As the COVID-19 infections continued to increase across Colorado and the rest of the country, a recent report notes that lobbyists spent a record amount during the most recent legislative session as bills on tax breaks and sick leave were considered by lawmakers.
According to an analysis by The Colorado Sun, the spending to lobby the Democratic-led Assembly was more than $40.1 million, an increase of nearly 12% when compared to 2019 and $10 million more than lobby spending in 2016.
Reporting by The Sun showed that six of the 15 most lobbied bills were introduced after May 26 as legislators returned to the Capitol after a two-month hiatus due to COVID-19 safety concerns. All the bills became law.
However, seven of the most lobbied bills died, with lawmakers abandoning many of them to focus on budget and pandemic-related issues. Of those introduced early in the session, only two — the increased regulation of tobacco products and higher fines for environmental violations — became law.
“What you are seeing is the legislature is introducing legislation that goes against business interests,” Loren Furman, the lobbyist for the Colorado Chamber of Commerce, told The Sun. “So the increase in lobbyists is to try to find a middle ground or way to defeat those bills that are going to hurt the economy.”
The impacts of the pandemic on Colorado and its inhabitants caused a shift in legislator focus, causing several bills to simply be abandoned, such as a bill to create a public option health insurance plan.
The Sun found that topping the charts for company involvement was Xcel Energy, who reported nearly $441,000 and had their hand on nearly 20 bills. Other big spenders included COPIC, the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future Action and AARP.
Another powerful spender that lead to this record was the Colorado Catholic conference, which doubled their lobbyist spending from 2019 to $209,000 and showed interest in nearly 20 bills.
Going into the next term, many believe that this increased spending will continue to rise. Mike Beasely, a lobbyist who was a part of several bills, told The Sun that spending will definitely rise, especially if Democrats retain their hold in both chambers.
“Colorado has been an incubator of ideas from the center and center-left that folks not just here but across the country are interested in pursuing,” he said, according to The Sun.