The LIBERTY SCORECARD is live. We read the bills, rate them “support” or “oppose” according to liberty principles, then compare our positions with those of each legislator. Grades are assigned. Click on the link above to see how your elected officials are voting on bills that affect our Colorado way of life.

KILL BILLS WEEK 3: 4/6/20

Business-burdening Bills That Should be Made to Die in Committee

Most Colorado businesses are closed. Many won’t reopen after the COVID-19 crisis subsides. Jobs have been lost and many won’t return. This is not the time to place additional burdens on Colorado businesses, large or small. 

The Republican Liberty Caucus of Colorado has developed a list of 10 bills that should be voted down in committee as soon as possible to minimize the damage to the economy. Any new bills introduced should be limited to those that cut regulation and government restrictions so the private sector can innovate and drive the recovery.  Anything else seems petty and counterproductive at a time like this.

HB20-1155:  Higher Efficiency New Construction Residence

Homebuilders are currently required to offer buyers either a solar panel or solar thermal system or they must prewire or preplumb the home for these systems. This bill requires them to offer both systems.  It also requires them to provide an electric vehicle charging system or to prewire for one. Green energy agendas need to take a back seat to job preservation for now. Anything that increases the cost of homebuilding will slow the industry and cost even more jobs.

HB20-1226:  Food Safety and Quality Labeling

There are some 2000 registered food manufacturers in Colorado, many of which are small businesses producing their own local version of granola bars, cupcakes, salsas and pickles. This bill would require them not only to print a “USE BY” date on their package, but also an “elevated risk date”, beyond which the product poses a “high level of risk” to the consumer. This bill is not only unnecessary but costly and time-consuming to these fledgling businesses that struggle to survive.

HB20-1263:  Eliminate Sub-minimum Wage Employment

Many chain grocery stores and small businesses legally employ physically or developmentally disabled people with very limited skills at sub-minimum wages. This bill would outlaw that type of employment. It goes without saying that this bill is cruel, especially in this time of crisis where so many jobs will be lost. Insult to injury, this bill comes with a $628k fiscal note that balloons to $1.3 million in 2 years.

HB20-1315:  Carpooling Service Internet Application Register CO Department of Transportation

As if the government doesn’t have its fingers on enough private sector activities, they’d also like to regulate carpooling.  This bill would require the operator of a carpooling app to register annually with CDOT.  It would also limit the amount one person could charge another, the number of passengers one could transport and the number of roundtrips a driver could make in a single day. Big brother on steroids.

HB20-1337:  Automobile Recyclers Licensing Act

The “junk yard license” would only be issued to someone who can demonstrate “good moral character”. Not sure how that’s measured, but it requires a license fee be paid to the director of the Auto Industry Division enforcement authority and renewed every 2 years. It requires a dealer to keep daily records of “vehicles, equipment, attachments, accessories and appurtenances”. Fines up to $1000 for violations would be determined by an unaccountable, unelected bureaucrat or someone with delegated authority. 

HB20-1343: Egg-laying Hen Confinement Standards

Apparently the comfort of chickens should take priority over jobs and businesses in a devastated economy. This bill requires that an egg-laying hen have at lease 1 square foot to herself by 2022. By 2024, all hens should have cage-free environments with at least 1 square foot horizontally and unfettered vertical space.  If vertical space is “fettered”, a hen needs 1.5 square feet to herself. Violations come with a $1000 fine. 

HB20-1354: Film Production Income Tax Credit 

In 2012, the legislature created the Colorado Film Office, designed to lure filmmakers to the state in the name of economic development. This bill expands on that by offering tax credits up to 22% of qualified expenditures. Why do we benefit the film production industry, which is largely based in another state, at the expense of our own home-grown industries like cattle ranching, energy and agriculture?

SB20-108:  Landlord Prohibitions Tenant Citizen Status

A direct attack on private property rights, this bill prohibits a landlord from “demanding, requesting or collecting information regarding or relating to the immigration or citizenship status of a tenant”.  Most landlords are primarily concerned with finding reliable tenants who are able to pay their rent on time every month. If a property owner suspects that someone’s ability to pay might be affected by their immigration status, it is his/her right to deny them the use of their property. Government has no business interfering in that free market activity.

SB20-121: Manage Gray Wolves in Colorado

This bill would reintroduce gray wolves in Colorado, against the wishes of many farmers and ranchers whose livelihoods would be directly affected. This bill shouldn’t receive even the least amount of discussion in committee before being voted down.

SB20-138:  Consumer Protection Construction Defect Time Period

Another construction industry killer, this bill would extend the statutory limitation period for actions against a builder from 6 – 10 years. This is a wrong-headed move at a time when builders will be struggling to survive. It also runs counter to a government-declared goal of increasing affordable housing.

KILL BILLS WEEK 2: 3/30/20

Energy Bills To Unplug When The Legislature Resumes

There are so many attacks on our economy right now. To place additional burdens on the energy sector seems ill-timed at best, devastating to the industry and the households they serve at worst.

The Republican Liberty Caucus has come up with a list of energy-related bills that could still be stopped, giving some relief to energy providers, employees and ratepayers at a time when we need it most.  Home quarantine should remind us all of the need for reliable, affordable energy.  We take these things for granted when it’s in abundant supply. We’d surely miss it if we couldn’t heat our homes or have internet access at a time like this.

Given that, we ask our state representatives and state representatives to vote down the following bills in committee as soon as they get back to the Capitol:

HB20-1064:  Public Utilities Commission Study of Community Choice Energy

This bill would order a study to be conducted by the Public Utilities Com- mission regarding the feasibility of Community Choice Energy Authorities (CCEs).  These would allow counties or communities to negotiate with “alternative energy” com- panies to provide “clean” electricity to the incumbent utility without disrupting transmis- sion and distribution.

The problem with this bill is that it also allows the PUC to raise the maximum fee cap on existing utilities above the .25% of revenue they are now paying in order to make this possible. In other words, ratepayers will shoulder the bill for experimental en- ergy. Furthermore, investor-owned utilities will bear the responsibility if the new system fails. 

HB20-1143:  Environmental Justice and Projects Increase Environmental Fines

This bill creates the Environmental Justice Advisory Board, which will mete out fines and penalties for air quality and water quality violations.  Fines and fees will go to fund environmental mitigation projects, also to be decided by the aptly-named EJ board.  This bill violates many limited government principles, not the least of which is allowing unelected unaccountable bureaucrats to create policy at their whim. This bill comes with a fiscal note of $2 million, increasing to $4.5 million over three years. It also in- creases maximum fines for violations up to 4 times the existing limits.

HB20-1162:  Prohibit Food Establishments’ Use of Polystyrene

In an environment where restaurants will be struggling to survive, it seems unusually cruel to require them to use inferior or more expensive products to deliver ready-to-eat food to their customers. This will affect school districts and the Department of Correc- tions as well. 

HB20-1163: Management of Single-use Products

Another poorly-timed bill.  This one prohibits stores and restaurants from distributing single-use products (straws, stirs and plastic bags) that are actually quite useful during a health care emergency such as the one we are experiencing now. Establishments may continue to use recyclable paper bags, but are required to charge a $.10/bag fee. It also empowers the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to ap- ply civil penalties of an indeterminate amount. 

HB20-1265:  Increase Public Protection Air Toxics Emissions

This bill creates a new program to regulate a subset of hazardous air pollutants that would be specified by the Air Quality Control Commission.  It provides the AQCC with broad powers in defining acceptable quantities of these emissions and allows them to adjust these limits as they see fit. According to the bill, the AQCC would “regulate cov- ered air toxics more strictly than is required by the federal clean air act.” It’s worth men- tioning that the AQCC consists of 9 members appointed by the governor. Buried deep in the bill is a reference to emissions that would occur as a result of a “flare or pressure relief device”, implicating potential violations from the oil and gas industry. This pro- gram comes with a fiscal note of $1.8 million to $4.2 million in the first 3 years.

COHB20-1299:  Enterprise Zone Investment Tax Credit or Renewable Energy In- vestments

This would extend tax credits for investments in renewable energy projects. It also adds energy storage systems as a qualified investments. What this bill really does is favor renewables over traditional energy investments, effectively subsidizing them and requir- ing consumers and taxpayers to pay more for their energy needs. 

HB20-1325:  Low-emission Vehicle Managed Lane Access

We used to refer to these as “Lexus Lanes” for those who could afford to pay extra to use them. We can now call the “Tesla Lanes”. They still are affordable only to the wealthy few.  Those few just need to trade in their Lexuses for government-subsidized Teslas.

SB20-013:  Promote Innovative and Clean Energy Technologies

Public utilities would be encouraged to implement “innovative energy technology”, with the blessing of the PUC, if they can demonstrate its “economic and technical feasibility, its projected environmental and public safety impacts and its CO2 emissions rates.  But here’s the kicker: “a public utility may fully recover, from its retail customers in the state, the costs it incurs in researching, testing, planning, developing, constructing, starting up and operating the project. Sounds like a blank check to the green energy folks, ratepayers be damned.

SB20-150: Adopt Renewable Natural Gas Standard

A bipartisan-sponsored bill, this one requires the PUC to adopt rules that will force nat- ural gas utilities to convert to renewable natural gas incrementally over the next 15 years. It also allows them to recover “prudently incurred costs associated” with these new programs.  Can you say “rate increases?”

SB20-159:  Global Warming Potential For Public Project Materials

This bill is insidious in that it carries a minimal fiscal note, but could increase the cost of publicly-funded capital construction projects by unforeseen amounts. Rather than award bids based on their best value, the emphasis will be on which firm offers the lowest “carbon footprint” as determined by the State Architect’s office in the Depart- ment of Personnel and Administration. 

KILL BILLS WEEK 1: 3/13/20

10 Bills That Should Get the Axe When the Colorado Legislature Resumes

With our state legislature on a two-week hiatus, no new bills are being proposed. Some would argue that that’s a good thing.  But rest assured the wheels are still turning within the Republican and Democrat caucuses during the interim.  It’s just happening from a “social distance”.

Both sides are gearing up for when the session resumes, whether it’s next week or next month.  It remains to be seen whether or not the hiatus days count toward the 120 day session or if the calendar restarts when the legislature is gaveled back in.  The Colorado Supreme Court will be deciding that issue.

Regardless of the outcome, our elected officials will be forced to laser-focus on the state budget, also known as the “Long Bill” as soon as they return.  It is the one thing our legislature is required to pass each year and with economic forecasts all over the map, lawmakers will be hard-pressed to make it balance, which they are also required to do.

To make their job a little easier, the Republican Liberty Caucus of Colorado has come up with a short list of bills that ought to die immediately, if not sooner. These are “pie-in-the-sky” budget busters that seemed like a good idea when it looked the Colorado would be flush with money.  Now that our economy is sputtering and may continue to do so for the foreseeable future, these are initiatives that the state and the business community simply cannot afford.

In the Health Care category

HB20-1349:  The Colorado Affordable Health Care Option

Also known as the “Public Option”, this bill creates a state-run, state-financed health care option that places the burden on hospitals to charge fixed prices and insurance companies to pay fixed amounts for services. Sounds good on the surface, but in practice will lead to hospital closures and rationing of care. Not a good idea in times of a health care crisis, the scale of which we’ve never seen before. 

HB20-1103:  Coverage for Infertility Diagnosis and Treatment

This bill mandates that all plans regulated by the Department of Insurance provide infertility treatment, including unlimited attempts at in vitro fertilization.  It prohibits charging deductibles or co-pays for treatment.  This bill has already passed both chambers and is awaiting the Governor’s signature. We are urging a veto on this bill.

HB20-1158:  Colorectal Cancer Screening Coverage

Similar to HB1103, this would mandate coverage for colon cancer screenings on anyone 45 and older. This is another cost to insurers and businesses that they can ill- afford to absorb.

HB20-1008:  HealthCare Cost-Sharing Consumer Protections

Medical cost sharing, or “health sharing ministries” are formed by faith-based or community-based organizations and are an agreement to help each other bear the costs of catastrophic medical events.  This bill would impose stricter reporting and disclosure requirements and actually prohibits brokers from offering these plans during open enrollment periods.  Further, this bill gives sweeping powers to the Insurance Commissioner to adopt rules and impose fines. 

Education

SB20-089:  Educator Pay Raise Fund

Another bill with good intentions, this one comes with a $15 million fiscal note. It would attempt to augment teacher salaries throughout the state to the level of a $15/ hour wage or $40,000/year salary. With many people becoming unemployed and businesses closing, school systems in some communities will be struggling to stay open. This will only exacerbate the problem.

Regulatory Bills

FAMLI

This bill hasn’t been introduced yet, but would require employers, including the state to offer very broad family-leave options to have a baby or take care of a sick family member for an extended period of time. The details have yet to be worked out, but this is not the time to place more burdens on small businesses.

SB20-200:  Colorado Secure Savings Program

This bill creates a state government-run retirement savings program that would be partially funded with taxpayer money in order to encourage employees of small businesses to save for retirement. While the intentions are good, the free market provides this service at a much cheaper price. It would also add another burden to businesses and grow government at a time when we can’t afford it.

HB20-1326: Create Occupational Portability Program – SUPPORT

The state is already allowing doctors and nurses to practice across state lines without additional licensing during the COVID-19 crisis.  This would be made permanent and would expand to other occupations, such as dentists, CPAs, architects, etc.  This bill is exactly the type of deregulatory moves we need at a time like this.

HB20-1163: Management of Single-Use Products

This would prohibit restaurants from distributing plastic carry-out bags, straws, stirrers, etc. With the current focus on sanitation and social distancing, this bill is ill-timed.

Corrections & Judicial

HB20-1150:  Increased Penalties for Drug Possession

This would repeal HB19-1263 which reduced penalties and sentences for drug possession. Doing so would increase pressure on an already overburdened prison system with a price tag of $11 million.

There are many other bad bills in the queue that will impact businesses and our health care system. Our hope is that the legislature will focus on these issues and prioritize bills that free up businesses to survive and thrive in Colorado.


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