Progressive Caucus Sees Mandate on Wages, Paid Leave, and Legal Pot
HARTFORD, CT — With a larger Democratic majority in the legislature and a Democratic governor, the 46-member Progressive caucus will introduce legislation to increase the minimum wage, implement paid Family and Medical Leave, and legalize recreational cannabis in 2019.
“It’s vital we start talking about these issues now,” Rep. James Albis, D-East Haven, said Thursday at a press conference.
All three proposals failed to make it over the finish line last year and in previous years for various reasons. The details of this year’s proposals are still being worked out.
The proposal to increase the minimum wage would be spread over four years and would reach $15 an hour on Jan. 1, 2023. The proposal to create a paid Family and Medical Leave program was more vague but would be similar to past proposals that saw employees contribute to a fund they could access after a certain period of time on the job. They offered no details about a proposal to legalize marijuana for recreational use, which has had bipartisan support in the past.
“We have a governor who spoke about these issues on the campaign trail and we have a lot of new members who are really energized to get these issues done,” Albis said.
Rep. Joshua Hall, D-Hartford, who is co-chairing the Progressive caucus, said he wants to “dispel one of the narratives” of the 2018 election.
“Folks want to allude that our results were due to something that’s happening in Washington, D.C.,” Hall said. “I just want to credit the efforts of so many of our new colleagues.”
He said an increase in the minimum wage will give a lot of folks on the margin an immediate increase in pay and the “Paid Family and Medical Leave” program will be an “earned” program.
“It’s people earning that time,” Hall said.
The legislation for the minimum wage will have 53 House co-sponsors, Paid Family and Medical Leave will have 54 House co-sponsors, and there are 44 House co-sponsors for legalizing marijuana for recreational use.
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said the devil is in the details “all the time” when it comes to all three of these proposals.
“This is the reason we got into this mess in the first place,” she said. “With these random ideas without any details.”
Also, if they believe this election had nothing to do with Washington and Republican President Donald Trump, “they are more clueless than I thought they were,” Klarides said.
“This was not an election about what was best for Connecticut,” Klarides said. “This was an election about the fact that people do not like our president and they wanted to send a message.”
Carlos Moreno, state director for the Connecticut Working Families Organization, said “voters overwhelmingly rejected corporate campaign spending and trickle-down candidates who yet again ran on failed tax cuts and privatization schemes. Instead, a powerful wave of voters — young people, women, Black and brown communities, immigrant families, and working poor folks in particular — showed up in very large numbers responding to a growing number of leaders who ran to build an economy centered on working people.”
He said believes the representatives and senators who won their elections did so on the strength of these types of proposals.
Klardies said she likes a lot of the concepts, too, but if they don’t look at the ramifications of something like raising the minimum wage and the impact that would have on recent labor agreements, then “we’re not doing our job.”
Klarides said when it comes to Paid Family and Medical Leave the details are important. She said last year’s proposal included about $20 million in start-up costs for the state.
“We agree with the concept, but again it’s how we do it,” Klarides said.
She said the state can do these things in a “fiscally responsible way.”
Albis and the Progressive caucus believe the numbers are on their side and that there’s nothing they need to do to win support from the business community for these proposals.
“Thirty-eight percent of millennial workers are willing to move to another state or country to have an opportunity to access a program like Paid Family and Medical Leave,” Albis said. “We need to implement this to make sure we’re competitive with other states.”
As far as legalizing and regulating cannabis for recreational use by adults, Albis said he doesn’t know of another bill they could pass that would create more jobs in a short amount of time.
“What we’re really talking about is eliminating a black market and creating a new industry,” Albis said. “We’re talking about treating people fairly for past drug offenses.”
Deputy House Leader Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, said to “characterize it as economic development for the state of Connecticut is a sad day for the state of Connecticut.”
Candelora said he doesn’t believe it’s a partisan issue, but he said more Republicans oppose it than support it.
Progressive caucus unveils agenda #ctnewsjunkie #ctpolitics #election2018 #lionread #progressive #democrats #connecticut #minimumwage #paidfamilymedicalleavePosted by CTNewsJunkie.com on Thursday, December 6, 2018
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides and Rep. Vincent Candelora respond to Progressive caucus. #ctnewsjunkie #ctpolitics #election2018 #lionread #connecticut #session2019Posted by CTNewsJunkie.com on Thursday, December 6, 2018