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Biz Journal: Questions surround Tuesday’s crucial vote on Colorado paid-family-leave bill

By Ed Sealover for the Denver Business Journal

As supporters and detractors of a proposed statewide insurance program to give all private sector workers paid family and medical leave press their cases before a crucial committee vote today, both are arguing that legislators on the fence about the program need to look more closely at the numbers that will define the program — an argument fueled additionally by the release of a new report on the economics of the plan released Tuesday.

Opponents, led by business groups like the Colorado Chamber of Commerce, emphasize that no other state has required employers to pay half the costs of the program, as Senate Bill 188 contemplates, and that other states allow for easier opt-outs for small businesses and companies that offer private paid-leave programs. They continue to say that Colorado’s proposed benefits — up to 12-16 weeks of leave at rates as high as 90% of wage replacement — are far more generous than other states’ offers.

Sponsors recently offered more than a dozen amendments to address business concerns, but the action hasn’t softened opposition. A new provision to the bill that would allow companies to opt out of the state program if they offer their own paid-leave programs is viewed as too rigid because it essentially requires those companies to offer the exact same benefits as the state, noted Loren Furman, senior vice president of state and federal relations for the Colorado Chamber. And a provision allowing local governments to opt out of the requirement — a change to ensure SB 188 doesn’t violate the state rule against unfunded mandates on local governments — has led to calls of a double standard for public and private employers.