It was a whirlwind week at the Capitol as various committees held public hearings and committee meetings. On Monday, the Transportation Committee held a public hearing on several bills, including SB 213, the Governor’s CT2030 and Connecticut Infrastructure and SB 271, AAC the Fiscal Accountability and Sustainable Transportation Reform Plan (Republican plan). Yankee submitted comments along with our latest policy position : Transportation Funding, which illustrates methods by which the transportation infrastructure can be repaired and built without tolls and cost to the taxpayer.
Judiciary: The Judiciary committee had a public hearing regarding the legalization of recreational marijuana Monday. The hearing went all day and into the evening. SB 16 would legalize marijuana for those 21 or older, increase the number of trained drug recognition experts in state and local police forces, and automatic erasure of most cannabis possession convictions. The bill also includes an “Equity Commission” charged with developing proposals for how those individuals and communities greatly impacted by drugs could benefit from the legal cannabis market. On Friday the Judiciary committee had SB 318, the “captive audience” bill on their agenda. The bill is not only pre-empted by federal law, National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), but is an infringement on free speech, and unreasonably interferes with the employer/employee relationship. Yankee Institute continues to oppose this measure.
Energy: A bill before the energy committee would make increasing the availability of natural gas to homes and neighborhoods in Connecticut communities cost-prohibitive, eliminating a reliable, efficient and desired low-cost energy option. HB 5350 would increase customers’ heating costs significantly, by prohibiting the most cost-effective heating option and forcing them to heat with electricity. Lastly, section 4 of the bill requires construction contractors to pay prevailing wage to individuals performing the construction of the natural gas distribution infrastructure.
Healthcare: There was a lot of activity this week in the Insurance and Real Estate committee regarding healthcare, with bills benchmarking health costs which could have significant savings, a bill allowing for drugs to imported from Canada, and the controversial “Public Option” bill being the subject of a public hearing. The new proposal would allow small businesses, nonprofits, and labor unions to join the state-run Connecticut Partnership plan, with plans to be sold and underwritten through the state Comptroller’s office. Yankee Institute agrees the cost of healthcare needs to be addressed, but a state run program competing with insurers who are the economic engine of Hartford is not the answer, nor would it be sustainable.
Labor committee: There is never a dull moment in the Labor committee. This week’s highlights included an energy bill “Green New Deal” (SB 354), with the goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. Bill goes even further than Lamont’s plan that called for a 45% reduction by 2030. It is interesting that an energy bill was before the labor committee and not energy…Also before the Labor committee was SB 353, a bill that would increase wages for servers and bartenders, even though servers and bartenders are guaranteed to earn Connecticut’s minimum wage if their tips do not equate to $11.00 per hour. A bill codifying the prevailing wage (SB 350) was also before the committee which Yankee Institute opposed.
Some good news: A bill Yankee Institute requested be raised regarding military occupational licensing reciprocity was the subject matter of a public hearing this week. Yankee Institute testified in support of this measure before the Veteran’s committee (HB 5398) and the General Law committee (Governor’s occupational licensing bill- SB 13)