Romer: Musings on public policy
As we continue to reopen the economy, Colorado’s legislature is moving forward with public policy and legislation. There are a variety of issues of interest to the community that are overshadowed by current events and COVID-19-related public health updates.
Did you know that Coloradans only pay a fourth as much as they used to pay in property taxes on their homes due to the Gallagher Amendment to our state constitution which we adopted in 1982? The Gallagher Amendment’s forced continual decline in Colorado’s Residential property tax base has reduced local funding for services like K-12 schools and fire districts.
SCR20-001 seeks to refer a measure to the November 2020 ballot asking voters to repeal the Gallagher Amendment from the Colorado Constitution. We look forward to the public dialogue as this moves forward due to Gallagher’s oversized impact on commercial property taxes in Colorado and the impact on our special districts and first responders.
Unemployment insurance is also on the radar at the capital. Legislation has been introduced which is designed to codify something the Polis administration previously did by executive order and emergency rule making. Employers are likely facing higher unemployment comp premiums as the entire system is about to become insolvent. Additional mandates on the system will likely drive higher, indeterminate costs.
SB 20-207 makes significant changes to the definitions which determine what constitutes an independent contractor. These issues have been fought over for years and are very contentious within the business community and beyond. The proposal also makes changes to unemployment insurance benefit calculations for work share programs and directs the Department of Labor to study and report to the general assembly the feasibility of creating an unemployment insurance system for individuals engaged in independent occupations. This issue has the potential to have an additional financial impact on our business community.
Gov. Jared Polis has issued Executive Order D 2020 065, which suspends a number of laws related to the signature collection and ballot qualification for elections and orders the secretary of state’s office to develop rules for electronic and mail signature gathering. The executive order is being legally challenged — and rightfully so.
The process outlined in the state constitution works, even during a pandemic. The process in place today provides clear access to the ballot as evidenced by the fact that two citizen-initiated ballot issues have already qualified for this year’s November ballot. Additional campaigns have publicly indicated that they are actively, safely and successfully collecting signatures currently, putting into question the necessity of the executive order.
If in-person signature gathering is unsafe, why doesn’t the executive order ban it? You can safely sign a receipt in person when you’re shopping or accepting a delivery. We should be able to figure out how to allow voters to sign a document in person, especially when these signatures are so critical to a fair and equitable election.
The state has created safe ways to reopen businesses during a pandemic, and we should be able to find a way to safely sign a petition for a ballot initiative in person. You can safely sign a receipt in person when you’re shopping or accepting a delivery. We should be able to figure out how to allow voters to sign a document.
We continue to advocate on behalf of Eagle County and the needs of our business community. Whether in times of prosperity or times of crisis, we are with you on the frontlines, leading the way and making sure our community emerges stronger than ever.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at www.vailvalleypartnership.com.
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