Under the Dome

NCLA to Lead Legislative Effort to Fund I-25 North Expansion April 6, 2015

The NCLA, working with the legislative delegation from Northern Colorado, will introduce legislation next week which proposes to accelerate the funding and completion of the I-25 North Corridor and 30 other economically significant transportation projects across the state…

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NCLA Board Heads to Denver to Talk Transportation with Northern Colorado Legislators

2015 has seen a squaring off between business and labor on the full spectrum of philosophical approaches to workplace and employer relations. Numerous bills have been introduced in the 60-plus days of the 120-day session with several others anticipated in the coming weeks…

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Labor Issues Heating Up the Relative Calm for Business

2015 has seen a squaring off between business and labor on the full spectrum of philosophical approaches to workplace and employer relations. Numerous bills have been introduced in the 60-plus days of the 120-day session with several others anticipated in the coming weeks…

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With half of the Session Over, Contentious Issues Still on Tap

The 2015 legislative session has reached the halfway point and various contentious issues are still looming in a session that has, thus far, been relatively calm for business.

The 2015 Colorado Legislature is a split body with Republicans holding a one-vote majority in the Senate and Democrats holding a slim 2-vote majority in the House. The tenor at the outset of the session was one of collaboration, but the first 60-days have had an underpinning of partisan and messaging issues…

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Oil and Gas Fracking Recommendations Made to Mixed Response Setting Stage for Battle at Legislature and Ballot Box

Last fall, the threat of ballot initiatives which endangered the oil and gas industry in Colorado prompted Governor John Hickenlooper to cut a deal which resulted in the formation of an Oil and Gas Task Force charged with finding common ground on policies that would resolve the tension between anti-fracking activists and the industry. Last week, the Task Force reported its recommendations to the Governor. The recommendations were received with a mix of reaction from both sides of the issue and the aisle leaving a strong likelihood of 2016 ballot question despite the attempts to avert such an outcome…

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NCLA Board Weighs in on Construction Defects and Affordable Housing

On the heels of the introduction of a proposal aimed at making the construction of affordable housing more viable, the NCLA Board of Directors to a position last week to support the effort and to make the issue among its priority issues. Senate Bill 15-177 proposes to make changes to current law regarding construction defects in hopes of easing legal burdens that proponents argue have hindered the construction of condominiums and other affordable housing units due to concerns of liability…

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Compensation for Mineral Owners Take Steps Forward

The Colorado Senate isn’t awaiting recommendations from the Governor’s Oil and Gas Task Force before moving solutions to the fracking battle forward. This week the Senate approved a measure to compensate mineral owners for the lost value of their mineral rights in communities that ban fracking…

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Hickenlooper Oil and Gas Panel Floats 57 Ideas and the GOP Reverses Pre-Majority Democrat Initiatives

After months of hearings, the Governor’s oil and gas task force is winnowing ideas to address concerns about drilling in Colorado. The recommendations to the Governor and to the Legislature are due by February 27th setting the stage for vibrant debate in March on the volatile issue.

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Health Care Exchange to Undergo Scrutiny

The Colorado Health Benefit Exchange is a step closer to undergoing additional scrutiny with the passage of a pair of legislative proposals last week.   The health benefit exchange, doing business with Colorado consumers under the name Connect for Health, is the state-compliant exchange under Obamacare and has been the subject of criticism for high costs and logistical issues with the consumer interface….

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NCLA Board Meets with Northern Colorado Legislators and Engages in First Bills on Legislative Agenda

The NCLA Board of Directors made its way to the State Capitol to meet with members of the northern Colorado Legislative delegation last week about NCLA’s legislative agenda for 2015. The conversation focused upon funding of the north I-25 corridor, business personal property tax, water infrastructure, and general business issues….

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Hickenlooper Begins Second Term with Details on Agenda

As Governor John Hickenlooper began his second term as Governor, he outlined an agenda for more economic growth, investment in Colorado’s transportation system, the building and connecting of statewide bike trail system and recognition of the fiscal policy challenges facing the state during his Inaugural Speech and State of the State address.

The Governor highlighted a number of the economic successes of his prior term including a reduction in the unemployment rate, attracting key employers and increasing its emergency reserve from 2% to 6.5% of the budget.  “Colorado is no longer in a precarious state,” Hickenlooper declared in his inaugural…

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2015 Legislative Session Underway with New Dynamic at Play

The 2015 Legislative Session got underway last week to the traditional pomp and circumstance.   2015 also ushered in a dramatically different political dynamic for the business community than experienced the last couple of years.   The 70th General Assembly will be governed by a split majority between the State House of Representatives and the State Senate.

The 2014 election generated a new Republican majority in the Colorado Senate after 10 years of Democrat control.  The narrow 18-17 majority means a new President of the Senate and new committee chairs.    Former Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman (R-Colorado Springs) was elected President of the Senate.  Cadman and newly elected Senate Majority Leader Mark Scheffel (R-Douglas County) appointed new…

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Quiet, Compromise and a Few Gains Permeated 2014 Session

For business, the 2014 Legislative Session presented itself as a year of relative quiet, unnecessary compromise, and some economic development gains.

2014 was the second year of a Democrat-controlled Colorado legislature.  2014, however, presented a wholly different political landscape for the Democrat majority.  A majority that was bruised by recall elections and a narrowing of the Senate majority margin to one-vote.  The result?  A more strategic and purposeful majority whose eyes were on the November elections and on maintaining and growing their vote margins.

From flood recovery, energy, and transportation funding to tax policy, labor, and economic development, the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance, meanwhile, actively engaged on those critical issues upon which the legislature deliberated for 120-days.  Below, we’ve provided a summary of key issues and policies which defined the 2014 Legislative Session for the NCLA.

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4.28.2014 Another Step in BPPT Relief; Stage Set for More Reform

Business Personal Property Tax (BPPT) is arguably the most onerous tax on business.  A continual tax on investment in business capital, it dissuades significant capital investment and puts Colorado at a disadvantage in attracting, retaining and growing capital intensive business and industries, including advanced manufacturing, technology, agriculture among others.  NCLA continues to lead the discussion and the solutions on BPPT.  This week, two bills passed the legislature and set the stage for more comprehensive reform next year.

In this week’s NCLA Under the Dome, learn more about business personal property tax bills in which NCLA will engage on northern Colorado business community’s behalf.

Keep track of introduced legislation and the NCLA’s position on bills by linking to NCLA’s 2014 Legislative Tracking Report.   The NCLA Board of Directors engages in legislation that intersects with the NCLA’s 2014 Priority Legislative Agenda.

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4.21.2014 Significant Bills Introduced in last two weeks of session

The other shoes have dropped.  For several months during the 2014 legislative session, business has been lulled into believing we might spared from several anticipated onerous legislative proposals.  This past week, several bills with potential bearing on Colorado’s businesses were introduced with only two and half weeks of time left in the 120-day session.

In this week’s NCLA Under the Dome, learn more about bills just introduced in which NCLA will engage on northern Colorado business community’s behalf.

Keep track of introduced legislation and the NCLA’s position on bills by linking to NCLA’s 2014 Legislative Tracking Report.   The NCLA Board of Directors engages in legislation that intersects with the NCLA’s 2014 Priority Legislative Agenda.

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4.14.14 NCLA Leads On More Business Personal Property Tax Relief

Business personal property tax has the notable distinction of being the most onerous tax Colorado imposes upon its taxpayers.  Most public policy makers acknowledge the fact.   However, repealing the tax outright has been an impossible feat.  While NCLA continues to consider a comprehensive solution, this legislative session, the NCLA continues its leadership on providing relief for small and capital intensive businesses. In this week’s NCLA Under the Dome, learn more about NCLA efforts on business personal property tax relief.

Keep track of introduced legislation and the NCLA’s position on bills by linking to NCLA’s 2014 Legislative Tracking Report.   The NCLA Board of Directors engages in legislation that intersects with the NCLA’s 2014 Priority Legislative Agenda.

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4.7.2014 Modernization of Telecommunications Laws Takes Center Stage

NCLA Board of Directors Votes to Support Reform Package 

A lot has changed in the world of telecommunications and Internet technology since 1987.  The one thing that hasn’t are the state laws that regulate the telecommunications industry.  Last week, the House Business Affairs and Labor passed a package of legislative proposals that seek to update the telecommunications laws to reflect today’s modern technology.

In this week’s NCLA Under the Dome, learn more about the politics and details surrounding the effort to bring Colorado law into the modern age.

Keep track of introduced legislation and the NCLA’s position on bills by linking to NCLA’s 2014 Legislative Tracking Report.   The NCLA Board of Directors engages in legislation that intersects with the NCLA’s 2014 Priority Legislative Agenda.

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3.30.2014 Fracking Bans To Cost Jobs and the Health Care Exchange won’t be audited

93,000 jobs, $12 Billion in gross domestic product, and $985 Million in state and local revenues would be lost if proposed bans on hydraulic fracturing in Colorado become law, according to a new economic study by the University of Colorado Leeds School of Business.  Meanwhile, despite receiving a near-unanimous vote in the State House of Representatives and ongoing questions of its expenditures, a Senate committee killed a measure to ensure a comprehensive audit of Colorado’s Health Care Exchange, Connect for Health Colorado.

In this week’s NCLA Under the Dome, understand the economic analysis of statewide fracking bans and how a bill to audit Connect for Health Colorado could be defeated despite strong support in the House.

Keep track of introduced legislation and the NCLA’s position on bills by linking to NCLA’s 2014 Legislative Tracking Report.   The NCLA Board of Directors engages in legislation that intersects with the NCLA’s 2014 Priority Legislative Agenda.

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3.24.2014 State Revenue Forecast Bright, But Too Bright?

This past week, state economists issued their highly anticipated quarterly economic forecast.  The news was good.  $12.21 B anticipated for 2014 – 15 fiscal year.  $133M more than that projected in December’s forecast.   But the good news may have TABOR consequences if they the projections become a reality.

In this week’s NCLA Under the Dome, learn why the state budget forecast might be too bright.  And, hear about NCLA’s support of state highway funding.

Keep track of introduced legislation and the NCLA’s position on bills by linking to NCLA’s 2014 Legislative Tracking Report.   The NCLA Board of Directors engages in legislation that intersects with the NCLA’s 2014 Priority Legislative Agenda.

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3.17.2014 At Midway Point, Business Awaiting “Other Shoe to Drop”

Compared to the 2013 Legislative session, so far the 2014 legislative session has been quite tame for business.  But, rumors abound about legislation still anticipated but not yet introduced.     Coupled with bills tackling major reform in telecommunications, April could prove to be a restless month for business.

In this week’s NCLA Under the Dome, get up to speed on what the next 60 days hold for the business community.

Keep track of introduced legislation and the NCLA’s position on bills by linking to NCLA’s 2014 Legislative Tracking Report.   The NCLA Board of Directors engages in legislation that intersects with the NCLA’s 2014 Priority Legislative Agenda.

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3.10.2014 Business Community Supports all Funding Options for I-25 Highway Expansion

A third lane from Highway 66 north of Longmont to Highway 14 in Fort Collins is one of the highest transportation funding priorities for the northern Colorado business community.  Under traditional funding scenarios, the $1.2 Billion project is projected to be completed in 75 years.    Given this timeline, the NCLA supports, and will lead in collaboration with our elected officials, the pursuit of any and all funding options to expedite funding of this critical corridor.

In this week’s NCLA Under the Dome, learn the education proposal, who’s in and who’s out of the CD4 race and what the future holds for angel investors.   Keep track of introduced legislation and the NCLA’s position on bills by linking to NCLA’s 2014 Legislative Tracking Report.   The NCLA Board of Directors engages in legislation that intersects with the NCLA’s 2014 Priority Legislative Agenda.

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3.3.214 DelGrosso Spearheads Bi-Partisan Education Proposal  while the 4th CD is shaken up by Gardner Announcement

The resounding defeat this past November of Amendment 66, the $1 Billion education reform and funding ballot initiative, left proponents and opponents with a conundrum.  Both agreed that policy changes and reforms were necessary but raising taxes to fund the program was not an option for voters or for Republicans.  Newly-elected Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso (R-Loveland) committed early on in his leadership that education reform was a priority and doing it within current revenues could be accomplished.   This week, the Student Success Act was introduced.

Also this week, the 4th Congressional District was shaken up with the announcement that Congressman Cory Gardner would seek the US Senate as other scramble to position for the post.  Meanwhile, NCLA supported a bill to incent angel investment in Colorado’s start up entreprenuers.

In this week’s NCLA Under the Dome, learn the education proposal, who’s in and who’s out of the CD4 race and what the future holds for angel investors.   Keep track of introduced legislation and the NCLA’s position on bills by linking to NCLA’s 2014 Legislative Tracking Report.   The NCLA Board of Directors engages in legislation that intersects with the NCLA’s 2014 Priority Legislative Agenda.

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2.17.2014 Transportation Funding Debate Takes Center Stage

This week, the funding transportation for for significant highway improvement and repair projects took center state.  A plan for the Boulder Turnpike came under fire by the legislature prompting questions over the funding options being considered for the state’s other large highway expansions, including the expansion of I-25 between Longmont and US Highway 14 in Fort Collins.   Meanwhile, Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso, R-Loveland, proposes to tackle the funding shortfalls with a cash allocation.

In this week’s NCLA Under the Dome, learn more the Public Private Partnerships that have the legislature abuzz and the proposal by DelGrosso to address transportation in a more traditional way.   Keep track of introduced legislation and the NCLA’s position on bills by linking to

NCLA’s 2014 Legislative Tracking Report.

The NCLA Board of Directors engages in legislation that intersects with the

NCLA’s 2014 Priority Legislative Agenda.

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2.10.2014 NCLA Maintains its Opposition to Wage Theft Proposal

Labor groups have lined up to push legislation again this year to respond to what they say is a vast problem for Colorado’s employees, wage theft or a failure by employers to pay wages.    As introduced, the legislation, Senate Bill 14-005 by Senator Jessie Ulibarri (D-Commerce City) and Representative Jonathan Singer (D-Longmont) created untenable thresholds and requirements upon employers to address a problem the Department of Labor proves is minimal.

In this week’s NCLA Under the Dome, learn more about NCLA’s decision to maintain its opposition to the proposal despite efforts to assuage some in the business community.  Keep track of introduced legislation and the NCLA’s position on bills by linking to

NCLA’s 2014 Legislative Tracking Report.   The NCLA Board of Directors engages in legislation that intersects with the

NCLA’s 2014 Priority Legislative Agenda.

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2.3.2014 NCLA Testifies on Key Infrastructure measure and Pushes Back On Labor Proposal

The passage of the legalization of marijuana in 2012, on top of the expansion of medical marijuana in Colorado, left employers with many questions about their legal authority to have and enforce drug-use related workplace policies.   Decisions by Colorado Courts have favored employer rights.  But, that could change.

In this week’s NCLA Under the Dome, learn more about a recent decision of the Colorado Supreme Court and what it could mean to Colorado employers.  Keep track of introduced legislation and the NCLA’s position on bills by linking to

NCLA’s 2014 Legislative Tracking Report.

The NCLA Board of Directors engages in legislation that intersects with the

NCLA’s 2014 Priority Legislative Agenda.

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1.27.2014 NCLA Testifies on Key Infrastructure Proposal

“Quickly rebuilding the road infrastructure in the northern Colorado region was critical to getting our vibrant economy back on track after the devastating floods,” testified Sandra Hagen Solin, NCLA Issues Manager, last week in support of SB 14-007, a proposal which allows counties to transfer their general fund moneys into their County Road and Bridge funds after a declared disaster emergency.   The Senate Local Government Committee, which includes Northern Colorado Senators John Kefalas (D-Fort Collins) and Vicki Marble (R-Windsor), passed the bill co-prime sponsored by Senator Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud) on a unanimous vote.  The bill was passed by the full Senate on a unanimous vote later in the week.

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1.21.2014 NCLA Board Jumps into 2014 Session with First Positions on Legislative Proposals

For 22 years, the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance Board of Directors has convened twice per month during the 120-day legislative session to review, debate, consider and take official positions upon the multitude of legislative proposals pending before the state legislature. Last week, the NCLA Board jumped right into their role yet again and began to take positions on various bills thus far introduced.

The NCLA Board is encompassed of representatives from the broad spectrum of industry sectors found in northern Colorado and represent small, medium and large businesses to assure a well rounded debate and discussion of issues. A tenet of being a board member is a commitment to consider the general business interests when sitting at the NCLA board table and resist injecting any individual business agenda into the discussion.

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1.13.2014 Legislative session Opens with Northern Colorado Featured

Northern Colorado featured prominently in the opening day remarks by legislative leaders and the Governor during the first days of the opening of the 2014 Legislative Session.   Each of the leaders, from President of the Senate Morgan Carroll and Speaker of the House Mark Ferrandino to Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman and House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso, highlighted the devastating flood as an example of the strength and resolve of Coloradoans and of how Colorado came together to assist neighbors.

In addition to remarks about the flood, the opening sessions brought about the usual pomp and circumstance but cracks in the customary call for bi-partisan collaboration were evident in each of the remarks.  Below is a brief summary of key tenets of the speeches by each leader.   Copies of the entire speeches by the leaders are provided by hotlink on the Leaders’ name.

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2013 Legislative Session:

The Debrief

It was a legislative session unique among most.   And it was a legislative session marked by numerous controversial issues – more in one session than experienced in memory.  Gun control, civil unions, immigrant liberties, school taxes, renewable energy and marijuana took center stage and hours of debate.

With the election in November 2012, the political landscape shifted from one of a split majority between the House and the Senate to a Statehouse dominated by a Democrat majority in both the House and Senate along with a Democrat Governor on the first floor.   The landscape shift resulted in a shift in the political dynamic under the dome such that issues of importance to the Democrat majority were assumed to be successful.  Republicans played the role of vocal minority well by demanding their voices were heard and that the majority justify their headline-making public policy proposals.

While the controversial issues were making headlines, the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance was diligently fending off onerous legislative measures offending business interests.      Sadly, the job was incessant as the NCLA contended with numerous measures that threatened the employer-employee relationship, increased business and employer liabilities, assailed the oil and gas industry, and increased the overall cost of business.

In the end, the NCLA, working in coalition with other business and industry organizations throughout the state, defeated several of the measures and secured important amendments to the remaining measures to mitigate their potential negative consequences to business, industry and our economic climate.   Below we highlight a few of these measures.

Although we can claim success in mitigating harm from some of most onerous legislative proposals, sadly, there were a few proposals in which negotiations or calls for defeat went unanswered.  House Bill 13-1136 and Senate Bill 13-252 are among the few that will increase the cost of business and liabilities.    See below for more details about HB 1136 and SB 252.

While onerous proposals overshadowed positive and new public policy proposals that benefit Colorado’s economic climate, the NCLA led an important economic development retention effort.   Significant energy is made in economic development circles to attract new businesses to relocate to Colorado.  NCLA focused its proactive energies on House Bill 13-1206 and on retaining existing primary employers by providing local governments the opportunity to reduce business personal property tax liability for primary employers at significant risk of leaving Colorado.

HB 13-1206 was prime sponsored by Loveland Republican Representative Brian DelGrosso and Senator Mark Scheffel (R-Douglas County) and was co-sponsored by nearly all of the Northern Colorado legislative delegation among a large contingent of bi-partisan legislators and legislative leaders.  The bill will be signed by the Governor in the coming weeks.

Finally, while not the most pleasant of topics, upon the passage of Amendment 64, the NCLA took the lead on behalf of the Colorado business community to protect business and employer interests during the implementation of the legalization of marijuana.     NCLA assured that all employers have the right to continue to impose and enforce whatever drug policies they deem most appropriate, and further, have the right to prohibit use of marijuana when not on the job.    Additionally, NCLA assured that property owners have the right to impose prohibitions and other rules around the use of marijuana while on the owners’ property.

 

A Debrief – In More Detail

Oil and Gas

Eleven oil and gas bills were introduced during the 2013 legislative session.  Bills ran the gamut from increasing impact fees on the industry, changing the purpose and make up of the industry oversight board, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, and enhancing reporting requirements for spills and other environmental infractions.  In the end, all but reporting requirements were defeated.  The defeat of the measures further bolstered proponents and we expect the issues to be renewed in 2014.

 

Employer-Employee Relationship and Liabilities

Several bills interfering with the employer-employee relationship were introduced and debated in 2013.  Chief among them was House Bill 13-1136 by Rep. Claire Levy (D-Boulder) and Senate Majority Leader Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora) which drew all business into the federal civil discrimination protections as well as expanded the liability to encompass new compensatory and punitive damages.  The bill was passed by legislature and recently was signed by the Governor despite the loud objections of the NCLA and the business community in Colorado.

Also debated was HB 1222 which proposed to extend the benefits of the Family and Medical Leave Act beyond care for spouses and children to encompass extended family and domestic partnerships.  In response to business objections, the sponsor agreed to rein in the scope of the bill to only encompass domestic partners.

Finally, under the title “Keep Jobs in Colorado Act”, HB 1292 captured numerous provisions advocated by the AFL-CIO, Colorado’s chief union lobby, which shifted long-standing procurement processes to allow for “best-value” contracting while also imposing accountability and limitations on the performance of contract obligations by labor based in Colorado.  Bill sponsors and legislative leadership were committed to passing the bill but were receptive to modifications to the bill to assure prohibitions within contracting provisions were shifted to transparency efforts.  The bill passed and will be signed by the Governor.

 

Labor Relations

Under significant pressure from the Colorado business community, including the NCLA, House Bill 13-1304 was killed by the sponsor of the legislation.  HB 1304 proposed to extend unemployment benefits for employees and union members who are drawn into a defensive union lockout.   The extension of such benefits would have placed significant burden upon the Colorado Unemployment Insurance Benefits Fund, funded solely by Colorado employers.   Expect HB 1304 to be back in 2014.

The precedence setting Senate Bill 13-025, however, was passed by the Colorado legislature and awaits the Governor’s decision.  SB 13-025 establishes a right to collective bargain for firefighters by creating a one-size fits all, state-mandated collective bargaining process offending home-rule and local control authority.  The NCLA joined our local government partners in opposing SB 25 believing that such over-reach could open the door for government imposition of a labor relations process within the private sector.

 

Renewable Energy

Senate Bill 13-252, opposed by the NCLA, increases from 10 to 20 percent the share of retail electricity sales that must be achieved from renewable energy sources by Cooperative Electric Associations (CEAs) by 2020.  The increase is coupled with a rate impact increase for CEAs from 1 percent to 2 percent.  The legislation excluded Xcel and municipal electricity providers to the dismay of the CEAs, including Poudre Valley REA and United Power.  NCLA, along with Poudre Valley and United Power lobbied actively to defeat the measure.  The bill passed the House and Senate on a party line vote and awaits a decision by the Governor.  NCLA has asked for his veto of the bill anticipated to raise costs for all businesses served by our local co-ops.

 

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