Jobs Bill In, Minimum Wage Hike Out
(Updated 4:46 p.m.) As of Friday afternoon, the agenda for next week’s special session was “90 percent” hammered out and Sen. President Donald Williams said the jobs bill was in and a minimum wage hike was out.
The two bills became linked at the end of the legislative session when House Speaker Chris Donovan held the Senate proposal to make more businesses eligible to participate in jobs programs hostage, hoping to get Senate leadership to raise his proposal to raise the minimum wage.
In the end both bills died following a sort of legislative standoff. Subsequently both Williams and Donovan announced plans to raise their bills during the upcoming budget implementer session. Following a meeting last month to negotiate the session’s agenda Donovan reported the two were still talking about finding a way of fitting minimum wage in.
“We’re talking about trying to figure out where it fits but I think it’s a good idea,” Donovan said in May.
But that was before the finance director for Donovan’s congressional campaign was arrested in an FBI sting operation on conspiracy charges. The ensuing controversy saw Donovan step away from his role in the negotiations for the special session, turning the responsibility over to House Majority Leader Brendan Sharkey.
Now it appears the minimum wage proposal, which Williams has maintained never had the support to pass the Senate, is officially dead.
“We have discussed it but it’s not on the ‘go list,’ so to speak right now for the special session because there are simply not the votes,” Williams said.
But Sharkey wasn’t willing to go as far as Williams and call the proposal dead. However, in a phone interview Friday Sharkey said it was “problematic” because it did not fit neatly into the resolution calling them back into special session.
“We’re not going to segregate out every single item,” Sharkey said.
Williams made his comments earlier in the day at an Enfield campaign stop for Karen Jarmoc who’s running against Republican John Kissel for his state Senate seat. They toured Andrew Associates, a direct marketing company. The company’s president Ginny Knapp said she was looking to expand her business but is precluded from participating in the state’s Business Express jobs program because she already employs 54 people.
The Senate jobs bill would redefine the term “small business” to include companies with up to 100 employees. Currently it’s set at 50. The idea is to allow employers like Knapp to participate, Williams said.
However, last month Gov. Dannel P. Malloy opined that lawmakers are legally required to adjust the scope of the resolution calling them back into special session if they want to address issues not pertaining to the budget.
Williams said Friday he thinks the issues lawmakers plan to tackle next week are related enough to the budget that it won’t be necessary.
“I doubt it,” he said when asked if the resolution would be adjusted. “That hasn’t been decided 100 percent but we’re trying to avoid that if possible. Every part of the jobs bill has a financial component to it.”
But the jobs bill likely won’t be the only piece of unsuccessful legislation to be revived from last session. Williams said the special session will likely include proposal to impose fees on tobacco shops with roll-your-own cigarette machines.
The bill, which passed out of committee but was never raised in the Senate, was at the center of the federal undercover sting operation. During the federal investigation, Donovan’s finance director, Robert Braddock, Jr., was arrested on charges he attempted to conceal the source of donations which he thought were coming from roll-your-own investors who wanted him to use Donovan’s influence to kill the bill. The investor was actually an undercover FBI agent.
House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero said Friday that it’s his understanding from conversations with Sharkey the jobs bill and the roll-your-own proposal would be included in the omnibus budget implementer.
The problem with that combination is Republicans voted against the budget, but aren’t necessarily opposed to making changes to the jobs bill.
Cafero maintained the legislation does little to actually create jobs, it just expands the types of businesses who can receive the tax incentives offered by a bipartisan version last October.
In general, Cafero said he opposes any sort of big omnibus legislation with hundreds of concepts and ideas all bundled in one big bill.
As far as the roll-your-own bill is concerned. Republicans have maintained there are “philosophical and procedural problems with the bill,” Cafero said.
He questioned why if the fees in the roll-your-own legislation were going to be delayed for a year would the Democratic majority feel compelled to pass it during a special session. He said they can wait until next year, have a public hearing, and move forward through the legislative process.
But at this point no one really knows what is or isn’t in the bills.
Cafero said he hasn’t seen language yet for any of the proposals which are still being worked on but has been unable to talk to anyone able to explain exactly what the legislation will do.
Another proposal being discussed is legislation that would eliminate a statutory requirement that the state employ at least 1,248 state police troopers. Malloy, who proposed the bill, has said it falls within the confines of a budgetary session.
“There are direct budgetary implications with respect to the police, as you well know, it’s about $18 million,” he said in May.
What’s unclear is whether lawmakers will be taking another swing at campaign finance disclosure legislation. A bill passed during session could face a veto from Malloy, whose top lawyer said Thursday the administration still has concerns about. Malloy’s chief legal counsel, Andrew McDonald, said he’s currently analyzing whether the bill passes constitutional muster.
“The risk of court challenges are significant with this legislation,” McDonald said. “There’s not a lot to be gained there’s not a lot to be gained from signing legislation you believe can be successfully challenged in court.”
Williams said lawmakers are still hoping Malloy will sign the bill.
“I’ve reached out to the governor and his staff because I feel it’s very important that that legislation become law,” he said. “That’s an ongoing conversation.”
Christine Stuart contributed to this report