He does not make much use of the veto power and he is the former owner of a popular Denver brew pub. Both of those facts make it unlikely that Gov. John Hickenlooper will veto popular House Bill 16-1401, which ups fees and sets new policy for restaurant inspections.
HB 16-1401, which first passed the Democratically-controlled Colorado House on a 42 to 11 vote with 12 excused, cleared the GOP-controlled Senate on a 23 to 11 vote with one excused on April 28. The Colorado Legislature’s session is scheduled to end May 11.
Some Northern Colorado officials have asked Hickenlooper to veto the new law, which will likely shutdown the current reporting systems for restaurant inspections used by Larimer and Weld counties. Larimer rates restaurants from excellent to unfit, and Weld uses A to F grades.
The new law empowers the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to impose a uniform system for public reporting on local governments in exchange for increases in annual licensing fees.
At the behest of the powerful Colorado Restaurant Association, both Democrat and Republican lawmakers accepted language in the bill that specifically says the “uniform system” of reporting “must not summarize the results of the inspection with a letter, number, or symbol grading system, or a similar oversimplified method of quantifying results.”
That means the A-F letter grade system, used from New York to California, would be banned in Colorado, a state that is highly dependent on tourism.
And the dictates don’t stop there.
Weld County Commissioner Mike Freeman told local media that HB 16-1401 would leave the state’s fastest growing county paying almost three quarters of the inspection costs while restricting how it can communicate with residents. Since it went to A-F reporting, Weld County has seen a 100 percent increase in public accessing the scores and a 50 percent reduction on inspection failures.
The first increase in state licensing fees for inspections would take effect on Jan. 1, 2017. A second fee increase on Jan. 1, 2018, and a third increase on Jan. 1, 2019, have strings attached. The state is required to implement the uniform reporting system in order for the second increase to take effect. The third increase will take effect only if food establishment plans and specifications and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point plans are being approved within 14 working days.
Inspection reports for restaurants in the Denver area , ski resort towns and most other Colorado counties are found online, but critics say the language is too often filled with legal jargon and vague and incomplete statements.
About 11,000 food and beverage establishments will be covered by the new law.
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