Dear Friends and Neighbors,

House Democrats led the way in passing significant legislation during the 2017 session of the General Assembly to help protect and improve the quality of life for Connecticut families.

This was a session dominated by the budget. There were no easy solutions and hard decisions had to be made. The long-term structural changes we made will help put Connecticut’s budget on a sustainable path – not just this year, but in future years to come.

Encouraging economic development, improving consumer protection, and strengthening public safety were featured elements of some of the major bills approved by the legislature this year.

Keeping Connecticut a great place to live, work, and raise a family is our ongoing objective as well as our responsibility. Though the 2017 legislative session presented one of the toughest budget challenges in decades, we succeeded in helping move our state forward.

Sincerely,


Supporting CT’s Small Businesses

The newly passed state budget maintains funding for important programs that our small businesses rely on, including: the Bioscience Innovation Fund, Angel Investor Tax Credits, and the Women’s Business Development Council. We also created the Small Business Hotline this session, which provides entrepreneurs of prospective and existing small businesses with customized advice, education, and network resources in one place.  Each of these programs provide resources and guidance for growing industries and Connecticut-based entrepreneurs. While the overall state budget reduces state spending for a number of programs, it is important that we not abandon successful programs that are creating jobs.


Workforce Development

Having a highly skilled workforce is critical to attracting new businesses, keeping the high-performing companies we have, and connecting our residents with good paying, quality jobs. That’s why we created a landmark initiative within the Department of Labor that will strengthen existing workforce development programs and implement new job training opportunities using a mix of public and private funds. In addition, we are moving the vo-tech schools out from under the State Department of Education so they are able to be more responsive to job market changes. These changes will make sure we have an economy that is competitive for the future.


Social Security Tax Exemption for Seniors

The budget we passed includes a provision that will exempt social security and pensions from the state income tax starting in 2019.  This will help provide much needed tax relief to those who need it most and allow them to keep more of their own money. Another bill requires landlords to return any security deposit that exceeds one month’s rent if the tenant turned age 62 after paying the deposit, upon request of the tenant.


Women in the Workplace

For far too long, women have been losing out on opportunities to advance in the workplace due in part to unfair treatment with respect to pregnancy.  Under Public Act 17-118, current protections for pregnant and nursing women are strengthened, including requiring employers to make reasonable accommodations for these employees. These protections are critical to women’s financial security and are good for families and the economy.


Transportation

Connecticut’s aging transportation infrastructure has a real impact on our bottom line. According to a report by the American Society of Civil Engineers, the average motorist in CT pays an extra $864 per year because of driving on roads that are in need of repair. That’s why I’m glad that as part of this budget, we agreed to a long-term plan to move more sales tax revenue into the Special Transportation Fund. These resources will help the fund stay solvent. There is still a lot more we need to do, but this was an important step forward.


Other Important Legislation

Cracking Down on Debit Card Fraud
This pro-consumer bill extends credit card fraud protections to debit card and digital wallet transactions. It also makes it a crime of larceny for a landlord to continue to collect rent on a property they have lost to foreclosure. PA 17-26

Ending Domestic Violence
With this law, we continue to update our laws to reflect national best-practices by: expanding existing laws on strangulation and stalking; acknowledging the use of social media as a modern means for stalking; increasing the penalty for committing a family violence crime while on probation; and requiring a presentence investigation for anyone convicted of a family violence felony to take into account, among other things, the circumstances of the offense and victim’s attitude. PA 17-31

Fighting Human Trafficking
This law strengthens CT’s human trafficking laws by broadening the crime of trafficking in persons to include sex trafficking, enhances the penalty to a class A felony, and creates the felony crime of commercial sexual abuse of a minor for those who patronize or solicit minors who are trafficked for sex. The law also requires the posting of services for trafficking victims in additional businesses. PA 17-32

Improving Early Literacy
The State Department of Education will develop a reading readiness program that provides tiered supports in early literacy for schools and school districts. It also requires the result of the reading instruction survey be distributed to teachers and administrators for the purposes of creating professional development. PA 17-101

Strengthening Penalties for Hate Crimes
Responding to recent incidents of intimidation and bigotry, this law allows certain hate-crime offenders to be placed in community programs aimed at addressing their intolerance, and creates a state-wide Hate Crimes Advisory Council. It also imposes minimum fines for certain hate crimes, including cross burning and desecration of property and toughens the penalties for targeting and desecrating a house of worship. PA 17-111

Regulating Ride-Sharing Companies
This common-sense legislation protects both passengers and drivers by establishing requirements for minimum car insurance coverage, driver background checks, and accessibility and nondiscrimination policies. PA 17-140

Reforming the Bail System
Under our current system of pretrial detention, low-risk offenders are routinely held in jail simply because they cannot afford bail. Under new legislation, judges are barred from requiring cash-only bail and can no longer require bail for minor crimes unless that person poses an immediate threat or is being held for a family violence crime. PA 17-145


Capitol Update 2017 (pdf)