Under the Dome: The 2022 Legislative Session

An NCLA Debrief on Key Issues Affecting NoCo Business

In an ever-evolving political landscape, the 2022 Legislative Session finally ended on May 11.  After three years of policy turmoil for Colorado’s business sector, the session offered a mixed bag of policy outcomes on the key issues affecting businesses in Northern Colorado. 

In important areas, namely environment and labor policy matters, the policy decisions emerging from the 2022 legislative session will contribute to a further erosion of Colorado’s competitiveness.  As reported last fall, Colorado dropped from the 11th most business-friendly state to No. 29 in just one cycle of CNBC’s Top States for Business Rating. The Metro Denver EDC estimated that this decline is in large part due to our policy environment. 

There were some bright spots in an otherwise dim session. NCLA’s highest priority to backfill the fully depleted Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund and repay the federal UI loan was accomplished with a $600M commitment from the available ARPA dollars addresses over a quarter of the $2B hole and will forestall the imposition of a UI Premium Surcharge upon businesses across the state.

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Under the Dome: Northern Colorado Challenges CDOT Decision On North I-25

North I25 Coalition and Legislators sent letters to Governor Polis and the Transportation Commission to reconsider the Decision to Not Pursue IIJA Mega Grant Funding for North I25

The NCLA’s Fix North I-25 Business Alliance, the North I-25 Coalition and 16 State Legislators representing Larimer, Weld and Adams County sent letters this week to the Colorado Transportation Commission, the Governor Jared Polis and CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew expressing dismay at the apparent decision not to pursue federal MEGA grant funding for the North I-25 Corridor available from the passage of the massive federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The Alliance and Coalition letter notes, “The North I-25 multi-modal corridor — stretching from north of Fort Collins south through the North Metro suburbs of Thornton and Northglenn — serves as the spine of Colorado’s Front Range, the essential national multimodal freight corridor linking interstate commerce, and is a critical national defense asset. It substantially serves as the economic connector of Colorado’s fastest-growing region – northern Colorado”.

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Under the Dome: EPA Moves To Place Air Quality Restrictions on Region

NCLA Weighs in on Fentanyl, Crime and Business

EPA Shifts Region to “Severe” Non-Attainment Status
The EPA has begun the formal process of moving the Denver Metro/North Front Range Non-Attainment Area to a “Severe” rating from “Serious”. When approved, the status will trigger a myriad of costly and more stringent air quality measures and requirements across the region for many years. The measures will work alongside ongoing monitoring to reduce GHG within a 6-year time horizon.

Among the measures that are anticipated are:

  • The use of reformulated gasoline in the summer months
    • Projected to increase cost of gas by 40 – 50 cents per gallon’
  • A reduction of the threshold that requires control measures on emissions sources from 50 tons per year to 25 tons per year
    • Will trigger requirement for new state permits for emissions for 473 new emission sources than currently permitted

Any improvements to air quality demonstrated in the next few years as a result of policy and regulatory measures advanced by the Governor’s administration and legislators in the last two years will be applied to consideration of a reversal of the severe status at the next 5 year interval but were not factored in EPAs determination to move to a “Severe” status. Such policy and regulatory changes include new limits on emissions from oil and gas operations (SB 19-181), demands and plans for the closure of coalfired power plants (HB 19-1261), policies and funding to accelerate electric vehicle sales (SB 21-260, others), and new Colorado Department of Transportation rules on reducing emissions when planning major road projects (SB 21-260).

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Under the Dome: State Economic Forecasts Shows Future Risks

NCLA Takes Positions on Newly Introduced Bills

This week Kate Watkins, Chief State Economist for Legislative Council, provided a presentation to the NCLA Board of Directors following the release of the State’s March Revenue Forecast.

Amid soaring inflation, elevated fuel prices, fresh worries about supply-chain disruptions, and the uncertainty around the Ukraine invasion, the March forecast reveals that while jobs have recovered from pre-pandemic levels, economic forecasts risks are highly elevated. As inflationary pressure continues, prospects of a recession were factored in the forecast this quarter, a first in many quarters.  Meanwhile, economic activity has reached and exceeded pre-pandemic levels but employment has yet to fully recover in several service industries hit hardest by the pandemic.

Notably, growth of the past year gave the General Assembly a projected $3.2 billion, or 20.7 percent, more to spend or save in the General Fund than what is budgeted to be spent and saved in FY 2021-22.  The legislators opted to spend nearly all of the projected revenue (we’ll have a breakdown of the budget next week).  Excess TABOR Revenue that exceeds the allowable “Referendum C Cap” amounts to $1.56 billion.  Majority Democrats are considering how to refund those dollars to taxpayers. 

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Under the Dome: Workforce Package and More Air Quality Measures

5 Weeks remain in 2022 Legislative Session with More Bills to Come

April 1, 2022

Air Quality Improvement Investments
Senate President Steve Fenberg (D-Boulder) introduced Senate Bill 193 regarding “Air Quality Improvement Investments”. Another all encompassing measure, with spending over $125M, the bill includes the following primary elements:

  • Creates the $25M “industrial and manufacturing operations clean air grant program” in the Colorado energy office to award grant money to private entities, local governments, and public private partnerships for voluntary projects to reduce air pollutants from industrial and manufacturing operations.
  • Creates the $12M “community access to electric bicycles grant program” through which the office awards grant money to local governments and nonprofit organizations that administer or plan to administer a bike share program or an ownership program for the provision of electric bicycles in a community. There is also created a “community access to electric bicycles rebate program”.
  • Creates the $15M “diesel truck emissions reduction grant program” through which the
    division of administration in the CDPHE awards grant money to certain private and public entities for decommissioning diesel trucks and replacing the trucks with newer model trucks.
  • Creates the $65M “electrifying school buses grant program” through which the department, with technical assistance from the office, awards grant money to school districts and charter schools to help finance the purchase and maintenance of electric-powered school buses, the conversion of fossil-fuel-powered school buses to electric-powered school buses, charging infrastructure, and upgrades for electric charging.
  • Infrastructure and the retirement of fossil-fuel-powered school buses.
  • Updates the definition of federal act regarding the reference to the federal Clean Air Act.
  • $7M to the CDPHE to finance the aerial surveying of pollutants
  • Other more technical additions for review

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