Colorado Legislature – Bills Introduced as of 1/30/23

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.

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.

HB23-1076        Workers Compensation

Though there are several provisions within HB1076, the most notable include an expansion of benefits to allow up to 36 weeks for mental impairment from the current 12-week limit.  The bill further allows an employee to request a hearing prior to losing benefits when the attending physician issues a release to return to work.  The bill would also prohibit insurers from setting limits upon specific medical treatments recommended by the attending physician.  Insurance carriers would be limited to only sharing medical records relevant to a reported injury, thereby limiting the ability of the attending physician or independent medical examiner from having a complete understanding of contributing conditions. Additionally, maximum contingent attorney fees are raised from 20% to 25% of contested benefits.

Fiscal notes prepared for this bill show increased costs born by the state to be approximately $1M in 2023-24 and $1.1M thereafter.  As administration of the Workers Compensation program within the state is funded through a premium surcharge collected by insurance providers, this bill will affect premiums paid by employers whether or not claims actually rise.  No estimates are provided to show the anticipated increase in compensation claims, nor the resulting inflation of insurance premiums paid by employers.

HB23-1115        Repeal Prohibition Local Residential Rent Control

In 1981, Colorado enacted a statewide ban on local policies that establish maximum rent levels and/or limit annual rent increases.  Though it has been tested, notably by the Town of Telluride, the statute was slightly modified to allow such limitations for new and existing residential properties that utilize state and federal subsidies.  Such subsidies are a common and critical source of capital for income-restricted “affordable” housing projects.

In 2021, the statute was again modified to allow local governments to enact so-called “inclusionary zoning ordinances” (IZO), whereby any new residential development could be required to provide a certain number of dwelling units considered affordable to targeted households based on income.  However, the local government would be required to provide allowances (density, height, parking, etc.), fee reductions, or accept payment in-lieu of actual construction of required income-restricted dwelling units.  Such allowances are intended to reduce the adverse impact of selling/renting some units below market.  Otherwise, the price of non-restricted units would be inflated to accommodate the local affordability mandate.

HB1115 would repeal the prohibition of rent control and the offset requirement for IZOs.  While such policy actions are heralded by progressive advocates, the effectiveness of such policies are wildly overstated and typically limited to tightly constrained geographic markets.  In Northern Colorado, the implementation of such policies in one jurisdiction would invariably push residential development to adjoining jurisdictions with less restrictive policies.  In essence, such policies lead to greater sprawl and less efficient use of capital and land resources.

Ultimately, research and practical experience show rent controls lead to underinvestment in both new housing stock and maintenance of existing inventory while tethering households to their current place of residence.  IZO not only discourages new development but exacerbates the affordability problem and limits economic mobility.

Because rent control and IZO policies tend to push development away from one jurisdiction and toward others that are not consulted nor entitled to shape those policies, your Chamber believes the state is justified in restricting such local control accommodations.

HB23-1118        Fair Workweek Employment Standards

While the proposed language limits this bill to food and beverage establishments and manufacturers, as well as general retail businesses employing 250 or more workers worldwide, the definitions specifically tie franchise and contractual employers to their related counterparty.  In other words, a local retail franchise that employs two workers is treated as though they employ the thousands of workers across that same franchise network.   Not worried because you don’t operate a fast food restaurant? Think again!  Your industry will be next on the list.

HB1118 not only establishes how, when, and under what circumstances covered employers shall determine and post work schedules, it sets standards for how much pay an employee is due regardless of the number of hours for which work is performed.  Generally, if an employee is scheduled, the employee gets paid unless such changes align with standards yet to be determined by the State Division of Labor Standards and Statistics.  If an employee is not scheduled, they are still due at least 15% of their regular pay rate for that schedule period.  Though the bill does not make clear an employer retains the right to terminate any employee unable or willing to fulfill their work schedule, it does prohibit any adverse action based upon the employee’s desired work schedule.

Patronage of food and beverage establishments is notoriously uneven.  Those that choose to work in this field may often become frustrated by the inconsistency of their schedule, though there is little an owner/operator can do to control when and how many customers walk through the door.  A foreseeable effect of this bill creates further impetus to automate low-skill jobs that otherwise serve as a gateway into the workforce and opportunities for professional advancement.

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