Paid family leave bill passes first hurdle at Colorado Legislature

A proposal to create a paid family leave program passed its first committee in the state Legislature on Thursday.

Under the bill, every worker in Colorado would have to contribute to the program and then could collect a portion of their wages if they had to take leave to care for a family member or for their own severe illness.

Lawyer Chris Ottele testified for several business groups opposing the program. They believe it would be a major burden for companies.

"This is a system that is ripe for abuse," Ottele said. "Even the best well-intentioned laws are misused and abused on a consistent basis."

But lawmakers also heard from people who fell on hard times after having to take unpaid time off. Barb Gertz nearly lost her home when a health condition forced her to miss three weeks of work. She said a leave insurance program would have made a big difference.

"It would give low-wage workers like myself a chance to heal without being faced with eviction notices and missing meals," Gertz said.

The family leave program passed out of committee on a party line vote. It is not expected to make it through the full Legislature.