House Speaker KC Becker and Rep. Yadira Caraveo

House Speaker KC Becker and Rep. Yadira Caraveo speak in favor of the bill to offer accrued paid sick leave after the federal benefit runs out at the end of the year during the legislative session on Friday, June 12, 2020.

A bill that would allow workers to accrue two days of sick leave got preliminary passage in the Colorado House Friday evening.

The legislation would allow workers to accumulate an hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, with up to a maximum of 48 hours. 

The paid sick leave bill must return to the Senate to be voted on again, after a series of amendments that were added on the floor Friday. It still faces a roll call vote in the House before it can move back to the Senate for final passage, on the way to the governor's desk.

One successful change was requested by the Colorado Competitive Council to change the standard of evidence for businesses to prove they're providing paid sick leave, from "clear and convincing" to "preponderance of evidence." An adopted second amendment, requested by the Colorado Chamber of Commerce, gives employers 14 days to remedy a problem before litigation. Another amendment fixed a drafting error in the bill.

Republicans ran amendments on carve-outs to slow down the bill, including farm workers and very small businesses. 

The federal relief act passed by Congress in March provided paid sick leave through the end of the year. The new Colorado bill would continue it.

Senate Bill 205 is sponsored by Democrats, Rep. Yadira Caraveo of Thornton and House Speaker KC Becker of Boulder. The bill was sponsored in the upper chamber by Democrats, as well, Sen. Jeff Bridges of Greenwood Village and Majority Leader Steve Fenberg of Boulder.

"Paid sick leave is a critical part of getting Coloradans safely back to work," Caraveo, a physician, said Friday. "By allowing workers to stay home when they're sick we can prevent the spread of illness to colleagues and customers."

She said those most likely to have little or no sick leave are those in the service industry, including essential workers providing food and other supplies.

"When people have paid sick leave, however, they are more likely to go to the doctor to seek acute medical and preventive care, while those who do not have access to leave are twice as likely to send their kids to school when they're sick."

Rep. Colin Larson, a Republican from Littleton, said he supports paid sick leave, and many small businesses have those policies, "but what we're asking is very onerous on small businesses that are already struggling."

Rep. Matt Gray, a Democrat from Westminster, argued passionately in favor of the leave.

"Other countries have not had to have the economic devastation we have, because we have a culture of come to work sick," he said.

Rep. Perry Buck, a Republican from Windsor, characterized it as government overreach.

"Businesses should have to option to choose and not the state legislature," she said. "So shame on us for thinking we know what's best, what works for a business."

The paid sick leave bill passed the Senate 33-0 on Tuesday. The bill was introduced on May 26.

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