The 2019 legislative session came to a close on May 3rd. The 120 days saw 335 House bills and 263 Senate bills for a total of 598 bills. Contrary to expectation, this was a surprisingly low number of bills as previous sessions have yielded over 700. The 2018 election yielded a Democrat trifecta with a 41-24 majority in the House, a 19-16 majority in the Senate and control of the Governor’s Office. This allowed for the passage of progressive bills such as greenhouse gas emission reduction, fossil fuel electric generation phase outs and changing how oil and gas will operate in the future.
The Tavern League was heavily involved in several critical pieces of legislation aimed at affecting how business operates and is regulated in Colorado. The Tavern League and other business groups worked together to stymie efforts to pass various bills in what was regularly regarded as a session of “party overreach”.
Please see below for a list of bills the Tavern League engaged in and their outcomes.
HB19-1014, Retail Food Establishments Inspections and Suspensions
Rep. Jonathan Singer (D, Boulder) Rep. Shannon Bird (D, Westminster) Sen. Joann Ginal (D, Ft. Collins)
This bill came as a result of work and cooperation by industry stakeholders and local public health officials. HB-1014 changes how civil penalties are assessed for health code violations. It also changes the criteria regarding what constitutes a critical violation to create an imminent health hazard and the visits associated.
Outcome: The bill passed through both the House and Senate and was signed by Governor early on in February.
HB19-1058, Income Tax Benefits for Family Leave
Rep. Lois Landgraf (R, Colorado Springs) Rep. Susan Beckman (R, Littleton) Sen. Kevin Priola (R, Brighton)
The bill was the Republicans’ solution to the ongoing paid family leave discussion. It establishes a leave savings account to be used in the event of the birth of a child, caring for an ill family member or a serious health condition. An individual may contribute up to $5,000 annually with their employer matching the contribution. The bill also would have enabled employees and employers an income tax deduction for the amounts contributed.
Outcome: The bill was postponed indefinitely in the House Finance Committee within the first month of session.
HB19-1076, Clean Indoor Air Act Add E-Cigarettes
Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet (D, Commerce City) Rep. Colin Larson (R, Littleton) Sen. Kevin Priola (R, Brighton) Sen. Kerry Donovan (D, Vail)
HB-1076 is fairly straight forward in that it adds e-cigarettes to the Clean Indoor Air Act.
Outcome: The bill was signed by the Governor in late May.
HB19-1096, Right to Rest Rep. Jovan Melton (D, Aurora)
HB-1096 is a bill that comes up every year and has yet to pass. The bill would give people the right to occupy public spaces with immunity as well as the right to reasonable privacy in these public spaces. The bill went a step further in allowing any person whose rights have been violated to seek civil penalties against the property owner(s).
Outcome: The bill was postponed indefinitely on a unanimous vote in the House Transportation and Local Government Committee.
HB19-1143, Distribute Plastic Straws Only Upon Request
Rep. Susan Lontine (D, Denver) Sen. Rhonda Fields (D, Aurora) Sen. Kevin Priola (R, Brighton)
This bill sought to achieve what the on-premise industry has already organically moved towards. The bill required bars and restaurants to only provide straws to customers upon request. However, a server offering a straw to consumers qualifies as “upon request”. The bill did not contain any enforcement mechanism. The Tavern League is fundamentally opposed to unnecessary government intrusion on what should be industry driven best practices. It also set a dangerous precedent for government to dictate what businesses can and cannot offer to customers.
Outcome: The bill was postponed indefinitely at Rep. Lontine’s request on a unanimous vote in the House Energy and Environment Committee.
HB19-1210, Local Government Minimum Wage
Rep. Jovan Melton (D, Aurora) Rep. Rochelle Galindo (D, Greeley) Sen. Dominick Moreno (R, Commerce City) Sen. Jessie Danielson (D, Lakewood)
HB-1210 is one of the many bills this session that negatively impacts the business community. This bill allows a local government to set their own minimum wage beyond that state’s constitutionally set minimum wage. Currently, the minimum wage is set at $11.10 and the tipped wage is set at $8.08. The passage of Amendment 70 in 2016 mandates the minimum wage be increased by $.90 each year until it reaches $12.00 and $8.98 for tipped wage in 2020. This bill as written would have given local governments the ability to set their own minimum wage with no caps or restrictions. This also applies to the tipped wage.
The bill was heavily amended in the Senate. A few of these guardrails include capping the amount local governments could increase the minimum wage by, restricting the ability to vary wages based on industry and an implementation date of January 1 to remain consistent with budgeting processes. The most impactful amendment the Tavern League achieved in securing is the preservation of the tipped wage. All local governments that vote to increase their minimum wage must abide by the $3.02 tipped wage offset. The was a major victory for the Tavern League and business community as a whole.
Outcome: The bill as amended passed in the final days of session. It was signed by the Governor in late May.
HB19-1254, Notice Requirements Employees Sharing Gratuities
Rep. Barbara McLachlan (D, Gunnison) Rep. Kevin Van Winkle (R, Highlands Ranch) Sen. Rhonda Fields (D, Aurora) Sen. Kevin Priola (D, Brighton)
Current law allows an employer to require employees share tips if the business posts visible signs inside the establishment. This bill expands the signage requirement to menus, tables signs or on receipts.
Outcome: The bill was signed in May.
SB19-028, Allow On and Off Premise Beer Licenses in Rural Areas
SB-028 came as a result of SB18-243 that eliminated the 3.2 on/off premise license. January 1, 2019 marked the first day that all establishments selling 3.2% beer, convert their inventory to full strength beer. With the “conversion” date looming, SB18-243 preemptively eliminated this license. SB-028 reestablishes this license for counties with a population fewer than 30,000.
Outcome: The bill was signed by the Governor on February 20th.
SB19-034, Local Government Recycling Standards for Food Containers
This bill would have given local governments the authority to prohibit retail food establishments from using non-recyclable food containers such as polystyrene. The Tavern League worked with conservation community as well as the Colorado Restaurant Association on a mutually agreed upon solution to a problem that the on- premise industry is already solving organically.
Outcome: The bill was postponed indefinitely in the Senate Local Government Committee in early April.
SB19-085, Equal Pay For Equal Work
The bill allows a person who believe they are the victim of wage discrimination to bring a civil action in district court against their employer. It also prohibits an employer from seeking the wage history of perspective employees as well requires that an employer notify all employees regarding advancement opportunities and the pay ranges for these job openings.
The business community along with the Tavern League worked together to amend this bill to make it less onerous and provide more legal protections for employers.
Outcome: The bill was signed by Governor in late May.
SB19-188, FAMLI Family Medical Leave Insurance Program
This bill creates a family and medical leave insurance program that is paid into equally by both the employer and employee for the purposes of partial wage replacement for those who take leave off of work for qualified reasons such as the birth of a child and caring for a sick friend or relative. The amount paid into the fund is determined by the employee’s yearly wages.
SB-188 was the subject of a great deal of controversy. The Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee passed this bill during the March 13th blizzard when the Governor declared a State of Emergency with very few people there to testify. After its ultimate passage through committee, due to intense pressure from the business community and chambers of commerce, the bill was amended into a study to determine the funding mechanism needed to make the policy lastingly viable. This is another huge win for the business community. While the issue of family medical leave needs to be addressed, SB-188 was not the vehicle to achieve sustainable solutions for both employees and employers.
Outcome: The bill passed as amended through both chambers and was signed by the Governor.
For more information, please contact Stephanie Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org