As the voice of Colorado’s restaurant industry at state, local, and federal levels, our Government Affairs team fights everyday to make sure that your restaurant’s interests are protected and our industry is set up for success.

They lobby hundreds of bills during each legislative session to eliminate damaging public policy before it becomes law, saving Colorado restaurants hundreds of millions of dollars.

Below you’ll find the past five years of Colorado law changes so you can keep your business in compliance and moving forward.

2022 Colorado Law Updates

The 2022 Colorado State Legislative Session, the second following the start of COVID-19 pandemic, was crucially important for our industry. Here are the new laws affecting restaurants that were signed into law:

Labor & Employment

SB22-234 Unemployment Compensation

What does it mean for restaurants? SB22-234 makes a one-time, $600-million appropriation using federal ARPA dollars to backfill the state unemployment insurance trust fund, which became completely insolvent due to pandemic-related lay-offs in the summer of 2020. This backfill was necessary to stabilize employer premiums and save small businesses, like restaurants, from the increase in costs associated with bringing the fund back to solvency.

The bill also:

  • continues the COVID-19 allowance for undocumented workers to receive unemployment benefits after being separated from employment;
  • repeals the requirement that an individual must wait at least one week before becoming eligible for unemployment compensation as long as the balance of the unemployment compensation fund is at least $1 billion;
  • requires the division to study how to implement a dependent allowance for individuals receiving unemployment compensation;
  • requires an employer to provide an employee with information about unemployment compensation at the time of separation from the employer (learn more);
  • extends the suspension of the solvency surcharge through the calendar year 2023;
  •  and requires the division to consider certain factors in determining whether repayment of overpaid unemployment compensation benefits would be inequitable.

We have been lobbying this issue and seeking a backfill to the state fund since fall 2021, when we testified before the interim committee expressing the dire need for this policy. We are thrilled that it has come to fruition.

Sponsors: Senators Chris Hansen (D) and Bob Rankin (R) and Representatives David Ortiz (D) and Marc Snyder (D)

SB22-097 Whistleblower Protection Health and Safety

What does it mean for restaurants? During the height of COVID-19, the legislature passed a bill that prohibits an employer from taking adverse action against an employee who, in good faith, raises a reasonable concern about workplace safety violation or other significant workplace health and safety threats. SB22-097 continues those protections in perpetuity. We monitored this bill closely to ensure that it would not be expanded to unduly burden employers and are comfortable that it will not.

Sponsors: Senators Brittany Pettersen (D) and Robert Rodriguez (D) and Representatives Leslie Herod (D) and Tom Sullivan (D)

SB22-230 Collective Bargaining For Counties

What does it mean for restaurants? SB22-230 is the long-awaited collective bargaining bill, which was introduced to include all public employees, including those in higher education and those employed by quasi-governmental entities. The proponents faced staunch opposition to the proposal from the very beginning, and ultimately the bill was pared back to include just county employees. County associations lobbied the bill hard and it was only able to pass in the final hours of session with serious amendments limiting it to just the largest counties.

We kept a very close eye on this bill because although it was not related to the private sector, any proposal that streamlines collective bargaining activity is of great interest and we have seen proponents pass this type of legislation for the public sector before moving on to the private sector.

Sponsors: Senators Stephen Fenberg (D) and Dominick Moreno (D) and Representative Daneya Esgar (D)

SB22-161 Wage Theft Employee Misclassification Enforcement

What does it mean for restaurants? SB22-161, led by the subcontractor construction industry, was introduced in response to several wage theft victims working on multi-million-dollar construction projects. Advocates for the policy claimed that undocumented workers on these projects had been exploited and worked without being paid, and that there was no way for them to seek damages as the projects had gone completely bankrupt. The bill ultimately changes the way that wage-theft claims and enforcement are handled within the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment and creates a new enforcement unit within the Attorney General’s office.

We feel strongly that wage theft is an abhorrent practice and that bad actors must be held accountable, but the bill as introduced stretched too far and impacted ethical businesses along with the bad actors. We worked to adopt the following amendments to the proposal to make it more business-friendly:

As Introduced After Amendments
The bill repealed the employer’s ability to recover reasonable costs and attorney fees incurred in actions. The amendments made attorney fees available for employers who prevail in wage theft complaints.
The bill made investigations of class claims by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment mandatory. The amendments made those investigations discretionary, and the bill offers no additional appropriation of funds for these investigations.
The bill made per day damages for unpaid wages $100/day. The amendments made per day damages for unpaid wages $50/day.
The bill mandated triple damages for retaliation. The amendments softened to double damages for retaliation.
The bill as introduced included an entire section mandating new health and safety guidelines for workplaces. An amendment removed this section from the bill entirely.

In addition to the amendments above, we fought to keep the existing 14-day safe harbor that exists for employers, which allows an employer to make an employee whole with any lost wages within 14 days before being served with a notice or action based on those lost wages.

Sponsors: Senators Jessie Danielson (D) and Sonya Jaquez Lewis (D) and Representatives Monic Duran (D) and Meg Froelich (D)

Plastics, Sustainability, Energy

SB22-193 Air Quality Improvement Investments

What does it mean for restaurants? SB22-193 provides significant one-time funding ($120 million) for the purpose of reducing air pollution. The bill creates an industrial and manufacturing operations clean-air grant program for private entities and would award funds to local governments, tribal governments, and public-private partnerships to invest in voluntary projects to reduce air pollutants from industrial and manufacturing operations.

The CRA supported this bill, specifically because of the ability to voluntarily invest in projects to reduce air pollutants, as we are always in favor of incentives rather than mandates for businesses.

Sponsors: Senators Stephen Fenberg (D) and Julie Gonzales (D) and Representatives Alex Valdez (D) and Meg Froelich (D)

HB22-1355 Producer Responsibility Program for Recycling

What does it mean for restaurants? This bill establishes a Producer Responsibility Organization, housed in the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which is responsible for developing and managing a statewide recycling program. This program would be paid for by fees assessed to the producers of recyclable packaging materials, which translates to the company who first sells the product in Colorado.

The CRA worked to amend this legislation to match what other states have done by exempting restaurants from the definition of “producer” and therefore exempting restaurants from the requirements in the bill. Once that amendment made it onto the bill, the CRA was neutral on this legislation.

Sponsors: Representative Lisa Cutter (D) and Senators Kevin Priola (R) and Julie Gonzales (D)

Affordable Housing

What do the following bills mean for restaurants? In 2021, following an influx of federal ARPA dollars, the General Assembly appropriated $400 million to address the affordable housing crisis throughout the state and created an associated task force to recommend policy solutions. The following bills are the result of the task force recommendations and ARPA funding.

The CRA lobbied in support of all the below bills, as we have heard from restaurateurs across the state that the affordable housing crisis has created significant workforce challenges.

Affordable Housing Solutions | Total Allocated: $399,800,000

  • HB22-1282: The Innovative Housing Incentive Program will invest funds to encourage and support the construction of innovative forms of affordable housing in Colorado, including modular, prefabricated, and manufactured homes.
  • SB22-146: Middle Income Access Program Expansion will support the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority’s middle-income access program, which is designed to provide financing to developers seeking to build affordable rental housing to Coloradans with an 80% area median income and above, which fills a support gap within the marketplace.
  • SB22-159: Revolving Loan Fund Invest Affordable Housing will create a revolving loan program to help finance affordable housing projects as well as energy improvements. One of the aims is to improve non-traditional housing in areas where COVID-19 hindered housing affordability and availability.
  • SB22-160: Loan Program Resident-owned Communities puts funds toward grants to local governments and nonprofits around the state to buy land and develop affordable housing.
  • HB22-1304: State Grants Investments Local Affordable Housing creates two grant programs: 1) the local investments in transformational affordable housing grant program, and 2) the infrastructure and strong communities grant program.

Workforce Development

HB22-1350 Regional Talent Development Initiative Grant Program

What does it mean for restaurants? HB22-1350 establishes a regional talent development grant program to fund talent development initiatives across the state to meet regional labor market needs, including workforce development needs as regions recover from the negative impacts of COVID-19.

We lobbied in support of this bill in the hopes that regional programs like this could increase access to a pipeline of restaurant workers and address the ongoing labor shortage.

Sponsors: Representatives Julie McCluskie (D) and Janice Rich (R) and Senators Jeff Bridges (D) and Paul Lundeen (R)

SB22-140 Expansion of Experiential Learning Opportunities

What does it mean for restaurants? This bill requires the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment to provide incentives to eligible employers to create high-quality, work-based learning opportunities for adults and youth.

The CRA supported the bill in the hopes that restaurants could qualify as eligible employers under the program and offer work-based learning opportunities as a workforce solution.

Sponsors: Senators James Coleman (D) and Bob Gardner (R) and Representatives Barbara McLachlan (D) and Judy Amabile

Taxes

HB22-1406 Qualified Retailer Retain Sales Tax

What does it mean for restaurants? HB22-1406 provided another temporary sales tax deduction for the foodservice industry for the months of July, August, and September 2022. Just like the previous two rounds of pandemic-related sales tax relief, restaurants and other businesses in the foodservice industry will be able to deduct from their state taxable sales $70,000 for each of these months. For businesses with multiple locations, the deduction will be usable on up to five locations.

The CRA supported this legislation and actively worked to draft and pass this bill as the lead proponent.

Sponsors: Representatives Leslie Herod (D) and Dylan Roberts (D) and Senators James Coleman (D) and Nick Hinrichsen (D)

Liquor Law

HB22-1415 Repeal Registered Manager Requirement Liquor Licensees

What does it mean for restaurants? HB22-1415 made changes to the registered manager requirements that exist for Hotel and Restaurants, Tavern, and Lodging & Entertainment liquor licenses. When this bill is signed into law, these three types of liquor license holders will no longer have to put their manager through a background check and fingerprint process and there will no longer be a requirement in state law to have any kind of hearing for a registered manager. Instead, these three liquor licenses will have the same requirements as all other on-premises liquor licenses, which means that if their manager changes, they will simply have to notify the state and local licensing authorities of who the new manager is and pay a $30 fee to the state and $30 to the local authority (instead of the current $75 fee).

The CRA supported this legislation and worked hard to get the bill drafted, introduced, and passed with no votes in opposition.

Sponsors: Representatives Shannon Bird (D) and Hugh McKean (R) and Senators Rachel Zenzinger (D) and Paul Lundeen (R)

General Business

SB22-115 Clarify Terms Related to Landowner Liability

What does this mean for restaurants? SB22-115 changed the liability for businesses and declares that the Colorado Supreme Court decision in the Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood, Inc. vs. Wagner case should not be relied upon to a certain extent. In this case, the court determined that Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood should have known they could have been a target for a shooting and therefore, they should have had more protection. The concern with this precedent is that it would have applied to all businesses, meaning that if a restaurant should have known they could be a target of a shooting, they would have to put in safety protocols to prevent it, even if there was never a direct threat against the establishment.

The CRA supported this legislation because it takes the precedent back to what it was meant to be prior to the Supreme Court case.

Sponsors: Senators Sonya Jaquez Lewis (D) and Bob Gardner (R) and Representatives Matt Soper (R) and Kerry Tipper (D)

Previous Colorado Law Updates

2021 Colorado Law Updates

The changes affecting restaurants from the 2021 State Legislative Session

Learn more

2020 Colorado Law Updates

The changes affecting restaurants from the 2020 State Legislative Session

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2019 Colorado Law Updates

The changes affecting restaurants from the 2019 State Legislative Session

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2018 Colorado Law Updates

The changes affecting restaurants from the 2018 State Legislative Session

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2017 Colorado Law Updates

The changes affecting restaurants from the 2017 State Legislative Session

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