No amount of hoop jumping could save business-database bill

Denver Business Journal by Ed Sealover, Reporter
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
http://www.bizjournals.com/denver/blog/capitol_business/2012/03/no-amount-of-hoop-jumping-could-save.html

Colorado Democratic state Rep. Dan Pabon did everything but endorse Mitt Romney to try to get Colorado House Republicans to back his bill on creating local-business databases Thursday.

But in the end, his efforts went for naught.

The House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee defeated Senate Bill 143 on a party-line 5-4 vote — a result that was not surprising, given the party-line vote on which it came out of the Democratic-controlled Senate.

But what was surprising was the hoops that Pabon jumped through first to make the bill more palatable to critics — including one who declared when he got to the microphone in a hearing last week that he wasn’t sure he was opposing it anymore.

SB 143, sponsored by Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, began life as a measure that would direct the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade to compile a database of all local businesses in the state by 2014 and create a smartphone app with the information.

Several business groups and businesspeople, including PioneerHQ.com cofounder John Wren, complained they were looking to develop similar programs, putting the state into competition with private firms.

So, Pabon, the Denver-based House sponsor, rewrote the bill to require the state only to make data on locally based businesses available in a public form so that entrepreneurs could find the information on the government’s website and use it to create apps or programs. This, he said, would let the private sector more easily create a marketable product.

Pabon even brought in Quinn Reilly, a former Oregon state employee who helped to create a similar database for his state, to testify at a March 22 hearing that within days of putting such data in the public domain, entrepreneurs were using it to create applications.

And when it came time for the aforementioned Wren to speak to the committee, he said: “I walked in the room today in opposition because it was our understanding this was to be a statewide effort ... Maybe this is a good thing. I’m all for transparency in government.”

“This benefits everyone,” Pabon concluded.

In the end, though, none of that helped the bill. Several Republicans on the committee said they just didn’t understand why the state had to take an active role in getting the information organized for the public when entrepreneurs could find similar databases from private organizations like the Better Business Bureau.

“I think you’re on to something,” Rep. Jim Kerr, R-Littleton, told Pabon after voting to kill the bill. “My own perspective is that I think the businesses can do this as well or better than having the government do this.”

Well, at least Pabon can still vote for a Democratic presidential candidate.