House kills time off for parents
DENVER – State lawmakers effectively killed a Democratic bill Monday that would have required businesses to give parents time off to attend parent-teacher conferences – a measure Republicans had decried as “antibusiness.”Democrats control both the House of Representatives and the Senate this year but Rep. Terrance Carroll, D-Denver, said it became clear that there wasn’t enough support for the watered-down measure (Senate Bill 21) in the House. He asked that action on the bill be postponed until May 12, the day after the session ends and members agreed. That allows lawmakers to avoid a final vote on the controversial bill.The original bill would have required businesses with 10 or more employees to give workers up to 40 hours of unpaid leave each year to attend teacher meetings along with sporting events, plays and field trips. The House had lowered that to 15 hours of leave and required that the time only be used for parent-teacher conferences or school emergencies.The original measure passed the Senate on a party-line vote. Senate sponsor Sen. Peter Groff, D-Denver, said the Democratic majority ignored working people in order to prove that they weren’t against businesses.”We said our majority would make a difference in the homes of working families and today we turned our back on that,” he said.Groff introduced the bill following a fatal stabbing at Denver’s Montbello High School. He said many parents later told the school’s principal they wanted to become more involved in the school but couldn’t leave work for activities.GOP Gov. Bill Owens didn’t like the bill and said he expects Democrats to try again next year.”I was not comfortable mandating that sort of behavior and I hope a better way can be found to get to the outcome. I hope they can come back with something that isn’t quite as onerous,” Owens said.Carroll said the bill was about supporting families and didn’t deserve the antibusiness label.”This bill is about one thing and one thing only – ensuring that our families have an opportunity to work together, ensuring that our parents have an opportunity to encourage their kids and if that’s antibusiness, call me antibusiness,” he said.House Minority Leader Rep. Joe Stengel, R-Littleton, said employees should work with their bosses to arrange for time off rather than have government issue a mandate.”It’s bad for business, bad for the economy and certainly bad for Colorado,” he said.Carroll countered that his mother, who worked as a house cleaner when he was growing up in Washington, D.C., was not allowed to take time off to attend his track meets or other activities. He acknowledged that the bill wouldn’t have helped her however; domestic workers along with farm workers, firefighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians, health care workers and managers were exempted.
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