by Chuck Brackney
This post inaugurates a LegiSource series focusing on the workings of state government. Our goal is to bring to legislators’ attention the many and varied functions of state government in Colorado. We begin with a look at the state Department of Regulatory Agencies.
The Department of Regulatory Agencies—known to many as “DORA”—covers a wide range of activities and responsibilities under one roof. It regulates, among other things, taxi drivers, bankers, chiropractors, real estate appraisers, and the rates Coloradans pay for natural gas and electricity. It also houses the Colorado Civil Rights Division. The statistics are impressive: DORA oversees 40 plus boards, commissions, and advisory committees, and it has regulatory authority over 47 professions, occupations, and businesses that total almost 350,000 types of licensees.
DORA was first officially created in the “Administrative Organization Act of 1968”. This legislation also created the Division of Registrations—now called the Division of Professions and Occupations—within DORA, moving many existing regulatory boards under this umbrella. State regulation of many professions and occupations preceded this move by many years. For example, both the Board of Medical Examiners and the Board of Dental Examiners were established in the nineteenth century, shortly after Colorado achieved statehood.
Professions and Occupations
Here is a partial list of the professional and occupational groups DORA supervises:
- The Colorado Board of Accountancy
- The Colorado Office of Acupuncture Licensure
- The Office of Athletic Trainer Registration
- The Office of Barber and Cosmetology Licensure
- The State Electrical Board
- The Office of Outfitters Registration
- The Colorado State Board of Professional Counselors Examiners
- The State Board of Veterinary Medicine
Other occupations are licensed by specific divisions devoted to those professions. Real estate brokers, appraisers and mortgage loan originators are regulated by the Division of Real Estate. The Division of Securities handles the licensing of stockbrokers, broker‑dealers and investment advisers. The Division of Insurance regulates insurance sales as well as insurance sales people. The Division of Financial Services supervises state-chartered credit unions and savings and loan associations, while the Division of Banking does the same for state-chartered banks.
Civil Rights Commission
The Colorado Civil Rights Commission exists within the Civil Rights Division in DORA. The Commission is a seven‑member bipartisan panel whose mission includes conducting hearings involving illegal discriminatory practices and advising the Governor and General Assembly regarding policies and legislation that address illegal discrimination. The Civil Rights Commission is charged with investigating claims of alleged discrimination.
Public Utilities Commission – (PUC)
Another significant area of responsibility for DORA involves the Public Utilities Commission. The three-member PUC and its staff provide regulatory oversight over a wide range of concerns, from electricity and natural gas to taxicabs and railroads. The PUC also employs a number of administrative law judges who conduct hearings and issue recommendations on regulatory matters.
The jurisdiction of the PUC extends to Colorado’s investor-owned utilities who supply electricity and natural gas to residential and business retail customers. But the PUC generally does not regulate municipal utilities or cooperative electric associations. The Commission also regulates steam power as well as utilities that provide water and gas pipelines.
Telecommunications is another important industry subject to PUC regulation. The Commission oversees the providers of phone service to urban and rural customers and is involved in the availability of internet services to many Coloradans. It also manages subsidy programs and monitors ways to make telecommunications services more competitive.
Motor carriers are also a public utility subject to PUC regulation. This includes taxicabs, limousines, and some buses. Railroads and railroad crossings are also subject to oversight by the Commission.
Finally, the PUC houses the Office of Consumer Counsel. The OCC is statutorily charged with representing residential, small business, and agricultural customers in electric, gas, and telephone proceedings before the Commission. The OCC appears before the PUC, as do utilities, PUC staff, and other parties. The PUC has the responsibility of making the final determination based on input from these entities.