In an exclusive interview this afternoon with statehouse reporter Ed Sealover of The Denver Business Journal, the two senators who are the prime co-sponsors of SB-188, the FAMLI bill, announced that they have agree to numerous amendments to the bill, which is due to be brought up again before the Senate Finance Committee next week.
As introduced, the bill would have imposed an “insurance premium” on every worker and every company and government entity in Colorado to fund a state-run, family-and-medical leave insurance program. There are currently lots of options for businesses when it comes to health insurance – from Sana Benefits to government schemes to none at all – but this bill would have affected so many people.
Senator Angela Williams (D-Denver) and Senator Faith Winter (D-Thornton) met with Sealover, who wrote:
The senators said they hope that the changes, which they plan to detail to business groups over the weekend and on Monday, will be enough to get business groups to drop their opposition to the bill – a move that likely would quell reported concerns even among some Senate Democrats that had put the fate of the bill as written into question.
The Colorado Chamber has not yet seen the amendments but maintains its position of opposition to the bill as introduced in the meantime.
The bill is now scheduled to be heard when the Committee convenes at 2 p.m. on Tuesday in SCR 357 at the State Capitol.
According to Sealover, the amendments will include the following:
- Workers would pay more in a percentage amount in the FAMLI program than would employers;
- Companies that already have a paid family-and-medical leave program could apply to the FAMLI program to opt out;
- An employer would not have to hold a position open for a seasonal worker (agriculture, the ski industry, etc.) whose leave has been completed.
“Skeptics of the bill had testified that not only would most employers now offering a more generous plan be very likely to drop that plan rather than have to pay into a state-run system that they would not use but that elimination of such private plans would cost the state nearly $9 million a year in tax revenues from the policies,” Sealover wrote.
The two senators told Sealover that they had held numerous meetings with the business community and had heard concerns about cost, abuse of the system and leaving positions open.
Other coming amendments would require the labor department to complete an actuarial analysis of the program before it launches, to conduct a study on whether it would be better for the state or third-party organization like Pinnacol Assurance to administer the multi-billion-dollar program, and to bar employees from taking paid leave while they also are receiving workers’ compensation benefits. Because the program envisions that employees could collect between 50 percent and 90 percent of their wages while on leave – capped at $1,000 per week – the possibility had existed that they could add that to workers’ comp earnings and actually get more than 100 percent of their pay level while out, Winter noted.
Sealover wrote that the Colorado Chamber’s Loren Furman told him that a few other states either had to borrow funds or increase premium taxes to fund paid family-and-medical leave programs when costs exceeded original projections.
The Committee first heard testimony on SB-188 on March 19th but concerns among some Committee Democrats about the potential impact on businesses resulted in the bill being laid over.
The bill will still contain such provisions as:
- Requiring a worker to first file a complaint with the FAMLI Division of the CDLE and go through an administrative review process before being able to file a lawsuit against the employer.
- All employers would be required to participate in the program unless they were granted approval by the FAMLI Division to opt out.
The program would be administered by a new FAMLI Division created within the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. It would be a state enterprise.
Previous versions of this bill have been attempted in the past and have died on a bipartisan vote, in part due to the steep price tag.
For More Information
For information on the bill, Chamber members with questions should contact Loren Furman, Chamber Senior Vice President, State and Local Relations, at 303.866.9642.
For news-media coverage of the bill, read:
“Major changes coming to Colorado paid-family-leave proposal in response to business outcry,” by Ed Sealover, The Denver Business Journal, March 29th.
“Paid Family Leave will Cost Every Employer and Employee,” Colorado Chamber Capitol Report, March 15th.
“Paid family medical leave gets initial approval — with breaks for smallest businesses,” by Nic Garcia, The Denver Post, March 13th.