Colorado Legislature – Bills Introduced as of 1/16/23
Your Chamber, along with the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance, routinely engage with our elected representatives to better understand both the dynamics of the legislature and direction of issues that are most important to the business community. In leveraging these relationships with members of our delegation, we seek to improve their understanding of how the decisions they make impact individual businesses and our economy in Northern Colorado.
With the opening of the 2023 legislative session, over 100 bills have been introduced in the first week for assignment to various committees for further consideration – on par with a typical year. Here we present a few examples of proposed legislation that may be of interest to you and the operations of your business.
Please note that before a bill is sent to the Governor for approval or veto, language may change from the initial draft. New provisions may be inserted while other provisions may be heavily modified or stricken from the adopted bill. As such, close monitoring of this process is a central theme of our activities.
HB23-1006 Employer Notice of Income Tax Credits
Each year, employers are required to provide to their employees a written statement of total compensation paid and income taxes withheld for the prior year. HB 1006 would require an additional written statement to all employees to advise them of the availability of both federal and state earned income tax and child care credits. The bill further provides the Colorado Department of Revenue ability to require additional notifications. While the stated purpose of the bill may appear innocuous, we will be monitoring the bill for changes that may prescribe additional employer responsibilities.
SB23-016 Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Measures
This measure includes a broad array of various requirements intended to further promote GHG reduction objectives. Among its many provisions, it requires the public employees’ retirement association (PERA) to provide an annual investment stewardship report to describe climate-related investment risks, impacts, and strategies for achieving statewide GHG reduction targets. The unstated purpose of this provision will be to limit future investment options of the PERA board to favored industries and activities, which is likely to decrease investment returns. PERA, as with many public pension funds, remain in a perennial battle to achieve sufficient returns necessary to fund its obligations.
This bill further establishes interim GHG reduction targets toward the statewide goal of achieving a 90% reduction by 2045 when compared to 2005 GHG pollution levels. That goal further raises the overall goal to 100% GHG reduction by 2050, all of which depend upon technology advancements that do not occur in a similar linear fashion.
SB23-016 would allow the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to seek primacy over the federal Safe Drinking Water Act related to the permitting of GHG sequestration wells, otherwise known as Class VI injection wells. While this is potentially very favorable in that a state process would be more responsive than the current federal Environmental Protection Agency process, the COGCC does not appear to have the technical capacities necessary to evaluate and monitor such “carbon capture” techniques. Significant resources will need to be identified and possibly redirected from other state priorities and maintained by the COGCC in perpetuity to take full advantage of this opportunity.
In a slightly positive vein, SB23-016 establishes the means for calculating the net metering credit for electricity produced by community solar gardens that is sold to the local utility provider. Under net metering, a utility buys excess energy produced by owners of solar panels. In most, but not all, cases the utility purchases the electricity at the prevailing retail rate then resells it to other customers. At scale, this results in a vicious cycle of higher utility rates for all customers while providing a direct subsidy for the customer selling excess production in two ways: they do not pay for the costs associated with maintaining connection to the utility grid that provides that sales opportunity and, they benefit from an ever-increasing sales price.
As it relates to solar gardens, which are stand-alone arrays of solar panels, the net meter credit allows for retail pricing, though deducts a charge for the estimated cost of connecting the garden to the grid.
The bill also requires local government to expedite the review process for projects that seek to renovate, rebuild, or recondition existing electric transmission lines. However, it does not address the need for new transmission corridors as wind and solar production facilities proliferate.
HB23-017 Additional Uses of Paid Sick Leave
The Colorado Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA) requires Colorado employers to provide two types of paid sick leave to their employees: public health emergency (PHE) leave and accrued leave.
Employers are also required to provide one hour of paid leave per 30 hours worked, up to 48 hours per year. This requirement took effect January 1, 2021, and is permanently in effect, not just during the COVID emergency.
Accrued leave is usable for a wide range of health and safety needs, including:
- Any mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition that prevents work;
- Diagnosis, care, or treatment of such conditions;
- Preventive care (including vaccination);
- Needs due to suffering domestic violence, sexual abuse, or criminal harassment; or caring for family with such conditions or needs.
The proposed bill seeks to expand the list of eligible leave to include care for a family member whose school or place of care has been closed due to inclement weather, loss of power, heating, water, or other unexpected occurrences. It further allows for time off to grieve, attend funeral/memorial services, or to attend to legal matters that arise from the death of a family member.
As small businesses are most impacted by the expanding array of mandated employee benefits, HB23-017 further discourages business formation and employment growth.
HB23-046 Average Weekly Wage Paid Leave Benefits
In 2020, Colorado voters instituted the Family and Medical Leave Act, commonly known as FAMLI, which ensures workers have access to paid leave for circumstances including parental leave for a new child, caring for family members with a serious health condition, or preparing for a loved one’s military deployment. Employer contributions and employee deductions to pay towards the state-run program beginning January 1, 2023 with employee access starting in 2024. The program allows for up to 16 weeks of absence.
HB23-046 expands benefits covered under FAMLI by recalculating the average weekly wage earned. Under FAMLI, an employee’s average wages are calculated based solely upon earnings at the job from which leave is sought. This bill expands the average calculation to include prior jobs, though does preclude the calculation from including additional jobs or income-producing endeavors the employee may simultaneously hold. The stated purpose is to effectively increase benefits if that results in an advantage to the employee.
A primary concern for business owners, and one that will impact employees at some level, is the solvency concern of the FAMLI program. Common Sense Institute recently updated an analysis that suggests current premiums are calculated on an inordinately low level of participation, leading to escalating premiums that exceed the cap approved by voters. Based upon experience in other states, voters will need to consider raising that cap. Otherwise, the deficit will need to be covered by the general fund or benefits will need to be reduced. Prior to its roll-out, it is irresponsible to expand opportunities for access to the program.
Source: Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance
January 25, 2023