OP-ED | 2014 Legislative Session Winners and Losers
The short 2014 legislative session is in the books. So who won, who lost, and who just broke even?
Colleges and other nonprofit institutions — The bill to limit property tax exemptions for institutions that don’t traditionally pay tax, like colleges and universities, didn’t make it out of the Senate. This bill would only have taxed properties acquired after passage, but colleges still lobbied heavily against it. They can breathe a sigh of relief.
Minimum Wage Earners — The minimum wage will go up to $10.10 per hour. Connecticut will be one of the few states where President Obama’s push for a higher minimum wage will bear any kind of fruit at all.
Adoptees — Thanks in part to state Rep. David Alexander, D-Enfield, an adoptee himself, everyone adopted on or after October 1, 1983, will have access to their birth certificates.
Hockey fans — The admissions tax on the XL Center and Webster Arena in Bridgeport will be eliminated. Score.
Flower Street drivers — You want to keep a street open? Stick a few lines in the budget implementer bill, where nobody will notice! That’s what Sen. John Fonfara, D-Hartford, did, in the latest maneuver in the ongoing fight between the DOT and residents over the street. The DOT wants to run the busway through there, while residents want to keep it open. Expect this one to drag on for a while.
United Technologies — They got a $400 million tax credit deal to expand here and hire workers. Nice. This is how we grow business in this state: by shoving pots of money at massive, profitable companies who will probably leave in a decade or two anyway.
Retirees — A bill that lays the foundation for a public retirement option for employees of private companies was passed. This could have been stronger, but it’s something.
Horses — A bill rules that they’re not vicious after all — which is just what they want us to think.
Social entrepreneurs — Entrepreneurs seeking the option to accept investor capitol without losing control of their company’s social mission got what they wanted in the new Benefit Corporation designation, which includes language for a “legacy provision” that makes Connecticut’s Benefit Corporation legislation unique.
Fiscal hawks — Budget gimmicks, once again, were used to close a deficit. I thought we weren’t going to do this anymore?
Democrats — Sometimes the ruling party uses its overwhelming might and numbers to do good things. Sometimes they just creak and groan and belch like a sleepy, overstuffed guy who had too much pizza and is too lazy to go find his ringing cell phone. Guess which this year was? To give you an example, Democrats slowed down the business of the legislature in the hectic final days to spend literally hours paying tribute to leaders who were retiring.
Legislative harmony — The House and Senate decided that this would be the year where they really disliked one another.
Juvenile justice reform — A bill that would have raised the possibility of parole for offenders serving long sentences after committing crimes as juveniles didn’t make it. There’s a lot that needs reforming about our system of juvenile justice, but we didn’t see much action from the legislature this year.
Gamblers — No keno for you. Want to buy a lottery ticket instead? Sure you do.
Nonprofit hospitals — A bill making it easier for private, for-profit hospitals to take over nonprofit hospitals was passed.
Taxpayers — No rebate, no tax cuts. Your town probably raised the mill rate, too.
Older newbie judges — If you were appointed a judge after the age of 60, you’ll get a lesser pension after you’re forced to retire at 70.
Cities — A bill that would have reduced the size of “Drug-Free Zones” around schools that usually encompass almost the entire land area of a city didn’t happen. The bill taxing nonprofit institutions for new land acquisitions didn’t happen either, so cities won’t see any new revenue there.
Process — Once again, lots of bills got jammed into the budget implementer bill at the last minute. The legislature needs to learn how to manage its time better.
Environmentalists – The legislature passed a temporary fracking moratorium, but eliminated a ban on fishing for vulnerable glass eels, which are juvenile, translucent American eels. Wind power regulations were finally put in place, lifting a de-facto moratorium, but a bill to ban genetically-modified grass seed was voted down.
Gov. Malloy — Apart from the minimum wage hike, there wasn’t much that came out of this session that was notably good for the governor. The loss of the rebate, the sudden budget deficit, and the gimmicky fix might make life on the campaign trail a little more difficult this fall.
Still, could be worse. A Quinnipiac Poll out Friday morning shows the governor’s race frozen in place, with Malloy tied with GOP frontrunner Tom Foley. The session hasn’t impacted the race either way.
Conventions are up next, so let the games begin!
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.