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Sen. Andy Kerr, geography teacher, studies middle ground on parental leave

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Andy Kerr didn’t sound like a guy who was about to get whipped.

The Senate Republican majority, year after year, tells Democrats that employers shouldn’t be mandated by law to give employees up to 18 hours a year to attend school functions. The employer isn’t required to pay for the leave.

A seventh-grade geography teacher by trade, Kerr is looking for path through the center to get the bill to the other side.

“We’re talking about something nobody disagrees with: that it’s important for parents and teachers to meet together for the success of the student,” he said.

The No. 1 reason parents gave him for not coming to meet with him? Work.

“A lot of parents might be working two or three jobs, paycheck to paycheck,” he said. “They feel like they can’t take time off or that it puts them in a bad position in their workplace, so they don’t even ask.”

The legislature passed parental leave in 2009, but it expired in 2015.

Kerr pointed out that the business community has been neutral on the bill, which applies to those who employ more than 50 people. The employee would have to give a week’s notice, except in an emergency. And they could not ask for more than six hours in the same month. The employee also can be limited to three hours and be asked for written verification.

Last year the same bill died on a 3-2 party-line vote in the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, known under the dome as the kill committee. Kerr was one of the two votes in favor of his bill last year.

House Bill 1001 — the first bill the House Democratic majority filed ceremoniously this session — is assigned to the same kill committee Wednesday afternoon. And Kerr is a gamer.

“What I’m trying to do is build on our agreement, where we overlap,” he said. “We’ll go from there.”

When the House debated the bill on Feb. 9, well, they didn’t. Rep. Janet Buckner, a former teacher and the wife of principal, the late state Rep. John Buckner, she asked only that the chamber vote aye. No Republicans challenged it. The bill passed in 63 seconds.

“This bill is a priority for most parents, teachers and students across Colorado,” she said at a Feb. 6 House Education Committee hearing.

 

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