Legislative War Declared Against Rural Colorado and Small Towns

New pro-green bills may mean tougher times for local businesses

~ by Trevor Phipps ~

At last week’s Cripple Creek City Council meeting, the head lobbyist for the city, Sol Malick, gave a dire account of many bills that are currently up for debate at the state level.

 According to Malick, many of the new bills could mean bad news for rural communities and small businesses. “It’s a pretty dark time for business, oil, and gas and most conservative-leaning issues,” Malick said. “It is the war against rural Colorado, fossil fuels and business.”

 One bill that has recently been brought up in in the state Senate has to do with creating a family medical

Photo Courtesy of Colorado House Democrats Staff

leave program. As a part of Senate Bill 188, the (Family Medical Leave Insurance Program, employees and employers will be required to each pay half of a premium for the new insurance.

 The new leave insurance will allow paid maternal and paternal leave as well as cover leave for several other personal occurrences. If passed, people will be able to take days or weeks off for things like if a friend or family member is the victim of abuse or a stalking incident.

 “This bill is going to change, probably dramatically,” said Malick. The lobbyist stated that there were already several amendments to the bill. He also said that parts of the bill would have to be changed to fit federal standards. The biggest local complaint about the bill is that it could become a strain on small businesses.

 Another bill that Malick said he liked initially dealt with affordable housing. But that was before he learned the details of the legislation that would require higher taxes assessed against businesses to foot the costs for this proposed program. The bill that is currently being proposed designates the vendor allowance of all of the businesses in the state to go towards affordable housing.

 If this new bill passed, the 3.3 percent the businesses must pay the state would go directly to fund more affordable housing programs.

 Malick said that to small businesses, the 3.3 percent may not be too significant and affect their operations very much. However, according to Malick, larger businesses such as McDonald’s or the Wildwood casino, the 3.3 percent chunk could prove to be quite substantial. “Many businesses are freaking out,” Malick said.

 Another bill that Malick just recently turned over to the city council to track was House Bill 1231, called New Appliance Energy And Water Efficiency Standards. The new bill would require any resident or business that buys any type of new appliance to purchase products that are rated Energy Star or above. The law will not be retroactive meaning that businesses or homes that use older appliance will not be forced to purchase new compliant ones, but if something breaks they will be required under state law to purchase new, greener products.

 Many council members spoke out about their concerns with this bill, and how it could affect small businesses. Some are concerned that smaller “mom and pop” businesses will not have the capital to put into the more expensive equipment if something breaks. Malick thinks that the bill could deter future entrepreneurs from wanting to get into the restaurant business due to the elevated cost to purchase the necessary equipment.

 Others believe that the bill will create more waste because restaurants that go out of business will no longer be able to sell their old equipment at auction, thus filling up the landfills with more equipment.

Other concerns include the fact that there is nowhere in the bill that discusses how the new law will be enforced. Therefore, in Malick’s opinion, if passed, the bill could just lead to more non-compliance.

 “This is the greening of Colorado,” Malick said. “They are putting environmental concerns over the business and what is realistic,” said the lobbyist.  Malick said that since it affects residential properties, other businesses will not be able to sell many of the products they currently provide.

 Another bill that will be introduced soon has to do with carbon emissions. If passed, the new bill could impose more emission restrictions to personal vehicles and businesses.

 Malick also informed the council about what has been happening with Senate Bill 188. The new bill will give local governments the ability to restrict oil and gas operations. If passed, local counties will be able to place noise ordinances and other restrictions on oil and gas operations.

 The biggest problem with the bill is how the Democratic representatives in the state government are conducting operations with this legislation. During the snow storm two weeks ago, the Democrats held a meeting at night knowing that most opposition would not show up. However, the meeting was only a committee meeting and little was accomplished at that time.

 According to Malick, most of this new legislation will pass due to the fact that Democrats currently control all three branches of the state government. The only two bills the lobbyist thinks that some Democrats will vote against are the repeal of the death penalty bill and the family leave act legislation.

Sports Betting Law In the Works

On the more positive side, there are a few bills that could bring about benefits to the area. Currently, the state’s gaming association is drafting a bill that could legalize sports betting. The bill being drafted will allow only the three gambling towns in Colorado to allow betting on sports games. Right now, the bill is being simplified so that each casino will be able to obtain one license that will cover sports books and electronic sports betting.

 Other bills of interest including a law allowing local governments to establish larger entertainment districts could also be good news for the area. A bill giving more power to the state auditor could also bring about positive changes to local government agencies.