Legislative Session Wrap-Up, Part 1: Priority Legislation for the CWBA

Starting today, The 1891 is publishing a four-part series documenting the CWBA's Public Policy Committee's efforts during the 2022 Legislative Session. Stay tuned for the next three installments, which will be posted on 8/12, 8/15, and 8/17.

Please see the Summary Matrix that includes a view of bills, with hyperlinks to more information about bill versions, fiscal notes, engaged lobbyists, history, etc.



Workplace Harassment


Before the 2022 session kicked off, the CWBA spent last summer and fall building off the work done in the previous session with the Plaintiff Employment Lawyers Association (PELA) on workplace harassment policy in SB21-176 Protecting Opportunities and Workers' Rights (POWR) Act. Sadly, this measure failed in the final hours of the 2021 session due to bipartisan concerns stemming from business and disability communities’ opposition. As such, the coalition had a heavy lift and worked throughout the entirety of session to address concerns with the intent of passing a new bill into law in the 2022 session.


After months of failed negotiations with the business community and remaining concerns from the disability coalition, it became apparent that, despite considerable concessions by the proponents, the parties could not find common ground on a policy alternative to the current status quo severe or pervasive standard. PELA, the CWBA, and sponsors were thus pushed to reevaluate the best path forward for providing much-needed protections to Colorado workers. It was determined that rather than attempting to address the many different facets of the POWR Act in one cohesive bill, a better alternative was to chip away at the full policy and narrow the 2022 bill to three specific policy concepts.


With this strategy in mind, the coalition brought forward HB22-1367 Updates to Employment Discrimination Laws which includes the following:

  • Provide Protection to Domestic Workers

  • Domestic Workers have historically been excluded from the protection of labor laws, despite their extreme vulnerability to abuse and exploitation.

  • The bill amended CADA so that Domestic Workers are no longer exempted from its protections.

  • Treat Age Discrimination Claims the Same as Other Claims

  • Unlike all other protected classes in Colorado, under CADA, victims of age discrimination are currently prohibited from receiving compensatory or punitive damages.

  • The bill solved this differential treatment of victims of age discrimination by repealing the applicable subsection in CADA that causes these inequities.

  • Extend Deadline to File Claims

  • All claims under CADA, including claims for sexual harassment, are time barred after 6 months. Low-wage workers are particularly harmed by the short filing timeline. Most workplace sexual harassment is never reported due to lack of education and fear of retaliation. Often, survivors aren’t ready to come forward until their deadline has passed.

  • The bill amended CADA to extend the current 6-month time limit for filing a claim with the CCRD to 300 days, making it consistent with the EEOC timeline and giving victims additional time to seek administrative and civil remedies for CADA claims.

The CWBA was involved in every stage of the bill’s evolution from drafting language, stakeholding with various organizations and action groups, legislator lobbying, and providing verbal testimony in both the House and Senate Judiciary committees.


Though the bill was a considerably narrowed version of its former self, it still had solid policy wins, particularly in providing CADA protections to domestic workers. However, the need remains for significant reform of Colorado’s workplace harassment protection laws, including modernizing the standard away from severe or pervasive. The CWBA continues to identify this as a priority issue, and the lobby team expects that more stakeholder work will be needed during the interim if anything is to pass in the 2023 legislative session.



Reproductive Health Policy


The CWBA elevated reproductive health as a top priority for the session by opposing several pieces of anti-choice legislation. The CWBA was also among the large coalition of supporters lead by Cobalt Advocates and Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR) to create statutory protections for reproductive care.


HB22-1279 Reproductive Health Equity Act modernized Colorado statutes to protect reproductive rights as fundamental rights. The bill was signed into law and established the following:

  • Every individual has the fundamental right to choose or refuse contraception;

  • Every individual who becomes pregnant has a fundamental right to choose to continue a pregnancy and give birth or to have an abortion; and

  • A fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent rights under the laws of the state.

The CWBA had eight members testify during the hours-long hearings in both the House and Senate. The members represented a wide range of perspectives including law students and lawyers from around the state. The CWBA also supported the greater coalition in their lobbying efforts and public awareness campaign.


Given the national stage and in light of the recent Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the issue of reproductive care will continue to be at play in Colorado both through anti-choice legislation and a potential constitutional amendment in 2024. The CWBA continues to support efforts in protecting reproductive rights and freedoms for individuals in Colorado.



Judicial Discipline


Addressing systemic problems relevant to judicial discipline has been a top priority for the CWBA outside of the legislative arena on the heels of concerning reports in 2020. The revelations included complaints of sexual harassment within the judicial system and allegations of a lack of transparency in their handling.


SB22-201 Commission On Judicial Discipline was a bipartisan bill which underwent several iterations in order to address the need for a judicial disciplinary process that is independent from the judges subject to discipline. The CWBA ultimately supported SB 22-201’s creation of an Office of Judicial Discipline that is financially and structurally independent from the judicial branch. Establishment of this Office will take effect immediately providing transparency and accountability for the people bringing claims of judicial misconduct.


The bill also created the Legislative Interim Committee on Judicial Discipline that will meet during the interim with the goal to recommend legislation in the 2023 session. This bipartisan Committee will allow for additional input from the various stakeholders and thoughtful discussion regarding any amendments to the law that would better serve competing interests involved in judicial discipline.


The CWBA was instrumental in securing a space for a diversity of voices during the interim Committee process. The CWBA has done significant research and prepared recommendations to the committee regarding independent oversight of matters concerning judicial discipline. The CWBA will have several members testifying at the committee hearings the week of August 8, 2022, to provide the CWBA's position on these issues.



Equal Pay for Equal Work Act


The CWBA was the lead author of the 2019 Colorado Equal Pay for Equal Work Act (CEPEW). The CWBA worked with our partners at the Women’s Foundation of Colorado (WFCO) to bring forward this landmark legislation, which is a model across the country to provide transparency on pay ranges for all employees and remedies for those who have proof of underpayment. Such information is a game changer for women in the workforce and is already making an impact.


This said, the measure is not without critics and remains controversial specifically within the business community. These critics approached the Polis Administration about running a bill to address their concerns around the implementation and potential unintended consequences of CEPEW. Unfortunately, such concerns were not brought directly to the CWBA and our partners, nor the original bill sponsors.


Upon hearing rumors of a desire to run a bill, the Aponte & Busam lobby team reached out to the Governor’s Office and business community to discuss their proposed changes. The CWBA and WFCO engaged in conversations to try and understand the concerns driving the request for changes. This resulted in discussion of a draft proposal from the Governor’s office that they describe as a “narrow” change to address posting requirements.


The CWBA was clear in its opposition to anything that would jeopardize the law, but the equal pay subcommittee, comprised of lawyers who represent both employees and employers, gave the green light for the organization to review the concept. They also directed the organization to follow the lead of the champions who sponsored the original bill. These four lawmakers unanimously decided that the best course of action was to table this discussion until next year to fully vet any changes to the law.


Given the level of concerns expressed, the lobby team fully expects the business community and the Polis Administration to continue to seek changes to the law. The CWBA Public Policy Committee will be engaged in proactive stakeholder outreach with the goal to shape any proposed changes under consideration for the 2023 session.



Insurance Coverage for Fertility Care


The CWBA entered the session understanding that prior legislation from 2020, the Colorado Building Families Act, was not enacted as proponents had hoped. The act requires insurance policies to cover infertility treatment as they would other medical conditions. The bill passed, with solid bipartisan support, on the last day of the session in 2020 before the legislature took a recess due to COVID.


During very rushed negotiations with the Polis Administration before this pandemic recess, language was drafted requiring the Colorado Division of Insurance (DOI) to obtain an interpretation from the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as to whether the new law could trigger the defrayal provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Defrayal is a term of art in this context meaning the state would be financially responsible for any increase in insurance premiums caused by the law. The agreed-upon language was to ensure that if HHS determined defrayal was possible then the law would not go into effect.


Under the Trump administration, HHS determined that the new law could possibly trigger defrayal in the small and individual markets. At first DOI was indicating that the bill would still go into effect for the large group market (not subject to defrayal). However, the Colorado Attorney General determined that the language of the bill was not clear enough and that the law could not go into effect for any market. (Here's an article explaining in more detail.) The lack of clarity in the hastily drafted language has halted DOI from implementing coverage that Colorado families were anticipating in the large group market as of January 1, 2022.


Hence the need for SB22-1008 Implementation of Fertility Coverage. The fix-it bill ensures the original intent of the Building Colorado Families Act is realized. It makes it clear that the defrayal language does not apply to the large group market and thus the law should go into effect for policies under that market. This act was signed by Governor Polis on April 13, 2022.


Part 2 of the CWBA's 2022 Legislative Session Wrap-Up will be posted on 8/12.
 

To support the CWBA's public policy lobbying efforts, please attend the CWBA Public Policy Committee's benefit event on August 31st at the Comedy Works in Greenwood Village. This event is open to both CWBA members, and members of the public. Tickets can be purchased here.



There is also a silent auction, with items available for bidding prior to the event and all donated by local women-owned businesses in the greater Denver metro area. Sponsorship opportunities are also available.


All funds raised through this event will support the CWBA's vitally important public policy work and its lobbying at the State Capitol. The CWBA’s public policy work allows it to serve as a strong advocate for issues and legislation important to advancing the interests and well-being of women and children.

 

The CWBA 2022 Legislative Session Wrap-Up was adapted from a report prepared by Aponte & Busam, Public Affairs Consultants and with additional updates provided by CWBA Public Policy Committee Member and Co-Chair of the Publications Committee, Chelsea Augelli.

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