Christine Jensen, the Wheat Ridge Republican running for the Colorado senate, is a leader of a business organization that lobbied for multiple bills favoring corporate interests over family and community needs.
The organization, called the Jefferson County Business Lobby (JCBL), helped kill a proposed law last year that would have allowed workers to take paid sick days and time off to take care for a newborn or family member.
The defeat of the legislation, called the family-leave act, was one of JCBL’s top 2018 priorities.
Jensen describes herself as among the “leadership” of the JCBL organization, according to a Jensen resume obtained by a source, and Jensen is pictured on the “who we are” page of the group’s website. She’s also on the legislative affairs committee of the Arvada Chamber of Commerce, which she represents on the JCBL.
The family-leave legislation has become an election issue, because Colorado Republicans are attacking Jensen’s opponent, Democratic State Rep. Jesse Danielson of Wheat Ridge, for sponsoring the legislation along with fellow House Democrats.
The family-leave bill, which was ultimately defeated by state senate Republicans, would have set up an insurance fund, paid for by workers themselves, to help compensate for lost pay due to family and medical issues.
The fund would have provided “partial wage-replacement benefits to an eligible individual who takes leave from work to care for a new child or a family member with a serious health condition or who is unable to work due to the individual’s own serious health condition,” according to the bill summary, which explains that the workers’ money would be “deposited into the family and medical leave insurance fund from which family and medical leave benefits are paid to eligible individuals.”
Jensen, who was once chair of the board of the Arvada Chamber of Commerce, did not return an email seeking comment. Neither did the JCBL itself, when asked why it opposed family-leave legislation and about Jensen’s role.
Jensen doesn’t discuss family leave on her website, but it states: “Colorado is the land of opportunity. The opportunity for individual achievement and the ability to provide a safe, prosperous future for our children.”
Republican lawmakers who opposed the family-leave measure said its costs would hurt Colorado’s economy and, ultimately, workers themselves.
The primary members of the Jefferson County Business Lobby are the Jefferson County, Arvada, Westminster, Golden, and Wheat Ridge chambers of commerce. It hires the Weist Capitol Group to conduct its lobbying activities, both opposing and supporting specific bills, at the Capitol.
One area businessperson, Mahi Palanisami, told the Colorado Times Recorder that “my partner and I had just started our business when my father-in-law suffered a stroke a few years ago.” The family-leave law could “have provided this financial and emotional support” during this period.
The Wheat Ridge senate race between Jensen and Danielson could determine which party controls the state senate next year, political analysts say. That’s because Republicans currently hold a one-seat advantage in the chamber, and the Wheat Ridge contest is among the most competitive in Colorado this election season.