Sens. Jessie Danielson and Brittany Pettersen

Sen. Jessie Danielson, left, holds her daughter,  Isabelle Kabza, during an April 9 rally for the paid family leave bill. At her right is Sen. Brittany Pettersen, and at her left is Sen. Faith Winter, who is one of the bill's sponsors. (Joey Bunch/Colorado Politics)

Faced with business opposition, Democrats behind a paid family leave proposal for Colorado have pulled the program to opt for a study.

Senate Bill 188 was scheduled for debate Wednesday afternoon. Instead, the measure's Senate sponsors -- Democratic Sens. Faith Winter of Westminster and Angela Williams of Denver -- issued a statement touting the changes to the bill as an implementation plan.

They have scheduled a meeting with the press to discuss the bill Thursday morning.

The task force will include representatives of the now-skeptical business community. They will issue a report by the end of the year on whether the program would be fiscally fit enough to pay wages to employees on leave for medical reasons or to care for a loved one. 

That report will help shape legislation the General Assembly could consider next year.

“We have worked tirelessly to make sure this is the best possible policy for Colorado, and I am proud to not only have a great policy but a clear path to the implementation of it,” Winter said in the statement.

“I know we are on the right path to finally securing a strong, robust paid family leave program for employers and employees that will not only allow Coloradans to balance work with their family responsibilities but create a national blueprint for others to follow," she said.

Added Williams: “By focusing on the implementation of these policies and making this program the best it can be, we can ensure that both businesses and workers in Colorado can get the paid time off they need to care for themselves and their families.”

The business community had concerns with the bill, leading to a dozen amendments during an April 9 committee hearing.

The session ends on May 3, but the bill had the advantage of Democratic control of both chambers.

As introduced, Senate Bill 188 would have allowed workers to pay into an insurance program that would have allowed them up to 12 weeks of wages when they are on leave for medical reasons for themselves or family members.

Gov. Jared Polis told reporters Monday that the insurance program would have to "actuarially sound" and "a win for the business community as well as families."

"We've certainly had concerns with some of the language in the bill," he said. "We're reviewing the language and obviously we've been in discussion with its sponsors about how that can be improved, from our perspective."

For one, the cost for premiums has shifted to 50-50 between the employer and employee from its original 60 percent request to employers.

The federal Family Medical Leave Act offers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave at workplaces of 50 or more. The Colorado bill would have added wages, based on a percentage of what an employee earns.

The pro-business REMI Partnership think tank released a paper called "An Analysis of the Cost and Risk of Financial Insolvency for a Colorado Paid Leave Program” on Wednesday.

“The study findings were clear: The program as originally written, is financially unstable," Chris Brown,  the director of policy and research for the Common Sense Policy Roundtable, said in a statement. "To successfully create a new government program, legislators need a clear understanding of how much the program will cost and how it will be funded over time. 

“If assumptions are unrealistic and unaffordable, there is a danger that policy makers will set the program up to fail.”

The report is available by clicking here.

The REMI Partnership is a collaboration of the Common Sense Policy Roundtable, Colorado Concern, the Colorado Association of Realtors, the Colorado Bankers Association and the Denver South Economic Development Partnership.

Kathy A. White, the deputy director of the left-leaning Colorado Fiscal Institute, which supports paid family leave, picked apart the REMI report.

She cited what she was as misinterpretations to forecast the number of workers using the leave program, over-estimates leave time and other analytical shortcomings.

“Colorado doesn't need more studies," Judith Márquez, the co-director of 9to5 Colorado, a working women's advocacy group, who chairs the state FAMLI Coalition, said in a statement.

"Our legislature needs to make a simple moral decision on whether we support workers who are caring for themselves and loved ones."

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