January 6, 2023

Editorial: Water, workforce, transportation top 2023 priorities

Each year brings a flood of new bills to the Colorado Legislature, along with new priorities for business organizations, and 2023 promises to be a more active year than most.

Panelists at the Regional Issues Summit, a December event presented by the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance, predicted continued focus on workforce, transportation and water. NCLA is the lobbying arm of chambers of commerce in Fort Collins, Greeley and Loveland, along with Upstate Colorado Economic Development.

And the state Legislature, with an even stronger Democratic majority than it had last year, likely will see hundreds of bills submitted for consideration for the upcoming session, even after a wave of human-resource, environmental and transportation measures of the past year.

Water

For business and civic organizations, along with local governments, water will remain a high priority, as municipalities adjust to continued drought, limited delivery capacity, or delivery issues.

Many Colorado communities are considering new restrictions on non-functional turf in favor of landscaping more suited to a semi-arid climate. Other restrictions or changes are possible as low water levels on the Colorado River affect multiple states.

Transportation

Transportation has progressed during the past year, with funding announced for segment five of the north Interstate 25 corridor, but the battle to “fix I-25 North” continues.

As BizWest’s Ken Amundson reported, Herman Stockinger, deputy director of the Colorado Department of Transportation, said at the Regional Issues Summit that segments seven and eight of I-25 (at Fort Collins and Loveland) will be completed at the end of 2023 or early 2024, with segment six south of Loveland to be constructed through 2024.

Segment five, however, between Berthoud and Longmont is in the plan but remains subject to potential environmental redesign or delays from the transportation commission.

And there are many more needs for transportation funding beyond the I-25 project.

Workforce

Colorado’s low unemployment rate, at 3.5% in November, demonstrates the difficulty that employers have in finding new workers. And the rate is even lower in Boulder (2.6%), Broomfield (2.8%) and Larimer (2.8%). Weld County is at 3.5%.

But it’s not just about finding talented workers: Colorado businesses have a host of new regulations to deal with, as well.

Jan. 1 saw implementation of the Family Medical Leave Insurance Program, or FAMLI, requiring businesses to provide 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave for employees. Other measures passed by the Legislature in recent years include restrictions on non-compete agreements, requirements to advertise salary ranges for open positions, increases to the minimum wage and new notification requirements when an employee is laid off.

As 2023 commences, new bills will come to the fore on each of these issues, requiring business-friendly organizations to remain vigilant.

It will be an active year, but one with familiar issues.