Off and Running with the Wind
By Katie Winner, For The Win Communications, Ltd. and the Arvada Chamber Advocacy KAPS Council
With our feet in Arvada, and our eyes on Denver, the Arvada Chamber Advocacy KAPS Council keeps tabs on what’s happening at our state legislature working together to advocate for the greater Arvada business community. The 100 members of the Colorado General Assembly gathered amid tensions, both internal and external, on January 10, 2024 to begin their work as a part of the 74th General Assembly. Wasting no time, 128 bills were introduced on Day 1, including a fistfull of bills that will touch many parts of the business community, both big and small. With so many bills already making their way through our state legislature, let’s catch up with the top bills the Arvada Chamber is tracking.
Spitting into the Wind
Among the bills that have been introduced since Day 1 are a series of bills that could negatively impact affordable housing construction in Colorado, making businesses more susceptible to future litigation, impacts to landlord-tenant law, and rules on Work-Based Learning programs that could disincentivize participation in these vital programs.
One of the first bills out of the gate is House Bill 1008, aimed at the issue of wage theft, but specific to wage claims, and potential wage theft in the construction industry between a contractor and the independent contractors that are hired. While wage theft is an important issue, the core of this legislation could have substantial impacts on businesses as it makes a contractor legally liable for any potential wage violations committed by any subcontractor, therefore passing legislation upstream onto other unsuspecting businesses.
Another bill also aims at the construction industry via insurance. Upon first introduction, in two parts, House Bill 1083 desires to conduct a study of construction liability insurance for construction professionals in Colorado. And, second, requires the seller of a newly constructed residence to provide both the purchaser and the county clerk’s office information regarding the insurance coverage for the property. Beyond providing a roadmap for future litigation, and upon counsel from representatives in the business community, the bill has undergone some amendments and continues to be refined.
Making a re-appearance this legislative session is House Bill 1098, a bill that seeks to put into state law a set of strict rules by which a landlord can evict a tenant from a rental property. This bill died on the Senate floor last year, and the bill sponsors are making a run at it again to regulate landlord-tenant law including provisions that make evicting a tenant even more difficult, including making the landlord responsible for relocating the tenant once an eviction is ordered.
Speaking of resurrections, another bill from last year, House Bill 1014 is back again attempting to expand Colorado Consumer Protection Act by removing the significant public impact test from existing legislation, therefore allowing any consumer the right to invoke the act to bring litigation forward in a two-party conflict, not in broad based deceptive trade practices. This bill is concerning to the business community as it opens up businesses for potential litigation in a much broader way.
Lastly, House Bill 1095 has all the best intentions in its title, “Increasing Protections for Minor Workers.” The proposed legislation seeks to increase penalties for violations of the Colorado Child Labor Law set in 1970 that restricts occupations, jobs and hours a minor can work at different ages across all businesses and industries. A potential adverse impact of this proposed legislation is in the area of Work Based Learning (WBL) and Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, both areas that the Arvada Chamber has invested heavily in. As this bill makes its way through the legislature, the Arvada Chamber will be seeking amendments that both strengthen child labor laws, and that will not hinder participation of employers and businesses in WBL and CTE program partnerships in Jeffco and beyond.
Also introduced in the first wave of bills is a series of bills that seek to simplify sales tax, reduce income tax paperwork on businesses (especially small businesses) and land use litigation.
There are over 700 separate taxing jurisdictions in Colorado, making sales tax compliance very complex for businesses. The Sales Tax Simplification Task Force, established by former Jeffco Representative, and current Commissioner, Tracy Kraft-Tharp, keeps the good work moving forward to make tax filing less burdensome for small businesses and further streamline an already complicated system.
House Bill 1041: Increases the threshold at which businesses need to file income taxes making it easier for small businesses, reduces paperwork and clearly when and who must file for different-sized businesses
Senate Bill 23: Perhaps one of the most important of all sales tax bills by placing a Hold Harmless on the statewide GIS database that all businesses use to look up sales tax due across different Colorado taxing entities. This bill will allow a business to rely on the information contained in the database to use to apply taxes without fear of the accuracy of the data or being sought to pay more taxes in the future in case of a database error.
Finally, on the subject of Land Use, House Bill 1107 seeks to allow a local government, such as a city council or board of county commissioners, to be awarded attorney fees if they prevail in a Rule 106 challenge to a land use decision in court. As it stands now, Rule 106 allows an interested party to sue these entities after making a land use decision. These lawsuits can be lengthy in time and costly to both parties involved, and by allowing a government entity, if they win, to recoup reasonable attorney cost for the litigation brought by outside entities is widely touted as a pro-growth measure that could have a positive impact on building more affordable housing.
That’s all for this week’s Capitol Watch Update. The 2024 bill positions can be found at arvadachamber.org/billtracker.
Through the B.O.L.D. 2023 initiative, Advocacy KAPS Council, the Jefferson County Business Lobby (JCBL), and consistent outreach to elected officials at all levels of government, the Arvada Chamber strives to stay informed on the latest policy developments while advocating for a strong local economy. Find resources and ways to engage at arvadachamber.org/advocacy.