Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Business lobby hoping for bigger gains at the Capitol

After the 2010 legislative session came to a close, there was no mincing of words from one niche of the lobbying world. “The business community believes that this is the worst legislative session that we have ever seen for small business and for business in general,” Tony Gagliardi, state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, said at the time.

Now, with many candidates backed by business heavyweights NFIB and the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, or CACI, winning their elections—and the House of Representatives reverting to Republican control—the business lobby is hoping for gains with a broad palate of proposals being considered at the Capitol.

If the 2010 session was bad for business, as NFIB, CACI and others contend, restoring the hotly debated tax exemptions that were undone in 2010 would seem to be the first place to start. House Bill 1005 would repeal last year’s suspension of sales and use taxes on agricultural products. House Bill 1109 would give local governments the ability to suspend sales taxes levied by counties, cities and towns on the sales of equipment used to provide telecommunication services. The state sales tax on such equipment would remain in place under HB-1109, however.

Loren Furman, vice president of governmental affairs with CACI, says if either of those bills should pass, it would be a symbolic victory of CACI’s aim to reverse the disappointments of the 2010 session.

“We’ve had quite a bit of relief thus far,” Furman says. “It’s only been 30 days into the session, but I think that there’s been quite a shift of attitude from last session and how we treat business, and how we try to maintain the business that we have here, and allow them to continue to hire workers and create a friendly business environment here in Colorado.”

Still, even the broad aim of creating jobs in Colorado can reveal divergent attitudes. Rep. Daniel Pabon, D-Denver, is sponsoring House Bill 1129. The bill would create preferences for Colorado firms and veteran-majority-owned firms when competing for state contracts. Pabon says fewer bills are more business friendly than HB 1129, causing him to wonder why the bill is being opposed by CACI.

“CACI may talk out of both sides of their mouth,” Pabon said. “They are espousing pro-business policies, but only those policies that benefit their particular members, or their particular industry. We’re working to make sure Coloradans and Americans go back to work, and for whatever reason, that’s not a view they necessarily share. I’m not quite sure how they reconcile that, but I think it’s important that we are looking at this as an economic development bill, as a way to promote industry and commerce in Colorado, and we’d love to have them as a partner.”

Pabon says he and CACI have each communicated their concerns to the other regarding HB 1129. And while he’s hopeful the communication will continue, he’s not necessarily optimistic. ”I think this (CACI’s opposition to HB-1129) is as much about politics as it is about good policy,” Pabon told the Colorado News Agency.

Among other bills being opposed by CACI, House Bill 1127 would restrict the use of credit reports and credit scores by companies that offer property, casualty and vehicle insurance. Senate Bill 72 would mandate compensatory and punitive damages on employers whenever intentional discrimination is found to have taken place. And Senate Bill 68 would create changes to the Colorado Consumer Act, giving more power to the state attorney general.

Even with all of those bills pending, CACI is still optimistic—especially considering the shift of power in the legislature’s lower chamber stands to give business an effective veto over such legislation.

“There’s a lack of enthusiasm from the General Assembly to put any further taxes on business this session,” Furman said.

Via – CNA

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