JCBL Legislative Update: June 2, 2020

By Jeff Weist

Jefferson County Business Lobby

 

After hurriedly adjourning in mid-March as the COVID-19 crisis hit, the Colorado State Legislature reconvened last week for a short session to accomplish “mission critical” bills before they return to socially distancing.

Expected to last about three weeks, the Legislature must, first and foremost, pass a state budget for next year.  The stay-at-home orders shutting down many businesses has hit local and state government revenues (not to mention those of our businesses) hard. The Joint Budget Committee – on which Jefferson County Senator Rachel Zenzinger sits – had to spend weeks re-writing next year’s budget to cut out about 25%, a daunting experience for any government.

In order to be done in three weeks, the Legislature has or will be killing off the majority of the roughly 350 bills that were on the calendar when they recessed in March. That includes some major bills the JCBL was working for or against, such as the paid family and medical leave bill. (Although there is a chance that proposal winds up before the voters in November.)

But the Legislature will take this month time to consider a number of bills in response to COVID-19, many of which target businesses. We will likely see bills to make companies liable for price gouging in a declared emergency, declare that a COVID infection in a worker in an “essential” business should be covered by workers comp, protect employee whistleblowers who call out unsafe work conditions from retaliation and mandate that all businesses provide a paid sick leave policy, among other new mandates and costs on businesses. The JCBL is working with other business groups to defeat or moderate these last-minute bills.

On the positive side, the Legislature appears poised to refer a constitutional amendment to the voters in November that would repeal the Gallagher Amendment to the Colorado Constitution. That formula for setting residential and business personal property assessment rates has had a decades-long effect of shifting a disproportionate share of property tax liability to business owners.

 

The Jefferson County Business Lobby advocates as the unified voice of 3,000 Jefferson County businesses for public policies that strengthen our business climate. The JCBL is a partnership comprised of the Arvada, Evergreen, Golden, West Metro, Westminster and Wheat Ridge Chambers of Commerce, the Jefferson County Economic Development Corporation, the Applewood and Wheat Ridge Business Associations and the Alameda Connects BID.

2019 Legislative Session Recap

The Jefferson County Business Lobby advocates as the unified voice of 3,000 Jefferson County businesses for public policies that strengthen our business climate. The JCBL takes positions and lobbies on bills of major impact to JeffCo businesses.

Please click HERE to read the recap of the 2019 Legislative session >>

PLEASE SUPPORT HOUSE BILL 19-1313 (REP. BECKER & SEN. WINTER) CARBON EMISSION TARGETS FOR ELECTRIC UTILITIES

Xcel Energy has led the industry in transitioning to cleaner energy sources and achieving ambitious carbon goals. Given the pace of change within our industry and customer demands, the Company is increasing its commitment and working to do more, sooner.

HB19-1313 creates a pathway to reduce carbon emissions 80 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels with a long-term vision to serve its customers with zero-carbon electricity by 2050, while establishing a process to ensure cost affordability for customers and comprehensive transition planning for its highly-skilled employees and workforce.

HB19-xxxx Summary

  • Establishes clean energy targets
    Applies to regulated utilities serving over 500,000 meters. Other electric utilities may opt-in.

    • 80% carbon emission reduction (from 2005 levels) by 2030.
    • 100% carbon emission reduction (from 2005 levels) by 2050, or sooner if practicable.
  • Creates a pathway at the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to hold these goals accountable
    Clean Energy Plan to be submitted with utility’s next resource plan after Jan 1, 2020.

    • Supports a comprehensive transition for highly-skilled employees,
    • Ensures system reliability and cost affordability to Colorado electric customers.
    • Air Quality Control Division (AQCC) participation, verify & alignment with state goals.
    • All new energy acquired through competitive bidding.
  • Reporting
    One year after approval, the utility will report to the Governor, the PUC, and the AQCC on progress toward targets, resources developed, costs and customer impacts, system reliability and other relevant information.

A Proven leader

  • Since 2005, Xcel Energy company-wide has reduced carbon emissions 35 percent under its previous goal to reduce emissions 60 percent by 2030.
  • Advancements in technologies have made renewable and cleaner energy cost effective. To achieve the zero-carbon 2050 vision, we will need a diverse mix of 24/7 resources as we continue adopting wind, solar, energy efficiency and other clean energy technologies.

JCBL Legislative Update: New employment laws are a major agenda item for the Colorado Legislature

By Jeff Weist,  Jefferson County Business Lobby

March 8, 2019

The relationship between employers and employees in Colorado faces a potentially seismic shift in the next year, if a long list of priority bills for the Legislature’s new Democrat majority pass in their present form. The issues the Legislature is tackling – like pay equity and paid family and medical leave – are important ones that have broad political support. But how the bills are written will determine how easy or hard it will be for JeffCo businesses to comply with the new mandates.

The JCBL has been working with a broad coalition of other business groups to offer amendments to reduce the compliance expense and new liability that will come with the likely passage of new laws. Take, for example, the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act (SB19-085). The JCBL opposes discrimination in pay based on sex or any other non-work-related factor. We believe our members are paying their employees fairly and, if they are not, they should.

However, as introduced, SB85 was unworkable for businesses. The bill creates a new right for employees to sue their employer in court for a discriminatory pay disparity. As under federal law, the burden of proof is on the employer to show that any pay disparity is based on a legitimate business-related factor, but the available defenses in the state bill were insufficient. For example, a night shift employee could not be paid more than a day shift employee. Nor could an employee with more experience, education or training expect a higher wage. An employer would have had to pay the same salary in La Junta as it does in Jefferson County. The damage awards were greater under the original version of the bill than in any other state around the country.

Working with the sponsors of the bill, however, the business coalition was able to secure a number of amendments to the bill to address all of those concerns listed above and more. While we still have a couple issues to negotiate, we are hopeful to address the major business concerns as the bill moves through the Legislature. But even with those changes to the bill, this likely new law will require businesses to change the way they post new jobs, pay their employees and handle opportunities for promotion.

Meanwhile, the long-awaited Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program Act (FAMLI) was just introduced. SB19-188 imposes a tax on all employers and employees in the state to create a fund from which employees can file for wage replacement while taking leave from work for their own medical needs, the care of a new child, or to care for a sick relative or friend.  The program is modeled after the federal unpaid Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), with which most employers are familiar. Like FMLA, employers are required to reinstate an employee taking leave to the same or equivalent job upon return from leave. But unlike the federal FMLA, the state FAMLI program will cover all employers, including small employers, who are exempt under the federal law. Colorado’s proposed bill goes beyond the FMLA on the reasons for taking leave, the duration of leave, and the definition of family member; and is more generous to the employee in time-on-the-job requirements for eligibility and job protection.

In fact, SB188 represents the most generous paid leave program passed by any state in the nation. The tax imposed on employers and employees to fund the program is uncapped and to be set annually by the director of the program without review or approval by committee, Legislature or voters. Putting aside the administrative burdens and business disruptions inherent in any mandated paid leave program, the risks of another large insolvent state fund is a very real concern.

Just a reminder that you can find the status of all of the bills on which the JCBL has taken a position at jeffcobusinesslobby.org. While you are there, sign up for regular updates under the “Take Action” icon.

 

The Jefferson County Business Lobby advocates as the unified voice of 3,000 Jefferson County businesses for public policies that strengthen our business climate. The JCBL is a partnership comprised of the Arvada, Evergreen, Golden, West Metro, Westminster and Wheat Ridge Chambers of Commerce, the Jefferson County Economic Development Corporation, the Applewood and Wheat Ridge Business Associations and the Alameda Connects BID.

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