For the recently begun 2020 Colorado legislative session, businesses largely will have to define victories by the bills they stop or amend rather than those that they pass.
But business-group leaders and legislators who are looking at how to help companies say they believe there are a few areas where they can proactively pass laws that make life just a little bit easier for employers.
One in particular that has been mentioned by several people is the opportunity to streamline occupational licensing for professionals moving to Colorado from other states — and, in doing so, to make hiring a little easier for companies that are competing for a limited pool of available talent during a time when unemployment in Colorado is as low as it’s been in the past 40 years.
House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock, made it clear during the Jan. 7 Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Legislative Preview Breakfast that was a goal of his. And Anneliese Steel, corporate affairs director for Colorado Concern, said that her organization has worked with Rep. Shannon Bird, D-Westminster, on a bill that would allow the state to recognize the licenses of skilled workers relocating from other states who now lose an average of $344 in fees and 260 days in education and training to relearn skills they already have.
“A lot of skilled people are moving to Colorado and they are having to sit around and retrain for work they already know how to do,” Steel said. “This is especially true for low-income workers whose professions are disproportionately impacted by onerous occupational licensing requirements. We want to be sure that when skilled folks come to Colorado they can be productive and start working as soon as possible.”
A first-day bill sponsored by Democratic Rep. James Coleman of Denver and Republican Rep. Mark Baisley of Roxborough Park also gives hope to company leaders on a key issue of transparency in rulemaking — an issue that has vexed employers at times because rulemaking is not a simple process to follow and, therefore, can leave the voices of small-business owners out of final regulations for an industry altogether.
House Bill 1039, which also has bipartisan sponsorship in the Senate, requires any agency conducting rulemaking proceedings to post several notifications on an easily searched rulemaking transparency website and mobile application created and hosted by the state. The federal government has a clearinghouse website drawing attention to particular rules, and business leaders hope the state can mimic that, Steel said.
Arguably the biggest wins of the 2019 session for business leaders were a pair of bills that directed the state to create a one-stop portal for small-business owners where they could determine the combined state and local sales-tax rate for any address to which they are shipping goods and that set in law that businesses don’t have to pay destination-based taxes until that portal is in place. The portal is scheduled to be operational by the July 1 start of the 2020-21 fiscal year.
In addition, a bipartisan coalition, led in the House by Democratic Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp of Arvada and Republican Assistant Minority Leader Kevin Van Winkle of Highlands Ranch, introduced a pair of bills on opening day that would hold harmless any business owner who gets wrong information from the coming database for a mistake in tax remittance and would extend the Sales and Use Tax Simplification Task Force for five years.
“Its one issue Republicans and Democrats see eye to eye on,” Van Winkle said at a Dec. 11 Simplify the Sales Tax Coalition roundtable.