Denver Chamber praises 2011 legislature
By Steve Raabe
The Denver Post
Consensus and compromise characterized the 2011 Colorado legislative sessions, leading to high marks from the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce.
In its third annual scorecard of state legislators, the chamber issued no grades below 50 percent. That's a reversal from last year, when the low mark was 16 percent.
Chamber officials attributed the pro-business session to a divided General Assembly – a Democratic Senate and a Republican House – that led to moderate positions and consensus on issues favored by business-advocacy groups.
The chamber tracked 3,193 committee and floor votes on 45 bills. Legislators were ranked on the percentage of their votes that corresponded to the chamber's positions on the bills.
Overall, legislators supported the chamber's views in 78 percent of votes, up from 58 percent last year.
"It's really no fun for any of us to bang our heads against the wall," said chamber president and chief executive Kelly Brough. "It's good to have a balance of power. This is a much better approach."
Big wins for the business sector, according to the Chamber of Commerce, included passage of a health benefits exchange bill that creates an insurance marketplace for individuals and small businesses.
Another victory was a measure that increases transparency and accountability for initiated ballot proposals. The bill stemmed from the difficulty in identifying backers last year of proposed Amendments 60, 61 and 101, tax-slashing initiatives that most business groups viewed as harmful to the Colorado economy.
Chamber officials said they were disappointed that no bills were introduced to reform proficiency standards in K-12 education. They said the chamber will push for such a measure in the next session.
The Bell Policy Center, a liberal advocacy group, also gave the legislative session high marks.
"It was a positive session in that lawmakers didn't get distracted by extreme proposals, such as the anti- immigration bills," said Rich Jones, director of policy and research. "At the same time, lawmakers came together on stabilizing unemployment insurance, protecting consumers by preserving payday-lending reforms and adding reporting requirements for tax credits and expenditures. Those are good for all Coloradans."
Steve Raabe: 303-954-1948 or firstname.lastname@example.org