By Jeff Weist, Jefferson County Business Lobby
June 2, 2020
After hurriedly adjourning in mid-March as the COVID-19 crisis hit, the Colorado State Legislature reconvened last week for a short session to accomplish “mission critical” bills before they return to socially distancing.
Expected to last about three weeks, the Legislature must, first and foremost, pass a state budget for next year. The stay-at-home orders shutting down many businesses has hit local and state government revenues (not to mention those of our businesses) hard. The Joint Budget Committee – on which Jefferson County Senator Rachel Zenzinger sits – had to spend weeks re-writing next year’s budget to cut out about 25%, a daunting experience for any government.
In order to be done in three weeks, the Legislature has or will be killing off the majority of the roughly 350 bills that were on the calendar when they recessed in March. That includes some major bills the JCBL was working for or against, such as the paid family and medical leave bill. (Although there is a chance that proposal winds up before the voters in November.)
But the Legislature will take this month time to consider a number of bills in response to COVID-19, many of which target businesses. We will likely see bills to make companies liable for price gouging in a declared emergency, declare that a COVID infection in a worker in an “essential” business should be covered by workers comp, protect employee whistleblowers who call out unsafe work conditions from retaliation and mandate that all businesses provide a paid sick leave policy, among other new mandates and costs on businesses. The JCBL is working with other business groups to defeat or moderate these last-minute bills.
On the positive side, the Legislature appears poised to refer a constitutional amendment to the voters in November that would repeal the Gallagher Amendment to the Colorado Constitution. That formula for setting residential and business personal property assessment rates has had a decades-long effect of shifting a disproportionate share of property tax liability to business owners.
The Jefferson County Business Lobby advocates as the unified voice of 3,000 Jefferson County businesses for public policies that strengthen our business climate. The JCBL is a partnership comprised of the Arvada, Evergreen, Golden, West Metro, Westminster and Wheat Ridge Chambers of Commerce, the Jefferson County Economic Development Corporation, the Applewood and Wheat Ridge Business Associations and the Alameda Connects BID.