This week the last(?) of the vacancy seats in the General Assembly was filled when Rep. Kyle Brown (D) Boulder County was sworn in to fill the seat vacated by the resignation of Tracy Bernett on January 8. That makes 33 new legislators, including former Rep. Perry Will who was appointed to fill the vacancy in Senate District 6. Maybe we should be considering team jerseys with players names and numbers at the Capitol!
The 120-day legislative calendar which started on January 9 is down by 26 days with most of the significant bills yet to be introduced. Of the 306 bills introduced to date (a little less than half of what is usually seen in a session), many have received bi-partisan support. However, there are clouds on the horizon.
Employers Beware! Colorado employers face significant challenges this session as legislators old and new scramble to out-do each other in worker protection. Bills of current concern include legislation mandating “fair workweek” scheduling by a variety of employers, with requirements for two weeks advance notice and penalties for change. Although primarily targeting retail and service industries having 250 employees in aggregate (not all at one site), the bill can be understood to impact a broader number of businesses such as security and janitorial workers and perhaps others. Additional concern is raised by the fact that the bill could be amended to add additional “covered employers” due to the very broad bill title. CMA has joined other business organizations across Colorado in opposing HB 23-1118. Other employment bills that deserve attention include: a requirement that employers inform their workers of the Earned Income Tax Credit; yet another Equal Pay bill; expanded permissible uses for paid sick leave; and a new calculation for determining average weekly wage for purposes of the FAMLI leave program. Although it has just begun collecting premiums with benefits not available until 2024, the FAMILI program is rumored to already be insolvent anticipating likely usage, and one bill seeks to delay its implementation for another year.
The Governor and the legislature are pushing a variety of affordable housing measures which promise to cross over into the areas of land use. Also tied to land use are ongoing debates over water and wildfire prevention, issues which also trigger local control concerns.
As Energy prices continue to climb, climate and energy use are the focus of bills already introduced as well as those awaiting future introduction. Nuclear energy is drawing support from Republicans as another carbon-free energy source. Customer complaints about high utility bills are driving talk of reform for PUC oversight of regulated utilities. Bills addressing energy efficiency standards for consumer appliances and appliance replacement provisions in home warranties to encourage a switch away from natural gas to electric sources are currently before the legislature, along with competing bills prohibiting the state, local government, or HOAs from limiting the use of any specific energy form for heating, cooling, cooking, or generating electricity. The first big GHG reduction bill of the session (SB 16) drew criticism from the Energy Office and business for setting more aggressive interim goals for reducing GHG emissions; however, the committee declined to remove those provisions. Meanwhile, CDPHE announced that a comprehensive package of climate bills will be forthcoming from the Governor’s Office that includes tax incentives for electrification of transportation and buildings to reduce GHG emissions. Specifically mentioned were expanded tax credits for the industrial sector’s GHG reductions, currently in the stakeholder phase. The multiple, often conflicting approaches to climate and energy ensure lengthy debates as the months of March and April approach.