NFIB director: Old issues likely to arise in new session

Tony Gagliardi NFIB
Tony Gagliardi NFIB

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Tony Gagliardi expects a productive session at the Colorado Legislature in lobbying for measures that will benefit small businesses.

But the state director of the National Federation of Independent Business also plans to play plenty of defense in coming months to oppose various measures.

Many of the issues likely will remain the same, Gagliardi said, including those involving regulatory reforms, transportation funding and a hospital provider fee.

The NFIB represents 350,000 members nationwide, about 7,000 of those in Colorado.

Overall, Gagliardi said he’s encouraged about the session, which was scheduled to convene Jan. 11.

There are efforts under way to shift the emphasis of state regulatory policies from enforcement to compliance assistance, he said.

Moreover, Gagliardi said he believes it will be easier to work with new leadership in the Colorado House of Representatives, including House Speaker Crisanta Duran, a Democrat from Denver. While he expects he and Duran will disagree, she’s interested in legislation that affects small businesses and their employees.

Kevin Grantham, a Republican from Canon City, will serve as president of the Colorado Senate, where the GOP holds a one-seat majority.

Gagliardi said he’ll base his lobbying positions during the upcoming session in large part on the latest results of a survey of Colorado members.

That survey asked members whether or not the potential affects on small businesses should be considered in enacting legislation, state sales taxes should be increased to fund highway construction projects, a state-run retirement plan should be established for employees without access to workplace plans and businesses should provide predictive employee scheduling.

Gagliardi said 71 percent of NFIB members who responded to the survey supported the use of an analysis of the costs and benefits of legislation affecting small businesses. Gagliardi said he expects a measure will be proposed during the session to implement that process.

Members answered no to the other three questions, Gagliardi said, with 77 percent opposed to any increase in state sales tax to fund transportation construction projects.

Members have indicated in the past they support funding for transportation projects, but through bonding rather than an increase in sales tax or a proposed vehicle miles tax, Gagliardi said. There’s an opportunity to ask Colorado voters to renew transportation bonds first sold in 1999 and generate funding for highway construction over the next 20 years.

NFIB members were even more adamantly opposed to a proposal to set up a state-run retirement plan for employees of businesses that don’t offer a workplace retirement plan with 91 percent of those who responded to the survey against the idea, Gagliardi said. There’s a question, he said, of whether businesses could assume a fiduciary role under such a system.

Fully 95 percent of members responding to the survey opposed a proposal to require businesses to provide predictive employee scheduling, Gagliardi said. Such measures are designed to increase predictability in scheduling by requiring employers to give employees advance notice of work schedules and provide “predictability” pay for schedule changes or canceled shifts.

Gagliardi said he also expects efforts to continue in the upcoming session to move hospital provider fees from the state general fund to an enterprise fund as a means to avoid  constitutional tax and spending limits imposed under the so-called Taxpayer Bill of Rights.

NFIB members indicated last year they opposed moving hospital provider fees. he said. If the Legislature wants to do so, it should ask Colorado voters to approve the change, he added.

The NFIB will continue to support TABOR as a means to keep government spending in check, Gagliardi said.