Buckner’s parental involvement bill perishes on party lines

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DENVER | For the second consecutive year, a bill intended to help working parents attend parent-teacher conferences died on a party line vote in the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

House Bill 1002, which was sponsored by Reps. Rhonda Fields and Janet Buckner, both Aurora Democrats, would have required employers with more than 50 employees to annually grant up to 18 hours of unpaid time off to workers seeking to attend parent teacher conferences and some other limited meetings related to students’ behavior at school.

Co-sponsored by Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, the measure was killed Wednesday, March 9, on a party line 3-2 vote.

“I’m very disappointed,” Kerr said in a statement. “Parental involvement is essential to the wellbeing of Colorado kids and families, and is one step that can lead to higher grades, better social skills, and stronger families … Today, we had the opportunity to further the conversation on a policy that would help close the achievement gap, and give every parent in Colorado the opportunity to be more involved with their children’s education, no matter what their job is. I am just disappointed we saw a repeat of last year.”

Committee chairman Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, vice chair Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, and Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, opposed the measure. Casting “yes” votes were Sens. Matt Jones, D-Louisville, and Kerr.

“This is a cheap thing to do that has worked already, and why we wouldn’t do this, I have no idea,” Jones said at the committee meeting.

HB 1002 was largely rehash of legislation that was passed and cosponsored by Kerr in 2009, but sunset in 2015.

A similar but slightly broader 2015 measure, sponsored by Fields and the late Rep. John Buckner, died in the same Senate committee during last year’s legislative session.

Last year, legislators expressed concerns brought at the behest of the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry that requiring businesses to grant additional time off would hurt their operations. This year, CACI was neutral on HB 1002.

More than a dozen parents, educators and policy advisors testified in favor of HB 1002 during the committee meeting Wednesday. There were no witnesses who testified against HB 1002.

HB 1002 was the first piece of legislation Buckner had sponsored as a state representative. She was chosen for the seat formerly held by her late husband, John, after his death last May.