OP-ED | Blizzard of Proposed Bills a Mixed Bag
The 2014 short session is off and running, and despite a few snow days plenty of bills have been introduced. Most won’t make much in the way of headlines, and few will ever see a vote. Here’s a look at some of them.
For instance, you know the Yellow Pages that often go right into the recycling bin as soon as they arrive because you use the Internet instead? SB-107 wants to make distributors pay for first-class mail to deliver them. At least HB 5115 wants to finally take the phrase “telegraph company” out of the statutes.
Speaking of conflict between new media and old, SB 94 is back. It’s a proposal to allow municipalities to save money by reducing, but not eliminating, the amount of space they have to buy in a newspaper for public notices. This bill came up last year, as well, and ran into plenty of opposition from newspapers who would lose a reliable revenue stream. The public hearing is on Feb. 19, and should be fun to watch.
There’s plenty of the usual back-and-forth over hot-button political issues. There’s several bills (HBs 5078 and 5114) to declare a moratorium on the implementation of the controversial Common Core standards, for instance. Two bills (HBs 5003 and 5075) want to pay for various things by eliminating the earned income tax credit. The bill (HB 5162) to join the interstate compact to elect the president by national popular vote is back, too. Lastly, HB 5069 wants to fine large employers who don’t pay their employees a certain level of wage. This bill is clearly aimed at Wal-Mart and other companies that have become infamous for their low wages.
Many proposed bills want to repeal various taxes. There are at least three bills (HBs 5012, 5013 and 5021) that would repeal the much-disliked business entity tax, for example. Another wants to repeal the estate tax, and another wants to axe the tax on hospitals (SB 81). There’s also a bill to lower the sales tax back to 6 percent (SB 4), and one (HB 5094) that wants to eliminate sales taxes on clothes and shoes.
There’s a bill (HB 5103) that would create a “Save Our State” license plate that would help raise funds to help pay down the state’s immense long-term debt. I can’t decide whether this is a good idea, or just some legislative trolling.
Some of what’s being proposed makes a lot of sense. For example, HB 5119 proposes that fees from state parks actually go toward the maintenance of the parks. Why isn’t this the case already? HB 5079 would use federal funds to reimburse towns for sheltering animals during weather emergencies. Weather emergencies are getting more common, and this may provide an incentive for towns to shelter animals when they can.
Some bills, however, just seem like a waste of time. For example, SB 96 would add a tax to “high calorie, sugary drinks” in order to combat obesity. Do they think that actually works?
There are a few bills having to do with interactions between the police and the public, such as HB 5060, which would protect the public’s right to record police activity. This is a good idea; recording cops has led to the exposure of police behaving badly in many situations. HB 5152 would provide “enhanced penalties” for anyone assaulting a “reasonably identifiable” off-duty cop.
Lastly, there are bills that we probably should be talking about, but aren’t. SB 79 suggests that an increasing share of sales tax revenue be shared with the towns where the tax revenue was generated. This would help towns raise funds, and perhaps then they’d be more amenable to getting rid of the regressive car tax.
HB 5128 proposes a “pay it forward, pay it back” method of financing that would replace state college tuition and fees. Under this method, students would promise to pay a percentage of their income back to the institution for a certain number of years. I have no clue if this is a good idea — but it’s at least worth talking about as part of our larger discussion about the increasing costs of college.
Few of this mixed bag of bills will make it anywhere near the floor for a vote, but they may be the seeds of future laws. To see what your lawmakers are proposing, go to http://cga.ct.gov and look for the lists of bills, or click on “House” or “Senate” and look for the list of members.
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.