Transportation, taxes and family leave will all be hot issues next year when state legislators go back to work. “When it comes to paid family leave, we are the only industrialized nation that does …
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Transportation, taxes and family leave will all be hot issues next year when state legislators go back to work.
“When it comes to paid family leave, we are the only industrialized nation that does not have it,” State Representative Matt Gray told the crowd at a Metro North Chamber of Commerce breakfast Dec. 11 at the Westminster Recreation Center. “We have reached consensus on folks across the political spectrum that workers should have it. At the State of the Union last year, even President Trump said all workers should have family leave.”
The question is how to do it and when.
“The devil is in the details,” he said. “How can we create up with a policy that works for workers, but also works businesses?”
That was one of the questions organizers of the breakfast wanted to hear. Worries about employer mandates, like family leave, are one of the chamber’s main concerns.
“We have a lot of things to talk about,” said Peter Benkowki, vice president of strategy and business development for Lafayette’s Good Samaritan Hospital, one of the breakfast’s sponsors. “Obviously, health care is important to us. But also transportation infrastructure and education are all items we’ll talk about.”
The breakfast is an annual event sponsored by the Metro North Chamber of Commerce’s Business and Government Affairs committee. That committee develops a list of priorities they hope local legislators will address in the coming year that would improve the state’s business environment.
This year, the committee settled on six priorities: Economic growth and employer mandates; energy; transportation; health care; workforce development, education and affordable housing; and public infrastructure.
In all 11 legislators attended: three State Senators, four State Representatives and four Representatives-elect — winners in November’s election due to be sworn in next month.
State Senator Rachel Zenzinger, D-Arvada, said the failure of two transportation funding issues at polls in November put that issue right back on the legislature’s lap. Legislators last year voted to put another measure on the 2019 ballot in case the 2018 measures failed.
“We are asking ourselves if it’s really the best plan, and the best plan is that we can take a lay of the land and see if it is the best way to move forward,” she said. “And I think that’s what the legislature is going to do.”
Representative Tracy Kraft-Tharp, D-Arvada, said the state legislator’s agenda is full of business questions, ranging from family leave, state retirement plans and wage equity bills.
“This is not the moment for you to walk away,” she said. “This is the moment for you be able to talk to your legislators, to talk to your chamber and talk to your lobbyists.”
Kraft-Tharp, the chair of the House Business Affairs committee, one issue will be changes to sales tax collection rules. A Supreme Court decision cleared the way to allow cities to expect sales tax collections internet sales based on where the goods are delivered.
“We have a puzzle-work of sales and use tax systems here in Colorado and there are three major issues coming,” she said. “But would have thought that sales tax would be the hottest issue this year?”
Kraft-Tharp said the state is working on streamlining rules and creating a single place businesses can go to get information and rules for the confusing issue, and promised seminars and forums for residents.
Senator Dominick Moreno, who has been appointed chair of the Joint Budget Committee, said he’ll devote most of his efforts this year to developing the state’s budget. That said, he always has time to consider suggestions from the voters.
“The best legislation I’ve ever carried was from things that came from constituents — issues they saw or things they saw that state law does not cover,” Moreno said.
Those include a child visitation rights rules for great-grandparents last year and a plan to create scholarships for juveniles leaving state incarceration.
“When they leave custody of the state, we don’t offer them anything at all — even if they want to go to college or a trade school,” Moreno said. “So will be working on a scholarship for formerly incarcerated youth with the state, to further their education if they choose to.”
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