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Business ignores the legislature at its peril

Democrats hail the 2013 legislative session as one of the most ambitious and productive sessions in state history.  Republicans describe it as partisan overreach with Democrats forcing an extreme set of bills through the legislative process.  In the end, Gov. John Hickenlooper did not veto a single piece of legislation last session.

Both sides can agree that the session was tense and the bills that were passed will have a significant impact on the state.  From guns and marijuana to civil unions and election reform, the Democrats, which controlled both chambers, did not shy away from pursuing a controversial agenda that grabbed national headlines. 

The most recent development from the 2013 legislative session was the recall of two Democratic state senators who supported gun control measures.  While it is difficult to project what impact the recalls will actually have on the state legislative process, it is safe to say that the 2013 legislative session was not business as usual.

Conventional wisdom might argue that Democrats, who will still retain control of both chambers and the governor’s office, will moderate their agenda in an election year.  The business community should not assume, however, that 2014 will be a “do-nothing” session.

With an election looming in 2014, Democrats recognize their window of controlling all three levers of state government could be closed after this session. There were many bills tabled last year that would have further impacted Colorado businesses.  These bills will likely be reintroduced next session, including legislation on labor and employment policies, oil and gas regulations, environmental regulations, sales and use tax revisions and civil liability.

Colorado businesses should also anticipate new legislation that would impact businesses in the state. These include a focus on substantial changes to the workers’ compensation system that would drive up costs for employers, increased regulations for several industries and tort reform. With three months before the next legislative session, discussions have already begun forming these ideas into bills.

Based on recent legislation passed in Colorado, and the agenda forming around the next legislative session that begins Jan. 8, Colorado companies need to closely monitor the state’s legislative process until the anti-business climate passes.  Colorado businesses should monitor not only bills impacting their specific industry but bills that directly impact all Colorado employers. 

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John Karakoulakis

John Karakoulakis is the Director of Colorado Legislative and Regulatory Affairs at Holland & Hart, LLP.  In this role, John serves as a full time lobbyist and provides multi-state legislative tracking for Colorado businesses. John can be reached at JOKarakoulakis@hollandhart.com or at 303-295-8000.  

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