This is the first of a series as I look back on my experience as a volunteer appointed to serve on the 2019 Colorado Paid Family Leave Task Force.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with a group of small business owners who share my frustration that in the clamor of today’s policy discussions, small independent businesses continue to be – too often – “seen but not heard.”
One topic was – How does one engage?
As someone who has made the twisted journey to become more familiar with the process and dynamic at the CO Capitol in Denver, I take pleasure in sharing what I have discovered.
Beyond the valuable feedback everyone should feel welcome to share at town halls, hearings, or through correspondence, how does one serve on a board or commission?
I encouraged them to choose one topic that they are curious about – that they sense they might have insights to contribute. For me, it was Paid Family and Medical Leave. I knew that there were uncountable hidden complexities that would build risk. I had focused my study on its progress in other states as well as in Western Europe. Outcomes are finally emerging making it clear that policy goals are not being met and that bring to light unfortunate consequences that are not desirable or productive.
Today, we all have access to so many resources. We owe gratitude to our growing pool of think tanks. I had followed closely the failure of legislative proposals over 6 or 7 years. Various versions of a program were introduced, never gaining enough support to pass. But my learning accelerated dramatically when I was asked, as a member of NFIB, to serve on the task force convened by our Senate Bill 188 in 2019 to represent small independent businesses.
It is hard to describe the experience of being “in the room,” especially in this unique room, opposite those who framed the policy in a completely different way. I found that serving on the Task Force was a portal. Through that one policy (I really did put on blinders to many of the other intense topics out there – leaving them to others to address) I gradually came to understand more and more of the ecosystem – stakeholders and interest groups, the rules of the game, the dynamics and politics. From there I began to expand my interest and study to other employment and labor laws.
We need the perspective of small business owners – current or retired. It was deeply satisfying to me to know that my contribution – however small – helped to bring the voice of others to what was, and still is, a difficult conversation. There is a troubling void between the contributions of academia (and their affiliated special interest groups) and reports of the daily grind by those who must implement these ambitious policies.
I published A Paid Family and Medical Leave Task Force Perspective which hit on a few key insights into the process and provided links to some of the findings soon after the task force concluded. But I feel challenged now to write a few follow-up posts two years later. The learning continues. And for me, there is no greater reward to learning than to be useful.