On January 9th, the Colorado State Legislature convened in Denver for the first regular session of the 74th general assembly, to the delight (or dismay) of many across the state. The first week of the session saw more than 100 bills introduced as the most significant legislative priorities were identified.
Party leaders addressed important focuses for this session, including solving the affordable housing issues across our state, environmental issues, workforce solutions, and addressing water shortages. Similar to previous years, environmental protections and economic issues are also expected to be major legislative subjects.
Colorado Democrats have large majorities both in the House and Senate. In the House, they hold a 46-19 supermajority, meaning they would be able to overturn a veto from the governor if one was issued. In the Senate, a somewhat smaller majority at 23-12, one vote short of a 2/3’s supermajority that would grant them the same power. This is a level of control neither party has enjoyed in recent history, meaning they will have a significant opportunity to shape policy in the state.
With their standing in both the House and Senate being much smaller than in previous years, Colorado Republicans will likely choose to adopt a strategy of delay tactics and fostering public outrage at the actions of the majority party or might decide to attempt to work across the aisle to secure compromises and concessions, but this appears to be unlikely. Many sources believe it will be at least 4 years before they have the opportunity to regain enough seats to drive major policy decisions.
This year’s legislature as a whole also faces budgetary constraints, with a $15 million limit on new projects and expansions, which will impact what they are able to accomplish this session. There has already been significant movement, though, relating to changes in Colorado’s regulations on required sick time (SB23-017) and FAMLI leave (SB23-046) that will attempt to expand how these programs may be used by employees. This signals a future goal of these programs becoming so wide in scope that they will effectively be able to be used for any reason, including vacation or paid time off.
It has been noted that this session is off to a slower start than usual, and many are expecting to see the majority of legislation passed in the second half of the session. This usually means that the majority of the advocacy work the Chamber does for business priorities will be toward the end of the spring. As always, you can count on the Chamber to be a fierce advocate for business priorities at all levels of government, working to protect your ability to operate your business.
See below for bills our Governmental Affairs Committee has taken action on thus far.
After careful consideration, the committee has decided to Support the following bills:
HB23-1035- Statute Of Limitations Minimum Wage Violations – Currently, there is no specific statute of limitation for violations of minimum wage laws, which is a potential issue for employers because employment records can only be kept for a limited period of time. If a lawsuit was filed or enforcement action was taken after records were disposed of, it would be incredibly difficult to defend against. This bill corrects this oversight while still preserving the right for those affected by minimum wage violations to recover damages by establishing a 2-year limit and creating consistency with federal laws.
SB23-006 – Creation Of The Rural Opportunity Office – The Rural Opportunity Office is a part of the Office of Economic Development and has been in an informal mode of operation within that department since 2019. This bill codifies the former in Colorado law, ensuring its ability to coordinate rural economic development projects well into the future, which is an incredibly valuable asset to Mesa County and fellow rural community businesses.
After careful consideration, the committee has decided to Monitor the following bills:
HB23-1011 – Consumer Right to Repair Agricultural Equipment – This bill would require manufacturers of agricultural equipment to make replacement parts, tools, and information like designs and repair manuals available to independent repair providers, which is currently required for other technologies and products in the state. This has the potential to increase the availability of repair providers and give owners access to the parts and information necessary to perform their own repairs. However, this also increases the possibility of poor-quality repairs and accidents while also creating questions of future proprietary information protection concerns.
SB23-001 – Authority of Public-Private Collaboration Unit For Housing – This bill would expand the powers of public-private partnerships that provide housing, potentially increasing the future housing supply in the state and reducing costs. Concern remains, however, that this expansion of powers might mean unfair competition with private housing providers or lower quality housing options. Specifically, the state government could have the power to develop its own affordable housing projects under this measure, and the Grand Junction Chamber hopes to work towards an amendment that sees a limitation placed on this power before it is passed.
SB23-016 – Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Measures – This bill seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the state with several different changes, including new regulations on investment in oil and gas projects, changes to clean energy sources definitions, and new future goals on emission reduction. The impacts of this bill will be particularly felt by businesses, but it is unlikely to pass as the bill is currently written. Most significant among the new regulations is the goal of eliminating all carbon emissions in the state by the year 2050, which could be used as a justification for increased regulation of all businesses. With the constant moving of our clean energy goals, it will create increased costs and uncertainty. The Grand Junction Chamber is continuing to work with our state-wide coalitions to remove the most damaging sections of this bill while encouraging state leaders to allow time for existing clean energy plans time to take effect before adding more.