office of Legislative Legal Services. For reference, that’s 39 fewer than at this time last year.
At the beginning of this week, 355 of the bills had completed their legislative journey: either killed or sent to the Governor. Of the 257 bills left in the process, not including the property tax bills introduced this week, 136 are awaiting final action in the Senate, 121 left in the House.
One of the only things the legislature must do – pass a balanced state budget (done this year in the form of Senate Bill 214) – was signed into law on May 1.
While the numbers have changed since Monday, it should give you an idea of the kind of backlog we have been seeing in recent weeks. Despite the progress made over the last few days (and nights) the clock keeps ticking – with many major bills still in play.
Barely 12 hours after the bill became available for policymakers to review for the first time, a legislative panel approved Governor Polis’ proposal aimed at a sharp hike in property taxes. Meanwhile, a Colorado House committee partially restored the most controversial parts of the major land use reform bill before it advanced the measure late Tuesday night. Another measure intended to raise compensation for unemployed workers with dependents by $35 per dependent per week hit a wall in a Senate committee this week, dying on a vote of 5-4.
The end of the legislative session is always a chaotic sprint to “Adjournment Sine Die” (or the conclusion of the legislative session), so this is nothing new. But with a third of the legislature being new this year and hundreds of bills on the table, things seem especially tense.
Members of the same party are voting to defeat each other’s legislation, with some even filibustering their own party’s bills and instigating conflict with Governor Polis. The dynamic is most visible in the House, where Democrats hold a historic number of seats and split along mainstream and progressive party lines. But it’s even evident in the Senate, where moderates hold critical positions.
The tension in the legislative process reached a boiling point in the final week, spurring intraparty revolts and jeopardizing key Democratic priorities. For example, last Saturday, the House GOP caucus invoked the potential of having every bill left in the 2023 session — more than 200 — read at length, to force Democrats to bring back the 2023-24 state budget measure, because of an error – which has since been addressed.
The result: delays, finger-pointing, and both sides threatening to invoke obscure legislative rules.
The internal political divides have also played into legislative outcomes, and the results serve as a reminder that being of the same political party does not correlate to an identical policy ideology.
Two of the more progressive measures — to authorize local rental price controls and permit sanctioned drug-use sites — both died in recent weeks with Democrats voting against them. Likewise, a bill to impose tougher air quality regulations that drew opposition from Governor Polis and the oil and gas industry was substantially weakened – though remains highly concerning to the business community.
However, just because these measures have been killed or softened in committees does not mean we should expect them to simply go away.
Typically, it takes multiple sessions for a bill to be introduced before it makes it all the way through the legislative process. This is especially true of the more contentious items. As we saw with efforts like FAMLI leave or workplace harassment (the Protecting Opportunities And Workers’ Rights, or POWR, Act) – whether it be through the legislature or through the ballot, progressive groups continue to push their policy agenda’s year after year.
All that is to say – while we will have a comprehensive legislative session re-cap in the coming weeks as the 2023 legislative session grinds to a close, the Chamber is already preparing for what the 2024 session may have to offer.
The (Revised) Chamber Veto List
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.
Last week, the Chamber released our initial veto list. With so much happening in the past week, we have updated our veto requests.
Previously listed bills, including House Bill 1192 (Additional Protections In Consumer Code), Senate Bill 105 (Ensure Equal Pay For Equal Work), and Senate Bill 291 (Utility Regulation) were heavily amended in recent days thanks to months of hard work by the Chamber and our lobby team.
While we do not support these measures and still have major concerns about their impact to our businesses and their employees, we are glad to see them moving in a better direction.
Here 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.
House Bill 1171 Just Cause Requirement Eviction Of Residential Tenant
The bill prohibits landlords from evicting residential tenants unless they have “just cause.” The bill minimally increases state revenue and workload on an ongoing basis.
Housing policy does not operate in a vacuum. Landlords and housing providers continue to warn that efforts to cap rents, to slow or limit evictions, and cut down on various fees will only further depress the state’s beleaguered housing development.
This bill expressly limits the power of landlords over their own property and intervenes in what should otherwise be a negotiation between renter and owner.
This bill also has several unreasonable requirements, including both a 90-day notice and relocation assistance, creating an unattainable environment for landlords which will push them out of the rental market.
Further, as others have also argued, the bill goes too far by treating the decision not to renew a lease as an eviction, essentially forcing landlords into endless leases. In addition, the 90-day notice for terminating leases makes single-month leases functionally impossible to enforce.
The Chamber opposes this bill and requests a veto from Governor Polis should it reach his desk.
House Bill 1190 Affordable Housing Right Of First Refusal
The bill creates the right of first refusal for local governments to purchase multi-unit residential properties for long-term affordable housing. The bill increases state and local expenditures beginning FY 2023-24.
While the Chamber believes addressing housing affordability is vital for workforce retention and recruitment, this bill would repel capital investment and make it more difficult to build affordable housing stock.
If House Bill 1190 is passed, private owners of residential or mixed-use multifamily properties will be required to provide notice to local governments when selling or even contemplating a sale of qualifying properties.
Though House Bill 1190 uses the terminology of a “right of first refusal” for local Colorado governments, according to the legal experts it would really create a hybrid right of first refusal and right of first offer for local governments.
House Bill 1190 is a direct government affront on the housing market. The legislation would discourage investment in affordable housing, create administrative and financial burdens for landlords, limit market value, and limit the flexibility of landlords to sell their properties.
Should this bill reach the Governor’s desk, the Chamber requests a veto.
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.
Though amended, the bill still contains numerous concerning provisions. Moreover, history has shown an interim committee or task force 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, over 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 requests a veto from Governor Polis should it stand legislative muster.
Bills We Took a Position On
- House Bill 1304 modifies the voter-approved Proposition 123 in a number of ways.
- House Bill 1309 codifies into statute the following: restructuring of the film incentive program from a cash rebate to a refundable income tax credit during fiscal years for which there are at least $50 million of excess state revenues; specifying the credit cannot be used for income tax years beginning in any other calendar year unless the General Assembly specifies a maximum aggregate amount of such credits; and requiring the Office of Economic Development and the Office of Film, Television, and Media to jointly review the effectiveness of the credit and issue a report to the House of Representatives in 2028.
- Senate Bill 60 amends consumer protection law regarding ticket sales and resales for events.
- House Bill 1215 prohibits healthcare providers affiliated with a hospital from charging a facility fee for: outpatient services provided at an off-campus location or through telehealth or services identified by the medical services board that must be provided safely, reliably, and effectively in nonhospital settings.