Democrats promote Colorado jobs bill in advance of first committee hearing

DENVER — Democratic legislative leaders touted a bill at the state Capitol on Monday afternoon that would give firms a bidding edge for using Colorado workers.

Flanked by carpenters, electricians, telecom workers and unemployed residents, state Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminter, led a press conference in the west foyer trumpeting the first bill of the 2012 session in advance of its first committee hearing, which is scheduled this afternoon.

“This is a common-sense jobs bills to get our people back to work,” Hudak said. “It just makes sense.”

State Sen. Evie Hudak speaking in Denver on Monday. (Photo by Troy Hooper)
Senate Bill 1 would give contractors bidding on service contracts a 3 percent preference if 90 percent of the employees working on the contract are Colorado residents and another 2 percent preference if the contractor offers health care and retirement benefits. A similar scenario would play out for contractors bidding on construction jobs, who would get a 3 percent preference if 90 percent of its workers completing the job are Coloradans, another 1 percent for health and retirement benefits and an additional 1 percent if employees can access a federally approved apprentice training program.

Over the last two years, the state of Colorado has awarded over $794.5 million in contracts to companies headquartered outside of Colorado, according to Rep. Crisanta Duran, D-Denver.

“In these tough economic times, we should be doing everything we can to put Coloradans back to work,” Duran said.

The bill is a key component in the Senate Majority’s “Colorado Works” jobs package, a series of proposals targeting continued job creation that will be introduced throughout the session.

Republicans oppose the bill, saying it would be burdensome to businesses and will force government costs to rise. Democrats responded that the cost increases are just “a drop in the bucket” in the grand scheme of state government. There would be $62,000 of projected new costs in its first year, and $54,000 in the second year to pay for employees to more closely review applications.

Hudak said she was “a little surprised” that Republicans aren’t supporting the bill.

“I think they may be making false assumptions,” she said, explaining that the GOP could be confusing this effort with similar legislation that has been previously defeated in the state.

Senate Bill 1 is an improvement over similar efforts in Colorado that never became law, she said.

Twenty-six other states have similar laws but Hudak said this bill is unique to Colorado’s interests.

“No other state has a bill exactly like this,” she said.

Troy Hooper covers environmental policy for the American Independent News Network. His work has been published in The Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News, Huffington Post, San Francisco Weekly, Playboy, New York Post, People and dozens of other publications. Hooper has covered the Winter Olympics in Italy, an extreme ski camp in South America and gone behind the scenes with Hunter S. Thompson on election night in 2004. Born and raised in Boulder, Hooper has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of California at Santa Barbara.