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House Approves CACI- Opposed, Parental-Leave Bill on Second Reading
This morning, the House approved on a Second Reading, voice-vote a bill that would continue but expand a 2009 law that mandates that an employer, who employs 50 or more workers, allow an employee to take unpaid, time-off from work to attend certain activities at his or her child’s school.
The CACI Labor and Employment Council opposes the measure.
The 2009 bill contained a sunset provision, which is why the law came back before the legislature this session. Under the 2009 bill, the law is set to expire this September 1st.
HB-1221, however, lacks a sunset provision. An amendment on the House Floor by Representative Jim Wilson (R-Salida) to add a five-year sunset provision died on a voice vote.
A number of Republican Representatives spoke in opposition to the bill:
- Justin Everett (Littleton), who said the bill should have been sent from the House Education Committee, where it was first heard, to the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee because it is a concern of the business community.
- Paul Lundeen (Monument), who said the proponents have “provided no real proof” that the 2009 law is working but they still want to continue the 2009 and even expand it.
- Dan Thurlow (Grand Junction), who said that determining parental leave is best left to the voluntary cooperation of the employer and the worker.
- Paul Brown (Ignacio), who said that the bill represents “overreach by the government;”
- Clarice Navarro (Pueblo), who said schools and employers provide the flexibility that parents need to attend their children’s school activities and that “ . . . we don’t need the government to tell us when and where it’s allowed.”
- Wilson, who said that CACI and the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) were “not included” in the “conversation” about the bill by its sponsors this year.
- Polly Lawrence (Littleton), who said that businesses do not need the “legislature mandating corporate policy” and “inserting itself into personnel policies.”
The activities authorized by the 2009 bill included parent-teacher conferences or meetings related to drop-out prevention, special education, attendance, truancy, discipline or in response to an intervention.
HB-1221 expands the 2009 law by allowing working parents to attend meetings with a school counselor in which the child is present. The bill also expands coverage from K-12 children to include pre-school children.
The introduced version of the bill, however, would have greatly expanded even more the school activities for which a parent could take time off from work to attend: “An academic achievement ceremony, education night, or other activity in which the child is directly participating and that contributes to the child’s academic progress.”
CACI and its business allies strongly objected to this wording because it would have opened the barn door wide to a worker taking parental leave to attend almost any school activity by asserting that it “contributes to the child’s academic progress.”
Representative Alec Garnett (D-Denver) offered an amendment that eliminated the wording “education night, or other activity in which the child is directly participating and that contributes to the child’s academic progress.”
The Committee approved the amendment on a bipartisan 9-2 vote. Representative Fields and Representative Justin Everett (R-Colorado Springs), however, voted against the amendment.
Thus, HB-1221 now contains another new activity: “An academic achievement ceremony.”
The bill’s proponents have been unable to provide any data to indicate that workers are taking advantage of the 2009 law or that employers have been refusing to provide requested leave. In short, the bill’s advocates cannot say whether the 2009 law has achieved its goal.
The 2009 law, HB-1057, resulted from a concerted effort by CACI and the NFIB, who worked with the bill’s sponsors to reach a consensus.
The bill’s fiscal note summarizes the bill:
Summary of Legislation
House Bill 09-1057 created the Parental Involvement in K-12 Education Act (Act) which allows a non-supervisory employee who works for an employer with at least 50 employees to take unpaid leave for the purpose of attending parent-teacher conferences or other specific academic activities. This bill expands the definition of academic activities and makes the school activities of preschoolers eligible for parent leave. HB09-1057 included a September 1, 2015, repeal date. This bill eliminates the repeal date.
The bill requires that all school districts and institute charter schools make parents and the community at large aware of the availability of parent leave through website postings, and other communication channels. To the extent possible with existing resources and efforts, the Colorado Advisory Council for Parent Involvement in Education is also directed to provide information about leave that may be granted to employees to attend a child’s academic activities.
Current law requires that an employer provide up to 6 hours in any one month and up to 18 hours in an academic year for a parent to attend school activities. An employer that provides vacation leave, sick leave, or personal leave sufficient to meet these requirements is not required to provide additional leave under the Act.
Loren Furman, CACI Senior Vice President, State and Federal Relations, testified against the bill before the House Education Committee on behalf of the CACI Labor and Employment Council and the NFIB.
Loren pointed out that surveys of businesses by CACI and by the Mountain States Employers Council (MSEC) revealed that 90 percent of businesses provide parental leave to their workers through use of vacation time, flex-time, personal time off (PTO) or other mechanisms. She said that CACI and the NFB in 2009 had done a “good job” with the 2009 bill’s sponsors in “reaching a good solution.”
In response to a question from Representative Jim Wilson (R-Salida) as to whether or not she had met with the sponsors of HB-1221, Loren replied that she had and that she had expressed “strong concerns” about the expansion of reasons for granting parental leave and the continuance of the law as contained in HB-1221 to the sponsors
Here are the highlights of the CACI-NFIB fact sheet distributed to the Committee members, whose points Loren discussed with the Committee
- Expanding current law to state “other activities” creates a very broad interpretation of the law and will allow for potential abuse by employees seeking to leave work;
- The bill goes far beyond the consensus reached between business groups and the proponents in 2009;
- No empirical data has been provided showing that workers have been using the current law, nor that employers are refusing workers the option of leaving work to tend to their child’s needs;
- A broadly, undefined expansion of the current law affects productivity of a business and creates an undue burden on other workers;
- This legislation creates two classes of employees: those with children, and those without. Employers would be viewed as offering added benefits to workers simply for having children.
An attempt by Representative Wilson to add a five-year sunset provision to the bill failed on a party-line, 6-5 vote. Next, an effort by the five minority Republicans on the Committee to send the bill to the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee also failed on a party-line, 6-5.
Finally, the Committee, by the same party-line margin, approved HB-1221.
For news coverage of the Committee hearing, read:
“Parent time-off bill starts down rocky and familiar road in Colorado Legislature,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, March 2nd.
“Bill would expand work leave for school activities,” Brandon Rittiman, KUSA, March 2nd.
For more information on HB-1221, contact Loren Furman, CACI Senior Vice President, State and Federal Governmental Relations, at 303.866.9642.
“FAMLI” Bill Finally Introduced: Déjà Vu All Over Again
Last year, a Democratic bill to create a worker-funded, State-administered insurance program to provide family-and-medical leave died at the end of the session in the Democratic-controlled Senate. The “short title,” of the measure was “family and medical leave insurance,” hence the bill was known as the FAMLI bill.
The insurance program would have been to be administered by the State. The bill would have created a new division within the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE). The bill called for a $15.9 million appropriation by the legislature to launch the program.
CACI strongly opposed the 2014 bill for several reasons beyond its objection to the creation of a massive new program within Colorado State Government:
First, although the 2014 bill would not have required that employers contribute to the fund, it would have placed an unfunded mandate on them to administer to program for their workers.
Second, the bill, if enacted into law, could eventually lead to political pressure in the legislature to require that employers contribute to the fund.
Third, the bill contained a provision that workers who contribute to the fund could also face a “solvency surcharge” if the fund was in danger of becoming insolvent. Again, employers could face political pressure in the legislature to require them to contribute to the fund to prevent its insolvency.
Last year’s fiscal note for SB-196 estimated that creating the program within a new CDLE division would require eventually 238 employees.
A long-awaited proposal similar to SB-196 was finally introduced Wednesday.
HB-1258 is co-sponsored by Democratic Representatives Joe Salazar (Thornton) and Faith Winter (Westminster). The bill is entitled “Concerning the Creation of a Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program.”
Every worker in Colorado would be required to pay a premium into the fund, even those employed by State Government and local governments and special districts.
The 20-page bill has been assigned to the House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee, which has scheduled the bill for its first hearing when the Committee convenes at 1:30 p.m., Thursday, March 18th, in Room 107 at the State Capitol.
Here’s one unfunded mandate on employers:
“Each employer shall collect the premium amount from each employee as a payroll deduction from the employee’s wages each payroll period and shall remit the premium amount to the division, which shall transmit the premiums to the state treasurer for deposit in the fund.”
The “division” would be the newly created “Division of Family and Medical Leave Insurance” to be placed in the CDLE. The FAMLI Division would be designated an “enterprise” which would have the authority to issue revenue bonds to fund the Division, with repayment of the bonds and interest to come from the FAMLI program fund.
The bill does not ask the legislature to appropriate any money to get it off the ground. Instead, it relies on “gifts, grants and donations” to fund the start-up work of the FAMLI Program, including an “actuarial evaluation” to determine premiums for workers and the fund’s balance to “assure solvency,” plus the balance that would trigger a “solvency surcharge” on workers to restore the fund’s solvency.
Employers also would be required to communicate back and forth with the Division about the employment status and records of workers and their claims for FAMLI benefits.
The Federal Family and Medical Leave Act applies to employers with 50 or more workers. HB-1258 covers all employers–even those with 49 or fewer employees.
If last year’s bill was bad from CACI’s perspective, the 2015 version is even worse because it contains two new, very objectionable provisions:
(1) A worker can bring a private “right of action” against an employer: “An aggrieved employee may bring an action in state court against the employer to recover damages or equitable relief.”
(2) A worker who takes FAMLI leave and receives benefits “is entitled to be restored to an equivalent positon of employment with the employer from which leave was taken . . .”
The bill also states: “An employer shall not discharge, demote or otherwise discriminate or take and adverse employment action against an individual . . .” because he or she, among other things, filed for or took FAMLI benefits. Violation of this “employment protection” provision carries a $3,000 fine that the Division’s Director could assess against the employer.
For more on this bill, read:
“Bill to create Colorado employee medical-leave program reintroduced,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, March 5th.
For information on HB-1258, contact Loren Furman, Senior Vice President, State and Federal Governmental Relations, at 303.866.9642.
Bipartisan Coalition Advances Workforce Development Bills
Yesterday, a bipartisan group of state legislators including House Majority Leader Crisanta Duran (D-Denver) and Senate President Bill Cadman (R-Colorado Springs) hosted a press conference to introduce a package of bills designed to strengthen Colorado’s workforce for a variety of industries including manufacturing.
Some of the bills stand a better chance of becoming law than others but taken together, the bills demonstrate that the state legislature clearly understands the need to better train Colorado’s workforce and keep the state’s business community competitive. Below is a selection of the workforce development bills highlighted at the press conference.
HB 15-1170 Increasing Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness (CACI supports
This bill would create a statewide coordinator to work with schools and businesses to increase students’ readiness to continue their education or enter the workforce. It assigns equal value to four-year degree programs, community college programs, and career and technical education programs.
This bill would offer an income tax credit for employers who pay a portion of their employees’ student loans if the employee studied a STEM field, has worked at the company for more than one year, and earns less an annual salary below $60,000. Some see this bill as an expansion of tuition reimbursement programs often offered by employers.
This bill would incentivize employers to offer internships by reimbursing a portion of the cost to employers of hiring an intern.
SB 15-082 County Workforce Development Prop Tax Incentives (sent to the Governor)
This bill will allow boards of county commissioners to develop their own workforce development programs and offer financial assistance to high school graduates pursuing postsecondary education or training. The county commissioners are further able to offer property tax incentives to businesses which help fund these programs.
There are several other bills which will be introduced in the coming days including a bill to allow the development of P-TECH schools in Colorado. These schools provide education for grades 9-14. Graduates leave with both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree. The schools are a collaboration between educators and the business community with companies providing mentoring, internships, and job interviews.
For news media coverage of the workforce-development package of bills, read:
“Here are the bills lawmakers say will bolster Colorado’s middle class,” by Joey Bunch, The Denver Post, March 5th.
“Major workforce-development package introduced in Colorado Legislature,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, March 5th.
For information on the workforce-development bills and the CACI Colorado Manufacturing Initiative, contact Patrick Pratt, Program Manager, at 303.656.6915.
News Media Coverage
Below is recent news-media coverage of state and federal political, policy and governmental issues of interest to CACI:
“Banks bury propose limit on credit-card transaction fees in Colorado,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, March 4th.
“Bill to expand telehealth in Colorado is on way to Hickenlooper,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, March 4th.
“Supreme Court clears the way for challenge to Colorado ‘Amazon tax,’” by Greg Avery, The Denver Business Journal, March 3rd.
“Rollback of renewable-energy standards dies in Colorado Legislature,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, March 2nd.
“Reactions mixed to task force recs,” by Ernest Luning, The Colorado Statesman, February 27th.
“Colorado Legislature considers expanding telehealth to cities,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, January 30th.
“Pioneering bill in Colorado would limit credit-card fees to retailers,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, January 29th.