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Colorado Will Help You Get A Job … If You Choose The Right One

The Colorado legislature is contemplating a package of bills designed to help students and the unemployed find jobs—as long as those jobs are in industries the state approves.

The Colorado House passed a package of five bills Thursday that some have described as “the Legislature’s centerpiece jobs effort,” The Durango Herald reports. Yet despite the bipartisan veneer, three of the bills received only bare majorities, reflecting the unease of some legislators who detect cronyism in provisions limiting the benefits to specific industries selected by lawmakers.

The other two bills were less controversial, making modest changes to internship and job-training programs without restricting the benefits to favored industries, and did manage to attract bipartisan support. (VIDEO: Obama Rallies Support for Job Training)

One of the bills that squeaked through — HB 1230 — would have the state reimburse businesses for half the cost of paid internships in “innovative industries,” as defined by bureaucrats at the state’s Workforce Development Council. Another — HB1231 — would provide “enhanced unemployment benefits” for individuals that participate in certain, state-approved training programs.

The third close call was HB 1274, a bill that directs state agencies to collaborate with businesses to design “career pathways for critical occupations in growing industries.” The bill stipulates that “the first 3 career pathways will be in construction and related skilled trades, information technology, and health care,” but beyond that, it once again empowers the Workforce Development Council to “define critical occupations and growing industries.” (RELATED: Labor Department Announces IT Job Training Grant)

Supporters argue that the measures would ease unemployment in the state while promoting the growth of key industries, but some opponents asked whether funneling students and unemployed to certain industries was a legitimate government function, according to the Denver Business Journal.

House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso, a Republican who also owns three Domino’s franchises, asked why the state should fund job training for health care or construction but not, say, for the restaurant industry. (RELATED: $500 Million ‘Green Jobs’ Program Falls Short of Employment Goals)

“Somehow I’m not as good as some of the innovative industries,” DelGrosso complained of HB 1230, saying, “That is the main thing that is wrong with this bill—it is protecting a certain class of people.”

Democrats, on the hand, countered that targeting specific industries would encourage people to find high-paying jobs in fields that are likely to continue growing in the future, while also making Colorado a more-attractive destination for businesses in those industries.

“These are the skills experiencing shortages,” Democratic Rep. Pete Lee explained, “And these are the industries for which there will be demands in the coming years.”

The whole five-bill package now goes to the Republican-controlled Senate, where Business Journal reports that Senate President Bill Cadman is predicting it will receive solid, bipartisan support despite the misgivings of the House GOP.

“This is not the first time you’ve seen a difference of opinions expressed on a bill or a package of bills,” Cadman told the Business Journal. “I think we’re going to end up in a good place on most of these,” he added, noting that, “We had a lot of consensus out of the gate on those.”

Follow Peter Fricke on Twitter

 

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