More Rules and Higher Costs – What Our State Legislature Holds in Store for Business in 2023
Fresh off an election that increased majorities in both chambers of our state legislature, the business community can expect more rules, with particular attention paid to the oil & gas, transportation, and agriculture sectors. Higher costs will come in the form of new and increased fees, private sector mandates and disincentives.
We expect that water will sit at center stage. At a minimum, increased regulation to reduce overall demand will drive up costs for business and consumers alike. Though it’s not yet clear whether the state will interfere in water storage development, there are indications the state will assert a stronger role in how and under what circumstances water is moved from source to tap. As well, the agriculture sector will be under sharp focus as efforts to reign in allocations to this critical industry are renewed.
Labor issues will also swing back to the top of the to-do list. Among the priorities, reprisal of the Protecting Opportunities and Workers’ Rights (POWR) Act seeks to empower any employee, contractor or workplace visitor to file harassment claims based upon their own perception of what constitutes a violation; regardless as to whether the employer is even aware of the circumstances considered offensive. The legislative agenda of organized labor will figure prominently in virtually every discussion to institutionalize the role of unions in both the public and private sectors.
As it relates to the economy, it would be unwise to believe legislators gained a better appreciation of the precarious state of small business as result of the myriad disruptions from Covid and public policy response. Expect to see attempts to impose windfall “fees”, public entry into private markets, and higher regulatory burdens for disfavored industries.
Speaking of disfavored industries, fossil fuels represent a significant infusion of revenue for the state and local government. “Clean energy”, on the other hand, represents a significant expenditure. Nonetheless, the legislature will re-double efforts to shut down oil & gas and the last remaining coal mines in the state. Additionally, expect to see conversation around the adoption of a statewide building code to compliment a statewide energy code adopted in 2019. This would set us on a path to require the retrofit every occupied structure in the state to meet greenhouse gas emission targets.
Transportation is another disfavored sector in our economy. Expect to see a renewed push to hold employers responsible for the transportation choices made by their employees and contractors. We have already heard the state will not spend another dime to expand our transportation network unless that capacity is exclusively reserved for carpools, mass transit and electric vehicles. Expect to see punitive measures on the purchase of internal combustion vehicles to further move the market toward EVs.
Recycling is another sore subject for our elected leaders. With reports showing Colorado well below the national average for recycling, composting and waste diversion, efforts are already underway to further empower the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment to establish statewide mandatory requirements intended to vastly improve these metrics. However, the necessary infrastructure is not well developed while the market for processed materials remains problematic or non-existent. As result, recycling typically means separate piles at the landfill.
Unfortunately, this all suggests the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance will once again have its hands full playing defense rather than focusing on promoting legislation that seeks to lower the burden of taxes and government interference. Rather than punishing the private sector to achieve preferred outcomes, we believe in the power of the private sector to raise all boats while minimizing the extensive collateral damage that follows public sector overreach.
Source: Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce
January 4, 2023