Inside the Chamber column: When it comes to politics, we are engaged |

Inside the Chamber column: When it comes to politics, we are engaged

Marianne Virgili

You’ve heard the old expression that one should never discuss religion or politics at family gatherings. At our family get-togethers, it was quite the opposite. That’s all we talked about. I had heard about other families playing cards or charades after dinner — but we were busy discussing the Cold War, the Feminist Movement and Civil Rights. Despite this upbringing, I’m a little hesitant to talk politics in today’s environment.

However, the chamber community’s recent success in two state initiatives has given me reason to write about why politics are becoming increasingly important to business and community organizations as well as citizens.

First and foremost, voter initiatives, taxes and laws are one sure way to make a difference. When the electorate or lawmakers vote, things are sure to happen. As a chamber of commerce, we champion issues that affect our community and region.

Community Concern: Affordable Housing

Because of construction defect lawsuits and the class action liabilities associated with building townhome and condominiums, for several years it has been nearly impossible to ignite contractors and developers across Colorado to build these entry-level multi-family homes. How can the chamber help?

Solution: HB-1279

This bill is arguably this session’s signature achievement of the Colorado General Assembly. Construction-litigation reform needed to be fair to contractors and homeowners. That challenge confounded the legislature for four straight years, and last month, as various bills died, it seemed that once again, the Legislature would be stalemated.

Then late on the night of April 18, bipartisan sponsors and interested organizations on both sides reached agreement on establishing a statutory framework that balances the interests of builders of townhomes and condominiums with that of the units’ owners. The Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association (GSCRA) lobbied for this bill.

Key provisions of the compromise include:

• A majority of homeowners — instead of a majority of a homeowner association board —must vote to approve filing a lawsuit against a developer over alleged construction defects;

• Extends the statute of limitations by 90 days during the voting period for homeowners to discover and report alleged defects before unit owners proceed with a vote on whether or not to pursue a lawsuit against the builder;

• Reduces the types of unit owners who can participate in the vote;

• Details more specifically the process for the election on whether or not to pursue a lawsuit, including informing homeowners of the pros and cons of a lawsuit.

The bill stands out as a notable hallmark of bipartisanship and compromise and represents politics at its best.

Ongoing Community Concerns: Health Care, Education, Tax Relief, Transportation

Chambers of commerce are known as organizations that take on issues that can never be completely solved. These four challenges are at the top of that list. How can the chamber effect change?

A True Political Compromise: SB-267. (Thank Your Legislator)

At 11 a.m. on the last day of the legislative session the complex “rural sustainability bill” was sent to Gov. Hickenlooper for his signature. The bipartisan vote split the minority House Caucus just as it did the Senate GOP Caucus. Kudos to our own Sen. Randy Baumgardner and Rep. Bob Rankin for listening to constituents like the GSCRA and voting for this bill. It is being touted as the most important bill for the business community to be passed by the Legislature this session.

The bill’s linchpin is the conversion of the hospital provider fee into a state enterprise, which will save rural hospitals from significant state funding cuts. The bill also provides almost $2 billion for transportation and aims to help revitalize rural schools.

As I said, it is complicated, but SB-267 covers a wide range of policies, revenue and spending:

• protects hospitals from funding cuts totaling $528 million;

• creates a “state enterprise” for the hospital provider fee;

• generates $2 billion by mortgaging state buildings;

• provides $1.8 billion for transportation infrastructure;

• reins in Medicaid spending by increasing some co-pays while staying within federal guidelines;

• provides businesses with business personal property tax relief;

• Increases funding for rural K-12 education and the State Education Fund;

• increases recreational marijuana taxes;

• strongly encourages state agencies in future years to cut spending by 2 percent, and

• lowers the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights (TABOR) revenue cap by $200 million.

Granted, SB-267 doesn’t solve all of our education and transportation funding needs. (The outstanding list of transportation projects, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation, is $9 billion.) We still need statewide solutions to see our roads are maintained and safe and to assure that we are providing the best education for tomorrow’s workforce.

The constraints of Gallagher, Amendment 23, the Negative Factor and TABOR on the state’s general fund still exist. But along with our many political partners, the GSCRA will work to see broader reforms in these areas next session. We also intend to establish a business advocacy advisory board so that we can formalize position statements and act quickly on legislative issues of concern. Call me or Angie Anderson to learn more.

Marianne Virgili is president and CEO of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association. A national survey recognized being “the voice of business with government” as an important competency for chambers of commerce.

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