Ambitious Agenda Included Successes; There Is Still Work To Do
In the Colorado State Senate, we are tasked with representing a diverse constituency with differences that oftentimes seem irreconcilable. As the chair of the Business, Labor and Technology Committee, it is my job to do the seemingly impossible task of balancing these differences regularly. I believe that this session we have done by accomplishing an ambitious agenda that ensures Colorado’s economy remains strong for both employers and employees.
Colorado cannot legitimately earn the title of one of the strongest economies in the country unless our business environment works for everyone. For years, many of us in both the General Assembly and in the business community have wondered if the ways in which the state provides contracts to small businesses is flawed. We have no idea if certain groups receive life-changing business from the state, while others do not.
It is a serious problem, but one that we have addressed this session by successfully passing my bill, SB19-135, that requires the Department of Personnel to conduct an independent study to determine whether or not disparities exist in the procurement contract process. By using the data from this study to create legislative solutions, we can strengthen our economy by ensuring that businesses compete with each other on merit – not race, gender, or sexual orientation.
Though the state unemployment rate is historically low, there is still far more we can do to support Colorado workers. Roughly 88 percent of Coloradans do not have access to paid family medical leave. In the event of a life-altering family or medical emergency, too many people have to make the impossible choice between taking care of their loved ones and earning a paycheck. Meanwhile, our small businesses are losing these quality employees to the large corporations that have the infrastructure to provide these kinds of benefits.
SB19-188, Family and Medical Leave Act (FAMLI), was a proposed solution to these problems that supports both businesses and workers. By sharing costs for a paid leave program between employees and employers, FAMLI was designed to provide a safety net and give the leg up they need to compete with large employers.
Another issue Coloradans are facing is climate change, which has both short- and long-term effects on our environment and our communities. For too long, the assumption has been that protecting our environment would come at the expense of our businesses and economy. But Colorado’s economy relies on clean land, water, and air, which climate change is already affecting. This puts everyone, including our businesses, at risk.
HB19-1261, Climate Action Plan to Reduce Pollution, sets bold goals to reduce pollution while giving the Air Quality Control Commission the flexibility they need to work with stakeholders, industry leaders, and experts to find the best way to get there. We do not have to sacrifice our health and our future in order to uphold the strength of our business community. My plan to reduce pollution ensures that we will have an environment for businesses and their patrons to thrive in, both figuratively and literally.
Through every legislative session, I am always guided by the same belief that it is my duty to protect my constituents while simultaneously improving our economy.
By finding and addressing disparities, supporting employers and employees in the workplace, and addressing the long-term threat of climate change, we can achieve that balance and a better future for our communities. I am proud of the steps we have taken in 2019, and I look forward to doing even more for Coloradans in 2020.
Angela Williams represents District 33, which includes Park Hill, in the Colorado State Senate. She can be contacted at 303-866-4864. This year’s legislative session began on Jan. 4, and adjourns on May 3.