2023 Legislative Preview With 76 Group
The dust is settling, and the consequences of 2022's mid-year elections will make 2023 an interesting year for Colorado businesses — hopefully for the better.
With mid-term elections in the rear-view mirror, ColoradoBiz looked ahead to the 2023 legislative session and asked Ellie Reynolds and Matt LaCrue from the bipartisan, public-affairs firm, 76 Group, what to expect now that the dust has settled and the state’s governorship, Senate and House remain in Democrat control. 76 Group is a Denver-based firm made up of policy experts and other professionals boasting more than 60 years of experience in the Colorado State Capitol, working amid both Democrat and Republican majorities. Check out 76 Group’s 2023 legislative preview, below.
2023 Legislative Preview
ColoradoBiz: What issues or legislation do you see having the biggest impact on the business community in 2023?
76 Group: In the 2022 election, Colorado voters spoke and approved Amendment 23, which dedicates more resources and programming toward affordable housing. It is likely that the general assembly will also continue to address this issue with additional conforming legislation potentially following the Denver model, which requires new builds to have a certain percentage of affordable units. We can also expect to see climate legislation, which will undoubtedly come in the form of increased regulations on certain industries, most likely around emissions.
Voters also approved a statewide healthy meals initiative that will allow for every student in a public K-12 school to receive a free, healthy lunch. This dedicates more money to K-12, which will give the Joint Budget Committee more flexibility in the School Finance Act and the building out of the overall budget.
The General Assembly is also likely to revisit the state’s single-payer healthcare policy, as the recent announcement of Humana leaving Colorado on the employer side will have significant ripple effects on employer-based health plans.
Finally, we also expect more legislation on building codes as the legislature continues to work toward carbon-neutral goals in Colorado.
ColoradoBiz: How is this year different from the last, and how do you see the chambers (Senate/House) playing a role in what legislation gains traction?
76 Group: With Democrat majorities set to expand – with a supermajority in the House of Representatives — there is no doubt that we will see a more progressive tint to any legislation that is introduced. What can be expected, however, is that with such a large majority, there will be a couple of wings to the caucus – one that is more progressive and one that is more moderate. Progressive lawmakers will point to the 2022 election as a mandate for bolder policy change while moderate Democrats will urge caution and compromise.
ColoradoBiz: Will Gov. Jared Polis’ agenda change now that he’s been reelected and how might it mirror or be different from what we’ve seen in the past?
76 Group: The biggest question is whether Gov. Polis will be heavy-handed in his approach to the legislature, and specifically with moderating the Democrat trifecta. This can occur through his early intervention in certain legislation, or if lawmakers decide to call his bluff, via a veto override. While we do not expect his agenda to significantly change, it will be interesting to see how his agenda competes with legislative leadership’s agenda and which comes out on top.
READ — Governor Polis Secures Woman-Owned Communications Technology Firm, Caliola, for Expansion in Colorado Springs
ColoradoBiz: What will Democrats be most focused on this year?
76 Group: Democrats are aware of their vulnerabilities in regard to public safety, so we can expect to see some focus on how to effectively reduce crime. Whether that’s grant programs toward mental health and homelessness or going so far as to increase penalties for certain offenses is yet to be seen. There will certainly be a heavy focus on tighter industry regulations for housing construction in an effort to bring down housing costs and bold attempts to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
ColoradoBiz: What about the Republicans?
76 Group: With such significant minorities in both chambers, you can expect Republicans to get louder. As the urge from Democrats to ensure bipartisan buy-in dwindles after their significant electoral victories, Republicans will utilize the bully pulpit to continue to hammer the issues of affordability, crime and parent-centric education reform. Whether this comes in the form of lengthy speeches on the floor or a determined effort to unite with moderate Democrats on core issues, we can expect Republicans to do everything in their power to have their voices heard.
ColoradoBiz: Where do you see a window for bipartisanship, or do you anticipate more of the same for this session?
76 Group: Most policy areas are ripe for bipartisanship, as they always have been. The majority of legislation that emerges from the General Assembly is usually supported by at least some members of both parties. However, the value of bipartisanship will certainly be in question now that Democrats maintain such large majorities. That being said, we may see some consensus on issues such as education funding (though where the funding goes may be a bit more contentious), liquor licensing (especially considering the failure of two ballot measures on this topic this year) and delaying of fees that are set to go into effect.
ColoradoBiz: What should the business community be doing better, or what should they be planning for that they’re currently not?
76 Group: Overall, the business community is one of the most impactful lobbies under the Golden Dome. However, there is always room for improvement. Business owners themselves need to become active and engaged. Groupthink runs rampant in any significant legislative majority across the nation, and as such, business leaders will need to step up, get out of their comfort zones, and ensure that Democrats are listening to their concerns. Businesses have the best perspectives regarding real impacts of legislation.
ColoradoBiz: Which legislators do you see as the most influential to the business community?
76 Group: Senate Majority Leader Dominick Moreno and Rep. Shannon Bird are two Democrats who are sure to be important voices for business concerns in the next legislative session. Sen. Moreno’s role in leadership, the Hispanic caucus, and as a former member of the Joint Budget Committee, gives him unique clout within the State Capitol. Rep. Bird has an extensive history of working with business interests on many pieces of legislation that impact them. On the Republican side, Joint Budget Committee Member Bob Rankin has a track record of bipartisanship that will be very helpful when it comes to legislation related to business.
ColoradoBiz: What’s one wildcard we might see this legislative session that no one is expecting?
76 Group: There are some early rumblings that some of the newest members of the Democrats’ progressive wing plan to bring gun legislation this upcoming session. More broadly speaking, one thing that is yet to be seen is if moderate Democrats join with Republicans to curtail other legislation that comes from the progressives.
Matthew La Crue specializes in state and local government affairs and has over a decade of experience representing clients nationally and locally. He continues to serve as a strategic advisor and is a sought-after problem solver when it comes to crafting public policy and navigating clients through the stakeholder process
Ellie Reynolds is a corporate strategist bridging the gap between stakeholders and policymakers. She specializes in getting community support for challenging projects to ensure her clients’ success before lawmakers.