There are two unrelated proposed ballot measures that Coloradans may or may not get to vote on this fall, depending on what the Colorado Legislature does with the ideas behind them.
One proposal that’s already been approved for the fall ballot calls on the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission to develop a plan to restore gray wolves to the state.
The other, which has not yet been approved for the ballot, would create a state-run paid family and medical leave program.
While a bill calling on reintroducing wolves in Colorado was introduced on Friday, a measure addressing family leave hasn’t yet been introduced into the Legislature, though one is expected.
The wolf bill, introduced by Sen. Kerry Donovan, a Vail Democrat whose district includes Delta County, is similar to Initiative 107, which was certified for the November ballot earlier this month. One large difference, however, is that it blocks reintroduction until a revenue source can be found to compensate farms and ranchers for lost livestock.
Donovan helps operate her family’s cattle ranch near Wolcott, which is about 15 miles east of Eagle.
Proponents of reintroduction say Donovan’s measure, SB121, could be molded to be an acceptable alternative, but currently isn’t something they can support.
“We welcome Senator Donovan’s effort to find a win-win solution that both achieves the goals of wolf reintroduction, and protects the interests of the ranching and farming community while avoiding a long, costly campaign over the ballot initiative,” said Rob Edward, president of the Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund. “However, we cannot support the draft bill as introduced.”
The ballot measure is expected to cost about $470,000 a year, primarily to pay for the three new workers who would be needed to run the reintroduction program. It calls for introducing up to 10 wolves into the state each year for an undetermined number of years.
The proposal does call for “fair” compensation to farmers and ranchers for livestock killed by wolves, but doesn’t say what that would be.
Meanwhile, proponents of a paid family and medical leave program filed two proposed measures last week that have yet to go through the state’s titling process. Those two proposals are nearly identical, but have some subtle differences, such as allowing up to 16 weeks of paid time off compared to 12.
The measures call on employers, and not employees, to fully fund the program based on a percentage of up to 1.04% of the wages for each person they employ. One of the proposals would exempt businesses with fewer than 10 employees, the other would apply to all.
“These initiatives will give 2.8 million Colorado workers the ability to take care of themselves or a family member when they most need to,” said Wendy Howell, one of the people who proposed the initiatives. “Right now, too many Coloradans are living paycheck to paycheck and are one mishap away from disaster. Bad luck or a medical diagnosis shouldn’t leave anyone in financial ruin.”
Business groups, however, immediately came out against the two proposals, saying the idea is far too onerous on small businesses.
“Five legislative sessions and an interim task force have demonstrated that this issue is complex and any new policy on family and medical leave should strike a balance between businesses and employees,” said Loren Furman, senior vice president for the Colorado Chamber of Commerce. “These ballot initiatives, however, reflect the same stale approach that has failed with the Legislature time and time again.” Furman added.
One group supporting the idea, the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Coalition, has been working to get a measure approved by the Legislature, saying it supports the proposals, but still hopes for a legislative solution.
A campaign committee called Colorado Families First has already been created and is expecting an initial $500,000 contribution from supporters.