Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I am pleased to share with you this update on the recently concluded legislative session. Each year, our goal is to forge a path for a stronger Connecticut, and the 2017 session was no different. We worked to pass bipartisan legislation that improves the lives of working families, encourages economic growth, and makes critical investments in the future of our children, as well as our state.
I am committed to fighting for you and building a solid Connecticut for future generations. The policies we passed support our small businesses, spur workforce development and ensure that we are making Connecticut more affordable for our young people and our seniors. Although the regular session has concluded, I will continue to work to keep Connecticut a great place to live, work, and raise a family.
I hope you find the enclosed information helpful. Our future is stronger when we work together, so please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office if I can ever be of help to you or your family. It is my pleasure and honor to serve as your state representative.
Pregnancy in the Workplace
HB 6668 strengthens current protections for pregnant women under the state’s antidiscrimination law. Under the law, employers would be required to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees, such as being allowed to sit while working or taking more frequent breaks. It would also prohibit limiting or segregating an employee in a way that would deny her employment opportunities due to her pregnancy. These protections are critical to women’s economic security and are good for the economy. (PA 17-118)
Protection from Wage Discrimination
The House passed HB 5591, AN Act Concerning pay Equality In the Workforce, which would help address the gender pay gap. This disparity is one of the most important, far-reaching issues we face as a society today – affecting not only women but their families and communities as well. When it comes to economic fairness, nothing is more fundamental than equal pay for equal work. This bill helps close the gender pay gap by addressing gender-based discrimination strengthening anti-discrimination laws, prohibiting pregnancy leave from affecting seniority and limiting the use of historical earnings in wage disputes. Although we successfully passed this bill in the House, the Senate took no action.
A new law expands the powers and duties of the Judicial Branch’s Office of Victim Services (OVS). Among other changes, it creates a new process for victims seeking enforcement of financial restitution orders; makes more victims eligible for victim compensation from OVS by expanding injuries, crimes, and situations under which a victim may qualify for compensation, allows up to an additional $5,000 above the maximum $15,000 personal injury award for certain child-victims, allows OVS to waive consideration of available health insurance when determining victim compensation and expands court-ordered protections to certain victims of stalking. (PA 17-99)
Resolving the Odd Fellows Dispute
The House and Senate both passed SB 377, An Act Amending The Charter Of The Odd Fellows Home Of Connecticut. This piece of legislation was a work in progress all session, saw substantial changes, and the final product is beneficial for both the Town and Odd Fellows. Working with all parties, we were able to increase the tax dollars and Payment In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) that the Town will receive while addressing Odd Fellows concerns as well. This bill is an example of what can be done when all parties negotiate in good faith. (SA 17-7)
Representative Conley reading proposed legislation regarding the Odd Fellows Home.
Regulation of Ride-Sharing Companies
As ride-sharing companies, such as Uber and Lyft, continue to grow more and more popular, we must do everything we can to make them safe and accessible to all. This bill requires businesses like Uber to carry insurance for their customers, perform background checks on drivers and have their cars pass a 19 point safety check. This is common sense legislation that protects both drivers and consumers. (PA 17-140)
Strengthened Workforce Development
In order to stay competitive in the evolving world we need to give our future workforce the skills they need to succeed. This year we passed legislation that would help guarantee that.
This session we tackled two major issues that are top-of-mind for our Vo-Tech school system with HB 7271 An Act Concerning The Establishment Of The Technical High School System As An Independent Agency. First, we addressed wasteful spending by implementing a number of oversights which include greater contract review, a more transparent budgeting process, greater inventory controls to reduce lost and stolen equipment, and greater checks and balances in terms of the system’s governance. Second, we made critical investments by dedicating staff to the system’s mission, reprioritizing school staffing with a greater focus on quality classroom instruction and limiting heavy-handed cuts by the executive branch. These changes will pay dividends by preparing students to enter into high-skill, in-demand jobs that will drive Connecticut’s economy. (PA 17-237)
The House and Senate both passed HB 5590, An Act Concerning The Workforce Development System In The State Of Connecticut, In the interest of putting together a workforce that is properly trained and prepared to work in various Connecticut industries such as manufacturing, insurance, and bioscience, it is essential that we develop a talent pipeline that is strong in these areas. This legislation creates a landmark, one-stop office for any business that is moving to or expanding in Connecticut to work with professionals from across state government and private agencies to develop a custom recruitment and training program. This pipeline will help make sure local residents are trained for the careers in their region. In support of this mission, under this bill, the Commissioner of Labor must also develop a universal intake form that individuals entering any American Job Center or regional workforce development board facility must complete as a way to measure the success of job assistance. The bill also establishes a working group to coordinate existing business support services and requires the department to report on the success of existing job training programs. In addition, the legislation codifies a number of programs that have a track record of working or supplying important data for the state such as the P-20 WIN program and the Early College Opportunity Program. (PA 17-207)
Assisting Small Businesses
HB 5583, An Act Expanding Investment Eligibility Under The Angel Investor Tax Credit Program, gives small businesses access to capital by expanding this tax credit. Having sufficient resources to start-up or expand a business is one of the more common issues we hear from entrepreneurs. This law will give them a new pathway to thrive during critical times. (PA 17-110)
Expanded Gaming and Entertainment
To stay competitive with surrounding states when it comes to gaming, we passed Senate Bill 957, An Act Concerning The Regulation Of Gaming And The Authorization Of A Casino Gaming Facility In The State. This bill authorizes the operation of an off-reservation casino gaming facility in East Windsor, Connecticut while maintaining the current slot revenue sharing agreement with the tribes, and expanding revenue sharing to slot and table games in East Windsor. It also provides regional support for Northern CT towns and ensures proper state oversight of expanded gaming. This measure will help protect jobs in the State and in Southeastern Connecticut specifically and increase the revenue to the state. (PA 17-89)
Fighting the Opioid Epidemic
Connecticut has been grappling with an opioid epidemic for years. Opioid addiction touches every corner of the state, every economic stratum, and every demographic. Passage of House Bill 7052, An Act Preventing Prescription Opioid Diversion And Abuse, will help reduce addiction and overdoses by limiting the maximum opioid drug prescription for minors from 7 days to 5 days, requires health insurers to cover medically necessary, inpatient detoxification services for an insured diagnosed with a substance use disorder. (PA 17-131)
Honoring Gold Star Families
Both the House and Senate passed SB 918, An Act Concerning A Municipal Option Property Tax Exemption For Gold Star Parents And Spouses, which allows municipalities to provide a property tax exemption to a parent or surviving spouse of a service member killed in action while performing active military duty. Municipalities may exempt up to $20,000 or 10% of the property’s assessed value. (PA 17-65)
Maximizing the Returns on the State’s Investments
The legislature established new ways to help the state maximize the return on its economic development investments. It required specific legislative committees to conduct periodic reviews of all economic development programs each time the committees receive certain mandated reports on the programs’ performance. The reports include the Department of Economic and Community Development’s (DECD) annual report, which now must include more information about the programs’ economic impact, and a new report the state auditors must prepare on the programs’ performance each time they audit DECD.
The legislature recognized that the economy is constantly changing, as new technologies create new businesses and potentially threaten existing ones. To get a better handle on these changes and their implications for economic development policy, the legislature created a process to continuously analyze economic and business conditions and generate reports for legislatures that, among other things, recommend appropriate legislative and programmatic actions. These tasks must be performed by a private research organization selected by and reporting to CTNext, a subsidiary of Connecticut Innovations that foster innovation and entrepreneurship. (PA 17-164 & PA 17-219)