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Battle with business heats up over Colorado Democrats’ family-leave proposal

Loren Furman, Senior Vice President of State & Federal Relations, and Brooke Colaizzi, Colorado Chamber member, discuss the family leave proposal with the Colorado Sun

By Jennifer Brown for the Colorado Sun

Democrats who want paid maternity and medical leave for all Colorado workers have met behind the scenes for months with the state’s top business leaders in an attempt to temper opposition.

It doesn’t appear to have worked.

The legislation that would require all workers and employers to contribute to a family-leave fund cleared its first hearing Wednesday in the Senate by a 3-2, party-line vote. And while some small business owners planned to rally for support with the governor and Illegal Pete’s restaurant chain founder Pete Turner in the Capitol foyer, Colorado’s top business associations are fiercely opposed. (The rally was canceled Wednesday morning because of bad weather.)

Both the Colorado Chamber of Commerce, representing hundreds of businesses and chambers across the state, and the National Federation of Independent Businesses chapter in Colorado, with 7,000 members, are against the proposal.

“Now that it’s paid, people are not going to hesitate on taking that much leave,” said Loren Furman, the Colorado Chamber’s lobbyist. “There are going to be people who are never going to use this much leave. Do they want to subsidize everybody else?”

It’s possible that Colorado workers could take three months off under the state program, then receive another 12 weeks off under the federal law, said employment attorney Brooke Colaizzi, who studied the proposal for the Colorado Chamber.

“The biggest problem with the lack of alignment is a double leave requirement,” she said, suggesting that an employee could take leave under the state program under a domestic violence provision and then take another leave under the federal law for an illness or a new baby.

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