Connecticut legislators worked up until the very last minute of the 2014 legislative session as it came to a close Wednesday night, and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy says many priorities were accomplished.
Reactions to the Session:
- Here's what Connecticut Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. thinks.
- Read what the Connecticut Association for Human Services had to say.
- Check out an environmental assessment from Connecticut Fund for the Environment.
Here's a legislative recap, from the governor's office:
Adopting a New State Budget:
- The adopted state budget bill continues to fund top priorities such as universal access to pre-kindergarten, making college more affordable, continuing to make year-over-year increases in local public education funding, and supports the Earned Income Tax Credit. It does all of this with no new taxes, and in fact provides modest tax relief for working families. (House Bill 5596)
Increasing the Minimum Wage to $10.10:
- Connecticut became the first state in the nation to raise its minimum wage to $10.10, followed shortly by a number of other states also adopting similar legislation. The law, which Gov. Malloy signed on March 27, will raise the minimum wage by an additional 45 cents to $9.15 on Jan. 1, 2015, followed by another 45-cent increase to $9.60 on Jan. 1, 2016, and then finally requires a 50-cent increase to $10.10 effective Jan. 1, 2017. (Senate Bill 32)
Keeping United Technologies Corp. in CT:
- The General Assembly overwhelmingly approved the Aerospace Reinvestment Act, supporting an agreement the Malloy Administration reached with United Technologies Corporation (UTC) under which the company will invest up to $500 million to upgrade and expand its aerospace research and development and manufacturing facilities over the next five years. During the same time period, UTC expects to invest up to $4 billion in research and other capital expenditures in the state, impacting more than 75,000 Connecticut jobs. (House Bill 5465)
Expanding Early Childhood Education:
- There will be an increase of 1,020 school readiness slots opened in priority and competitive school districts, plus alliance districts, moving Connecticut towards universal access to pre-kindergarten
- A CT Smart Start competitive grant program will be established, intended to expand preschool opportunities for low-income children in public schools.
- The Office of Early Childhood, which Gov. Malloy established last year through executive order, will now be codified through state statutes when legislation that was approved receives the Governor’s signature. (House Bill 5562, Senate Bill 25, House Bill 5596)
Making College More Accessible and Affordable:
- The “CHET Baby Scholars” program will make it easier for hardworking families to save for college by offering new parents up to a $250 investment in a tax-free college savings account to encourage college savings right from the start.
- “Transform CSCU 2020” will bring all 17 of Connecticut’s community colleges and universities into a single, cohesive, student-centered, technology-enriched system that will improve the learning experience for hundreds of thousands of students.
- “Go Back to Get Ahead” seeks to improve college completion rates by encouraging students who have not attained an associate’s or bachelor’s degree to return to one of the 17 state colleges and universities to complete their degree. Connecticut residents who have not attended any institution of higher education since June 30, 2014 and return to a Connecticut state college or university to complete a degree may receive up to three-credit courses for free. (House Bill 5597, Senate Bill 29)
Modernization of Connecticut’s Recycling and Waste Management System:
- Connecticut will soon undergo a major modernization of its recycling and waste management system after Gov. Malloy signs legislation that will double the state’s recycling rate and transform an outmoded system of trash disposal by adopting a more modern, cost-effective, and environmentally sound materials management approach. Specifically, the legislation:
- Sets a 60% target rate for reducing solid waste disposal (the current recycling rate is under 30%)
- Reshapes the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority into a leaner organization focused on promoting innovation in materials management, renamed the Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority
- Creates a process to explore the repurposing of the CRRA facility, Connecticut’s largest, oldest, and least efficient waste-to-energy plant, to recover more materials of value from trash and to provide better, cheaper service for member communities.
- Creates “RecycleCT” – a statewide education initiative to promote recycling, much the way “EnergizeCT” is promoting energy efficiency and renewables.
- The upgrades will not only help the environment, but will save taxpayer money while also creating economic benefits. (Senate Bill 357)
Investing in Connecticut’s Advanced Manufacturing Sector and Workforce Development:
- Legislation was approved investing $30 million to establish a new Advanced Manufacturing Fund, which will assist Connecticut manufacturers meet growing demand and create jobs. Specifically, the Advanced Manufacturing Fund will help companies modernize and grow, purchase equipment and develop new technologies, support apprenticeships, provide access to training and specialized education for workers, and support an increase in federally funded research efforts at Connecticut’s universities and colleges. The fund will give priority to companies located in 42 communities that are designated as historic manufacturing hubs. (Senate Bill 29)
Creating New Consumer Protections in the Electric Supplier Market:
- Gov. Malloy will soon sign legislation he introduced with Attorney General George Jepsen, Consumer Counsel Elin Swanson Katz, Senate President Pro Tempore Donald Williams, and Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey that seeks to address the growing number of consumer complaints about spiking prices, deceptive practices and lack of disclosure about rates and contract terms in Connecticut’s electric supplier market. The “Electric Supplier Consumers’ Bill of Rights” will require more transparency in billing, sets marketing standards, and prohibits coercive or deceptive sales practices. (Senate Bill 2)
Eliminating Some State Regulations:
- Legislation was adopted that will eliminate nearly 1,000 pages of state regulations that have been identified as obsolete, duplicative, excessively burdensome, or otherwise ineffective or unnecessary, in a major effort to make Connecticut’s regulations more streamlined, readable and user-friendly for citizens, especially small businesses.
- The legislation is the result of a public review period Gov. Malloy initiated in the fall of 2013, which invited the public to submit to him their comments on state regulations, and also required each state agency to conduct independent reviews of all regulations under their jurisdiction. (House Bill 5049)
Increasing Access to Health Care:
- Legislation that was approved will increase access to health care and uphold existing requirements for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) to maintain a collaborative practice agreement with a physician during his or her first three years of practice. Thereafter, the APRN will be authorized to practice alone or in collaboration with a physician or other health care provider and may perform acts of diagnosis and treatment of alterations in health statutes, and prescribe, dispense and administer medical therapeutics, corrective measures and drugs. (Senate Bill 36)
Banning the Sale of e-cigarettes to Minors:
- Legislation was unanimously approved to ban the sale of e-cigarettes and other vapor products to minors, which will prevent youth from engaging in behaviors that may lead to future tobacco use. In addition, the bill seeks to reduce the number of tobacco retailers who commit repeat offenses by implementing a mandatory education program for first-time offenders of the state’s youth access laws, cracks down on the sale of loose cigarettes, and allows the state to invest more in tobacco prevention and cessation efforts. (Senate Bill 24)
Protecting Owners and Handlers of Domesticated Horses:
- Gov. Malloy will soon sign into law legislation that will protect the owners and handlers of domesticated horses by clarifying into law that the animals are not wild and as such as not “inherently dangerous.” The Governor introduced the legislation in response to a recent court decision, which he said went too far. (House Bill 5044)
What do you think of the work that elected representatives did on your behalf during the legislative session?