Colorado General Assembly 2021 End-of-Session Report

Date: July 26, 2021

Small business walked away with a few victories and some wounds

The election of 2020 left in its wake a decidedly anti-small-business Colorado Legislature regardless of lawmakers’ claims to the contrary. Still, NFIB’s advocacy help pass a few measures beneficial for Main Street businesses while stopping harmful ones.

Thank you to the many NFIB members who got engaged and helped us fight on some critical issues. If you haven’t been involved before but would like to help small business see more victories in the future, check out our training resources at the NFIB Advocacy Center.

Victories

House Bill 21-1312, Business Personal Property Tax Exemption, Passed
A major win for Colorado’s small business owners subjected to filing Business Personal Property Tax was the passage of Hb 21-1312, which raises the current exemption from $7,900 to $50,000 for tax years 2021 and 2022. Beginning with the property tax year January 1, 2023, the amount of the exemption is readjusted biennially to account for inflation since the amount of inflation.

Senate Bill 21-176, Hostile Work Environment Bill, Stopped
SB 21-176, the so-called Protecting Opportunities and Workers Rights bill, would have defined a hostile work environment as anything that undermines a person’s sense of well-being. The measure also called for doing away with having to prove the behavior is ‘pervasive or severe’ in the workplace. A single instance can be enough for a charge to be brought based upon ‘hurt feelings.

A needlessly punitive, small-business-killing bad idea was intentionally killed by the sponsors when it became apparent passage was doubtful. In fact, the bill even drew fire from the Colorado Civil Rights Division. But it was the Action Alert put out to NFIB Colorado members that may have been the tipping point. Members responded in a big way and can rightly be credited for getting some lawmakers to think twice.

Disappointments

The 2021 Colorado Legislative Session ended with at least one certainty—Colorado employers will face high, double-digit increases in their Unemployment Tax. “The unemployment trust fund balance as of June 30 will certainly be bad news for Colorado small-business owners. The balance as of that date is what will set the unemployment tax rate paid by employers for 2022,” said Tony Gagliardi, NFIB Colorado state director. “No, governor, this can’t wait until 2023, as you dismissively put it, and giving the Legislature the option to use some of the American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) money to shore up the UI Trust Fund has produced exactly what we expected, nothing but two shell bills (SB 21-188 and SB 21-291) that allow ARPA funds to be used for anything. We need decisive action, and we need it now.

House Bill 21-1162, Plastics Management, Signed into Law
HB 1162, dubbed a ‘Plastics Management’ bill, prohibits restaurants from using the polystyrene take-out containers that literally kept us alive during the pandemic, as well as tax, before also eliminating, plastic grocery and take-out bags. This bill could not come at a worse time for our businesses and our workers. HB 21-1162 was signed by Gov. Jared Polis on July 6, 2021.

House Bill 21-1232, Standardized Health Benefit Plan (Public Option), Signed into Law
Colorado began its slow march toward complete state control of all health-care decisions for its citizens when the governor signed HB 21-1232, the so-called ‘public option’ plan that will eventually become a no-option plan, given how proponents have set up private insurance carriers to fail. Creating a health-care czar, under the disguise of an ombudsman who can dictate the thresholds insurance companies must meet or lose their customers to the public option plan, is not expanding medical choice but constricting it until the point of submission. It was signed into law June 16, 2021

Senate Bill 21-260, Green New Deal on Wheels, Signed into Law
The Colorado Legislature passed a transportation plan that would increase several fees in order to fund infrastructure. Instead of a gas tax increase, which would require voter approval under the state’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), lawmakers instituted new fees and “Enterprises” so not to trigger a vote of Colorado citizens required by TABOR. The plan proposes $3.8 billion in new fees over 11 years, raising revenue with a road use fee, fees on ride-shares and electric vehicle registrations, and a fee on retail deliveries, among others. The bill would also add new fees for drivers at the gas pump:

  • July 2022: Additional two cents per gallon
  • 2023: Additional three cents per gallon
  • 2024: Additional four cents per gallon
  • 2025: Additional five cents per gallon
  • 2026: Additional six cents per gallon
  • 2027: Additional seven cents per gallon
  • 2028: Additional eight cents per gallon

In response to the fee increases proposed in the transportation bill, groups have begun the process to place one of two gas tax reduction measures on the November 2022 ballot. The governor signed SB 21-260 into law June 17.

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Thank you to the many NFIB members who got engaged and helped us fight on some critical issues. If you haven’t been involved before but would like to help small business see more victories in the future, check out our training resources at the NFIB Advocacy Center

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