Sine Die! 2019 State Legislative Session Adjourns (For Now…)
After a long legislative session this year that commenced in early January, last month as the clock struck midnight in the early morning hours of June 6th, the Connecticut General Assembly officially adjourned Sine Die (from the Latin for “without a day”, meaning that the regular session for the year has been adjourned without a date for resumption). With many tired lawmakers functioning on little sleep during the final days of the session, the legislature did manage to complete their most important task of a long legislative session - passing a biennial state budget prior to adjournment. However, at least one if not more “special sessions” of the legislature are likely to be called in Hartford in the coming weeks and months to deal with a few outstanding topics, including state bond authorizations, public school construction projects and financing, and what was arguably one of the hottest issues of the session, tolls and transportation financing in general.
During the 2019 session, ERCCA maintained a constant presence at the State Capitol and directly tracked over 119 different bills of interest to the Chambers and the business community as a whole, particularly the small business community, as well as monitored the general flow of legislation and business at both the Legislative Office Building and the Capitol. Additionally, ERCCA was an active participant in a coalition of over 30 different associations and companies representing the business community on the issues of paid FMLA and minimum wage through the session. Additionally, ERCCA kept a very close eye on several key items of legislation, including those impacting workforce development and apprenticeship training; prohibitions on “captive audience” meetings; health insurance changes including a “public option”; and restrictive work scheduling legislation, among other key issues to the Chambers and the business community. For a complete list of bills ERCCA was tracking this session, Chamber members may go to the following url and click on each bill for additional information: https://www.billtrack50.com/Public/Stakeholder/bi7A4pjEqUmdLVs11iGfJQ/Embedded. Additionally, Chamber members may find bill tracking online at their Chamber and/or ERCCA websites.
A complete list and summaries of “Major Public Acts” for the 2019 Legislative Session from the General Assembly’s nonpartisan Office of Legislative Research can be accessed via the following url: https://www.cga.ct.gov/2019/rpt/pdf/2019-R-0120.pdf. These summaries are categorized by topic and provide some excellent highlights of what was passed at the Capitol this session.
While several items of legislation have already reached Governor Ned Lamont’s desk and been signed into law, over the coming days many more bills will be presented to the Governor and eventually become law. As these bills become signed into law move forward, stay tuned for more in-depth legislative summaries or information from ERCCA in the future. In the meantime, however, the following provides a quick overview on some of the significant issues tackled this past legislative session in Hartford:
“The Big 5” = 40% “success” rate
Paid FMLA; a $15 minimum wage; tolls; recreational marijuana; sports gaming and expanded casino gambling. What do all of these issues have in common? They were all part of the “Big 5” legislative items that were expected to be pushed in the legislature this session. In the end, out of the “Big 5”, only 2 items - FMLA and a $15 minimum wage - passed both chambers of the legislature (more details on the specific provisions and dates contained in each of these new laws to come from ERCCA in the future). Though it does not look like anything will happen on sports gaming and expanded casino gambling this year, it is speculated that it is possible that a “deal” can be brokered between all the involved parties (state, tribes, MGM, other gaming providers, specific towns and cities, etc.) that could be addressed in an upcoming special session. On the issue of marijuana, it is most likely to wait until next year and even then, some legislators are contemplating putting the issue up to the voters through a possible ballot question in the future rather than passing it into law next session. Finally, the most likely of the “Big 5” issues to be resurrected in a special session is the issue of tolls. The Governor recently convened a meeting of legislative leaders from both parties in an attempt to discuss any areas of common agreement and a possible path forward in a special session to address the state’s transportation infrastructure needs.
State Budget = More Taxes For Some?
Though the legislature did manage to pass a budget on time, under the required spending cap, and with a record amount of revenue deposited into the state’s budget reserve fund (also known as the state’s savings account or “Rainy Day Fund”) during the Governor’s first term in office, the budget was immediately faced with criticism by some who say that it contains approximately $2 billion in taxes or new revenues while not reducing spending enough. Though the budget that passed did not contain a broad-based sales tax expansion or a capital gains tax as was the case with preliminary versions of the budget, it does expand the sales tax to certain products and services, including removing the previous sales tax exemptions for safety apparel, parking, and dry . On a positive note, the budget finally eliminates the $250 Business Entity Tax beginning in 2020, but on the flip side some owners of pass-through entities may end up paying higher taxes than last year as a result of an adjustment to the income tax credit for the recently enacted pass-through entity tax (again, more details to come in future updates from ERCCA). Finally, it is worth noting that a provision in the state budget will open up the state’s small business set-aside program to more contractors through an increase in the gross revenue threshold in order for a small business to qualify.
Other Major Issues This Session – Healthcare, Energy, Labor & Employment
Other major issues this session included a focus on healthcare, specifically the cost of health insurance. Several proposals were put forth in an attempt to create a “public option” health insurance program in the state and/or allow small businesses to be able to purchase into the state employee health plan, among other provisions aimed at curbing health insurance costs. In the end, none of these measures passed but lawmakers have already promised to try again next year.
On the energy front, while past sessions have focused on natural gas or solar power, this year the primary focus was on wind turbine development. Specifically, the legislature passed a major piece of legislation authorization up to 2,000 megawatts of offshore wind power to be procured by DEEP through an upcoming RFP process.
Finally, on the labor and employment front, beyond the minimum wage hike and the establishment of the paid FMLA program previously mentioned, another bill that did pass though was SB-3 (Public Act 19-16), which makes various changes and expansions to the state’s requirements for sexual harassment training and awareness by employers, with many of the new requirements scheduled to take effect as of October 1st. Other bills labor and employment bills of note this session included both SB-64 and SB-440 (so called “captive audience” proposals), which would have impacted employer speech and prohibited certain employer-sponsored meetings. Both of these bills failed to be called for a vote. Also failing to be called for a vote was SB-764 and HB-6924, the “restrictive scheduling” legislation, which would have placed limits on an employer’s ability to have employees be on-call for their shifts or emergency situations.
How to Find and Contact Your State Legislators
Have a question? Want to express your opinion? Just want to know who represents you in Hartford? Go to the website below and enter your address to look up your state legislators; with a few quick clicks you can visit their official webpage, email them, or get their office phone number to make a call. As a member of the Chamber and part of the East of the River Chambers of Commerce Association (ERCCA) your voice matters!