Special Session Wasted No Time Disappointing Small Businesses

Date: December 02, 2020

Bill granting liability protection from unfair COVID-19 lawsuits quickly killed

Colorado legislators gathered in a special session November 30 and couldn’t get through a day without disappointing the small businesses of the state they are going to need to thrive once again if the state is to thrive once again.

“Lawmakers expressed their desire to leave town no later than Wednesday, just two days later, so I guess giving due consideration to a bill that would have provided small-business owners with some badly needed protection against unfair COVID-19 lawsuits would have been too much time for them,” said an irate Tony Gagliardi, Colorado state director for NFIB.

“The fact it was brought up by the Senate Finance Committee and killed in less than half an hour is really a sad commentary on how small businesses are valued in this state, and, unfortunately, a harbinger of what is to come when legislators return for the 2021 regular session.”

As reported by the Denver Business Journal, “The proposal that died before it had a chance to start, however, was SB 11, the long-planned effort from Sen. Jack Tate, R-Centennial, that sought to provide legal immunity to nonprofits and businesses with less than 50 employees that make good-faith measures to protect workers and consumers from coronavirus. Backed by groups such as the Colorado Restaurant Association and National Federation of Independent Business, it was needed to instill small company owners’ confidence in the business atmosphere and give them confidence that they could open without getting hit by what NFIB state director Tony Gagliardi characterized as ‘shakedown’ legal actions.
But there was wide disagreement over just how common these lawsuits are; Gagliardi cited an American Tort Reform Association figure of 5,500 Covid legal actions being filed across the country.”

Some Good News

Gagliardi said the defeat of SB 11 was a huge hit, but lawmakers did advance two measures that will be helpful for Main Street.

  • One bill  “provides funding … to support entities impacted by capacity restrictions imposed to address the COVID-19 pandemic [including]  $37 million for direct relief payments to small businesses located in a county that is subject to, and in compliance with, severe capacity restrictions pursuant to a public health order, with payments allocated to the counties for distribution to eligible small businesses, which businesses include restaurants, bars, movie theaters, and fitness and recreational sports centers.”
  • The other measure “allows a temporary deduction from state net taxable sales for qualifying retailers in the alcoholic beverages drinking places industry, the restaurant and other eating places industry, and the mobile food services industry in the state in order to allow such qualified retailers to retain the resulting sales tax collected as assistance for lost revenue as a result of the economic disruptions due to the presence of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Colorado.”

Gagliardi said allowing bars, restaurants, and food trucks to keep the sales taxes they collect will provide some badly needed instant liquidity to meet other obligations, such as rent and other business expenses. The amount is estimated to be between $2,000 to $10,000 per month.

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