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House Ds launch another leave bill; Senate Rs ready another grave for it

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If you thought legislative Republicans didn’t like mandating unpaid leave for private-sector workers — they shot down that plan last month — just imagine what they think of a proposal for paid leave that requires workers statewide to cover the tab.

Actually, you don’t have to imagine; the House minority GOP issued a press release Tuesday rebuking the Democratic majority after it approved a paid-leave proposal in the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee on a party-line vote. Declaring, “Democrats skirt TABOR for ‘new tax increase’ and create new entitlement program,” the press statement quotes designated caucus point man Dan Nordberg, of Colorado Colorado Springs:

“Forcing all working Coloradans to pay a fee to support a new entitlement program is a new tax plain and simple…But what’s even more concerning than circumventing (the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights), is this bill gives one person the authority to increase fees as needed — and with what we’ve seen from other government programs like Medicaid, there’s no telling how much more taxpayer money this new program will need to stay solvent.”

The Democrats’ take on the development was, of course, strikingly different. Here’s their official press statement quoting Westminster Democratic Rep. Faith Winter on her Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act:

“For the cost of a cup of coffee a week, Coloradans would have access to paid leave when they need it…With the FAMLI Act, hard-working Coloradans wouldn’t have to worry about losing their job or wages when a major life event happens — whether that event is joyous, like the birth of a child; whether it is painful, such as caring for a dying parent; or whether it is courageous, such as fighting cancer.”

“This program reflects the needs of our small businesses and entrepreneurs — it’s innovative, it’s smart, and it helps us maintain our competitive edge.”

House Bill 1307 would give workers statewide up to 12 weeks of paid leave for events including a serious health condition; caring for a newborn, an adopted child, or a child placed through foster care for the first year; and caring for a family member with a serious health condition.

Each worker would pay a premium in the form of a payroll deduction that would not exceed 0.99 percent of taxable wages. The premium would go into an insurance pool to float the program. A worker who takes leave under the program would receive a percentage of his/her wages, not to exceed $1,000 a week.

As noted in the GOP’s message above, it’s particularly wary of the bill’s provision empowering the state labor department to unilaterally determine the specific premium workers will be assessed as well as to “impose a solvency surcharge by rule if determined necessary to ensure the soundness of the fund,” as described in the bill’s official summary.

So, now, for the buzz kill. Given minority Republicans’ sentiments in the House, what are the odds the bill will make it through the Senate — or any further than that chamber’s State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee — where the GOP runs the show? That’s where unpaid leave met its end earlier in the 2017 session, and it seems a safe bet this latest effort goes toes up alongside it.





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