It’s been a month since Colorado’s 2017 legislative session convened and, following an election year filled with back-and-forths concerning multiple laws that could impact business (an increased minimum wage and pending overtime regulations, for example), the state House and Senate are also debating legislation that could have implications for Colorado businesses, both big and small.

shutterstock_559849357Fines to small businesses 

Senate Bill 17-001 is meant to alleviate the fiscal impact of state regulations on small businesses. The bill was introduced by District 45 (Douglas County) Rep. Patrick Neville, and sponsored in the Senate by his father, Tim Neville of District 16, which includes Boulder, Denver, Gilpin and Jefferson counties.

According to Colorado’s General Assembly website, leg.colorado.gov, the bill enacts the “Regulatory Relief Act of 2017” and includes a legislative declaration on the importance of small businesses to the state’s economy. It acknowledges the difficulty small businesses have in complying with state rules that are not widely known or well understood.

The bill requires a state agency to give small businesses, which are defined by the state as those with fewer than 500 employees, a chance “to cure a first-time minor violation of a rule instead of enforcing the rule by imposing a fine.”

Enforcement agencies would be required to notify the small business in writing of the violation, “including the steps to cure the violation, and give the small business 30 business days to cure the violation.”

The business owner may request additional time, according to the proposal, to address the violation.

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“This does not apply in cases where an agency is required by statute to assess a fine for noncompliance,” the proposed bill states.

shutterstock_545026483Industry investment tax credits 

House Bill 17-1090 pertains to extensions on advanced industry investment tax credits. The bill was sponsored in the House by District 29 Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp and District 60 Rep. James Wilson. Senate sponsors included Sen. John Kefalas (District 14) and El Paso County Sen. Bob Gardner.

According to the Colorado General Assembly’s website, a qualified investor who, prior to Jan. 1, 2018, “makes an equity investment in a qualified small business from an advanced industry is allowed an income tax credit that is equal to a percentage of the investment, up to a maximum credit of $50,000.” The maximum amount of tax credits allowed during a calendar year is $750,000 and the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade determines the eligibility for the credits and would issue nontransferable certificates used to claim the credit.

The bill extends the credit by allowing qualified investments made between Jan. 1, 2018, and Jan. 1, 2023, to qualify for the tax credit.

During that time, the total maximum amount of credits for a calendar year increases to $1.5 million.

The definition of “qualified small business” would be expanded to include a company that has annual revenue of below $5 million or has been actively operating and generating revenue for fewer than five years. A business, under current law, must meet both criteria, in addition to other criteria that will continue to apply.

“The advanced industry investment tax credit cash fund, which was started with money transferred from another cash fund and has no current revenue source, is repealed,” the bill said. “In 2022, the office is required to submit to legislative committees a report that includes information about the tax credits issued after Jan. 1, 2018, and the economic benefits from the related qualified investments.”

shutterstock_214721086College credit for military education and training 

If passed, House Bill 17-1004 would create a statewide metric that would award college credit for those who have received military education or training. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Jessie Danielson of District 24 and Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet of District 30. 

According to the General Assembly’s website, “The bill requires the Colorado commission on higher education, in consultation with state institutions of higher education, to create a statewide metric for awarding college credit for measurable military education and training that is applicable to the completion of a postsecondary degree or certificate.”

According to the bill, Colorado is home to more than 400,000 veterans.

“These members of our community spend significant time receiving training and education for jobs serving our country and safeguarding our freedom and liberty,” according to the bill.

Service members are offered a GI Bill upon separation from the military, which typically covers three years of education, according to the bill, but a bachelor’s degree can take four or five years to achieve.

“We put veterans at increased risk of poverty and failure to complete their postsecondary education by putting them into college classes beneath their level of educational attainment, while at the same time denying veterans the funding necessary to complete a standard postsecondary degree program,” the bill said. “Now, therefore, by creating a statewide metric for awarding credit for measurable military education and training, Colorado can ensure an easier pathway to postsecondary degree completion for our veterans.”

shutterstock_336659135Extension of hours for alcohol service 

House Bill 17-1123 could have a significant impact on the service industry. The bill would allow for the extension of hours for on-premises retail alcohol sales.

Current law prohibits a person licensed to sell alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption from service between the hours of 2 a.m. to 7 a.m.

The bill allows a local government to extend the hours during which alcoholic beverages may be sold for on-premises consumption at establishments within its jurisdiction. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Steve Lebsock (District 34), Rep. Dan Thurlow (District 55) and Rep. Vicki Marble (District 23).

Also related to alcohol sales, House Bill 17-1084  would allow hotels licensed to sell alcoholic beverages to also sell “sealed containers of vinous liquors” in the restaurant for on- and off-premises consumption.

Academic activity leave

House Bill 17-1001 concerns providing employee leave to attend the academic activities of their children. The bill, sponsored by District 40 Rep. Janet Buckner and District 22 Sen. Andy Kerr, means employers with more than 50 employees would have to allow up to 18 hours of leave from work for purposes of attending their children’s academic activities.

In 2009, the General Assembly enacted the “Parental Involvement in K-12 Education Act,” which allowed eligible employees to take leave from work for the purpose of attending academic activities for or with the employee’s child.

Under the 2009 act, those activities included “parent-teacher conferences or meetings related to special education services, interventions, dropout prevention, attendance, truancy or discipline issues,” according to the general assembly’s website. The leave was for an employee who is the parent or legal guardian of a child enrolled in a public or private school from kindergarten through 12th grade.

This bill recreates the 2009 act with the following modifications:

• School districts and institute charter schools must post on their websites, and include in district-wide or school-wide communications sent to parents and the community at large, information about the act;

• The Colorado State Advisory Council for Parent Involvement in Education must also provide information about the act.