The Colorado General Assembly adjourned on Monday after returning on May 26 to address unfinished business, including the state budget. The typical 120-day session only lasted 84 legislative days but spanned 160 days with a long pandemic recess and a two-day break caused by protests around the capitol.
The legislature’s primary task was to finalize the state budget and the school finance act. Legislators had to address a $3.3 billion shortfall, including a current year shortfall of $895.8 million and a 2020-21 fiscal year shortfall of $2.42 billion. The budget contraction for this downturn is expected to be twice the Great Recession (a -5.6 percent reduction versus a -2.5 percent reduction in 2009). Much of the budget reductions will be felt hardest by school districts, higher education and transportation.
The Government Affairs Committee took positions on 24 bills and reviewed dozens more. Over the next two weeks, we will provide wrap ups on legislation that impacts our industry and Colorado’s business climate. This update includes three bills that were killed that would have been significantly detrimental to homebuilding across Colorado, as well as the current Executive Order update from Governor Polis. Next week’s update will include additional bills impacting our industry.
The following bills were priorities for the CAHB’s lobbying team:
- SB20-093 would have created the "Consumer and Employee Dispute Resolution Fairness Act” to limit the use of arbitration, including in a construction issue. Along with our partners in the Homeownership Opportunity Alliance (HOA), we worked with the bill’s sponsors to fix issues that would have harmed the Vallagio The bill was killed during the shortened session. This issue is certain to reemerge in 2021.
- SB20-138 would have increased the statutory limitation period for construction defects from 6 years to 10 years, allowed tolling of the limitation period on any statutory or equitable basis, and required tolling of the limitation period until the claimant discovers not only some physical manifestation of a construction defect but also its cause; effectively removing any statute of limitations for defect claims. The bill was also killed during the shortened session.
- SB20-216 would have changed workers’ compensation law to presume that essential workers, including those in construction, who work outside of the home and contract COVID-19 to be presumed to have contracted the disease through the course of employment, and contraction of COVID-19 will be considered a compensable accident, injury or occupational disease. This bill was postponed indefinitely in committee.
In addition, two issues critical to the homebuilding industry were close to having legislation introduced during the session. Several legislators, possibly in response to the Denver Post’s reporting series, were preparing legislation on metro districts. That legislation was not introduced due to the COVID-19 recess, but the CAHB expects legislation on special districts during the next session.
CAHB worked through the Colorado Water Congress and with construction-industry partners to help stop introduction of dredge and fill legislation developed by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The legislation would have created a permitting process for dredging and filling in state waters and was a reaction to new federal laws that will go into effect this summer as a replacement to WOTUS. CAHB will work with AGC of Colorado and the Colorado Contractors Association to work with CDPHE to address concerns on this issue.
To review a complete list of the CAHB’s legislative positions—including bills that the GAC supported, opposed and monitored—please visit https://statebillinfo.com/SBI/index.cfm?fuseaction=Public.Dossier&id=27390&pk=100&style=pinstripe.
Executive Order Updates:
Governor Polis has now issued 106 Executive Orders to date related to the COVID-19 pandemic. On Monday, the governor announced the Protect our Neighbors phase of the state’s COVID response. A first step in this new phase will include a public health order to be released today to allow slightly larger indoors meetings, residential summer camps, spa services and limited bar openings (non-food) statewide.
CDPHE is developing a new set of guidance, likely to be finalized by the end of the month, to give local governments the ability to significantly loosen some restrictions locally, especially on meetings and gatherings in indoor and outdoor spaces. Details include:
The Protect Our Neighbors (PON) framework is a local control approach to managing COVID-19. This framework will allow communities to demonstrate strong public health and health care systems, as well as low virus levels, and allow them to take on more control over their reopening plans. The PON framework will allow local public health agencies to be the first line defense of containing outbreaks by doing things like site closures, testing, case investigation, and contact tracing. PON will launch at the end of June.
In order to enter PON communities must qualify by meeting scientifically established thresholds of:
- Low disease transmission levels;
- Local public health agency capacity for testing, case investigation, contact tracing, and outbreak response;
- Hospital ability to meet the needs of all patients and handle the surge in demand for intensive hospital care.
These standards will allow the local areas to permit all activities at 50 percent of pre-pandemic capacity, with social distancing and no more than 500 people in one setting at a time. Over time the 50 percent threshold may be increased up to 60 percent or 75 percent if a region holds their transmission levels steady and continues to demonstrate capability of performance metrics around treatment, testing, case investigation, contact tracing and outbreak response.
A committee of scientists is developing a set of measures to help understand how to move between phases. The key questions they are considering to make these determinations are:
- What is the level of transmission in the community?
- What percentage of tests are positive for COVID-19:
- Are hospitalization trends for COVID-19 increasing or decreasing?
- Do hospitals have the surge capacity (staff, beds, equipment, supplies) to provide critical care for an increased number of people?
- Do hospitals have sufficient protective equipment (PPE) to continue to provide care for an increased number of patients?
Test and Trace:
- What percentage of cases are contacted and isolated within 24 hours of a positive test result?
- What percentage of people exposed to an individual who tests positive are notified within 48 hours?
- What is the surge capacity to be able to do contact tracing, if a large number of people are exposed?
- What is the level of testing in a community?
- Is everyone exposed in an outbreak able to get a test?
Safer at Home:
Currently, the state is still under Safer at Home and in the Vast, Great Outdoor (D 2020 091), which was signed on June 1 and is in effect for 30 days. This was an extension of the original Safer at Home executive order that allowed for the slow reopening of Colorado after nearly two months of Stay-at-Home orders.
Key provisions on Safer at Home that impact homebuilders and the industry include:
- CDPHE’s Multi-Industry Construction Guidance document remains the prevailing rules and regulations for jobsites. This document is noted in the Safer at Home order and should be considered in effect until Safer at Home expires or is replaced.
- Safer at Home establishes rules on non-critical office-based businesses, including symptom checking and reporting; cleaning protocols; limitations on meetings; social distancing and caps of 50 percent capacity in offices.