From left: State Rep. Matt Gray, D-Broomfield, Sen. Faith Winter, D-Westminster, Rep. Yadira Caraveo, D-Thornton, and Sen. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, at a signature gathering event for Initiative 283 on July 8, 2020, in Westminster. (Courtesy of Colorado Families First)
Proponents of a ballot initiative establishing a new paid family and medical leave program in Colorado submitted enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot, the secretary of state’s office announced Aug. 25.
Initiative 283 would provide 12 weeks of paid family or medical leave. Businesses with 10 or more employees would pay a premium equal to about 0.9% of an employee’s wages into a state-run insurance program, up to half of which could be taken out of the employee’s paycheck.
Businesses employing fewer than 10 people would only have to send half of the regular premium amount to the state insurance program, the full amount of which could be taken out of the employee’s paycheck.
Efforts to create such a program through legislation have repeatedly failed in Colorado, in part due to fears that small businesses could get saddled with high costs. Republican leaders and business organizations have opposed requiring paid leave, and even after gaining control in both the state House and Senate in 2019 Democrats weren’t able to pass a widespread paid-leave program.
However, a 2019 bill created a task force to study a potential family leave proposal, and some recommendations from that task force were incorporated into the ballot initiative.
Supporters now argue the measure could benefit small employers by helping them cut down on the costs of implementing such a policy themselves.
“This initiative will level the playing field and ensure small businesses have access to paid family and medical leave through an affordable program, since a stable, statewide risk pool keeps costs down,” said Jared Make, vice president of A Better Balance, a national organization that advocates paid leave policies. Make spoke during a virtual news conference Aug. 25 promoted by Colorado Families First, the group behind the ballot initiative.
“It doesn’t require that the employer reinstate the worker to their position after leave, unless the worker has been employed for at least 180 days with that employer,” Make said, addressing another frequent concern that new employees could take unfair advantage of leave policies.
Also on Aug. 25, Colorado Families First announced the results of an analysis conducted by the Colorado Fiscal Institute. The analysis showed that minimum wage earners are the least likely to have paid family leave available to them from their employer — and because of the wage gap for people of color and women, those populations are less likely to be able to take paid time off from work to care for a new child or sick family member.
Other initiatives approved for the 2020 ballot include: a referendum on the National Popular Vote, an initiative to change the state’s constitution to explicitly say that voters must be U.S. citizens, an initiative to restore the gray wolf population, a ban on most abortions after 22 weeks, an across-the-board income tax reduction, and an initiative requiring voter approval for new fee-based enterprises, according to the Colorado secretary of state’s office.
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