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2014 State Legislative Session Opens -- Committee Work Underway

Date: February 19, 2014

 After a one-day delay due to one of our many recent snowstorms, the 2014 regular session of the Connecticut General Assembly convened earlier this month, on February 6th, for the biennial “short” session of the state legislature.  And though the session may be short, scheduled to run until early May this year, there are several major and minor issues impacting small business that will likely be addressed by the legislature.  On opening day, Governor Dannel Malloy delivered his State of the State address during which he unveiled his agenda for the session along with his proposed state budget adjustment highlights.  While the Governor proposed ways to spend the approximately $500 million projected budget surplus, which included a small sales & gas tax rebate, paying down debt obligations and reserving an amount for the state’s rainy day fund, others are cautioning about both the amount and even the existence of any budget surplus.  Overall, the Governor’s proposed $19 billion budget increases spending by roughly 3%. In addition to budget proposals, the Governor also announced his support for increasing the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2017.  Over the next two months, 28 legislative committees will have their work cut out for them to meet deadlines on drafting bills, holding hearings and voting on hundreds of bills to be sent to the full House and Senate for final action prior to the scheduled session adjournment on May 7th. 

 

And overlaying all of the legislative action this session will be the inevitable political agendas and undertones of an election year.  All 187 state legislative seats are up for election this November, and, most notable, the Governor’s office.  In the race for Governor, while not yet officially declared, Governor Malloy is expected to be the Democratic candidate.  Malloy’s potential challengers on the Republican side include the 2012 candidate, businessman and former Ambassador Tom Foley; State Senate Minority Leader John McKinney; and Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton.  Both parties will choose their candidates at nominating convention in mid-May, and primary elections, if necessary, will be held in August. 

 

Last week, the second week of the legislative session, was cut short with yet another snowstorm bearing down across Connecticut.  All meetings at the Capitol were cancelled on Thursday and many more the following day as towns across Connecticut continued to dig out from under all the snow and ice.  Factor in the state holiday on Wednesday and last week turned out to be a two-day workweek for many legislative employees.  The beginning of last week saw many legislative committees holding their first “organizational” meetings in which committee members and staff were introduced.  In addition to setting their meetings and schedules for the remainder of session, committees are voting to “raise” concepts whereby they vote to approve a concept that will be drafted into a committee bill, subject to a public hearing.  According to the joint rules, all committees have until February 20th and 21st to raise concepts.  This week at the Capitol committees will continue to hold meetings and raise concepts and public hearings have begun in earnest. State budget hearings from last week will also continue into this week and next. Notable public hearings this week include the Labor Committee, which will be considering SB-32, the Governor’s proposed bill to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2017.  They will also be considering HB-5069, AAC Low Wage Employers, which seeks to impose a tax on certain employers who don’t pay wages deemed adequate by the state.  NFIB/CT will be offering testimony before the Labor Committee opposing both measures as costly to employers and detrimental to the overall economy in Connecticut.  The Labor Committee will also be considering legislation that would allow agricultural and farm workers to collectively bargain.  Meanwhile, the Insurance & Real Estate Committee will be holding hearings on bills that examine the composition and the duties of Connecticut’s state health insurance exchange, Access Health CT. 

 

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