Romer: Why business interests successfully fought family leave legislation
The state legislative session ended earlier this month and we shared many priorities with our elected officials including a goal to reduce health care costs and to fund critical priorities like education and transportation.
Despite these shared goals, we often differed with our legislative bodies in our approach regarding how to achieve them. Even though we clearly shared a desired outcome, we had to fight hard for our perspective and solutions to be heard among the noise and voices at the capital.
The Vail Valley Partnership often partners with groups, including the Denver Chamber of Commerce, Colorado Competitive Council and the Tourism Industry Association of Colorado. This allows us an expanded voice on key issues of regional or industry importance. These groups are aligned in a belief that all three sectors — private, public and nonprofit — must be successful for Colorado to thrive.
A key priority of the Vail Valley Partnership this legislative session has been opposing Senate Bill 188, also known as the Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FAMLI) bill. Our opposition stemmed from the hardships this bill would have placed on the business community.
A coalition of organizations have been involved in trying to improve this legislation since the sponsors began working on it last summer. From its failure to align with federal law, to its broad definitions and coverage, to the serious fiscal solvency risks posed by the program, the original FAMLI bill would have imposed major burdens on employers of all sizes. It also would have had unintended consequences, hurting the employees it was intending to help.
More than 75 public and private entities joined opposition to the bill, representing a wide range of industries, thousands of businesses, all 272 cities and towns, and over 1 million workers statewide. Over the last several months, lawmakers were flooded with calls and emails from members of this coalition. The grassroots support activated by the efforts of the business community was key to securing the changes that will help improve the bill and result in better legislation
The new version of the bill takes a more cautious and thoughtful approach to the issue of family leave in the state, starting with an actuarial study and requiring legislative action next year to move forward with any program. Key provisions are as follows:
- It creates a task force to be appointed by the governor and general assembly.
- The task force will study options for a third party to run a family leave program.
- It requires a study of the costs and financial impact of a family and medical leave program.
- It requires recommendations to be presented to members of the general assembly and the governor.
- The general assembly will have to introduce a new bill next session to implement the program based on the results of the study.
Other legislative wins
FAMLI wasn’t the only place we experienced success. We are thrilled to see a proposal for affordable health coverage option (HB19-1004) and its companion bill to address a high-cost health insurance pilot program (SB19-004) move forward thanks to the leadership of our elected officials. We also advocated for an electronic sales tax simplification system (SB19-006), state funding for all-day kindergarten (HB19-1262), and for options to increase workforce housing and transportation and education funding.
We remain committed to advocating at a regional and state level to ensure our members’ views are heard at the capitol for two reasons: it’s the only way good policy can be made, and our mountain region needs a voice at the capitol.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at www.vailvalleypartnership.com.