By Shaun Boyd
DENVER (CBS4) – A bill that would give almost every employee in Colorado paid family and sick leave has passed its first committee.
“If you take care of your employees, they’ll take care of you,” said Chris Garcia.
Garcia is one of dozens of people who rallied at the Capitol before the hearing. She says when her now 14-year-old son Jacob was born prematurely, her employer forced her to make a decision between her son and her paycheck.
“I couldn’t leave him in the hospital anymore and do the overnight shifts, so I let go of the position I had and I had to turn to government assistance,” Garcia said.
Under the bill by Rep. Faith Winter, D-Westminster, Garcia and every employee who works at least 13 hours a week could take up to 12 weeks off with partial pay to care for sick family members or newborns.
“This makes sense for our economy. It makes sense for our workers. It makes sense for our businesses. It’s time for us to catch up with rest of world,” Winter told supporters.
The bill creates a new government-run insurance program funded with premiums deducted from employees’ wages. They receive a percentage of the money back when they need to time off. It’s estimated it will cost the state $500 million a year to run the program.
Rep. Dan Nordberg, R-Colorado Springs, calls it government run amok.
“This bill represents a huge tax increase for every public and private sector employee in Colorado to fund a huge new entitlement program that’s going to require 200 new government employees,” Nordberg said.
The Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry (CACI), or state chamber of commerce, is also opposing it.
“There is no one-size-fits-all solution for every employer in state and that’s our biggest problem with pieces of legislation like this telling an employer how operate their business,” Loren Furman with CACI said.
She’s also worried about a provision in the bill that allows the director of the state-run program to raise premiums and charge an additional fee if the fund becomes insolvent.
Under federal law, employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave if they work for businesses with 50 or more employees. This bill would apply to any business regardless of size.
Similar bills have failed in the Republican-run Senate.