Thanks to State Senator Joann Ginal for Help with FAMLI Act

State Senate Bill 19-188, the Family and Medical Leave Insurance program (FAMLI), was defeated for this year. After running into a massive buzz saw of opposition from the business community in Colorado, sponsors did a ‘strike below’ to eliminate the original language of the bill and replaced it with a study on paid family leave.

The FAMLI act would have created a mandatory program to provide a partial wage replacement of up to $1,000 weekly to eligible individuals who take leave from work to care for a new child or a family member with a serious medical condition, because of a serious medical condition of their own or due to certain needs arising from a family member’s active duty service.

The program would have been funded through a payroll tax on all Colorado private, nonprofit and public businesses and organizations. Employees and employers would each pay a share for the cost of the premium, which would have been based on a percentage of the employee’s yearly wages.

Paid leave is already offered by many employers, so it is recognized as an important benefit. Unfortunately, as introduced, SB 188 was an extremely expensive one-size-fits-all mandate ripe for abuse. There was no opt-out for businesses already providing a more generous leave benefit. Nor did the proposed FAMLI program conform with federal FMLA eligibility, creating confusion for companies and increasing the administrative burden for small companies and large companies alike.

Under the proposed bill, employees would have been eligible for up to 16 weeks of leave after only 17 weeks of full-time employment.  This would be a significant burden on all employers, but particularly small companies, nonprofits, and those employing seasonal and part-time workers.

Then there was the matter to actuarial soundness. It became clear that nobody had solid numbers on projected usage, though it appeared proponents were low-balling the number. The higher the usage, the higher the cost, of course.

Through the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance (NCLA), the Chamber worked to get SB 188 defeated or at least amended to decrease the damage to employers.

In the end, Fort Collins Senator Joann Ginal (D) boldly joined three others, Senators Pete Lee (D-Colorado Springs), Rachel Zenzinger (D-Arvada) and Nancy Todd (D-Aurora), in voicing her significant concerns with the measure. Although sympathetic to the leave issue, Senator Ginal’s leadership was essential to the outcome of the bill. That’s where you came in: many of you responded to our call-to-action and contacted Senator Ginal to express your concerns about the bill.

When Senator Ginal, with the others, indicated opposition to the bill as proposed, promoters did not have the votes needed to get it out of the senate. Forced to resort to the ‘strike below’ as noted above, the bill could not pass without amendments that require an actuarial assessment and study first.

Our lobbyist, Sandra Solin of Capitol Solutions said, “…thank you to the Fort Collins Chamber for prompting key leader engagement and to all those who reached out to (Senator) Ginal!”

Our thanks to Senator Ginal for making time to listen to the concerns of area businesses and for understanding the damage this bill would have caused if passed as proposed.

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As a P.S. to the above, according to a story today in the Colorado Sun, the FAMLI act was by far the most lobbied bill in the first three months of the Legislative session. Other top issues were equal pay (SB85), State budget (SB207), Job applicant criminal history (HB1025), oil and gas regulations (SB 181), and local government minimum wage (HB1210).