Family leave bill advances but in trouble at Legislature

Photo: Shelby Ramirez Martinez
Shelby Ramirez Martinez flips through a folder of bills in her Denver apartment. As a low-wage worker with no paid family leave, Ramirez Martinez says caring for loved ones over the years sent her finances into a tailspin.

Democrats in the Colorado House have scaled back a proposal on paid family leave, but the measure still has strong opposition.

As it was introduced, the family leave bill would have committed Colorado to setting up a program funded by and available to every worker in the state. By the time the bill made it to the House floor earlier this week, the set-up process had changed considerably. It first requires the state to find outside money, from the federal government or other sources, to research the necessary premium rates to keep the program solvent. Once that's completed, Colorado would set up the leave insurance program no sooner than 2018.

House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso, a Republican, is adamantly opposed to the idea.

"I’m not willing to vote to take money out of every employees check in Colorado, whether they want it or not," Grosso said.

Rep. Faith Winter, D-Westminster, counters that most people now have to take take leave to care for new babies and sick relatives.

“It just ensures that when they do take time off, they don’t go into complete financial disaster," Winter said.

The bill faces a final vote in the state House, but if it survives, it's unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled Senate.

Correction: An earlier version of the story said the bill had been amended to only study the feasibility of a paid leave program. The current version of the bill requires the state to first study how best to design the program's finances, but does authorize the program to move forward once the study is completed.