Joey BunchJoey BunchMarch 15, 20184min706

A bill to fill a $32 billion to $50 billion hole in the Public Employees' Retirement Association won't have the public employers' help, if an amendment passed in Senate Bill 200's first committee hearing sticks. In a five-member committee with three Republicans, Sen. Jack Tate. R-Centennial, needed to make the change to secure enough GOP support to keep the legislation alive.


Marianne GoodlandMarianne GoodlandFebruary 5, 20187min487

Middle-income families who shell out thousands of dollars every year for child care could get a little help from the state under a bill that is expected to show up in the Colorado House Monday.

The measure, which doesn’t yet have an assigned number, will be sponsored by Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran, a Denver Democrat, and Rep. Faith Winter, a Thornton Democrat.

Winter told of her own experience in looking for affordable, quality child care, once taking a week to scout out facilities. She said she and her husband worked two jobs: one to make ends meet and the other to pay for child care so they could work.

The bill would give families with incomes of up to $150,000 a state tax credit for child care, worth up to $400. Combined with an existing federal tax credit, those families could end up with an extra $1,000 in their wallets every year.

*The state already provides a child care tax credit for families with incomes of $60,000 per year or less, although the credit covers only a portion of child care expenses. HB 1208 would increase the amount of child care credit families with incomes of $60,000 or less would be able to claim, and for the first time, families with incomes between $60,000 and $150,000 also would be able to claim that state tax credit.

If passed, the extra tax credits would cost the state about $14 million in lost revenue; Winter estimated about 40,000 families per year could take advantage of the credit.

The bill’s biggest challenge will come from the Senate, where it has gained a Republican sponsor: Sen. Beth Martinez-Humenik of Thornton. Although she is vice-chair of the health and human services committee, which might be considered a more friendly committee, the bill is mostly likely to head to the Senate Business, Labor & Technology Committee because it involves taxes. Should it clear that committee, it would likely next go to Senate Finance, perhaps its biggest challenge.

One advantage the bill has in the Republican-controlled Senate: Martinez-Humenik, whose seat is considered the most endangered in the Republican caucus. She’s up for re-election in the fall, and Republicans are likely to look favorably on bills that they believe will help her, and them, keep that one-seat majority.

This week, Winter and Rep. Matt Gray of Broomfield are also taking on the House Democrats’ top priority bill: House Bill 1001. It’s nearly identical to a measure pushed by House Democrats a year ago, and which died in the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee last May.

Winter explained that nearly one in four mothers go back to work two weeks after giving birth, but child care facilities don’t take babies that young, putting pressure on those families to find alternative arrangements.

HB 1001 would set up a family and medical leave insurance program in the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. That insurance program would provide partial wage replacement for individuals who need to take off work to take care of their own serious health issues, care for a new child, or care for a family member with a serious health condition.

The measure would be paid for through monthly premiums on employee wages of up to .99 percent, eventually bringing in more than $550 million by 2020-21. Its upfront costs in the first year are estimated at around $31 million.

Opponents claim the measure will drive up the cost of doing business in Colorado as well as growing government when it isn’t needed. House Minority Leader Patrick Neville of Castle Rock told Colorado Politics that the measure adds regulations and that will raise costs, such as in compliance. “It’s the opposite of what the sponsors intend to do,” he said. Families are hurting because of rising costs; this will acerbate that, he added.

Not a single Republican in either chamber voted for the 2017 version, and finding any, especially in the Republican-dominated Senate, that will back it in an election year may be its biggest challenge.

One issue with the bill is that every employee will pay into the program, even for companies that already offer a medical leave program.

State Sen. Cheri Jahn of Wheat Ridge, who is unaffiliated but usually caucuses with Democrats, also opposes HB 1001. She told Colorado Politics if a company wants to do it as a benefit to attract people, “more power to them.” In addition, her employees told her they don’t need to have money taken out of their paychecks for a program they may never use. “And who are we to say we’re so smart that we can do it better than people can do it themselves?”

Neha Mahajan of 9 to 5, the national nonprofit that is backing the bill, told Colorado Politics that the program would supplement existing medical leave programs that pay 66 percent of an employee’s salary, boosting the pay from 66 percent to 100 percent. It would also extend leave from 12 weeks in most programs to 16 weeks.

HB 1001 will be heard Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. in the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee.


Correction: to note that families with incomes below $60,000 would be able to claim a larger credit; a previous version said they were ineligible.


Ernest LuningErnest LuningJanuary 8, 201814min3504

The nonprofit formerly known as the Centrist Project, a group working to elect nonpartisans officials nationwide, on Monday unveiled a slate of four unaffiliated Colorado candidates running this year for the Legislature  in the opening salvo of its assault on the two major parties' unbroken rule of the state's government. It also announced it's changing its name to Unite America and will call the state-focused organization Unite Colorado.


Joey BunchJoey BunchDecember 13, 20173min580

Yeah, that’s good, but …

That was the reaction of the rarely satisfied Tony Gagliardi, Colorado state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, after his national organization released a report Tuesday heralding economic optimism of its members.

Just think of how happy they could be if the legislature would cut them some slack on sales and use taxes, he said.

“The numbers in this month’s Index of Small Business Optimism released today absolutely astound,” Gagliardi said in a statement. “The highest since 1983’s record and the second highest level in the Index’s 44-year history. One can only imagine how much faster this great economic news could accelerate here, if Colorado were to finally get a rein on its sales and use tax structure.”

The Colorado NFIB said the state has more than 700 taxing districts, “which has created a costly, confusing, needlessly time-consuming burden on small businesses, especially for the ones that don’t have the resources to pay someone solely to handle compliance.”

Last session the bipartisan House Bill 1216, created a legislative task force to work with the business community and tax experts to try to cut some of the red tape from tax collections.

The bill was sponsored by Reps. Lang Sias, R-Arvada, and Tracy Kraft-Tharp, D-Wheat Ridge, with Sens. Cheri Jahn, D-Wheat Ridge, and Tim Neville, R-Littleton.

“What we desperately need is a single application process for sales and use tax compliance in this state. Were that to happen,” Gagliardi said. “I have no doubt that today’s optimism could be sustained for a very long while.”

“The NFIB indicators clearly anticipate further upticks in economic growth for the fourth quarter,”Bill Dunkelberg, NFIB’s chief economist, stated. “This is a dramatically different picture than owners presented during the weak 2006-16 recovery.”

To read the full NFIB full monthly report, click here.


Joey BunchJoey BunchOctober 27, 20172min262

This week Rep. Jessie Danielson, D-Wheat Ridge, was named the legislator of the year by the Developmental Disabilities Resource Center at an event in Lakewood, the House Democratic Press Office said.

The center advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.

“I’m grateful for the recognition but even more grateful for the DDRC’s work to expand opportunities for people with disabilities in all areas of Colorado society,” Danielson said in a statement.

In the last session, she sponsored a new law during the 2017 legislative session to protect vulnerable adults from financial exploitation.

In the last session, she sponsored House Bill 1253, which protest at-risk adults from financial exploitation and scams.

Democrats passed the bill out of the House on a party-line vote and the Senate passed it 27-7, before the governor signed the extra protections into law in May.

Danielson is the House speaker pro tempore and vice chair of the House Public Health Care and Human Services Committee.

She was a talked-about option as a Democratic candidate for Congress this year, but in May told Colorado Politics she would run for the state Senate seat being vacated by Cheri Jahn, D-Wheat Ridge, next year. Jahn is term-limited.