Lawmakers Get Ready For Busy 2017 Session
Returning Connecticut lawmakers and those recently elected have been busy drafting legislation they plan on introducing when the session starts on Jan. 4.
Dr. William A. Petit, a newly elected Republican who will represent Plainville, was the first to pre-file legislation on Dec. 8. One bill Petit introduced would prevent overtime payments from being used to calculate the retirement income of state employees and the other would phase out the hospital tax.
Both concepts have been debated in previous years and have bipartisan support.
Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, has said he believes there’s broad-based support to end the practice of including overtime in pension calculations.
Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has made the proposal in the past, but it hasn’t gone anywhere.
As far as the hospital tax is concerned, Petit wasn’t the only lawmaker to suggest phasing out the controversial hospital tax. Rep. Dave Rutigliano, R-Trumbull, pre-filed similar legislation.
The Connecticut Hospital Association and 20 hospitals filed a lawsuit in November against the state asking the court to end the tax and find that the state overreached in its implementation. A judge will hear arguments in that case in February.
Hospital officials argue that the idea of implementing the “user fee” or tax in 2012 was to increase the amount of federal reimbursement the state receives. In the first few years the state returned most of the money to the hospitals, but as the state’s budget situation worsened, they proceeded to keep the revenue.
In 2012, the first year of the tax, the revenue it generated after the federal matching funds was returned to the hospitals. In subsequent years, however, the state’s payments to the hospitals were reduced drastically, while the tax has remained in place.
In 2015, the 24 hospitals paid $556.1 million in taxes and received only $164.3 million back from the state.
Other legislation pre-filed by multiple lawmakers suggests changes to the Citizens Election Program, which gives state grants to candidates running for office.
One bill recommends increasing the amount of money candidates have to raise in order to qualify for the program. Currently, state representatives have to raise $5,000 to qualify for a $27,850 grant and state senators have to raise $15,000 in order to qualify for a $94,690 grant.
Another bill would prohibit candidates who are unopposed from participating in the program and yet another would require them to spend 75 percent of their grant with Connecticut businesses.
Reps. James Albis, D-East Haven, and Matt Lesser, D-Middletown, have said in a press release that they plan to propose a bill to have Connecticut join the National Popular Vote Compact. The compact is an agreement among a group of states and the District of Columbia to allocate their electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote. The compact only goes into effect when enough states have signed on to reach 270 electoral votes, ensuring that the candidate who wins the popular vote is elected president.
A similar bill passed the House in 2009, but was never called for a vote in the Senate. The bill was raised again in 2014 and had the support of Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, but was never called for a vote in either chamber.
Rep. William Tong, D-Stamford, pre-filed legislation on Monday calling for a constitutional amendment to allow early voting in Connecticut.
A bill pre-filed by Rep. Rob Sampson, R-Wolcott, would eliminate the income tax for Connecticut residents receiving Social Security. The legislation has bipartisan support and is something House Democrats suggested on the campaign trail. The problem lawmakers will have is coming up with the $47 million it needs in order to implement the policy.
Another hot topic this year will be whether the General Assembly finds the supermajority it needs to adopt a working spending cap.
Rep. Melissa Ziobron, R-East Haddam, introduced a bill that would implement a constitutional spending cap that the legislature has failed to adopt for 24 years. Ziobron was a member of the Spending Cap Commission, which was unable come up with a recommendation for how to define what qualifies as an expenditure under the cap.
There were other bills pre-filed in the House of lesser significance.
One seeks to name Route 322 in Wolcott in Honor of Eugene Migliaro Jr.
Another would require local and regional school boards to display in each school a copy of the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence. And yet another would establish a “Patriots’ Day” to commemorate the first battles of the American Revolutionary War.
There’s also one introduced by Rep. Kurt Vail, R-Stafford, that would require Connecticut to observe Daylight Savings Time year round.
The stated purpose, according to the bill, is to “allow Connecticut to maximize additional daylight in the evening in order for residents, employers, and businesses to get the most beneficial use of their time as a way to increase productivity and create additional consumer opportunities for Connecticut residents.”
Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, has also introduced 10 pieces of legislation.
One of Looney’s bills would legalize and tax the sale of marijuana. Another would allow municipalities to implement their own sales taxes, another would exempt the first $10,000 of a business’ personal property from the property tax. Yet another proposal from Looney would strengthen the laws against hate crimes by increasing it from a misdemeanor to a felony and establishing a minimum fine.
Looney also proposed establishing a paid family and medical leave system for the state and increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour and phasing it in over five years.
On a more personal level, Looney who was receiving a new kidney Tuesday from his friend Judge Brian Fischer, proposed legislation that would allow state employees to take up to 30 days of paid leave for donating an organ and up to seven days of paid leave for a bone marrow donation. The bill would also allow an individual to deduct up to $10,000 from their income under the personal income tax to cover unreimbursed expenditures such as travel, lodging, and lost wages. The purpose of the bill is to encourage more living donations and it would only be effective after Jan. 1 , 2017.