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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMay 22, 20173min460

To the cheers of the business community and the jeers of the plaintiff’s bar, the Colorado Civil Justice League regularly champions public policies to rein in what it contends is excessive, costly litigation. Generally speaking, legislation at the Capitol that would make it easier to sue, or to reap larger damages awards, gets a thumbs-down from the advocacy group.

And by that measure, Colorado’s 2017 session didn’t do badly in the league’s eyes. Notably, it preserved the status quo on most of the issues the league tracks — and even moved the ball the right way in one policy area.

Which for the league translates to a B grade for the session, as noted in a blog post today on its website.

What did lawmakers do to rate above average even if, for the most part, they did nothing at all? Construction-litigation reform, of course:

Sponsored by Rep. Alec Garnett (D-Denver), Rep. Lori Saine (R-Firestone), Sen. Jack Tate (R-Centennial) and Sen. Lucia Guzman (D-Denver), HB 1279 was the product of many hours of work including a much larger coalition of lawmakers from both parties, as well as advocates representing homeowners and homebuilders.

RepWhile not as ambitious as we might have hoped, the bill nonetheless moves the ball forward by ensuring that homeowners are fully informed of costs and risks and given a formal voice in determining whether to initiate litigation to resolve alleged defective construction.

Anything that makes it more difficult for a cadre of plaintiffs attorneys to steamroll HOA members down the path toward litigation is an improvement over the status quo, which has construction of multi-family owner-occupied projects crawling at a snail’s pace.

The league also lauds bipartisan votes that it says were “instrumental in advancing worthwhile bills or defeating others that invited further lawsuit abuse.”

Read more; here’s the link again.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMay 19, 20172min370

Colorado could see more success stories like Fort Collins’s New Belgium Brewing Co. — a 100 percent-employee-owned dynamo in our state’s booming craft-brew trade — with Gov. John Hickenlooper signing into law this week a bill to assist employee buyouts.

The bipartisan House Bill 1214  — sponsored in the House by Denver Democratic state Rep. James Coleman, and in the upper chamber by Centennial Republican Sen. Jack Tate — would establish and administer a revolving loan program cash fund, financed by gifts, grants and donations, to help existing businesses convert into employee-owned businesses. No state revenue would be involved.

A Senate Republican press release touting Thursday’s bill signing notes:

While many small businesses are forced to close their doors for various circumstances, employee owned businesses are 25 percent more likely to stay in business, with their employees accruing roughly double the retirement savings of their peers.

Employee owned businesses tend to see greater job growth, faster overall growth, and lower rates of lay-offs and severance.

The press release quotes Tate:

“Struggling and low-income communities may find that this approach solves many of their unique challenges like accessing capital, small business ownership transitions, and overcoming barriers to job entry … By providing a mechanism for more Coloradans, regardless of background, to take ownership of their future, we can help more folks access a pathway to a more prosperous economic future.”



Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMarch 21, 20173min530

Colorado tort reformers are cheering the progress of legislation to rein in a “lawsuit tax” they say drives excessive and costly litigation. Senate Bills 181, sponsored by Sen. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, and 191, sponsored by Sen. Jack Tate, R-Centennial, would tweak what the Colorado Civil Justice League calls, “obscure laws that drive up the cost of a lawsuit beyond the actual cost of damages.” Though the laws in question go unnoticed by much of society, the League contends the ripple effects undermine the overall economy.

The unheralded measures passed the state Senate last week.

As we’ve reported here before, SB 181 takes on what are sometimes called “phantom damages.” The League explains:

Let’s say someone injured in an auto accident receives an initial bill for $140,000 for medical costs. The injured party’s insurance company settles the bill for a negotiated amount of $40,000. But when the injured party sues the at-fault driver for other damages — like pain and suffering or physical impairment — he will begin by claiming the full $140,000 in damages for medical costs. That’s because current law says that juries cannot be told that those bills were actually settled for $40,000.

The difference between the two amounts equals the phantom damages, i.e., an amount never actually paid out for expenses incurred by the plaintiff — yet included in the amount submitted to the jury as the basis of the plaintiff’s claims for pain and suffering.

SB 181 would change that, instead requiring juries to be informed of both amounts when deciding what reimbursement to award.

And 191 would rein in the interest rates that are assessed on damages awards; critics say current law encourages plaintiffs and personal injury lawyers to drag out disputes to reap the rewards of statutorily, yet arbitrarily, set interest rates that inflate the final payout.



Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMarch 2, 20174min480

Those who contend that litigation is out of control across society point to a “lawsuit tax” as one of the culprits. You won’t find a lawsuit tax per se in the state revenue code, of course, but the tort-reforming Colorado Civil Justice League says there are laws on the books that amount to pretty much the same thing. They are “obscure laws that drive up the cost of a lawsuit beyond the actual cost of damages,” as the League puts it in a press release this week.

The League is supporting a couple of bills now pending in the legislature to address the issue.

Senate Bill 181 takes on what are sometimes called “phantom damages.” The press release explains:

Let’s say someone injured in an auto accident receives an initial bill for $140,000 for medical costs. The injured party’s insurance company settles the bill for a negotiated amount of $40,000. But when the injured party sues the at-fault driver for other damages — like pain and suffering or physical impairment — he will begin by claiming the full $140,000 in damages for medical costs. That’s because current law says that juries cannot be told that those bills were actually settled for $40,000.

The difference between the two amounts equals the phantom damages, i.e., an amount never actually paid out for expenses incurred by the plaintiff — yet included in the amount submitted to the jury as the basis of the plaintiff’s claims for pain and suffering.

SB 181 would change that, instead requiring juries to be informed of both amounts when deciding what reimbursement to award.

Senate Bill 191, meanwhile, would rein in the interest rates that are assessed on damages awards; critics say current law encourages plaintiffs and personal injury lawyers to drag out disputes to reap the rewards of statutorily, yet arbitrarily, set interest rates that inflate the final payout.

The plaintiffs’ bar, of course, begs to differ. Particularly when it comes to the issue of phantom damages, the counterpoint from trial lawyers against changing the law is that defendants should have to own up to their negligence. Plaintiffs shouldn’t be shortchanged for their pain and suffering just because their health insurers were successful in bargaining down their bills for medical care.

The League, however, contends:

SBs 181 and 191 preserve the right of an injured party to be fully and properly compensated for their injuries, while sparing Colorado drivers and homeowners the burden of paying for phantom damages and ridiculous interest rates.

Tort reform long has been a cause associated with the GOP, and these bills are no exception. SB 181’s sponsors are Sen. Bob Gardner and Rep. Yeulin Willett. SB 191’s sponsors are Sen. Jack Tate, Willett and Rep. Cole Wist. All are Republicans.



Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirFebruary 28, 20174min380

You’d think “Silent Cal” Coolidge, having uttered so few memorable words during his presidency, would have been quoted accurately the few times he did say something noteworthy. Yet, historians tell us the 30th U.S. president’s most cited line — often rendered as, “The business of America is business” — is at best a mangled fragment taken way out of context. The actual quotation was part of a lengthy and more nuanced defense of a free press. Coolidge may have been Republican to the bone, but his remarks weren’t meant as a gratuitous celebration of unbridled capitalism.

Today’s Republicans similarly will tell you their sympathies for business aren’t about amassing wealth in the hands of a few but about unshackling the forces that create jobs for the masses. Democrats and others beg to differ, of course, but it is that credo that the GOP invokes in seeking to cut regulations they say smother investment in jobs.

Hence, legislative Republicans’ perennial promise to make it easer to do business in the Centennial State, an agenda that advanced Monday in the state Senate.

Senate Bill 186, introduced in the upper chamber by the GOP’s Sen. Jack Tate of Centennial, would require state agencies that seek to adopt new rules to first, “prepare a regulatory flexibility analysis in which the agency considers using regulatory methods that will accomplish the objectives of applicable statutes while minimizing the adverse impact on small businesses.”

In other words, to tread more lightly when using the bureaucracy’s administrative power to impose more regulations on small businesses. The legislation goes into detail defining the parameters of the analysis.

The proposal passed the State Business Labor and Technology Committee on a bipartisan, 6-to-1 vote and now heads to the Senate Finance Committee.

The Senate GOP touted the measure late Monday in a press statement quoting Tate:

Tate…called his bill a potential “game-changer” for state regulators and the small businesses they regulate. “All this bill does is ask those who make the rules to do a much better job of understanding and analyzing the impact those rules are having on small businesses,” said Tate. “It also asks regulators to begin tracking and measuring their fiscal impacts, in recognition of how such regulations can add costs and complexity to business operations in ways that hurt their profitability.”

Without such requirements, it’s too easy for agencies to pile regulation after regulation on businesses, with no broader understanding of the cumulative burdens being imposed over time, said Tate. “Given how critically important these companies are to the state’s economic health, it just makes sense for regulators to take a closer look at how their actions can impact not just the bottom lines, but the survival of our small businesses over time.”

 



Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirFebruary 8, 20173min370

Whether it was your big brother loaning you lunch money because you lost yours on the way to school, or your mom and dad pitching in toward your first car, family members long have been the lenders of first and last resort. That goes for buying a home, too, especially for that first home you can’t quite afford on your own.

Here’s the catch, though: Under Colorado law, only your parents, and not any other family members, can step in and help out. Anyone else first has to jump through the hoops of becoming a licensed mortgage loan originator. That’s right; your well-heeled uncle; your grandmother who keeps money in a mattress; even your older brother who loaned you the lunch money — and now is an e-commerce tycoon; none can legally act as a lender unless they first meet licensing requirements that include 20 hours of approved course work.

Senate Bill 127, introduced in the upper chamber by Sen. Jack Tate, R-Centennial, and approved unanimously this week by the Senate’s Business, Labor & Technology Committee, would ease those regulatory constraints. The bill would extend the current mortgage-originator exemption for parents to any family member; deciding who is and isn’t an eligible family member would be left to the state Board of Mortgage Loan Originators.

Said Tate in a press statement released by the Senate GOP:

“If we’re going to let parents help their children finance a home, without having to get licensed as a loan originator, why not let an uncle do the same for a niece, or a sister do the same for a brother? Our goal here is to expand alternative home financing options, by not limiting the loan originator exemption to just a parent helping a child, but to include other family members who might want to play this role.”

 The bill now moves to the full Senate for debate.