photo - rubber stamp marked with regulation
rubber stamp marked with regulation 

No Colorado legislative session would be complete without a spate of "messaging bills" designed to regulate private businesses and burden them with new expenses and procedures.

As explained in this space April 12, House Bill 1305 would establish a "ban the box" law, preventing employers from using job application forms that ask prospective employees about criminal convictions.

It injects the state into a private-sector hiring concern that has forever been left to the discretion of employers.

In addition to banning the question, the law would forbid advertising and statements on applications that discourage convicts from applying.

Private-sector employer/employee relationships are private affairs. Unless state government wants the responsibility of a private company's payroll, and all liabilities associated with the business, it should stay out of employee screening practices.

House Bill 1307 would force employers to withhold a percentage of each employee's wage, up to .99 percent. Employers would deposit the proceeds into the "family and medical leave insurance fund," managed by a new bureau within the Department of Labor and Employment.

The funds would pay partial wages to qualifying employees who take time off to care for newborns or family members with serious health conditions.

House Bill 1290 would force onto employers the "Colorado Secure Savings Plan." Businesses would have to administer automatic enrollment payroll deductions to fund 401k accounts, IRAs or other qualifying retirement plans for employees. After three years, the law would affect all businesses with at least five employees.

All three of these bills seize management decisions from business owners and reallocate them to state government.

Each of these bills establishes obstacles to creating and finding jobs in Colorado.

Each creates administrative burden and expense for employers, and each gives the state more control of an employee's hard-earned wages.

If all good causes justify more regulation of business, we wonder when employers will be forced to offer withholding programs for doggy day care, gym memberships and tuition. If state government knows best how to direct and manage the earnings of employees, only the imagination limits feel-good ideas for new mandates.

It is great when stable, profitable businesses offer family leave assistance, retirement plans and other benefits that help them attract the most qualified and desirable employees.

Most businesses are not large, stable and awash in profits. More are fragile, even including those fledgling startups that will someday make the Fortune 500.

Some of this country's best companies started as vulnerable endeavors in garages and basements and could not have withstood the burden of excessive state regulations that required additional administration and accounting.

The Legislature and governor should constantly work to reduce needless regulations, to give Colorado a business-friendly reputation. They should create a statewide ecosystem of entrepreneur incubation, in which even the youngest and least-funded innovators have a shot at success.

We want all people with good ideas and motivation to create companies and jobs. State control of hiring practices and wages takes us in the wrong direction. The Legislature should dispense with these bills, or the governor should veto them.

the gazette editorial board