Hartford Report / State Rep. John Hetherington
Published 2:26 pm, Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Shortly after midnight on June 8, Gov. Malloy appeared before the General Assembly to mark the end of the 2011 regular session and list his major accomplishments. Prominent among these is an all-time record $4 billion in new taxes and fees to cover more spending. So we continue to tax and spend. I guess we truly are "the land of steady habits."
Even with higher taxes, the governor needs $2 billion in givebacks from state workers. But our workers were not persuaded to sacrifice that much. Maybe they realized that they are going to be to be paying higher taxes, too. So their bargaining agent gave the governor just $1.6 billion, which must be approved by the individual unions before June 30. They certainly ought to approve it. It extends the basic agreement until 2022, assures no layoffs, provides a 10 percent wage boost over three years after a two-year freeze, and most of the pain is held for future employees. What's not to like? But if approval fails, we will have to take another look at our $40 billion budget. Think July, and maybe August.
The governor liked the paid sick leave law, which the Legislature passed. We are talking about taking time for personal sickness, maladies of family members and partners and court dates. Further, absence for meditation and faith healing might even be acceptable. Preventive therapies are broadly included and there is no need for medical confirmation. It is the uncertain implications more than the obvious mandate that scare employers. What employer would choose to come to Connecticut and enter this morass?
Also on the governor's list was the "decriminalization" of less than ½ ounce of marijuana. New offenders will avoid a criminal record. The existing practice allows the same result but with an education program.
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Passed within a budget "implementer" is a measure that allows certain violent criminals to be released without supervision on the basis of risk reduction credits earned by being nice in prison.
Those who qualify include rapists and persons convicted of sex crimes involving children.
Multiple DWI offenders can skip jail and go home with an ignition interlock device even though it restricts only one car and can be defeated anyway by a willing passenger.
Speaking of driving, now there will be a statutory plan to self-finance the installation of cameras on school buses to catch drivers passing the bus while kids are entering or exiting. New Canaan is well along with a pilot program. Also, fines for repeat violations involving use of a hand-held phone while driving are boosted to $250 on the second and $400 on the third.
The governor cited with satisfaction the passage of his bill barring transgender discrimination. Discrimination hurts, and excluding transgender people was already illegal. The net effect of the new law is to eliminate an existing exception for spaces customarily regarded as private, like bathrooms and locker rooms. Also the law introduces the notion that a protected status is a wholly subjective determination. What one feels is what one is.
Continuing the Majority Leaders' Job Growth Roundtable, the "Jobs Bill," deserved the bipartisan support it received. It includes a "learn here, live here" plan from the Republican side that allows graduates of Connecticut colleges and universities to accumulate state income tax payments for the purchase of a first home in this state.
We also passed an energy bill that offers the possibility of more green energy and lower rates.
The bill removes an extra charge put on electric bills last year to cover a budget deficit and protects the conservation fund as sought by State Sen. Toni Boucher (R-26), State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) and me.
Personally I was especially pleased that two specific proposals I introduced survived to become law.
One was to protect the rights of parents in DCF investigations. The other was to enable prison inmates to extend the renewal period of their driver's license to help them get a job on release.
Going back to the midnight speech, the governor concluded with a pledge to convene special session in the fall to focus on jobs.
Some of us wondered what we were supposed to be focused on in the last five months.