Connecticut had roughly half of the money needed to weather a recession in its unemployment trust fund before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the state, according to a report from the Tax Foundation which tracked unemployment claims across all states and compared them to the 2008 recession. “Many states are woefully ...
Capitol update: Insulin, tolls, and taxes, oh my!
With session underway, various legislative committees met this week to raise concepts for bills. Many of the concepts are relative to bills we expected to see this session, and were highlighted in last week’s report.
Judiciary Committee raised many concepts regarding bond and bail reform, including An Act Concerning (AAC) bail bonds system, (AAC Eligibility for Cash Bail. As predicted “captive audience” is back (An Act Protecting Freedom of Speech & Conscience) along with the bill that will likely grant the Attorney General broad new power (AAC the Duties of the Attorney General). Yankee will be monitoring these concepts as language becomes available. This week the public hearings in the Judiciary Committee consist of superior court judicial nominations. Stay tuned for dates for upcoming committee meetings and public hearings.
Senate Bill 1 was a bill proposal that garnered a lot of attention this week with its’ language concerning imposition of a fee on the manufacture and distribution of insulin with input from the Commissioners of Social Services and the Insurance Commissioner insulin. Yankee’s own Marc Fitch did a report on the controversy.
On Thursday, the co-chairs of the Insurance and Real Estate Committee held a press conference revealing that the bill (SB 1) would cap the monthly cost of insulin at $50.00 per month. It would also limit the price of insulin-related supplies, such as syringes and pumps, to $100.00 per month. At the committee meeting on Thursday, the committee voted to draft SB 1, AAC the Manufacture and Distribution of Insulin, with language establishing the cap to be drafted. After much discussion about the “tax” language in the bill, and urging by republicans to wait a week so the official cap language could be drafted, the committee voted to draft SB1 as it stands. The vote was split along party lines, with Republicans voting ‘no’ and Democrats voting ‘yes’. The bill will have a public hearing on February 25. While SB 1 is referred to as a “placeholder” for language that will be a mechanism to cap the monthly/annual costs of insulin to consumers, it is worth noting there have been quite a few comments this week from legislators expressing frustration with voting on “concept bills that contain no specific language”. Yankee’s recent report, Ideas to Make the Connecticut Legislative Process More Open and Transparent highlighted this problem, and has received many positive comments. Here’s hoping legislators will consider this and many of the other suggestions.
Other healthcare related bills include HB 5018, the Governor’s bill that includes charging the Department of Consumer Protection with establishing a program to import drugs from Canada, and HB 5044, a bill that would remove the religious exemption to childhood vaccination prior to enrollment in public schools. There is a public hearing on this proposal set for next Wednesday, February 19, 2020.
Finance, Revenue & Bonding Committee has not yet scheduled its first meeting. However, a number of proposals have been submitted to the committee by Governor Lamont and various lawmakers. Of particular interest is HB 5010. This is the Governor’s bill that makes the 10% corporate surcharge tax permanent, delays the phase out of the capital base tax, caps at 15 years the carry forward of new R&D tax credits earned after January 1, 2020, increases the tax on vaping products and bans flavors, allows the state to impose a service fee for credit card transactions, and increases some licensing fees. Stay tuned for further information on bills, meetings, and public hearings
Government Administration and Elections
As mentioned in last week’s report, we will be keeping an eye on “donor privacy” bills before this committee. The committee did not meet this week, but Governor Lamont put forward a number of items that may be of interest : HB 5012: Makes various changes utilizing technology to create efficiencies in state government. It allows electronic delivery for payments, notices, and certified mail and requires state contractors and their subcontractors to certify their compliance with state ethics laws and that their principals have not made certain political contributions. SB 14: Bill would allow candidates that qualify for the citizens’ election program to use funds to pay for child care.
Labor Committee: The Labor Committee met this week and, to no surprise, raised the following concepts to be proposed as bills. The concepts include: AAC Rights of a Public Employee to Join or Support a Union; and AAC Workers’ Rights. Their scheduled meeting on Thursday was canceled. We will keep you posted as language becomes available for these and other bills of interest.
Transportation: The toll saga continues. The latest is Speaker of the House Aresimowicz and Senate President Martin Looney each say they have the votes necessary to pass legislation next week authorizing tractor trailer tolls on a dozen highway bridges. Here is where it gets interesting: there is discussion of the chambers voting simultaneously on tolls, something that has never been done before. Is it mistrust amongst chambers that the votes aren’t there, or something else? Members have been told to hold February 18, 19, and 20 as possible days for a vote. Yankee continues its fight against tolls, and will keep you posted on any developments.
Workforce Development /Education: A bill Yankee requested be raised that would modernize the state’s occupational licensing system, including military spouses, was raised in the Veteran’s Affairs committee. AAC Veterans’ Spouses Occupational Licenses will make the transition easier for the spouses of military to find jobs and continue with their occupation when they re-locate to Connecticut. A similar bill is before the Commerce committee. SB 13 expedites the process for recognizing licenses conferred by other states and transitions additional licenses to an online renewal system. Also before the Commerce Committee is SB 3 that would increase tax credits and offer other financial incentives for both large and small companies that create new jobs and hire previously unemployed Connecticut residents.
With the increasing number of Connecticut residents testing positive for COVID-19, legislative leaders have decided to postpone the 2020 legislative session until April 20th. We hear legislative leaders have been communicating daily with their respective caucuses to assess the situation. It is unclear right now what the plan will be ...