Small business group sets lobbying priorities

Tony Gagliardi NFIB
Tony Gagliardi NFIB

Clearer rules for classifying independent contractors and regulatory reform tops the list of lobbying priorities in Colorado for a small business advocacy group.

The National Federation of Independent Business also expects to oppose efforts 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.

“We will no doubt have to fight or promote others. But the above three are what we’re coming out of the gates with,” said Tony Gagliardi, state director for the NFIB.

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

The NFIB plans to ask Colorado lawmakers to establish clear classification rules for independent contractors as part of the legislation they enact during the session under way in Denver.

Gagliardi said the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment  has been “helter skelter” in auditing small businesses for their classifications of independent contractors and employees. The issue is an increasingly important one, he said, with the growing number of independent contractors. By one estimate, independent contractors will exceed 40 percent of the work force in the United States by 2020.

The NFIB also will push for passage of regulatory reform, including a provision giving small business owners a written warning, rather than a fine, for first-time regulatory offenses that don’t affect public safety.

“If high blood pressure is the silent killer of human beings, regulations have the same deadly consequences for small businesses,” Gagliardi said. The NFIB Research Foundation found that for every 10 percent increase in regulatory costs, there’s a 5 percent to 6 percent decrease in the number of small businesses with fewer than 20 employees, he said.

In its assessment of small business regulations in all 50 states, the Pacific Research Institute ranked Colorado 25th for its regulatory climate, Gagliardi added.

Meanwhile, the NFIB will lobby against efforts to move the provider fees paid by Colorado hospitals from the state general fund to an enterprise fund.

Some lawmakers have proposed pulling the hospital provider fee out from under the TABOR revenue cap to make it possible to transfer more money from the general fund to transportation.

The NFIB bases its lobbying positions on the results of annual polls of its small business members.

In Colorado, 64 percent of NFIB members responding to the latest poll opposed moving hospital provider fees out of the general fund, while 20 percent were in favor of the move and 16 percent undecided.

“Six in 10 of our members see a proposal to switch the provider fee paid by hospitals from the state budget to an enterprise fund for what it truly is: a way around TABOR. And that doesn’t sit will with them,” Gagliardi said.

NFIB members in Colorado also were asked if employees should have the right to examine their personnel files upon request, and 63 percent of those who responded were opposed. Another 27 percent were in favor and 10 percent undecided.