Colo. businesses say regulations strangling growth

DENVER — Colorado business groups representing about 10,000 companies told lawmakers today that state and federal regulations are strangling their ability to rebound from the recession and they want relief.

Some of the changes they want include eliminating requirements that hospitals get state permission to name their facilities and housing regulations that require developers to get design approval for every home they build even if they all have the same design.

“We really didn’t believe that should be a government issue. What we’re finding is that many of the statutes regulating our industry are 40 years old, and the rules come out with very little notification,” said Ginny Brown, vice president of legislative affairs for the Colorado Hospital Association.

The businessmen aired their gripes Wednesday at a meeting with Republican lawmakers organized by Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp.

Business leaders said they plan to hold Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper to his promises to cut red tape. Hickenlooper often complained about excessive regulation when he ran a brewpub in Denver, including city rules that prevented him from expanding his restaurant and hiring more workers.

“He’s open to all of those suggestions. If there is a better way and more efficient way to do it, he’s willing to listen,” said spokesman Eric Brown.

Stuart Sanderson, president of the Colorado Mining Association, said his industry is trying to cope with 233 revisions to coal mining regulations after Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter and his administration cracked down on them after taking office four years ago.

Tony Gagliardi, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business representing about 750 small Colorado businesses, said the entire rulemaking process is flawed and should be changed.

He said Colorado lawmakers are forced to rely on state agencies to make rules governing the industries they regulate because the legislature is in session only four months of the year. He said the directors who serve in the governor’s Cabinet are given guidelines by the legislature, but they are often so broad the directors have wide latitude to interpret and enforce them.

Gagliardi cited a rule by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment requiring child care facilities to keep bottles of bleach water used to clean tables out of the reach of children. One facility was fined because workers put a cleaning bottle on top of an 8-foot-tall cabinet out of the reach of children. The health department said the bottle should have been locked up, even though it wasn’t in the rules.

Matt Garrington, a spokesman for Environment Colorado, said Coloradans want jobs, but they also want clean air and clean water. He said rules are needed to enforce the regulations and fees and fines are needed to pay for the experts who enforce them.


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