(Feb. 7) – A key component of the House Democrats’ jobs and economic development package made a successful debut today when the Colorado Careers Act was approved by the Business, Labor & Economic & Workforce Development Committee on a 6-5 party-line vote.
HB13-1004, sponsored by Reps. Crisanta Duran (D-Denver) and Jovan Melton (D-Aurora), creates a “career pathways program” in the Department of Labor to provide grants for individuals to obtain skills needed for employment and expands the use of unemployment insurance benefits for training programs.
The new bill builds on a workforce training law authored by Rep. Duran last year. She testified that 900 Coloradans had enrolled in programs authorized by the 2012 law, and said she expected the new bill to greatly increase that number.
“People want to work,” Rep. Duran told the committee. “We as elected officials should try to put all options on the table to give people the opportunity to find employment, and I think this is a meaningful way to go forward.”
Witnesses testified that the state would spend far less to retrain an unemployed worker and get him or her back on a payroll than to keep shelling out unemployment checks.
Today’s party-line vote sends the bill to the Appropriations Committee.
“It’s unfortunate that we didn’t have bipartisan support,” Rep. Melton said after the vote. “Republicans still don’t seem to believe we should be making smart investments to get Coloradans back to work.”