Colorado lawmakers consider changes to retail delivery fee for the sake of small businesses

Amazon Delivery Employees
Posted at 6:04 PM, Feb 21, 2023

DENVER — It’s been less than a year since fees from the massive transportation law began rolling out, but already, Colorado lawmakers are considering a bill to change one of the fee structures.

Republicans proposed repealing the 27-cent fee altogether.

“Everyone I talked to, when I knock doors, was complaining about it,” said Rep. Rose Pugliese, R-Grand Junction.

However, with a Democratic supermajority, that bill was unable to make it out of a House committee Tuesday.

Meanwhile, over in the Senate, a separate committee considered a bill to restructure the fee by exempting small businesses.

Senate Bill 23-143 would allow businesses with retail sales of $500,000 or less to not have to collect or pay the 27-cent fee.

“This has really taken an eye at making sure that the right businesses are captured, and the smaller ones that, maybe this would be a burden for them to collect, that we're exempting them,” said Sen. Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder.

The idea behind the exemption is that the small businesses are not the main culprits contributing to the wear and tear on Colorado roads that the recent boost in deliveries is causing, so making them collect the fee places an undue burden on them.

Colorado lawmakers consider changes to retail delivery fee for the sake of small businesses

A second part of the bill changes the law so that businesses would not have to have a separate line item on their retail receipts specifying that a 27 cent fee is being collected. The fee would still be collected, but businesses would be able to pay it on the purchaser's behalf and include it in their costs.

While it seems like an insignificant change, for businesses like Centennial Container in Denver, this could make a big difference.

Nash Moore, president of Centennial Container, says it’s been a challenge to add the line item onto receipts for the delivery fee.

“The software we carry or use just can't accommodate that for us,” Moore said. “It caused quite a bit of a headache.”

When Moore called the software company to figure out how to add this as a line item before the fee kicked in last summer, he was told the current version of software they use couldn’t handle an additional line.

As a result, the company would either have to upgrade, switch software systems altogether or manually add the line item to each of its receipts.

“Really, what this does is says that if you're a company that doesn't have built-in software that automatically does it, you don't have to pay for that expensive software to do it,” Fenberg said.

Despite the change to the retail delivery fee, Fenberg insists this bill isn’t an admission that the legislature made mistakes with Senate Bill 21-260, nor that it needs to walk back portions of it. Instead, he insists SB 23-143 is about staving off unintended consequences.

“I think it's a refining. We knew that that was a big bill, and there are probably going to be things we missed or things that we wanted to improve upon. And I think this is one of them,” Fenberg said.

While this bill makes its way through the state legislature, a lawsuit challenging the validity of the fee structure from SB 21-260 is making its way through the Colorado court system.

The lawsuit’s backers say the way the fees were split up into five separate enterprises violates the spirit of a 2019 proposition that passed to limit the scope of fee-based enterprises and require voter approval.

The lawsuit also claims that the law violates the state’s single subject requirements for bills. Colorado’s Constitution specifies that no bill, other than appropriations bills, can contain more than one subject in them.

While the plaintiffs wait for their case to be heard, another portion of the transportation bill’s fee system is set to kick in.

Starting April 1, people will see a two cent per gallon fee added onto their bill each time they fill up at the pump.

That fee will gradually increase to eight cents by 2028. Last session, Democratic legislators passed a law to delay the gas fee’s implementation for several months to help Coloradans with rising gas prices.

However, the legislation received considerable pushback from Republicans as being an election-year stunt to try to curry favor with voters.

This session, there are no discussions of further delaying that fee.

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