The 2020 Legislative session began Wednesday, February 5 with Governor Lamont’s “state of the state” address where he proposed his budget adjustments and highlighted his legislative proposals. The $22.3 billion budget adjustments increase state spending by 3.7%.
Revenue changes: In Lamont’s proposal, the 10% corporate tax surcharge that was set to expire in 2021 would become permanent. The Governor also proposed imposing a new surcharge on individuals and businesses that do business with the state when utilizing a credit card.
Governor’s legislative priorities included in his budget address:
A debt-free community college program with income limits;
Legalization and taxation of recreational marijuana;
Truck only tolls;
A 50% wholesale tax on e-cigarettes including menthol, and bans flavored vaping products
Job initiatives: The Governor proposes a new Jobs CT Tax Credit incentive program for existing businesses to expand here or other businesses to relocate here, changing the way tax credits are provided to businesses by utilizing performance-based incentives.
Business must create at least 25 new full-time jobs over 2 years and the salaries must be at least 85% of median household income in the municipality where the jobs are located. Jobs created would have to be in certain sectors, including financial services, aerospace, clean energy, and digital media.
Business would receive 25% of the new withholding taxes generated, and 50% if located in an opportunity zone.
Occupational Licensing changes: The Governor proposed expediting the process for recognizing licenses conferred by other states and would transition additional licenses to an online renewal system. Yankee will testify in support of this initiative, with some changes, at a public hearing next week.
Climate change: The Governor proposes codifying the goal of having 0% greenhouse gas emissions from electric generation by 2040 and having DEEP develop regulations that implement high performance green building standards.
Now let’s look at some additional issues that may be debated in the coming weeks during the legislative session
Tolls: Yes, tolls continue to be on the forefront again this year and remains a top priority of the Governor. We’ve been successful is opposing them and will continue to fight them alongside our allies. Legislators held a public hearing on the “truck-only” plan 2 weeks ago then canceled the planned “special session” prior to the start of session. Next it was proposed the voted would occur the week of February 10. Not shockingly, that was changed and now it is said the debate and toll vote will occur the week of February 18.
Captive Audience: We expect resurrection yet again of a bill that would restrict workplace communications between employers and employees, despite the fact legal opinions have stated the legislation is pre-empted by federal law and the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Former Connecticut Attorney General, George Jepsen, has issued formal opinions stating this bill restricting workplace communications between employers and employees would likely be struck down in court. The NLRA has exclusive authority over law governing the relations between unions and private sector employees, and this bill is an unconstitutional restriction on free speech and the exercise of free religion under the First Amendment. Simply put, states may not govern any area of law covered by the NLRA, including restricting employers from communicating with their employees. Yankee Institute will fight this proposal once again.
Attorney General bill: We expect to see a repeat of the bill that would grant the Attorney General broad new power to impose substantial civil penalties on individuals, businesses and organizations for any violation of a federal or state law. Bill as originally drafted would have granted the AG the power to investigate virtually any conduct that can be linked to a right embodied in a federal or state law. In addition, it would have allowed the AG to intervene in areas already managed by regulatory agencies or disputes typically resolved through private litigation.
Creation of a new department within the state police to investigate “right-wing” extreme crimes: Democrats have expressed interest in a bill that would finance and create a new department within the Connecticut State Police that would specialize in investigating “far right “extremist groups and individuals.
Donor Privacy bills: We will continue to oppose any bills that arise that would allow donor lists to be turned over to the state, subjecting donors to possible harassment and intimidation. In previous years, legislation has been proposed that would force nonprofit organizations to disclose their donors to the government. Individuals should have the choice about who learns about their beliefs and affiliations. It is a violation of free speech and the First Amendment.
Anti-Janus legislation: We expect we may see a reprise of “anti-Janus” legislation similar to last year that would require the state to provide unions with personal contact information for new state employees and updated employee information every 120 days. It would also give union representatives access to new employee orientations. The bill would have allowed union leaders to use public facilities, phones and email systems to communicate with those workers, while restricting the state from providing employee contact information to any organization that may inform employees about their rights under the Janus v AFSCME US Supreme Court decision.
Business Poaching/Corporate Blackmail: We expect to see legislation that would allow Connecticut to develop and join an interstate compact banning company specific incentives to lure, expand or even sometimes remain in Connecticut to avoid corporate border wars, business “poaching” and corporate blackmail. Interest stems from highly publicized efforts of various states offering multi-billion packages to lure Amazon to establish a location headquarters.
Heath Care Costs: Proposals may include benchmarking health care costs, a re-visit of the creation of a public health insurance option for individuals and small businesses to buy-in to a state public health care plan.