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March Madness in the General Assembly

Environment Committee Votes to Increase Energy Costs 

A TCI on steroids bill was voted out of the Environment Committee on Friday (March 24). The bill will allow the commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to enter into agreements with other states and Canadian provinces on emissions programs. This will increase the cost of energy and allow them to implement “market-based compliance mechanisms,” like a cap and trade without legislative approval. 

If this bill becomes law, it will allow DEEP to make the decision to participate in programs like the Transportation and Climate Initiative gas tax (TCI) — which Yankee Institute defeated a few years ago. With such wide, unmitigated authority, DEEP could lock Connecticut into economically regressive programs that would also disproportionately impactlow‐ and middle‐income working families and seniors on fixed incomes. 

If consumers are forced to pay more for heating oil and gas, lawmakers should be the ones to make this hard decision with input from their constituents. Shifting responsibility to a non-elected bureaucrat shows a lack of courage and begs the question of why those in favor of this bill are in public service in the first place. 

Free Speech, Unless it Hurts the Governments Feelings 

The Government Administration and Elections committee held a public hearing on Monday (March 20) on two bills concerning free speech. The first establishes a working group to make recommendations concerning changes to state law to penalize what they call “online harassment” of individuals and guidelines for reporting online harassment of municipal and state elected officials.  

The working group will consist of nine members appointed by the majority party and four members selected by the minority party. It also includes the attorney general, chief state’s attorney and executive director of the Freedom of Information Commission or a designee.  

The state already has a law protecting elected officials — and everyone else — from online harassment that makes cyberstalking and cyber-harassment a crime, including doxing and ‘Zoom-bombing.’ Threats made via electronic and social media can be resolved through law enforcement and civil remedies. Thin-skinned elected officials are looking for additional protections against what they consider to be offensive speech (or justified critiques), while at the same time limiting free speech of their constituents. 

The other bill is trying to do the opposite, preventing state employees or elected officials from contacting social media companies to file complaints against an individual or group without having a public hearing. It also gives those who have been blocked on a social media platform due to a state employee or elected official complaint to appeal the restriction to the Superior Court. 

The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut (ACLU-CT) submitted testimony agreeing that “the First Amendment is clear. Government actors and agencies cannot and should not censor people for disagreeing with them.” They added that “creating a process that requires state agencies to hold a hearing prior to blocking or reporting individuals or groups still allows for government” to censor people. 

Labor Committee Collective Bargaining Agent for the People 

The Labor and Public Employees Committee held its final two meetings this week. Unfortunately, they chose to use their final hours to make doing business in the state even more difficult. On a brighter note, the committee will have to wait until next year to devise even more ways to hinder business in the state. 

One bill requires companies to disclose salary ranges on public and internal job postings. Eric Gjede vice president of public policy for the Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA) submitted testimony saying, “Although well intended, the likely outcome of this legislation is lost opportunities for job seekers.” He went on to say, “Individuals at the high end of any posted salary range may be dissuaded from applying for the vacant position.” 

One of the states largest labor unions, the Connecticut AFL-CIO believes this bill will help close the gender wage gap. Ed Hawthorne, president of CT AFL-CIO, feels that women don’t know how to negotiate their salary stating, “Without that information women often ask for less than their male counterparts.” 

Another bill essentially tells warehouse distribution centers they cannot ask their employees to work. An Act Concerning the Protection of Warehouse Workers regulates the use of quotas and allows employees — who believe management violated this law — to file complaints with the labor commissioner. 

The Connecticut Department of Labor opposes the bill because it requires the labor commissioner to hold a hearing upon receipt of complaints. The hearings required are to be held under the Uniform Administrative Procedure Act (UAPA) — a law that governs procedures for state agencies. Proceedings under UAPA take a substantial amount of time and will require additional staff and funding for the department. 

The committee also passed what they call a dummy bill just in case they decide their overreach did not go far enough. Lawmakers file dummy bills with no actual content and vote them out of committee to be used as placeholders for last-minute legislation without public input. 

No, it’s not April Fool’s Day yet…SEBAC to Receive Another Bonus 

On March 9, a labor arbitrator ordered $45.4 million in bonuses to be doled out to approximately 35,000 state workers for working through the Covid-19 pandemic. Several employees testified during the arbitration hearing that receiving this pay “would signify that the State and its people appreciated the risks and sacrifices these employees took to provide services to so many people in the State, that they would feel acknowledged and even honored by the recognition that they had done something extraordinary and historic.” 

The award covers work performed between March 20, 2020, and March 27, 2021, and must be voted on by the General Assembly before checks are cut. The House is currently scheduled to meet on April 5; however, they have yet to post their agenda. 

 Yankee Institute Podcast 

A few years ago, Susan Zabohonski noticed the size of government was growing too large, impacting her small business and local community. Despite not being involved politically prior, she felt compelled to speak up against government overreach. She has since testified at the state Capitol on multiple occasions — most recently against rent caps, even though she is a renter — and became involved withFamilies for Freedom, a grassroots organization, to help others get involved in local politics. Apart from her activism, she ownsVillage Pets Grooming. 

 Listen HERE 

 The Following Video Contains Really Bad Ideas…Viewer Discretion Advised 

Connecticut lawmakers are wasting no time this legislative session introducing a slew of ‘Bad Bills.’ But there’s a big difference between what proponents say the bills will do versus what they actually mean. 

Yankee Institute is here to offer you the info in our new ‘Bad Bills’ video series so you can make sound judgments on policies and hold your elected officials accountable. For more information on Bad Bills making their way through a committee vote now, visit here 

Meghan Portfolio

Meghan worked in the private sector for two decades in various roles in management, sales, and project management. She was an intern on a presidential campaign and field organizer in a governor’s race. Meghan, a Connecticut native, joined Yankee Institute in 2019 as the Development Manager. After two years with Yankee, she has moved into the policy space as Yankee’s Manager of Research and Analysis. When she isn’t keeping up with local and current news, she enjoys running–having completed seven marathons–and reading her way through Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels.

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