Photo courtesy of Dave Anderson at InSync Photography + Design. View all event photos here.
DENVER – May 9, the Colorado business community heard from Gov. Jared Polis and the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce about the outcomes of the 2023 legislative session at the Chamber’s annual State of the State address, presented by Xcel Energy. The event provided a platform for Gov. Polis, the Chamber and other business leaders to discuss the outcomes of the legislative session as they pertain to the business community, and how they plan to move forward. The event follows the end of the legislative session each year.
The event featured Governor Jared Polis as the keynote speaker. The audience of more than 500 community members also got to hear from the senior director of government affairs for the Chamber, and executive director of the Colorado Competitive Council, Rachel Beck. The Chamber’s president and CEO, J. J. Ament, opened and closed out the event.
“This session, the business community came together with the broadest coalitions we’ve worked with to tackle some of the most challenging issues our state has ever faced,” opened Ament. “But that doesn’t mean that every issue was about building consensus. Some of the bills we saw this session were too broad, too brash or just downright unworkable.”
Beck spoke about wins and losses for the business community following the legislative session, specifically focusing on the Chamber’s pillars of housing, sustainability and economic competitiveness for topics.
Starting with housing, Beck mentioned Governor Polis and Senator Moreno’s Senate Bill 213, Land Use, and applauded how the sponsors held more than 100 stakeholder meetings with businesses, local governments, builders, environmental advocates and others. Beck said, “Though it didn’t pass, the sponsors were sincere in their desire to collect and respond to feedback, and they have pushed the conversation about housing forward significantly.
On sustainability, Beck’s main point was, although preserving the beauty and health of Colorado is a top priority, the influx of laws and regulations surrounding sustainability need to be given more time to react before implementing new policy. “Since 2019, we have seen a mind-boggling 55 new laws and regulations aimed at better air quality and meeting the EPA’s ozone standard,” said Beck. “Businesses cannot keep up with this overwhelming pace of new red tape, and we have no improvements in air quality to show for it.”
Economic competitiveness was Beck’s final touchpoint, specifically centering on Colorado’s legal environment. “The Institute for Legal Reform reported the price of Colorado’s litigious environment is $4,011 per household,” said Beck. “The increasing risk of costlier lawsuits in Colorado is being noted by our [economic development corporations] as a deterrent to companies looking to expand, relocate or invest in our state.”
Governor Jared Polis followed Beck, providing his overview of the legislative session, and primarily focusing on housing. After the death of the Governor’s Land Use bill, SB23-213, Governor Polis focused on the need for litigation to address housing in Colorado, saying, “The number one reason why a company doesn’t choose Colorado is housing costs.” He also stressed, “Let’s just hope we can succeed [with affordable housing accessibility] before we face a degree of crisis that other states have faced.”
Governor Polis also discussed the continued need to address Colorado’s workforce and talent pipeline. Referencing HB23-1246, Support In-demand Career Workforce, Governor Polis said the legislature was able to successfully expand programs to provide free education to students going into in-demand programs at community colleges, technical colleges and more. “We’ve really leaned into work-based learning and apprenticeships,” said Governor Polis. “With these investments, we’re excited to see Coloradans get the training they need to get good jobs.”
Ament closed the event, stating, “Our vision is for economic empowerment for every Coloradan—regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, political-party, you name it, robust and fair free enterprise is the answer, not the barrier, to lasting achievements in policy.”
The presenting sponsor for the event was Xcel Energy, and the platinum sponsor was Southwest Airlines.
To learn more about the Chamber’s stances for the 2023 legislative session, visit denverchamber.org/policy/2023-legislative-session.
About the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce
For 156 years, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce has been a leading voice for Colorado’s business community. With a membership that spans the state, the Chamber is an effective advocate for small and large businesses. The Chamber’s family of organizations includes the Metro Denver EDC, the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation, the Denver Metro Small Business Development Center, the Colorado Competitive Council and B:CIVIC. For more information, go to denverchamber.org.