When session began in early January, the firehose of ‘bad’ bills — ideas that would have limit free market opportunities, property rights and individual liberties — was relentless.
And the range crossed the spectrum from government transparency, the environment, education, labor and healthcare. However, Yankee Institute sounded the alarm, and through its advocacy, defeated a number of dreadful issues (at least for this session).
Here are the top 10:
‘TCI Gas Tax on Steroids’
The Environment Committee proposed a bill that would’ve allowed the Department of Energy and Enviromental Protection (DEEP) to implement a Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) gas tax-like scheme without legislative approval. With a stroke of a pen, this individual will be able to make deals with other states and Canadian provinces on emissions programs, as well as increasing the cost of energy by implementing “market-based compliance mechanisms.”
Hiring of More Tax Enforcement Agents
Connecticut lawmakers proposed to hire additional ‘tax enforcement agents’ at the Department of Revenue Services. As I wrote in National Review, “This is the state version of the Internal Revenue Service’s hiring more auditors to sniff out transactions in excess of $600 on the national level.”
The “Green” Amendment
Yankee Institute “stands second to no one in its support for a clean and healthy climate,” testified Meghan Portfolio (YI’s manager of research and analyst); however, the equitably aimed amendment would have created “an individual right to ‘clean and healthy air, water, soil and environment,’ but without defining the terms ‘clean’ or ‘healthy.’” Portfolio added, “The individual right — coupled with the vagueness of the benefit it’s conferring — raises the specter of countless individuals using their new legal standing to institute legal proceedings against municipalities and the state against measures that could arguably impinge on their new environmental rights. The delays and the costs could be significant.”
SB 769 tried to encourage school districts with fewer than 25,000 residents to regionalize or else face the state’s penalizing the town by “reduc[ing] the reimbursement percentage [it] may receive for a school building project grant by twenty points.”
As Bryce Chinault, director of external affairs of Yankee Institute, testified, rent control “measures exacerbate housing market shortages, reduce the quality of available rental units, and misallocate scarce resources.” The bill would have capped the annual rent increase at 4.5 percent, plus inflation; but rent control reduces housing supply. Current providers are deterred from expanding the number of rental units, and potential providers become less likely to enter into the market altogether. Rent controls also decrease the quality of rental units as owners respond to price controls by cutting costs.
‘An Act Concerning Zero-Carbon Emissions’ declared that climate change in Connecticut as a public health and environmental justice crisis, and charged DEEP within available appropriations — to produce a ‘Decarbonization Roadmap.’ The roadmap would have identified regulations, programs and policies “necessary” to ensure the state reduces greenhouse emissions to at least 80 percent below the level emitted in 2001.
Bike Paths and Eminent Domain
Within ‘An Act Implementing the Recommendations of the Vision Zero Council’ was a provision granting the commissioner of the state Department of Transportation the ability to “take any land” to create bike paths. As YI President Carol Platt Liebau testified: “The bill demonstrates no public need to take private property. These bike paths are for the recreational use of a single group: cyclists. And a theoretical, de minimis reduction in carbon emissions can’t justify the real seizure of real people’s real property.”
Mandating Paid Sick Days
Connecticut was poised to expand paid sick time from 40 to 80 hours, which covered all private-sector employers and employees. It would have also broadened the range of family members employees may use leave for; increased the rate at which employees accrue leave; broadened the reasons employees may use leave; and increased the maximum amount of hours an employee may accrue. Additionally, the bill provided penalties and civil action through the Attorney General’s Office for failure to keep accurate balances of employee leave records.
Unemployment Benefits to Striking Workers
If passed, S.B. 938 would have “allow[ed] striking employees to collect unemployment benefits after a period of two consecutive weeks striking.” How is that fair? This is an extremely misguided concept, requiring employers to pay benefits for workers who are not working. Frank Ricci, labor fellow at Yankee Institute, wrote in an op-ed that, “S.B. 938 would upend this balance by forcing businesses to fund striking workers through unemployment. It thereby puts a thumb on the scale in labor’s favor, in a way that no other New England state does — nor do 49 other states, leaving New York as the lone exception.”
Quotas for Warehouse Workers
S.B. 152 was another intrusion into the free market, eliminating “unreasonable” quotas for warehouse workers. This feel-good measure also had unintended consequences. As Ricci pointed out, the bill was a “heavy hand” government intrusion, increasing costs and decreasing the ability of Connecticut’s businesses to compete in the marketplace with out-of-state enterprises. In the end, the bill would have resulted in “more in-state businesses closing, fleeing our state or automating jobs sooner than they otherwise would. At the very least, it would deter new businesses from relocating to our great state.”