Phil Castle, The Business Times
When Tony Gagliardi lobbies on behalf of the small business advocacy group he leads in Colorado, he knows whether members of the group support or oppose certain measures. That’s because Gagliardi asks them.
The National Federation of Independent Business bases its lobbying efforts on the state and national levels in large part on the results of ballots the group sends to its members.
Gagliardi, state director of the NFIB in Colorado, expects to soon receive back the ballots sent to 7,500 members in the state.
The ballots ask four questions related to both old and new issues Gagliardi expects to arise when the next legislative session begins in Denver in January. “I just want to make sure I know where my members stand,” he said.
Some of results also will allow Gagliardi to compare the views of NFIB members in Colorado with members in other states.
Following an election in which Democrats gained control of both houses of the State Legislature, a number of measures that failed during the last session likely will reappear during the coming session, Gagliardi said. Some of those bills will deal with labor laws and taxes.
The first question on the latest NFIB ballot asks members whether or not Colorado should become a right-to-work state.
Gagliardi said the state is considered a “modified” right-to-work state. But there could be an effort to move to a full-fledged right-to-work state in which workers decide whether or not they want to join or support a union rather than be compelled to do so, he said.
The second question on the ballot asks members if employers should be restricted from reviewing a job applicant’s credit report before making a hiring decision.
A measure that would have imposed restrictions was defeated last session, but likely will be considered again in the upcoming session, Gagliardi said. The NFIB has opposed such efforts in the past in supporting the ability of employers to use credit reports in making hiring decisions.
Gagliardi said pre-employment credit checks don’t reveal credit scores.
However, a pattern of poor credit practices constitutes an important consideration in considering how a potential employee could perform on the job, particularly those in which people handle money or manage budgets. Moreover, employers must ask for applicants’ permission to review credit reports as well as offer applicants an opportunity to explain their credit reports, he said.
The third question asks if states should expand Medicaid coverage for all individuals up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level — as envisioned by the new federal health care reform legislation.
As part of its ruling earlier this year upholding the constitutionality of the law, the U.S. Supreme Court gave states the choice of participating in an expansion of Medicaid benefits. The federal government will finance the expansion for the first three years beginning in 2014. But states would be required to pick up 10 percent of the funding afterward.
Gagliardi said he’ll provide the answers to that question to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to help him deliberate whether or not the state should join in an expansion of the Medicaid program.
The fourth and final question on the NFIB ballot asks members if Colorado should make labor and services subject to state sales tax.
Members were asked a similar question last year, and 90 percent of those who responded said they opposed an expansion of the state sales tax to include business and professional services.
Gagliardi said the issue could arise again as legislators look for ways to increase tax revenues. The state constitution likely would require voter approval for such a change, however, he added.
A number of other issues might resurface as well, Gagliardi said, including a measure requiring paid sick leave. Denver voters recently rejected just such a proposal by a 3-to-1 ratio, but some lawmakers could attempt to enact the policy through legislation, he said.