Counties would have the authority to register businesses in unincorporated areas, but they can’t charge them for registering, nor access a fine if they don’t.

The sponsor of Senate Bill 70, Sen. Dominick Moreno, said the measure is only intended to help counties know what businesses are in their areas so they can provide whatever assistance they need to be successful.

He said many didn’t get the help other businesses did from money approved by Congress last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, in part because the county governments where they are located didn’t know they existed.

“Counties use this information for well-intentioned purposes, to offer assistance to businesses,” the Commerce City Democrat said.

“This is not meant in any way to be a registry that a county could then go use to increase compliance or enforcement actions against any kind of business.”

Under the bill, neither those businesses in unincorporated areas would be required to register, nor are the counties where they are located required to start such a registry. As a result, the registries aren’t an attempt at local licensing of businesses, Moreno said.

He said the only downside to counties not creating their own registries, or businesses not registering, is that they may not be made aware of monies, tax credits or other programs available to them.

“We’re not just talking about assistance that is available during the pandemic,” Moreno said last week in the Senate Local Government Committee, which approved it on a unanimous vote.

“There’s assistance that counties make available to provide that is well beyond assistance during the pandemic.”

Two Republicans on that panel, Sens. Barbara Kirkmeyer of Johnstown and Larry Liston of Colorado Springs, wanted the bill amended to ensure businesses that didn’t register weren’t punished for not doing so.

Moreno did just that on Friday, when the Senate gave its preliminary approval, amending it to say that counties could not fine businesses that choose not to participate.

The measure cleared the Senate on Monday on a bipartisan 28-7 vote.

All seven dissenting votes came from Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Ray Scott of Grand Junction, without speaking out against it.