Colorado members of America’s largest small-business association last week began voting on an annual ballot, the results of which will help shape the lobbying agenda in the Colorado legislature in January.
The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) has 7,500 members in Colorado — 24 in Summit County.
Every year, the NFIB asks members for opinions on the state and national issues of greatest concern to them, Tony Gagliardi, the group’s Colorado director, said.
“Our members really look forward to this,” he said. “It’s really what sets NIFB apart from other business organizations. Our positioning is based on member input; it’s not determined by some random board or committee.”
The association’s ballot asks four questions: Would you support an increase in the fuel tax if it was less than 10 cents per gallon to pay for roads and bridges? Should Colorado increase the minimum cost of stop-loss insurance for self-insured businesses? Should employers be prohibited from considering an applicant’s criminal history until after the interview process has concluded? Should Colorado impose prohibitions on the use of fracking technology in the development of energy resources?
“Sometimes these issues can be emotionally charged,” Gagliardi said. “For the NIFB, our issues are non-partisan. Our job is to support and speak for our membership and their position.”
Gagliardi said the questions come from discussions with Colorado policy makers and small-business owners. He said getting feedback on issues like insurance is important, especially with national changes to health care. For example, 64 percent of the Colorado NIFB membership previously voted to support setting up Colorado’s own health exchange, rather than joining the federal exchange.
“That second question this year, it’s an option for small-business owners — local Main Street businesses like a skateboard shop over in Breckenridge,” he said. “They might like to do something for their employees but small-group insurance might be too expensive. This ballot helps indicate where my membership is.”
NIFB strives to remain neutral, Gagliardi said, not supporting one source of energy over another, for example, but looking at the whole picture and gauging where its members align.
The positions and options of small business are no small matter, he said. According to the latest report by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, small businesses significantly impact Colorado’s economy. They represent almost 98 percent of all employers and employ about half of the private-sector labor force.
Gagliardi said he waits until the ballots have about a 5 percent return before moving forward, to have a statistically valid sample of responses.
“We’re not all going to agree,” he said. “But if a majority position of our membership wants to support or oppose a fuel tax, for example, that’s what we would fight for.”
The mission of the NIFB, he said, is really to remind policy makers that small businesses are important and have their own voice.
“We like to know what the concerns are,” he said. “There’s always political discourse; you and I may disagree, but you have to be open to each other’s side.”