We’re surprised at how little coverage there’s been of a bill that could become a major flashpoint, House Bill 16-1002–the bill reauthorizing the state’s parental leave law for academic responsibilities that was on the books for years before it sunset last year. We took note yesterday of the crowd of “family values” male Republican legislators who lined up to testify against the bill in the House, and this is the same bill Rep. Kevin Priola impaled himself on by voting no in committee after being excused to take his child to a doctor’s appointment.
But as exciting as the debate over this bill has been, there has been little discussion in the mainstream press. In addition to the Chalkbeat Colorado story we linked to yesterday, the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby wrote this week:
Democrats, who support HB1002 and enacted the law in 2009 at a time when they held full control of the Legislature, said it’s an important law to keep because parents need to be involved in their children’s education.
Republicans, who killed a similar bill last year to continue the law, said it’s not needed, saying it also places an unfair burden on businesses.
Rep. Alec Garnett, D-Denver, said the state’s economy has done well since 2009, unemployment is low, Colorado has consistently been ranked high as a favorable place to do business, and leads the nation in job growth and business development.
“All these statistics and all these rankings have happened when the bill that we’re discussing was on the books,” he said. “So how can we argue that it’s bad for business?” [Pols emphasis]
We see this bill as a major opportunity for Democrats to differentiate themselves from Republicans in advance of this year’s elections. The key point is that parental leave for school activities was the law of the land for five years, and it didn’t hurt anyone. Parents in Colorado who had access to parental leave between 2009 and September of 2015 have now had it taken away.
Last year, the refusal by Senate Republicans to fund the long-acting contraception program credited with a dramatic drop in teen pregnancy in Colorado made national headlines repeatedly. Clear evidence of cost savings from a relatively small investment that Republicans refused to fund out of politically unsightly ideological prejudice has done damage that may not be fully felt until this November.
If it gets on the media’s radar, parental leave could turn into a similarly harmful episode for statehouse Republicans. With no evidence of any harm to employers from Colorado’s parental leave law, and the obvious benefit to families with school-age children being taken away by the GOP’s refusal to reauthorize the law, every vote against House Bill 1002 is a big liability in an election year. The mailers and TV spots will not be kind.
And so far, that’s every Republican House member save one.