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 June 1, 1996

Legislature’s end left some business leaders hungry

LEGISLATURE

The Colorado General Assembly acted on more than 600 bills during the 100-day session that ended May 8, and everyone involved seems to agree

that the surviving bills were kind to Colorado businesses.

Many of the controversial bills that passed, however, were watered-down versions of the proposed legislation, and so are not quite the victory they

seem to be.

“All in all, it was a good session for business,´ said Rep. David Owen. The Greeley Republican cites several workers-compensation bills, an oil and

gas well bill, and enterprise-zone modifications as examples of business-friendly legislation.

“Anytime you pass a workers-comp cleanup bill, it’s usually beneficial for business,” he said. Four such bills made it through the Legislature.

Owen’s oil and gas well bill, cosponsored by Sen. Ben Alexander, R-Montrose, prohibits local governments from charging fees and occupational tax

on oil and gas wells, and has already been signed by Gov. Roy Romer.

SB 193, cosponsored by Owen, Senate president Tom Norton, R-Greeley, and Sen. Ginette Dennis, R-Pueblo West, tightened up the enterprise-zone

issue while loosening the state’s tax grip on applicable businesses. The bill will give companies tax credits for job creation and economic development

while tightening up the reporting of businesses in the zones and instituting biannual audits. The bill also raises the population limit on enterprise zones

from 50,000 people to 80,000.

Norton also cosponsored the main “takings” legislation, SB 69, which passed both houses after verbiage was changed and the Colorado Municipal

League dropped its opposition. Although environmentalists oppose the bill, supporters – including developers and ranchers – say it protects the

constitutional rights of land owners.

The bill would require compensation for lost value of private land due to government regulation and would increase the burden on government to

support its reasons for regulating land use. Traditionally, the burden of proof has fallen on the land owner to prove a loss.

Reading, writing and roads

Rep. Peggy Reeves saw significant improvements to Colorado’s education system, although she is quick to add that “we could still do a lot better.”

The Legislature took advantage of the state’s strong economy to increase the base funding rate by $105 per student. Reeves, a Fort Collins Democrat,

said that upping that base rate, from $4,200 to $4,305, is the only way to help some of the school districts in Northern Colorado that operate at what

is considered the optimum size.

School funding is based on three factors: the size of the district, the number of at-risk students and the cost of living in the district. Larger and smaller

schools and those with a greater number of at-risk students than the state average receive extra state funding.

Another educational victory came with HB 1139, Reeves said. The bill requires students who can’t read by the third grade to take special reading

classes to help them catch up. Improving literacy should decrease the number of kids who drop out of school, she said.

Transportation was also a key issue for much of Northern Colorado. Overshadowed by HB 1069, which increases the speed limit from 65 mph to 75

mph on select highways and rural roads, was SB 197, which beefed up the state’s $500 million highway construction fund by about $158 million.

Northern Colorado may be a step closer to improved access to Denver International Airport and other southern destinations thanks to SB 173. The

bill, already signed by the governor, makes it easier to issue additional bonds for the E-470 Highway.

Still not enough

Despite the improvements that were made, Lyle Butler, president of the Greeley/Weld Chamber of Commerce, said he’s not sure business really

improved its position. He would have liked to see the Legislature tackle tax policies more directly.

There’s been a shift of property taxes over to business, he said, making it harder to attract new businesses to Colorado and also causing businesses

already here to rethink their long-term plans in the state. The state has to strike a balance, Butler said.

“Businesses definitely want to see the quality of life maintained [in Colorado], but we also want to work with the state Legislature to create quality

jobs,” Butler said.

The business community will have its chance to find that balance during the next session of the Legislature, as many of the same issues will again take

center stage. Education, transportation, property taxation, takings bills and enterprise-zone legislation are all expected to be rehashed and reworked by

a Legislature made up of many new faces. Between elections and retirements, the people arguing the issues are likely to change more than the issues

themselves.

LEGISLATURE

The Colorado General Assembly acted on more than 600 bills during the 100-day session that ended May 8, and everyone involved seems to agree

that the surviving bills were kind to Colorado businesses.

Many of the controversial bills that passed, however, were watered-down versions of the proposed legislation, and so are not quite the victory they

seem to be.

“All in all, it was a good session for business,´ said Rep. David Owen. The Greeley Republican cites several workers-compensation bills, an oil and

gas well bill, and enterprise-zone modifications as examples of business-friendly legislation.

“Anytime you pass a workers-comp cleanup bill, it’s usually…

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