These are all of the labor bills proposed in the 2021 session. Each bill has its own bill number, please use your browser search feature to find the bill you are interested in. Return to the Colorado home page to pick a different bill category.

None of the text is the opinion of Engage. Each bill's description, arguments for, and arguments against are our best effort at describing what each bill does, arguments for, and arguments against the bill. The long description is hidden by design, you can click on it to expand it if you want to read more detail about the bill. If you believe we are missing something, please contact us with your suggestion. Some of these bills have the notation that they have been sent to the chamber's "kill" committee. This means that the leadership has decided to send the bill to the State committee even though it does not belong there based on its subject matter. This committee, in both chambers, is stacked with members from "safe" districts and the idea is to kill the bill without forcing any less safe members to take a hard vote. It is possible for a bill to survive the kill committee, but it is very rare.

Prime sponsors are given after each bill, with Senate sponsors in () and House sponsors in []. They are color-coded by party.

Some bills will have text highlighted in pink or highlighted in orange or highlighted in yellow. Pink highlights mean House amendments to the original bill; orange mean Senate amendments; yellow highlights mean conference committee amendments. The bill will say under the header if it has been amended.

Each bill has been given a "magnitude" category: Mega, Major, Medium, Minor+, Minor, and Technical. This is a combination of the change the bill would create and the "controversy" level of the bill. Some minor bills that are extending current programs would be major changes if they were introducing something new, but the entire goal here is to allow you to better curate your time. Something uncontroversial likely to pass nearly unanimously that continues a past program may not be worth your time (and please remember, you can still read all of the minor bills!). Technical bills are here to round out the list. They are non-substantive changes.

Senate

Click on the Senate bill title to jump to its section:

MEGA

SB21-087 Agricultural Workers' Rights PASSED AMENDED

MAJOR

SB21-039 Elimination Of Subminimum Wage Employment PASSED AMENDED
SB21-176 Protecting Opportunities And Workers' Rights Act KILLED BY HOUSE COMMITTEE SIGNIFICANTLY AMENDED

MEDIUM

SB21-197 Workers' Compensation Physician KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS AMENDED

MINOR+

MINOR

SB21-096 Sunset Workers' Compensation Classification Appeals Board SIGNED INTO LAW
SB21-233 Colorado Department Of Labor And Employment Unemployment Insurance Division Enterprise PASSED VERY SIGNIFICANTLY AMENDED (category change)
SB21-251 General Fund Loan Family Medical Leave Program SIGNED INTO LAW

TECHNICAL

HB21-1007 State Apprenticeship Agency (Danielson (D), Rodriguez (D)) [Sullivan (D), Ortiz (D)]

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Not yet released

Goal:

  • Create a registration program for apprenticeships in Colorado to take the place of a federal program. Registration would involve a new state agency certifying that the apprenticeship program meets certain standards. State agency can deregister programs that fail to meet standards. Registration is not mandatory to run an apprenticeship program. Bill is silent about registration fees. Program must be ready to accept applications by July 2023.
  • Create two advisory boards to help the new agency do its work, one for apprenticeship programs in the building and construction trades and one for all other apprenticeships. These councils must establish an ad hoc joint resolution committee consisting of two people from each council to adjudicate any disputes between the councils. Ties broken by director of State Apprenticeship Agency

Description:

Apprenticeships are established for combining on-the-job training with instruction so that the individual can come out at the end with the basic requirements filled to become licensed in the trade. They are very common in building trades but exist elsewhere too.

Standards that programs must meet include: apprentices receive on-the-job training consistent with registration standards, scheduled wage increases are consistent with registration standards, instruction is compliant with federal and state laws, and the state receives notification of movement of apprentices in and out of the program.

Duties of the managing agency include: serving as point of contact with the federal department of labor’s office of apprenticeship, accelerating new apprenticeship program growth on a geographically diverse basis, provide technical support and compliance assistance, registering programs and issuing certificates of registration, doing quality assurance to ensure programs are meeting guidelines for registration, determining required standards for registration (including job training standards and wage increase standards), deregistering programs that either request it or fail to meet standards, maintaining complete records, promoting the program in the state, providing technical assistance to companies and apprentices in the program, creating a reciprocity policy with other states, awarding certificates of completion to apprentices that successfully graduate from registered programs, and providing administrative support to the two councils.

Both councils must meet at least quarterly and no members of the council may receive any compensation from an apprenticeship program. Both councils are tasked with (in their respective areas): registering with the federal office of apprenticeship and developing minimum standards for registration of apprenticeship programs, resolving conflicts between parties to an apprenticeship agreement, reviewing performance standards and making enforcement decisions based on their review, recommending rule changes as necessary for the program, identifying best practices, and developing administrative policies.

If a council recommends termination of a registration program, the agency must conduct a hearing. It has ten days to appoint a hearing officer to hear the case and the officer sends notification to the program in question. Each party has a right to counsel in the hearing and can cross-examine witnesses. Hearing officer has 30 days to make recommendations after the hearing is concluded but final decisions, including potentially imposing conditions for keeping registration, lie with state agency. They are appealable in court.

Additional Information:

The agency created to manage this is called the State Apprenticeship Agency and is located in the department of labor and employment. The executive director of the department appoints the director of the agency.

All apprenticeship programs must adopt a written diversity recruitment plan that ensures equal opportunity in recruitment, selection, employment, and training of apprentices. This must meet minimum federal standards.

A deregistered program can present evidence to the agency that they are now compliant. Reinstatement can occur only after at least a year has passed since deregistration. For voluntary deregistration, programs must wait at least six months before reinstatement. Reinstatement must then be granted if the agency had no grounds to start a deregistration hearing.

Bill defines building and construction trades as perfoming: construction, reconstruction, renovation, alteration, demolition, painting, repair, or maintenance work. This is done on: roads, highways, buildings, structures, industrial facilities, or improvements of any type. Or if an apprentice in this trade will be employed by a licensed contractor.

The council tasked with overseeing building and construction is the State Apprenticeship Council. It has 18 16 members. 12 10 are voting members appointed by the director of the agency:

  • Five Four representing employer organizations, one of which represents a statewide employer organization and one who represents an employer involved in an apprenticeship program targeting barriers to employment
  • Five Four representing employee organizations, one of which represents a statewide employee organization
  • Two representing the public

6 are non-voting, ex-officio members appointed by the governor:

  • One from the department of labor and employment
  • One representing career and technical education programs
  • One with experience in economic development
  • One representing training providers
  • One from the state work force development council
  • One who is interested in promoting equal opportunity in apprenticeship

The council dealing with other apprenticeship programs is called the Interagency Committee on Apprenticeship. It has 12 14 members. Six Eight voting members appointed by the agency:

  • Two Three employer members or representatives of employer organizations who are familiar with non-building and construction apprenticeships. One must represent an employer involved with an apprenticeship program that specifically targets populations with barriers to employment, one that represents youth with barriers to employment, and one that represents out-of-school youth
  • Two Three employee members or representatives of employee organizations who are familiar with non-building and construction apprenticeships
  • Two One representative of the public and one representative of qualified intermediaries

Governor appoints six non-voting, ex-officio members. No qualifications specified.

Members of neither council receive payment, but they are eligible for per diems and reimbursement for expenses.

Hearing notices must include the time and place of the hearing, a statement of the provisions with which the registered program is alleged to not be complying with, and a concise statement of alleged instances of non-compliance. Notices must be given in reasonable amount of time prior to hearing by registered or certified mail.

Qualified intermediaries are also eligible to be registered. These are organizations that assist employers or apprenticeship programs, including connection to national system, assisting in program design or implementation, supporting meeting reporting requirements, providing professional development activities, support recruitment, retention, and program completion, and serving as a program sponsor.

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Apprenticeship is an increasingly valuable alternative to expensive four-year college programs in many trades and a secure pathway to high-quality jobs. But it can also be ripe for abuse, with lower wages and blocked pathways to advancement. Having a registry allows prospective apprentices to enter into relationships with confidence
  • This is voluntary and not a new concept: there is a federal apprenticeship registration program that is broadly similar in design that has been around for over 50 years and 25 other states run their own apprenticeship registration programs
  • Bringing the registration program into the state opens up opportunities for better engagement and local accountability, standards created just for Colorado, and the ability to better use this registration database as a building block for additional apprenticeship programs

In Further Detail: Apprenticeship is essentially mandatory in some fields and in many others it is a valuable path to high-quality jobs. But it can also easily be abused, with employers able to pay less and potentially blocking apprentices from gaining the exact experience they need in order to advance. So a registry allows potential apprentices to join programs with confidence that they will be well-served. 25 other states already have similar programs, so this is not novel and it is not necessarily a duplicative waste of the federal registration program. For engagement and accountability, the federal government has to this for 25 states right now, including Colorado. Having the program run by Colorado and in Colorado will make it more responsive to local needs and better able to monitor registered programs. It also allows us to create our own standards, which of course can be changed by our own representatives, instead of relying on federal standards. And it allows us to better use the database as a building block for additional programs since we will hold all of the levers of the program in our hands.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • We can continue using the federal government registration program, which achieves all of the same goals of an official seal of approval on apprenticeship programs without us having to do anything

In Further Detail: The federal government already has an apprenticeship registration program and the state already has a website where people can find programs with registration. This bill is largely mimicking the structure of that federal program, with some added restrictions around wages and perhaps other areas depending on what these councils come up with. Note that there would be no reason to create a statewide program that was the same as the federal one, so the standards are almost certainly going to be higher. If not then this is a waste of time and resources. It may even still be a waste of time and resources. Many of the things that you can think of doing with promoting apprenticeships can be done with national certification. While it is true that this means accountability is done at the federal level (and standards are set there too), the federal government is just as capable of holding organizations accountable as the state government.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1007

HB21-1049 Prohibit Discrimination Labor Union Participation [Van Beber (R), Ransom (R)]

KILLED BY SENATE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Potential loss of federal grant funds for RTD

Goal:

  • Prohibits an employer from requiring any person to join a union, pay union fees, or assessments to charity or other third-party organization as requirement of employment. Any agreement that violates these provisions is null and void. Excludes federal employees and employers.

Description: Nothing to add

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • All-union employment is unfair to those who don’t want to participate but are forced to in order to get or keep a job
  • Unions can still do all of their functions, they just won’t be able to force participation
  • If some people benefit from union work in the form of higher wages or better benefits without paying dues, that sort of thing happens all the time: some people put in a lot of work that benefits others who didn’t lift a finger to help

In Further Detail: So-called all-union employment is unfair to individuals who don’t want to participate, for whatever reason, and are forced to support something they do not believe in. This includes being forced to pay their own money to the union. Unions are still welcome to organize, but just won’t be able to force anyone to participate against his or her will. This won’t kill unions, they can still negotiate with employers for higher wages and benefits and if some people benefit from this without paying dues or joining, that will not be the worst thing in the world. It happens all the time, all over the country. Certain people or groups of people work really hard and spend time and money to advocate for a benefit that will help everyone, even the people who didn’t lift a finger to help.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Unions work best as all or nothing propositions, otherwise management can simply weed out people who belong to the union over time to get rid of it
  • Thresholds for unionization are far higher than simple majority rule, and we let simple majority rule force us to do things we don’t like or want to do all the time: like paying taxes and fees
  • RTD could lose its federal grant funding if this passes

In Further Detail: Unions are all or nothing propositions. The protections, wages, and other benefits that unions negotiate are for all employees, thus all employees need to contribute. In addition, people don’t have to join the union, that gives management a tool to drive a wedge among the employees. In a worst-case scenario, management can favor non-union employees to a degree that drives out union employees and destroys the union. In many ways, unions are similar to numerous forms of taxes and fees: we all vote, then we have to abide by what the decision is (and the threshold for all-union employment is much higher than simple majority rule, the higher of majority of eligible voters or ¾ of those who actually voted). So while something like this sounds nice in theory, in practice it is a killer blow to many unions who fight for their members rights every day. Being in a democracy means abiding by the decisions of the electorate, even when we don’t agree. This also destroys multiple active collective bargaining agreements by rendering them void. RTD may also lose federal grant funding by repealing compulsory union membership.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1049

HB21-1050 Workers' Compensation (Bridges, (D), Cooke (R)) [Gray (D), Van Winkle (R)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: $170,000 annually

Goal:

  • Make numerous changes to workers’ compensation laws, including lowering impairment thresholds, greatly reducing the ability to apportion blame for injuries to non-work related factors, raising earnings thresholds for disqualification from permanent disability benefits, adding guardians or conservators to list of things that must be provided if necessary, and other smaller changes.

Description:

Exact changes include:

  • Changes the percentage of impairment for determining maximum amount of combined temporary disability and permanent partial disability payments from 25% impaired to 19% impaired. This moves the $75,000 maximum ceiling down to that 19% level.
  • Changes the law regarding non-permanent disability benefits not being reduced based on previous injuries to not being reduced based on any apportionment of blame for the injury at all. Adds health at time of accident and family history to the list of things that cannot be used to reduce benefits for permanent disability. Puts the burden of proof on employers and employer’s insurers at any hearing that may result in reduction of benefits due to apportionment of blame.
  • Changes the amount of yearly earnings someone claiming permanent disability must be earning in order for the permanent disability award to end from $400,000 to $750,000 and ties the amount to changes in average state weekly wages in the future.
  • Adds guardian or conservator services as items employers must furnish if required to cure and relieve the employee from the effects of the injury that qualified for workers’ comp. This is to be a flat fee based on a schedule determined by the state to cover reasonable attorney fees and costs as well as reasonable costs for the guardian or conservator.
  • Changes the circumstances under which an employer or insurer may request an independent medical examiner to determine if the employee has reached maximum medical improvement by requiring that the second opinion already required by law have taken place at least 20 months after the injury and the requesting party that give the authorized treating physician a written notice that a different physician has found the employee has reached maximum medical improvement.
  • Requires all mileage expense reimbursements to be sent no later than 120 days after they were incurred (except for good cause like not being given proper notice by the employer or employer’s insurer). Must be paid or denied with written explanation within 30 days of receipt. Requires that in the written notice an employer or insurer must provide the employee when they make their claim, the mileage reimbursement section must include this 120 deadline and an example of a reimbursement form.
  • Prohibits employers or insurers from withdrawing an admission of liability if two years or more have elapsed since the initial admission was filed, except for cases of fraud.
  • Bans the director of the division of workers’ compensation or an administrative law judge from determining issues of compensation or liability unless they are also awarding specific benefits or penalties at the same time.

Additional Information:

Clarifies that payments are deemed paid on the date the payment was received or delivered to the payee, except for payments sent through the mail, which is three days after it was sent (so long as it was sent three days before it was due). For matters an administrative law judge may decide pre-hearing, bill adds appointing guardians ad litem and assessing appropriate fees for this. Also clarifies some of the language around existing matters the judge can rule on.


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Employers and insurers are using the law to wriggle out of paying full benefits by claiming the injury suffered would have occurred sometime in the future anyway. If you get injured on the job, you deserve compensation, period
  • The burden for paying for guardians or conservators in the cases of really serious injury currently fall on the family of the injured employee—this is not right
  • Increases to thresholds are about keeping up with changes in wages, which is why the bill also ties them to inflation in the future

In Further Detail: The issue with the appropriations is due to several court cases that have allowed employers, their insurers, and attorneys, to wriggle out of paying the full benefit because the injury might have occurred in the future anyway. That is not the point of workers’ compensation: the point is if you are injured as a direct result of your job, you get compensated. It doesn’t matter if your weight or family history meant that you would be likely to get that same injury at some later date. For guardians or conservators, some really serious injuries unfortunately require this and right now the burden is wrongly on the family of the injured employee to pay for it. Again, the point of workers’ compensation is to provide full compensation for costs associated with an injury. This is one of them. Lifting the ceiling on salary required to end permanent disability is just keeping up with changes in wages since the number was put into law, which is why it would be tied to such changes in the future. It is critical to remember that people who are permanently disabled frequently have huge on-going bills related to their disability. As for fraud, this is a felony in Colorado and the overall noise around fraud is overblown. In fact many states find more cases of fraud from employers than employees. This bill will not increase the amount of fraud, anyone who wanted to commit fraud won’t find it easier or harder. It should not have a large impact on premiums, we have some of the lowest in the country and have had six straight years without an increase in losses due to sharp drops in claims. So it just makes it easier and more equitable for workers who have been injured and deserve compensation.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Workers’ compensation is a big fraud target, some of the provisions of the bill lower proof requirements and that may lead to more fraud
  • The bill will increase payouts and insurers may pass that money along to everyone in the form of higher premiums
  • We absolutely should apportion blame for injury—if someone has a bad knee that is about to give out, a business should not be on the hook for the entirely of the injury

In Further Detail: The great benefits of workers’ compensation make it a juicy target for fraud. Employees who commit fraud either inflate the extent of their injuries or fabricate them entirely (sometimes with the help of crooked doctors). This of course results in higher premiums for all businesses because the insurers pass the costs of those claims on to everyone. And beyond fraud, this bill will increase payouts. That is not in dispute, indeed it is the point. Lower thresholds for impairment and no apportioning of blame will send more money out. The insurers will almost assuredly replace that money by raising premiums on all businesses in the state. And we should be able to apportion blame for an injury. One of the court cases this bill is seeking to overturn found that a man who developed arthritis in his knees, in part due to a job that required him to be on his knees a lot, was also overweight and had arthritis in other parts of his body. In other words, yes the job contributed to his injury (so the insurer had to pay 33% of the costs) but there were other important factors at play. That is how it should be, and why we have courts to help figure these things out. For the income threshold for permanent disability, anyone earning $400,000 should be able to handle medical bills in addition to household expenses.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1050

HB21-1065 Veterans' Hiring Preference (Garcia (D), Gardner (R)) [Ortiz (D), Carver (R)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: $25,000
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal:

  • Allow private employers to adopt a policy of preference to veterans, members of the national guard, or the spouses of disabled veterans killed in the line of duty when hiring a new employee so long as the veterans or spouses are equally qualified. Non-disabled veterans must have been honorably discharged within the previous 5 years. This can include preference for veterans discharged within the past 10 years. The policy must be uniformly applied to all hiring decisions

Description:

Policy is set to expire with sunset review in September 2029.

Requires the state to develop production materials encouraging employment of veterans and appropriates $25,000 to do so.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: September 2029 with sunset review

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Veterans make great employees but frequently have trouble transitioning out of the military, so policies like this bill are in the public interest
  • Many companies already have similar practices, this just codifies it into law and requires full transparency by the employer
  • Multiple other states and the federal government have similar laws, as does the state government (though its policy is a bit flawed)

In Further Detail: Veterans have unique skills honed under pressure and make great employees. This law allows employers to have a stated preference for veterans so long as everyone is aware of it and the veteran is equally qualified. Finding veterans jobs as they transition out of the military is greatly in the public interest and this helps. Codifying into law makes the practice fairer, as it requires employers to transparent about their hiring practices. Multiple other states have a similar law as does the federal government and even our very own state government, although that requirement is somewhat flawed as it requires a veteran to have served in a conflict. It is time to let private employers do the same in an open manner, because we should be honest about this, lots of employers are already informally doing this.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • The bill contains no objective criteria for proving the veterans or spouses were equally qualified, which is required by the state in its veterans hiring preference statute and the bill goes much further than our state preference
  • This could conflict with other laws around hiring practices and discrimination, particularly for an employer who doesn’t run a tight shop
  • We should not make something a law just because people are already doing it: it is either good policy or bad policy

In Further Detail: There is no establishment of objective criteria in this bill to prove that the veterans or spouses were in fact equally qualified. This is required for public employees in our state constitution. National Guard members are not given a preference in public employment either, so this bill is going farther than our state constitution does in terms of who can be given preference and in terms of how this preference is applied. The loose nature of the application could cause trouble if someone sued on the basis of discrimination (gender or race). Legally this could be trouble for businesses who aren’t running a tight enough ship to withstand a discrimination lawsuit, in particular since the clause in the bill essentially says that anyone who implements a policy correctly is de facto not in violation of employment discrimination practices. That sets up a potential legal collision with other parts of law and with constitutionally protected rights. Expanding this to include spouses also moves beyond the idea of hiring a veteran based on their skills and attempting to transition into post-military life and into a flat preference for families that have had a member serve. That is not the way we usually do hiring preferences, they are designed to help people who traditionally are under-employed. And we should not make laws based on people not following current law. Either this is good policy or it isn’t.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1065

HB21-1207 Overpayment Of Workers' Compensation Benefits (Lee (D), Fields (D)) [Daugherty (D), Benavidez (D)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Cannot be estimated but expected increase in state payments for workers' compensation

Goal:

  • Prohibits clawing back overpayments of workers’ compensation benefits that occurred through no fault of the individual receiving them, unless the payment results in duplicate benefits because of offsets to disability or death benefits. Overpayments due to fraud are still able to be clawed back.

Description:

Insurance carriers and employers can still get a credit against permanent disability benefits for any overpayment of temporary disability benefits.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This is pretty simple: it can be damaging to pull money back from someone who didn’t realize they couldn’t have it, particularly when they are just recovering from an injury on the job that required some sort of payout
  • Even the more reasonable solution of simply reducing future payments can cause damage: people budget based on these things

In Further Detail: Most Americans have little savings to begin with, someone who was just injured on the job to the extent that they required workers’ compensation is even less likely to be able to cough up money. So trying to claw back overpayments for honest mistakes can cause harm to the worker. This is even true in cases where the more reasonable tactic of reducing future payments occurs. People have budgeted for receiving that money and suddenly losing it can cause rippling financial problems.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • This takes a hammer to a problem better suited to a delicate instrument. Payment plans, individualized reductions in future payments, and certainly some sort of criteria threshold to ensure people really would be harmed by getting this money back would all be a more appropriate way to address the problem
  • Remember that we are talking about extra money that someone was not supposed to receive

In Further Detail: There certainly is a potential problem here with wrenching people’s finances through something that was not their fault but the bill takes a hammer to the issue instead of proceeding with greater care. There are ways to pay back money over time so as to minimize the impact, through payment plans and individualized reductions to future payments. We also may want to check first to make sure that getting this money back really will cause financial distress because that will necessarily be true in all cases. Remember, this is money that someone received that they should not have. Obviously it is unfortunate that this was not their fault, but we need to figure out a way to get that money back while doing the least damage possible.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1207

HB21-1246 PERA Public Employees' Retirement Association Divestment From Fossil Fuel Companies (Jaquez Lewis (D)) [Sirota (D)]

KILLED BY HOUSE COMMITTEE

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: Complex, about $350,000 a year to implement and $21.5 million in trading fees but those fees may occur anyway in some cases

Goal:

  • Require the public employees’ retirement association (PERA), which handles all retirement funds for state and local employees, to divest from any stocks or other assets that are fossil fuel companies within five years, cease buying any new assets that are fossil fuel companies, and beginning in one year, ensure that no investments are in any indirect vehicles (hold lots of different assets, like a mutual fund) that are likely to have more than 2% of its assets in fossil fuel companies. PERA manages about $52 billion in assets and it is believed PERA has over $1 billion invested in oil, gas, and coal companies
  • The divestment can only be stopped if the board determines that a divestment from that particular company violates its fiduciary duties to the fund

Description:

Fossil fuel companies are defined as a company identified by a global industry classification standard code as one of the following: coal and consumable fuels, integrated oil and gas, or exploration and production. This includes the following classifications: energy equipment and services, oil and gas drilling, oil and gas equipment and services, oil, gas, and consumable fuels, oil and gas exploration and production, oil and gas refining and marketing, and oil and gas storage and transportation.

Mechanically this will work as follows. The board has six months to create an exclusion list of all companies that meet the bill’s definition of a fossil fuel company. This list must be made public and a notice must be sent to each company on the list. Companies can be removed from the list if they present clear and convincing evidence that they do not belong on the list or will no longer belong by January 2031. The board can remove a company that no longer qualifies from the list at their discretion but must undertake a review of the list every two years. Any removal at the request of a company requires a written explanation to the legislature.

After the list is created, the board must then decide if divesting from any of the companies on the list would violate their fiduciary duty and if so, remove them from the list. The board can review this decision every five years (but does not have to).

Bill directs divestment to be done in accordance with sound investment criteria and consistent with fiduciary obligations.

Board must report to the legislature every two years on its work associated with this bill.

Additional Information:

Bill gives the board immunity from liability for carrying out this bill, so long as actions are taken in good faith, and gives the bill supremacy over any other state or common law obligations that conflict with it.


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • The fossil fuel industry is a bad long-term bet because the entire world is devoted to moving away from it, and fast. Coal is a harbinger of things to come for the rest of the industry. That makes it a bad investment for PERA which warrants discarding them. In fact, PERA should have done this years ago, the energy sector has been lagging the rest of the market for over a decade
  • A study of PERA holdings from 2009 to 2019 found that if PERA had divested in 2009 and just reallocated their fossil fuel holding to the rest of their existing portfolio, it would have earned an addition $1.8 billion. That’s a lot of money to have lost and it’s time to stop deferring to fund managers
  • Climate change is real and to avert catastrophic change we need rapid action. This is perhaps the biggest crisis facing the world, so it is very much of par with past divestments made for moral reasons. In the end, money talks
  • We have used moral grounds for divestment in the past and probably will do so in the future as well
  • This issue is therefore a marriage of economic and moral reasons for divestment which is why over 1,200 institutional investors representing $14 trillion have at least partially done so already
  • Any individual company that is bucking the trend and clearly moving toward our renewable and clean energy future can be removed from the list

In Further Detail: Since at its core this board’s mission is economic, let’s talk economics first. We went through a lot of pain over the past few years to put PERA back into long-term solvency. The last thing we need is for it to underperform the market because it is invested in a dying industry. All over the world governments at all levels are trying to move away from fossil fuels in order to reach greenhouse gas emissions targets. Here in Colorado, our 2030 target is a 50% reduction in 2005 levels of pollution. The coal industry is the harbinger of things to come from the rest of the fossil fuel industry. Coal is now more expensive than many renewables and coal plants are being closed en masse all over the world. Demand for all fossil fuels is going to peak and soon, and then it is going to plummet. These companies have already hit multiple rough patches in the recent past and many of them seem to be doubling down on finding new sources of fossil fuels and extracting them. So at its core, they are a bad long-term investment (which is what retirement funds are all about) and should be discarded. In fact, they have so underperformed the market that a study done on PERA holdings from 2009 to 2019 that removed all fossil fuels assets and just reallocated them to the other existing holdings found that PERA lost $1.8 billion through holding the fossil fuel assets. That’s billion with a B. It’s time to stop deferring to fund managers and require them to get out of this dying industry. Now, there is of course a societal and environmental goal here as well. Climate change is real and wrecking our environment. To avert catastrophic climate change, we need rapid action. This is perhaps the biggest crisis facing the world. And as the saying goes, money talks. We’ve used moral grounds for divestment in the past: over Sudan, companies boycotting Israel, and Iran. Does global catastrophe with mass flooding of coastal cities, vastly increased and more powerful storms, and the economic and physical displacement of tens of millions met those same criteria? So there is a marriage of financial and social reasons at work here. In fact, over 1,200 institutional investors representing more than $14 trillion have already pursued full or partial divestment from fossil fuel companies. It’s time for PERA to join them. As for the issue of individual companies, the bill provides two mechanisms for these companies to be removed from the list, if they are truly transitioning to our clean and renewable future. First the board itself can remove them and the company themselves can petition to be removed.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • We should only focus on the economics here, because that is what PERA is supposed to do. We have other ways (and are using them) to force change to clean energy and the fossil fuel industry does not meet the criteria for past divestments as violations of human rights
  • Fossil fuel companies employ over a million Americans, many here in Colorado, and provide most of the energy generation in this country at the moment
  • It is not at all clear that fossil fuel companies are a bad short or medium term investment and individual companies may in fact be good long term investments due to the money they are pouring into renewable energy. The study cited in Arguments For is backward looking, we need to be forward looking
  • While the bill does have mechanisms to remove individual companies and review company changes, it puts all of the burden of proof on those companies to prove they won’t be fossil fuel companies in the future
  • Bottom line is that we pay investment managers to make these sorts of investment decisions. If a company or sector is a bad bet, the managers should get out of it, but not because we want to deprive fossil fuel companies money

In Further Detail: The goal of PERA is to make money so we can afford to pay retirement benefits to government employees. That’s it, that’s what it is supposed to do. Now, to the extent that there are urgent and gross violations of human rights at play, we do allow some non-monetary considerations. But that is not all the case here, where fossil fuel companies employ over a million Americans, including a lot of people right here in Colorado, and dying or not, provide most of the power generation in this country. So let’s look at the financial argument. It may very well be true that in ten years fossil fuels will be a bad investment. That does not make them a bad investment right now and taking the doctrinaire attitude that every single fossil fuel company is bad unless proven otherwise may miss some investment opportunities. Because while these massive companies are indeed pouring billions into fossil fuels, they are also pouring billions into renewable energy. That makes the financial case against them much murkier—in ten years some of these companies may be leaders in the renewable energy space. And yes, the bill provides mechanisms to remove individual companies for multiple reasons but the burden of proof in these cases is on the company. So it is not at all clear that this sector, as a whole, is a bad short or medium term investment. The study cited in Arguments For about lost money due to not divesting earlier is entirely backward looking with 20-20 hindsight. The past does not necessarily dictate the future. PERA money does not simply sit in one fund for years on end, it is actively managed, which means that adjustments are made to its portfolio all the time to account for changing economic conditions. We need to let those investors do their jobs. If a particular company or entire sector is a bad investment then of course fund managers should get out of it. If PERA investment managers are bad, then we need to get rid of them. But they should get out because it is a bad investment, not because we want to deprive fossil fuel companies of money. We have many other mechanisms for forcing adoption of clean energy and are using them. We need to keep it that way.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1246

HB21-1319 Temporary Modifications To Prevailing Wage Requirements (Lee (D)) [Duran (D)]

PASSED

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

Give the state six more months to come up with prevailing wage standards to comply with requirement that all public projects of over $500,000 pay local prevailing wages. To fill the six month gap, state must use federal data instead.

Description:

A bill passed in 2019 requires the state to pay prevailing wages on all public projects of over $500,000. This bill requires the state to obtain what those wages are from July 2021 (when this requirement begins) to the end of this year from the federal government. Agency must keep the wage information on file for the life of the project. Then beginning next year, the state must establish what prevailing wages are throughout the state (as the 2019 bill intended to be done from the beginning).

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This allows the state six more months to get ready to do this, we can fill in the gap using federal standards and not delay implementation of the bill. For the core concept itself, we shouldn’t have workers getting paid less for government work than they would be for private work. That is all the prevailing wage standard is about. What the state pays can become a standard for non-state work as well. So making sure that we are paying state contracted workers a fair wage for their work is essential for ensuring that workers in these industries are paid a fair wage, period, and that lowered wages for government work don’t end up being lowered wages in general. There is a federal prevailing wage standard for work involving federal contracts and Denver has a prevailing wage standard and obviously is doing fine. In addition, a study in Indiana after they dropped their prevailing wage standard found that project prices stayed essentially the same, in large part because the gains from paying lower skilled workers were offset by efficiency losses from those same lower skilled workers.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • It is not too late to turn back and ditch this bad idea. In our capitalist system is important to let the market decide what jobs are worth because otherwise we artificially injecting money into the system and potentially propping up various industries that could not survive otherwise. This is also taxpayer money we are talking about here, and we may be paying more than we should if we don’t reverse this

How Should Your Representatives Vote on HB21-1319

SB21-039 Elimination Of Subminimum Wage Employment (Zenzinger (D), Hisey (R)) [Caraveo (D), Pelton (R)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Minor

Appropriation: $233,710
Fiscal Impact: About $500,000 each year

Goal:

  • Phase-out sub-minimum wage employment in Colorado by July 2025 and create supports for businesses and individuals making sub-minimum wage to ensure a smooth transition

Description:

The federal government allows companies to obtain a waiver to pay employees whose capacity is impaired by age, physical or mental disability, or injury, sub-minimum wage. In Colorado, that means a rate 15% below minimum wage. This bill eliminates ability to hire someone at sub-minimum wage after July 2021 and at all by July 2025. Employers that currently have this waiver must submit their current number of such employees and how much they are paid by July, and a transition plan to the state by July 2022 on how they plan to phase-out sub-minimum wage and support employees currently earning sub-minimum wage jobs to pursue competitive integrated employment, supported employment, or integrated community activities. Plan must be updated annually until the employer is no longer paying sub-minimum wages. This update must include the number of individuals who have left the employer's employment, number who have transititoned to full employment at least minimum wage and the number who have transitioned to supported employment (Medicaid supports) and the wages for both of these categories, number who have transitioned to integrated community activities related to employment goals, and the number who have transitioned to non-employment related day services. Requires employment first advisory partnership (already existing group) to develop recommendations for addressing structural and fiscal barriers to phasing out sub-minimum wage employment. Must report to legislature by April 2022.

Invididuals must be allowed to have a designated advocate present at all individual service plan meetings where employment services aer discussed. Case managers must offer help in identifying an advocate upon request.

Additional Information:

State must also seek waiver from Medicaid to change its current employment supports of job coaching, individual and job development, individual to:

  • Support to provide line-of-sight supervision on the job as a less intensive and less expensive alternative to individual job coaching, when appropriate
  • On-going benefits counseling to assist adults in earning higher incomes while retaining necessary supports

State must collaborate with stakeholders to develop service coverage standards, reimbursement rates, and limitations on these services.

Transition plans must include measurable benchmarks, be informed by evidenced-based practices, and effective employment models.

Partnership must explore:

  • Payment reform for employment-related services
  • Establishment of adequate reimbursement rates for employment-related services to ensure availability of high-quality support services
  • Addressing unit caps on employment related services
  • Addressing any Medicaid waiver and state regulatory barriers


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This is an archaic law that was built on the assumption that people with disabilities would not work and has led to isolation with no chance of advancement
  • People with disabilities are people and should be treated as such, but they will need some support to successfully make this transition, which the bill provides

In Further Detail: The federal law this is based upon is over 80 years old and was built on an assumption that people with disabilities would probably never work. The law has managed to stay despite a growing national movement toward removing employment segregation and helping people with disabilities get regular jobs and live on their own. It has tended to lead to jobs in sheltered workshops where the workers are isolated from the rest of society with little chance of advancement. It is also ripe for abuse for employers to flat out pay less for a job that need done by someone, and so evade minimum wage requirements. We just need to treat these people like people. But we need to do it carefully. There are systematic barriers in place and we will need to set up the ability for businesses and the state to help people currently working in sub minimum wage employment pursue competitive employment at full wages. This can include a job coach, who goes with the worker for the first month or so to help them learn the ropes. Three states have already stepped up and removed the ability for businesses in their states to use this federal exemption. It is time for Colorado to join them.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • The law has survived because it provides opportunities to those who may not be able to perform tasks as quickly or efficiently as others—removing it will put individuals into the full marketplace where they have to compete against everyone
  • No law requires those with a disability or injury to accept one of these jobs, they are free right now to purse full-wage opportunities. We can encourage more of that without pulling out the rug on everyone else

In Further Detail: This law has survived the test of time because it provides opportunities for those who cannot work as quickly or efficiently as others performing the same task (you must prove this in order to get the federal waiver). If we remove these jobs we will remove employment opportunities that solely exist for this community and put these individuals into the full employment marketplace where they will have to compete against people without disability or injury. There is of course no law preventing someone with a disability or injury from having a full-wage job right now. We can encourage more of that without pulling the rug out from underneath everyone else.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-039

SB21-087 Agricultural Workers' Rights (Danielson (D), Moreno (D)) [McCormick (D), Caraveo (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Moderate

Appropriation: $474,657
Fiscal Impact: About $440,000 a year

Goal:

  • Remove the exemption for agricultural workers from state and local minimum wage laws. Currently they needed to be paid federal minimum wage (with a few exceptions that the bill entirely removes, see Description for more detail). Also creates a new minimum wage for agricultural workers employed in range production of livestock (herders and rangers essentially). These workers are currently exempt from any federal minimum wage requirements. Bill requires a weekly wage of at least $553.60 $515, which is indexed to inflation
  • Removes exemption of hourly agricultural workers from overtime payment. Overtime is defined by an excess of 40 hours in a week or 12 hours per day or 12 consecutive hours of work. State is to come up with rules to establish overtime rates of pay and maximum hours protections for agricultural workers. Consideration must be given to inequity and racist origin of exclusion of agricultural workers from maximum hours and overtime rules, fundamental right of all employees to such rules that protect their health and welfare, and unique difficulties agricultural workers have obtaining workplace conditions equal to those provided in other professions
  • Require agricultural workers to receive at least a 30 minute meal break during shifts of longer than 5 hours (which is to be duty-free unless this is impossible) and an uninterrupted and duty-free rest period of at least 10 minutes for each 4 hours of work. On days where the temperature is over 90 degrees, the 10 minute breaks must occur every 2 hours. Workers must be provided access to at least one quart of fresh, cool, filtered water per hour of work and an area of open-air shade that is large enough for the workers to be seated without touching each other This section does not apply to truck drivers who sole and principal duty is to haul livestock or to a combine or harvester operator while harvesting
  • Remove the ban on agricultural workers organizing into a union
  • Ban the use of short-handled tools (less than 18 inches long) the short handled hoe for weeding and thinning and strongly discourage the use of other short-hand tools or hand weeding and thinning in stooped, kneeling, or squatting position unless there is no long-handled tool that will work. High density plants spaced less than two inches apart, handweeding in a program certified by state or federal government as organic, handweeding during seedling phase, handweeding products in containers with less than a 15 inch opening are all permitted, or handweeding or tending the area around around products grown using polyethylene film or plastic mulch. Ban use of long-handled hoes in stooped, kneeling, or squatting positions. Requires the state to set rules for organic program handweeding that protects long-term health of workers and a procedure for agricultural producers to apply for a waiver from handweeding if the producer can prove it doesn't involved extended stooping or squatting and lead ot long-term injury, there is no suitable long-handled tool substitute, and the handweeding does not fall into an existing exemption in the bill
  • Require employers who house agricultural workers to provide them transportation (unless the worker has their own vehicle they are allowed to park on the employer's property) to a location once a week (except for range workers actively working in production of livestock, which must be one day every three weeks) to access basic necessities, conduct financial transactions, and contact key service providers (health care, attorneys, clergy, government officials). Bans employers from interfering with access to these key providers during non-normal work hours (8 hour period during days of the work week)-work hours, except for health care providers who workers must be able to access at any time, including access to any visitors at the employer-provided housing. State is to set rules on additional times when employers cannot interfere with access to key services during heavy work periods (excess of 40 hours per week) so as to ensure meaningful access. Prohibits barring access to employee housing by anyone other than the resident employee

Description:

For current federal minimum wage restrictions, besides the exemption for range livestock production already mentioned, federal law exempts employers who use less than 500-man days of agricultural labor during every quarter the previous year, employees who are members of the employer’s immediate family, and two more complicated, multi-part exemptions. The first is employees who are paid on a per-piece rate that do not live on the farm and are employed for no more than 13 weeks in the previous year in agriculture (so at any farm). The final exemption is someone under 16 who is paid on a per-piece rate, employed on the same farm as their parent(s) and is paid the same piece rate as employees over the age of 16. In essence, if you have an adult that meets the per-piece rate exemption, you can also hire their kid at the same rate.

Bill bans employers from retaliating against employees for asserting their rights under this bill or publicly supporting someone else doing the same. Bill creates a presumption that any adverse action taken against an employee within 90 days of such an assertion is retaliation. This presumption can be overcome in court, but it is the default position. Employees who believe they have been retaliated against can sue, and can win injunction, equitable monetary remedies, and a penalty of the greater of actual damages or $10,000. Bill also allows the state to take action against employers for retaliation on behalf of the worker. In this case damages are limited to $1,000 per violation. Someone who witnessed the retaliation is also able to sue. The state is required to proceed in this case unless the court and the attorney general both give written permission to dismiss the case. The state can intervene and take over the case upon showing of good cause. Witness gets 35% of the penalties awarded to the state (lawsuit is on behalf of the state in any case) and 15% if the state takes over.

Employers are required to post notice of agricultural workers rights (not the unionization right or the minimum wage or overtime rights, but the rest of it) in a conspicuous location, including in employer-provided housing, in all places where notices are typically posted, and electronically, including by e-mail, if the employer uses that method of communication. Employers are required to provide training to workers concerning signs of heat stress and encourage workers to take water breaks as needed and avoid heat stress or overexertion. State is to create rules around protection from heat-related stress illness and injury when the temperature is above 80 degrees with discretion to adjust based on environment, exposure time, acclimitization, and metabolic demands of the job.

Bill does not forbid occasional or intermittent hand weeding or hand thinning in a stooped, kneeling, or squatting position so long as it is incidental to weeding operations or seeding, planting, transplanting, or harvesting by hand or with a hand tool. Any worker engaged in hand weeding or hand thinning must be given an extra five minute rest period, at a rate of 15 minutes per four hours worked. Employers must provide gloves and knee pads to workers engaged in hand weeding, hand thinning, or hand hot-capping.

Bill provides avenue for suing for failure to adhere to agricultural workers rights, including from whistleblowers or key service providers who were denied access. If they win, courts may order injunctive relief, greater of actual damages or $10,000, and attorney fees.

Bill provides additional protections to workers during a public health emergency. Those in multiple person employer-provided housing must have at least 100 square feet of sleeping quarters per employee and 120 square feet of common areas per employee (those in single occupancy units 80 square feet) as well as screened windows that open to the outside or an air filtration system. Each worker engaged in open-range production of livestock must be provided a single occupany mobile housing unit. Employers must routinely inspect housing to ensure it meets emergency state health guidelines. All employers must provide training to workers on safety precautions and protections for the emergency, including poster and pamphlets in English and Spanish and any other relevant languages. These must list the contact information for the Migrant Farm Worker Division of Colorado Legal Services and inform the workers on federal and state guidance for the emergency.

Bill also creates an Agricultural Work Advisory Committee of nine members. Committee is to gather and analyze data and other information regarding wages and working conditions of agricultural workers and report to the legislature each year, beginning in 2023. Committee is given sunset review repeal in 2031 (ensures the department of regulatory agencies will complete a thorough report with a recommendation on if the committee should continue and if any changes should be made to it).

Additional Information:

Employers may require visitors to a work site to follow protocols to minimize biohazards and other risks of contamination or for food safety or to reduce injury so long as the same protocols are generally applied to everyone.

Meal breaks must be, to the extent possible, at least one hour after a shift starts and one hour before a shift ends.

For witnesses to retaliation, they must notify the state by mail or e-mail before doing anything. If the state does not do anything within 60 days, then the witness can sue. They must present any settlement offer to the state before agreeing. The state cannot veto it, but it can present its position on the settlement in court. The witness can settle if the court has determined the settlement is fair, adequate, reasonable, and in the public interest. The state has 30 days to intervene in one of these cases. If they do, they can unilaterally settle without the permission of the witness, though the witness can remain a party to the case.

The committee membership is comprised of four people appointed by the executive director of the department of labor and employment, two people who have worked as agricultural workers and two who are advocates of workers’ rights, and five appointed by the commissioner of agriculture, three who represent employers and two from the Migrant Farm Worker Division of Colorado Legal Services. Terms are for three years and members are not compensated. They do get reimbursement for expenses.


Auto-Repeal: September 2031 for commission

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • The origins of agricultural exemptions to the minimum wage in this country date back to the 1930s and are racist. These exemptions have been chipped away at for years, but not in Colorado which has relied on federal law
  • Agriculture is one of the most hazardous industries in the country, with high injury and death rates and agriculture workers are twice as likely to live below the poverty line than the average worker
  • Federal exemptions to the minimum wage rule are not fair, open to abuse, and can drag down wages for other industries
  • Increasing pay and working conditions for these workers will not cause large increases in food costs

In Further Detail: The first thing to understand is how we are here in the first place. Why is there an industry that is exempt from minimum wage requirements? We know restaurants and other tip-heavy industries can get around minimum wage because of the tips, but that is not the case here. The answer lies in the 1930s and the New Deal, which was a wide coalition that included some pretty racist folks (even by 1930s standards). It is fairly common knowledge that social security was written so as to initially exclude people of color, well the same thing happened with agriculture and the minimum wage. Over time, these exclusions have been whittled away at, at least federally. Some states have also jumped into the fray, most notably the state with the largest agriculture industry in the country: California. They did something very similar to this bill, including the overtime requirements, and you won’t believe it, but the sky has not fallen and you are still enjoying tons of Californian agricultural products (New York does this too and Washington state was just forced to by the courts). You might not have even been aware this happened because wages are a tiny part of the prices we pay for food. National Geographic reported in 2016 that the share of the average American’s annual grocery bill for wages was just $45. If you boosted wages by 47%, your grocery bill would only rise $1.76 (again on average). So we can dispense with the argument that food prices will skyrocket. This is because farm labor is fairly efficient: you are talking about picking and harvesting thousands of pounds of food. And fundamentally, what we are doing right now is just unfair and exploitative. We all need the food these workers help provide us. Yet we are fine with paying them less than we require of almost every other industry in the state? About 30% of agriculture workers live below the poverty line in this country, compared to the 16% average. In an industry that is in fact one of the most dangerous ones. According to the federal government, every day in this country 100 agricultural workers suffer an injury that will cause them to miss work. The death rate in the industry as a whole is 24.7 deaths per 100,000 workers, making it the 7th most dangerous industry in the country. The ban on short-hoes and using long-hoes like short hoes is part of this: all of the stooping required causes terrible long-term back problems and is not fundamentally necessary to the work (can be done in a standing position). This by the way is nothing new, court cases and wide-spread knowledge of the damage the short-hoe does dates back over 50 years. So we need to improve working conditions to ensure safety and we need to pay well. For the federal exemptions we are eliminating: why do workers who don’t work as often or who get paid by the piece have to earn less? We don’t have minimum wage exceptions for other industries based on their size. If you pay by the hour, you need to pay a living wage, regardless of if the person works a little bit or a lot. The ranching payment needs to be handled differently. These folks deserve minimum wage protections (part of the job is essentially being on call 24/7 in case of problems) but are difficult to pay by the hour because they are frequently in remote areas and are hard to track. So a weekly minimum payment matching our minimum hourly requirement makes the most sense. As for overtime, again, this is a matter of basic fairness. Yes the agricultural industry is seasonal and features short bursts of activity. So do a lot of other industries, like construction. The exact same reasoning can be applied to unions, why are agricultural workers exempt? Again, California has had unionized agricultural workers for over 50 years and the sky has not fallen. For all of these wage-related considerations, a key element to remember is that an entire industry with depressed wages can bring down wages across the state. Wage competitiveness is a driving market force. If large numbers of workers can be paid less, that makes it less likely that others will need to pay more to make their job more attractive.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • We are upending enormous swathes of practice in a key industry in the state during an economic down-turn, all going far beyond what the federal government has deemed acceptable for years in a unique industry
  • A large part of the danger in the industry comes from transportation issues, namely tractors
  • Federal exemptions make sense and should be kept
  • There is no debate this will either lead to higher prices or closed farms

In Further Detail: This takes a sledgehammer to an industry that is critical to our state’s economy, during a time of economic peril for many. This industry is quite unique in its reliance on seasonal migrant labor combined with in many cases providing housing for the laborers. The intensity of work required during harvest time is pretty much unmatched in other industries, even those that are also seasonal. So the federal government has recognized that overtime pay doesn’t make sense in this situation and that small farms or very short-term labor should not compensated at minimum wage standards. Certainly family members should be able to work on the farm for less than minimum wage but this bill sweeps that aside too. In Colorado, we built exceptions to state minimum wage laws for this industry because we recognize that getting far ahead of federal wage requirements could make it harder for Colorado farmers to compete on the national and international stage when they have to compete against other states (more to this industry than just California) and other countries like Mexico. We forbid unionization for many of the same reasons and also because we cannot afford widespread crop loss during a potential strike. For the danger of the industry, there is no denying it is hard work. But most of the danger for death and serious short-term injury comes from motorized vehicles, namely tractors, which is the case with many of the most dangerous industries in this country. It is not clear that mandated breaks and shade would overly affect this. Its just at times dangerous work, like other industries on the top ten list. Finally, no one would dispute that forcing wages to nearly double and forced overtime will do one of two things: it will either drive some farms out of business or it will increase food costs as they pass along these increases to us. The exact amount may not seem like a big deal to some, but for families that are struggling to put food on the table every dollar counts. Again, we are still in a period of economic trouble in this state.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-087

SB21-096 Sunset Workers' Compensation Classification Appeals Board (Kolker (D), Priola (R)) [Bird (D)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

AMENDED: Technical

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Implement the recommendations of the state Department of Regulatory Agencies’ sunset review report by continuing the Workers’ Compensation Classification Appeals Board through 2032 and allowing the commissioner of insurance the option to appoint insurance agents to the board

Description:

The Workers’ Compensation Classification Appeals Board reviews appeals from employers to determine if a misclassification regarding experience modification factors or classification codes has occurred by either a workers’ compensation insurer or the National Council of Compensation Insurance.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: September 2032 with sunset review

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This is the recommendation of the state Department of Regulatory Agencies’ sunset review
  • Current law can make it challenging to fill seats during vacancies, the commissioner needs the added flexibility

In Further Detail: From the sunset report: “The Board is comprised of both public and professional members and provides effective oversight in order to protect the public interest.

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-096

SB21-176 Protecting Opportunities And Workers' Rights Act (Winter (D), Pettersen (D)) [Lontine (D), Gray (D)]

KILLED BY HOUSE COMMITTEE

AMENDED: Very Significant

Appropriation: $3,930,639
Fiscal Impact: $6 million a year, half of which is estimated settlements by state agencies

Goal:

  • Allow people to sue for employment discrimination in court without first exhausting all administrative proceedings so long as the person files a charge with the state’s civil rights commission or serves a written demand for relief to their employer and gives 14 days for response. Expands the statute of limitations for filing claims of discrimination from 6 months to 300 days
  • Expands definition of employer for discrimination purposes so that domestic employees are included, as are independent contracts and sub-contractors, and anyone who performs a service in exchange for non-monetary compensation, like interns. Inmates are excluded Removes the sunset review from the civil rights division (was 2027)
  • Adds marital status and caregiver status to list of protected classes for discrimination purposes. Caregiver status protections do not require special treatment from employer, just equal treatment of company leave, absenteeism, work performance, and job benefit policies
  • Expands the definition of harassment and hostile work environment (see Description) and makes it easier to prove discrimination claims by explicitly stating the employee does not need to prove that their productivity declined as a result, that discriminatory remarks are relevant circumstantial evidence even if they are not uttered by supervisors, decision makers, or in the context of a hiring decision, and that the legal standard for harassment does not vary by workplace. Also makes it so a single incident of harassing conduct can be considered a hostile work environment, regardless of whether the harassment is severe or pervasive Does add as a defense that the conduct does not rise above what another person from the same protected characteristic (so same race, for instance, in a case of racial harrasment) would consider a petty slight or trivial inconvience
  • Bars employers from conducing medical examinations or inquiries of job applicants unless all applicants for the same job category receive the same examination or inquiry and it is job-related. Employers may inquire about the ability of the applicant to perform job-related tasks Requires all employers with more than 20 employees to conduct annual harassment and discrimination prevention, bystander intervention, and workplace civility training to all employees. All new hires must receive training within 180 days of employment. Each employer must designate at least two people within the company to whom any harassing or discriminatory conduct may be reported. Employers with fewer than 20 employees are encouraged to provide training
  • Bars non-disparagement, non-disclosure, or confidentiality provisions in discrimination settlements that protect the identity of the employer or prohibit the employee from disclosing information on the harassment, discrimination, or retaliation. The employee may request information that would expose their identity be shielded and the amount paid for the settlement may also be kept secret agreements unless the employee suggested it first and they apply equally to both parties. The non-disclosure must not prevent the employee from discussing the facts with immediate family, religious advisors, medical or mental health providers, legal counsel, financial advisors, tax preparers, or as required by law. Any material misrepresentation of the facts by the aggreved party, the employer or those who engaged in the discriminatory conduct voids the agreement

Description:

Previously the law just said harassment and a hostile workplace were discriminatory practices. The bill adds a definition for harassment: “to subject an individual to inferior terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, or to subject an individual to a hostile work environment, because unwelcome verbal, physical, or written conduct when the conduct is related to that individual’s disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, caregiver status, religion, age, national origin, or ancestry and submission to conduct is either implicity or explicity made a condition for employment or when taken as a whole the conduct would be offensive to a reasonable person with similar characteristics as the offended individual

Hostile work environment is “a hostile, offensive, oppressive, or intimidating work environment that deprives an individual of the individual’s right to work in a place free of discrimination when a reasonable person would find that offensive conduct: offends, humiliates, distresses, or intrudes upon the individual or otherwise interferes with and undermines the individual’s personal sense of well-being or safety; or affects the individual’s ability to perform the individual’s job as usual.”

The standard for determining reasonableness includes: the type of conduct, nature of conduct, frequency of conduct (while recognizing that a single instance may be offensive to a reasonable person), indentity of individual enganging in conduct, and if the individual subjected to the conduct felt implicit or explicit pressure to condone, encourage, or participate.

To determine existence of a hostile work environment, the bill says the nature of the workplace must only be considered when engaging in or witnessing prurient conduct and commentary is integral to the performance of job duties (so a strip club for instance would need to be considered differently). Likewise It is irrelevant that a particular occupation may have been characterized by a greater frequency of discriminatory comments or conduct in the past. Conduct does not have to be severe or pervasive to constitute discrimination or unfair employment, but it is an affirmative defense for the employer if they demonstrate they took prompt, reasonable, and remedial action to end the harassment, deter future harassers, and protect employees.

Adds failure to conduct a reasonable investigation of an employee’s complaint or to take prompt remedial action in response to a complaint as discriminatory or unfair employment practices.

For claims of harassment by a supervisor that do not involve use of power or authority of the supervisor, the employer can avoid liability only by establishing: the employer has a program with documented success in preventing reasonably designed to end harassment, deter future harassment, and protect employees from harassment punishing supervisors who unlawfully harass employees and communicated its existence to all employees, no employee has submitted a retaliation complaint within the past six years without the employer taking prompt and reasonable remedial action, and the harassed employee has unreasonably failed to take advantage of the employer’s program.

Information gleaned in medical exams must be collected and maintained in separate files and treated as confidential medical records. It may only be shared with supervisors and managers as needed to restrictions and accommodations needed for the work duties of the employee, with first aid and safety personnel if emergency treatment may be required, and with government officials investigating abuse of this law. Employers may conduct voluntary medical examinations.

Ability to sue in court first does not apply to state employees.

Bill also repeals the limits on remedies in age discrimination cases, which currently cannot receive compensatory or punitive damages, just affirmative relief (rehiring, back pay, front pay)

The use of non-disclosure agreements around the same alleged wrongdoers can be used in civil court as evidence in support of punative damages.

Requires state civil rights commission to develop sample training and education programs regarding prevention of harrassment and discrimination in the workplace, bystander interventions, and workplace civility. These must be made accessible free of charge to employers through the commision's website.

Employers required by the bill to offer training must keep records documenting their compliance for at least three years. Faliure to abide by any of the training requirements can be considered as evidence in a civil trial in support of punative damages. All employers, regardless of size, must include language in their employee manual or handbook or whatever outlines the conditions of their employment that employees should expect a workplace free from harassment and discrimination, the contact information for who any harassing or discriminatory conduct should be reported, and the contact information for the civil rights commission for reporting if the employee is not comfortable reporting to the designated individual. This must also be posted in a conspicious place. Violating this provision is a fine of at least $500 and at most $10,000.

Additional Information:

Employer programs to prevent harassment and punish supervisors does not have to have a documented record of success if the complaint in question is the first one.

If an independent contractor’s conduct is beyond the control of the employer than the employer is not liable for their harassment. This does not extend to harassing other employees, including other independent contractors.

Bill notes that harassment claims nearly always raise a question of fact.

Caregiver is defined as someone who provides direct and on-going care to a minor child or an adult who is a family member or resides in the caregiver’s house and relies on the caregiver to meet the needs of daily living.


Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Discrimination cases are hard to win already, particularly in wrongful termination or hiring or promotion cases, so a lot of what this bill does is simply provide more concrete terms and steps employers must take to avoid liability so that when these cases are being adjudicated we are all working from the same starting point of what exactly harassment or a hostile work place is and what exactly an employer should do when such a case is brought to their attention
  • People in domestic work clearly can be subject to harassment and discrimination. Discrimination based on marital status clearly should not be allowed. And neither should caregiver status. Remember: you can fire anyone who cannot perform the work or who keeps not showing up for work so a caregiver who cannot do the job won’t be protected
  • No medical exams unless it is relevant to the job and everyone gets one, again a pretty obvious requirement
  • Limiting damages in age discrimination cases makes no sense, a no-brainer to remove
  • Secrecy in settlements is a detriment to the public good: we should know about the history of harassment and discrimination at workplaces

In Further Detail: Before we get into individual provisions of the bill it is important to acknowledge up front that discrimination cases are hard to win, particularly when it comes to wrongful termination but also to hiring and promotion cases. You have to demonstrate that your status as a protected class was the reason the event occurred and employers tend to come up with all sorts of other plausible reasons, including hard to define qualitative ones. The bill does a few things that should be fairly obvious. First, a real definition of harassment and hostile work environment so we have concrete law to point to instead leaving the definition up to the eyes of the beholder. Second, harassment and discrimination do not have to effect job performance. This seems obvious but again, having it in law makes a big difference. Third, people in domestic work can be subject to harassment and discrimination. Fourth, you cannot do medical exams or ask about medical history to probe for disabilities unless it is germane to performing work tasks and in that case, you better treat that medical history like the confidential thing it is. And fifth, Limiting age discrimination damages makes no sense whatsoever. This is actually one of the hardest types of discrimination to prove and there is no reason that employers shouldn’t be liable for damages in these cases. For the more controversial aspects of the bill, the reason for allowing for remedies through the courts is allow for people to take this issue out of the hands of one person in state government and immediately use our court system as it was intended. Barring secrecy in settlements unless the employee wants it violates the public interest in knowing about an employer’s history of workplace harassment and provides privacy shields for employers that do not deserve it. For requiring some sort of functioning program to deal with harassment or discrimination: if this means a bunch of employers create these programs to try to avoid liability that is great, system working as intended. On the concern that a single incident can be used to demonstrate a hostile work place. Yes, that’s what those words mean. A hostile work place does not have to be pervasive to be hostile. If it was pervasive, then it would be a pervasively hostile work place. This is why we judge these cases based on evidence, to determine the extent of the hostility and what that means in the context of this particular case. As in any discrimination case the employer can prove that the actions they took were not related to protected class or that the employer acted to address the hostile work place promptly. The bill also provides as a defense that the individual suing has taken this completely the wrong way or too far and that other people in the exact same circumstance would not have found the behavior harrassing or the workplace hostile. Or, like in the example in Arguments Against, that the employer had no idea this was happening through no fault of the employer. Let’s also pump the brakes on the worry that adding caregiver status will ruin employers. This is a protected category in multiple other states and the sky has not fallen. Employees have paid time off and family leave options. They may or may not have flexible schedules. What they do not have is carte blanche to leave work whenever they want, regardless of caregiver status. So no employer is going to be in trouble for firing an employee who doesn’t show up to work when they are supposed to. This is admittedly far more difficult to parse in salaried positions with high work requirements but here again we simply fall back on is the work required getting done or not? If it is, then obviously we want to protect someone from being fired or discriminated against. If not, then the employer is perfectly able to fire someone from not doing their job. Harassment and discrimination training can also be an important tool in establishing workplace expectations. At a minimum, no one can say they weren't aware.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • Allowing people to go straight to court will be a boon to lawyers but may result in an increase in frivolous cases clogging up the court system, wasting time and moneyTrainings are notorious for being a waste of time, even among people sympathetic to the cause
  • This may be true in particular due to the way the bill expands definitions and protected categories. Having just one incident, no matter how severe, create a hostile work environment may push people to sue in more marginal cases (and some of those may find success). Caregiver status may be difficult in cases where long or irregular hours are part of the job and where accommodations may not be so easy
  • The fact that state employees are excluded from this new ability to go straight to court is a tell on how burdensome it might be
  • The removal of privacy in settlements may actually cause fewer settlements, since right now some companies will settle just to be rid of a case, but if they can’t be assured of privacy they are more likely to fight until the bitter end

In Further Detail: This will be a great boon to the lawyers in the state, who will happily be encouraging people to sue when there is the slightest whiff of harassment, in particular since now one ugly comment by one employee can make an entire workplace a hostile one. That standard of proof is far too low and could cause problems. For example, say a newly hired entry level employee makes a distasteful joke that plays on ethnic stereotypes. A clear example of offensive behavior we would all agree is wrong and harassing. No one reports this behavior or says anything but it is the only such incident the employee experiences. The harassed employee is later fired for poor performance. Is this an example of a hostile work environment where the fired employee can successfully sue? It may be difficult to prove but the bill would say yes. One incident, not severe or pervasive but clearly hostile and wrong. The employer may be able to get by because the incident was not reported, but you can see how a lot more real marginal cases are going to end up in court (since employees no longer need to go through the administrative route first). On caregiver status, here is an ugly truth: the requirement to care for another person can make it difficult for someone to perform certain types of jobs that require long or irregular hours. The bill’s blanket ban makes it difficult for employers to ensure their employees are capable of doing the job they are hired for. And it makes it impossible for an employer to move on from an employee who constantly has to leave or miss work because they have to care for someone else. That would be caregiver discrimination—being fired solely because you had to repeatedly miss work to care for another. Even in cases where the employer could prove declines in actual productivity, this provision will open the door to a lot more lawsuits (again since employees no longer have to go through the administrative route first). In both of these cases, and in others as well, removing the ability to have the state first adjudicate these and weed out all of the frivolous claims will waste time and money in our courts. A clear tell that the judicial route is more burdensome is that state employees still cannot take it under the terms of the bill. On the privacy in settlements issue, this could actually have the unintended consequence of making it harder to get a settlement. Right now some employers will settle cases so as to get rid of them and not go through the judicial or administrative process. If they could not guarantee secrecy that calculus will likely change and they are much more likely to fight every claim out to try to win instead. For the trainings, these are notorious for being a waste of time, even among people who are strong allies of workplace civility and preventing harassment and discrimination. They are generally poorly done, not well paid attention to, and just treated as a checkbox waste of time by nearly all involved.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-176

SB21-197 Workers' Compensation Physician (Rodriguez (D)) [Woodrow (D)]

KILLED BY BILL SPONSORS

AMENDED: Moderate

Appropriation: None
Fiscal Impact: None

Goal:

  • Change the way workers select their primary physician in workers’ compensation cases by allowing the worker to select any physician that is Level I or Level II accredited by the state. If the employee is unable or unwilling to chose then the employer can chose any Level I or Level II physician to being treatment but the employee has the right to change it later

Description:

The current system is much more complex. Employers or insurers offer a list of four Level I or Level II physicians for the employee to pick from, then there are a whole list of rules dealing with proximity to the worker, physicians operating at different locations, and disclosure requirements. And a section on the ability for worker’s to have expedited administrative hearings if they feel the law is being violated. Then employees do have the ability once to request a change in physician, but it still has to be on the employer’s list and there are a bunch of rules around the process as well. The bill eliminates almost all of this, only the provision about the employee's ability to change physicians once is kept but altered so that the new physician just has to be any level I or level II physician (like the original choice).

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This is about the basic principle of being able to select your own, qualified, doctor
  • In workers’ compensation cases there is actually a lot riding on the doctor beyond basic medical care. The question of exactly what the injury is (because there could be secondary complications or pre-existing conditions), how it should be treated, and the question of exactly when the worker has regained full medical improvement can be judgment calls
  • Current law allows companies and insurers to essentially have house doctors that they know may err on the side of the company or insurer when it comes to these judgment calls, to the detriment of the worker
  • Current law also places all of the burden on the employee if they think something is wrong with their treatment and even then doesn’t allow them to have their own primary doctor. Generally a second opinion has to be paid for by the worker

In Further Detail: At its core, this is just about the basic principle of being able to select your own doctor. They have to be qualified of course, but that should be the end of this discussion. Instead we have this incredibly byzantine system that is designed to in essence allow your employer (and their insurer) to pick your doctor. The obvious conflict of interest here doesn’t matter. Because in these cases who the doctor is can make a big difference. What exactly the injury is determines what is covered. If the doctor decides that a condition in your arm existed prior to the fall and wasn’t affected by it, even though it feels worse after the fall (let’s say the primary injury is you broke your leg), then they could exclude treatment for the arm from coverage. How the injury should be treated is another big one. Do you need a referral to an expensive specialist or is the primary care just fine? And when have you gained full medical improvement, which ends workers’ comp and puts you back to work? That too is a judgment call. Right now those judgments are being made by house doctors who are likely being picked for their willingness to err on the side of the insurer and the employer. Yes, the current system has ways for employees who feel they are being mistreated to object. But all the burden is on them, to generate an administrative hearing (which will probably require a lawyer) or to get a second opinion (which they probably will have to pay for themselves). Employers and insurers are also allowed to dispute workers’ comp claims and they are vastly more equipped to do it. So if they feel they are being taken advantage of, they can get an administrative hearing. But again, people should be able to chose their own, qualified doctor.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • We let employers and insurers work with the same stable of doctors because we know the results we are going to get. In workers’ compensation cases there is actually a lot riding on the doctor beyond basic medical care. The question of exactly what the injury is (because there could be secondary complications or pre-existing conditions), how it should be treated, and the question of exactly when the worker has regained full medical improvement can be judgment calls
  • This bill could set up a scenario when certain doctors in the state get loads of workers’ comp cases by being the doctors that are clearly on the side of the worker, instead of just calling it like they see it, to the detriment of companies and insurers who will pass all of that excess spending on in the form of higher premiums
  • Current law allows employees to object if they think they are being treated unfairly and get a second opinion from a doctor of their choice

In Further Detail: The reason for letting employers and insurers work with a stable of doctors isn’t necessarily a cabal to cheat workers, it’s because they know what results they are going to get out of the process. All of those medical decisions the Arguments For section referred to can easily be flipped on their head and we could have doctors who essentially specialize in milking workers’ compensation claims to the maximum extent. There is no mechanism in the bill to deal with this scenario beyond the doctor’s actual medical license and certification to handle workers’ compensation claims. So if the doctor doesn’t go so far out of bounds as to threaten those, companies and insurers can have to keep dealing with the same doctors over and over again: have to keep taking them to administrative proceedings and even if they keep winning, can’t stop employees from using those doctors. All of that excess medical expense goes to the insurer, who certainly is not going to eat those losses and will pass that along in higher premiums to employers. They may chose not to eat the higher premiums and instead lower wages and benefits. Current law also allows for employees to object if they think they are being treated unfairly, and on an expedited basis. They can get a second opinion from a doctor of their choice and present that opinion at the hearing.

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-197

SB21-233 Colorado Department Of Labor And Employment Unemployment Insurance Division Enterprise (Rodriguez (D), Hansen (D)) [Benavidez (D), Gonzales-Gutierrez (D)]

PASSED

AMENDED: Very Significant (category change)

Appropriation: $75,000
Fiscal Impact: None beyond appropriation

Goal:

Give Study if giving undocumented workers the same access to unemployment insurance as everyone else, with the exact same benefits, by diverting 0.0785% of unemployment taxes to a new fund which will cover the undocumented. is feasible, including potential sources of revenue.

Description:

Creates the Left-Behind Workers Program, which is part of the TABOR exempt unemployment insurance enterprise program. The left behind program operates to provide unemployment assistance relief payments to workers who are not eligible for state unemployment due to their immigration status. Similar to regular unemployment insurance, they must have lost employment through no fault of their own. State to contract with a third-party administrator to run program, which must do outreach to eligible individuals, screen applicants for eligibility, and make payments to eligible individuals in the program. Requires the executive director of the department of labor, in conjunction with the director of the division of unemployment insurance, the director of the office of new Americans, and the office of the governor to study if creating an unemployment insurance program for undocumented workers (who are not eligible for state unemployment due to immigration status) that functions in the same way as regular unemployment (must be unemployed through no fault of your own) by using a third-party contractor is feasible. This must include potential sources of money to fund the program and legal compliance with state and federal law. Report due to legislature by October.

Payments must be 55% of their average weekly wage for the base period but the payment amount cannot exceed what they would receive if they were eligible for regular unemployment. Maximum of 13 weeks of payments. Payments to begin by February 2022.

Payments are funded by diverting of 0.0785% of unemployment insurance tax on companies (so no new premiums). If the fund ever exceeds $50 million (inflation adjusted to this year) premium collection must be halted until levels drop below $50 million. If the fund does not have $500,000 it must cease payments until it reaches $500,000 again. The fiscal note estimates $38 million in premiums this year and $49 million next year, with payments of $27 million this year and $34 million next year. The total undocumented population in the state is estimated to be around 180,000 people, with 65% of those in the workforce.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • Undocumented Coloradans are ineligible for unemployment benefits, which is about 117,000 people who get nothing if they are laid off. There are also an estimated 114,000 children who are US citizens of at least one undocumented parent, so the problem stretches deep
  • These are valuable members of our society, people who were not citizens paid over $150 million in state and local taxes in Colorado in 2018 (this also counts people here on legal visas). In some industries more than 1/3 of the workforce is comprised of undocumented people
  • Businesses are already paying premiums on these workers, even if the workers cannot collect the insurance, so it is only fair to extend the program to everyone Because unemployment has complex legal requirements and the state's fund is so deeply in the hole already, it makes sense to study how we can make a program like this work without damaging existing unemploynment insurance
  • Not only is it fair, it also helps the economy for the same reason we have unemployment insurance to begin with: it helps keep people housed and feed and keeps more money circulating in the economy to prevent spirals of unemployment
  • This is designed to exactly mimic regular unemployment: no more or less generous

In Further Detail: Undocumented Coloradans are ineligible for unemployment benefits (this is due to federal law and not something we can change). As the Description notes, that’s about 117,000 people who if they are laid off, get nothing. The problem goes deeper than just this population though, there are an estimated 140,000 children who are US citizens with at least one undocumented parent. These people are also some of the most vulnerable members of our society and are overrepresented in industries hit hardest by COVID. They are valuable members of our society, people who were not citizens paid over $150 million in state and local taxes in Colorado in 2018 (this also counts people here on legal visas). In some industries more than 1/3 of the workforce is comprised of undocumented people. This program is designed to function under the exact same rules as regular unemployment, we are in essence saying we want to provide the same unemployment coverage to undocumented workers as we do everyone else. The necessity of providing unemployment goes back to the core case for the insurance itself. When someone loses their job through no fault of their own, we want to contain the damage to the economy and lives as much as possible. For the individual, this provides them with some money to tide them over to pay for basics like housing and food. For the economy, it can help slow or prevent spirals where one person’s unemployment (and lack of money to spend in the economy) spreads to others as businesses suffer and drag each other down. It is actually one of the very best ways we can spend money during economic downturns. And the programs are designed to temporary and not full wage replacement. So for all of those same reasons, it is important to keep these folks from falling through the cracks. And remember: employers are already paying premiums on these employees into the system. Many economists agree that employers account for unemployment insurance when determining wages, so these folks are contributing to the fund already. Obviously we are in a bit of a dire situation with the fund (although the billions in federal aid we received can be used to replenish it, which is likely to happen to some degree), which may trigger rate hikes in the future. So this doesn’t add any new tax burdens on businesses, it simply asks that we use the premiums we are already collecting on everyone.

Arguments Against:

Bottom Line:

  • State taxpayer dollars should go to people who are not breaking the law, as anyone who is undocumented is actively doing
  • We do many things in the name of public safety for undocumented immigrants but making life more comfortable for them economically should not be one of them
  • This is a change from decades of current policy, so it is a bit of a stretch to claim that our overall economy is being actively hurt by the status quo
  • The more state benefits we provide to undocumented people the more attractive we make the state for them

In Further Detail: When it comes to distributing tax dollars (which is in essence what unemployment premiums are), that money should not go to people who are not obeying the law. Because anyone who is here illegally is breaking federal law to do so. They are jumping ahead of others waiting patiently to be Americans the right way, the legal way. There are many things we do for undocumented immigrants in the name of public safety, such as issuing a substitute for a driver’s license, but making life more comfortable economically for them should not be one. Yes, there are long-term harms associated with extreme poverty but people who chose to come here, jump the line, and then ran into financial problems have the option to just go home. On the overall economic argument, we’ve been doing it this way since unemployment insurance began in the 1930s. It is a bit of a stretch to say that the status quo is actively damaging our economy, particular in difficult times. Finally, the more benefits we provide to undocumented people in Colorado the more attractive our state becomes for new undocumented people. So no need to even study the issue, we shouldn't do it period, no matter the feasability financially.


Bottom Line:

  • This design could use a little tweaking. Unemployment insurance has automatic stabilizers that move premiums up and down based on how much money is in the fund. This should do the same: instead of waiting until we are sitting on $50 million the percentage diverted should adjust The people in this state who need help, all of those folks Arguments For described who contribute so much to this economy, cannot wait another year for action. The time to act is now, not do more study

Bottom Line:

  • We simply cannot afford to do this. We owe the federal government $1 billion, and then will need another $100 million just to reach that former point we considered an emergency for the unemployment fund to become solvent again. So diverting tens of millions of dollars out of the fund is a big deal. There is no guarantee federal stimulus money will be used to repay these amounts and if they aren’t, massive tax increases are coming on businesses to replenish the fund

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-233

SB21-251 General Fund Loan Family Medical Leave Program (Winter (D), Moreno (D)) [Gray (D), Caraveo (D)]

SIGNED INTO LAW

Appropriation: $1.5 million
Fiscal Impact: Estimated $300,000 in interest on loan

Goal:

Get the voter approved family medical leave program the start-up money it needs before it begins collecting taxes from businesses and workers to sustain itself. Money must be repaid by end of 2023 plus interest.

Description:

Transfers $1.5 million to the family medical leave program, which was approved by voters last fall, in order to cover start-up costs. This must be repaid by the end of 2023 as well as interest. Interest rate is to be the 10 US Treasury note interest, rounded to nearest 1/10 of 1%.

Additional Information: n/a

Auto-Repeal: n/a

Arguments For:

Bottom Line:

  • This is very simple, the voter approved family leave program, which operates a lot like unemployment insurance, needs money to get started, but will then be totally self-funded by taxes on businesses and workers (just like unemployment). So we give it the start-up money, and it pays us back, plus interest

Arguments Against: n/a

How Should Your Representatives Vote on SB21-251