Wages, lease money, hemp bills advance

For the past 100 years, it’s been considered a trade secret when a business violates provisions of the state’s fair wage laws.

That would no longer be the case under a bill that won preliminary approval in the Colorado House on Tuesday.

Rep. Jessie Danielson, D-Wheat Ridge, found that law on the books and introduced HB1021, which she calls the Wage Theft Transparency Act.

Under it, businesses found guilty of violating fair wage laws would have 10 days to justify to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment why that violation should be keep confidential.

If not, the violation would become open to the public, but only to those who file an open records request.

“If a company violates the wage law, it’s interpreted as a trade secret. As a result, this information is hidden from the public,” Danielson said. “The bill will allow for this information, through an open record request, to be accessible to potential employees, consumers and others. We’re shining a light on this kind of activity while protecting the workers across the state and promoting businesses who don’t engage in this kind of behavior.”

In 2015, the Division of Labor estimated that it processed 78 wage claim cases. Last year, however, after implementing a tracking system on such cases, it processed 274, a number that seemed to be growing, according to a fiscal analysis of the bill.

The measure earned support from Republicans, who said it was an appropriate change in the law.

“As an employment lawyer, I can certainly tell you I had initial skepticism regarding this bill,” said Rep. Cole Wist, R-Centennial. “My concern is that underlying investigative files would provide for somewhat of a fishing expedition for open-records requesters. I have clarified that all that is subject to this particular bill is the final determination that there’s been a wage violation.”

The bill requires a final House vote before it can head to the Senate for more debate.

mineral districts

The Colorado House also gave preliminary approval Tuesday to a bill that would allow counties that have created special districts to dole out what federal mineral lease money they receive to invest some of that money.

The state gets money from the federal government from royalty payments on federal land for things like grazing rights and oil and gas drilling.

Under current law, however, the FML money the state gives to counties must be doled out in grants to local governments, meaning it must be spent immediately.

But because of a depressed extraction industry in recent years, those royalty payments have diminished.

The measure, introduced by Reps. Yeulin Willett, R-Grand Junction, and Diane Mitsch Bush, D-Steamboat Springs, would allow counties that have created FML districts, such as Mesa and Garfield counties, to invest as much of that money as they choose as a way of making more. Any interest payments still must go toward the same uses as direct FML payments.

The measure, HB1152, requires a final House vote before it can head to the Senate.

HEMP PASSES

On a 62-1 vote, the Colorado House approved a measure that would require all hemp cultivators to disclose more about themselves.

Under HB1148, which now heads to the Senate, such growers when obtaining or renewing their state registrations to operate must disclose the names of each officer, director, member, partner or owner of 10 percent or more of the business entity.

The bill also requires them to disclose the identity of any manager or controlling entity.

The measure also gives the state the ability to deny registration to any listed individual who has been disciplined under the state’s strict hemp regulations.


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