Winter Government Affairs Report
The 2017 session of the Connecticut General Assembly kicked off early last month and things are already in full swing at the Capitol. So far, there have already been over 2,800 individual bills introduced in the legislature, many of interest to CHCC and the HVAC industry at large. With a tie in the Senate, a narrow majority of Democrats in the House, and a new committee structure that includes “tri-chairs” on each of the legislature’s joint standing committees, 2017 is already shaping up to be a year like no other in Hartford.
On the opening day of the legislative session, Governor Malloy delivered his “State of the State” address. The themes of his speech initially centered on “predictability” and “certainty” for the business community and overall sustainable state finances, including the need to look at the affordability of state employee benefits. Additionally, the Governor also mentioned that the administration would be examining how state aid to cities and towns is to be allocated, including for education funding. This has led to many wondering about the impact the state budget will have on local property taxes, with some municipal leaders calling for things like an expanded sales tax, while others are calling for mandate reforms. On the municipal mandate relief front, it is expected that prevailing wage reforms will be a hot topic this year, with the Governor finally calling on the legislature to increase the prevailing wage thresholds for new construction from $400,000 to $1 million and for renovations/rehabilitations from $100,000 to $500,000. The Governor’s much anticipated budget address on February 8 will reveal many more details regarding the proposed state budget and other government reforms, as Connecticut faces a budget deficit of approximately $1.5 billion for each of the next two fiscal years.
While the budget issues will likely dominate much of the time and energy of legislators this session, other issues impacting the HVAC industry and licensed trades in general will be examined. Specifically, CHCC continues to push for changes to the apprenticeship hiring ratio and has been actively participating in a construction industry working group established by the General Law Committee. Thought it is unclear at this time what recommendations may result from the working group, there have already been at least 5 different ratio bills introduced by legislators this session. Most notably, Senate Bill 353, sponsored by Senate Republican Leaders Len Fasano and Kevin Witkos, has been scheduled for a subject matter public hearing before the General Law Committee later this session. Aside from ratio discussions, the topic of occupational licensing reform will also be seriously considered by the legislature this session. Various bills have been filed to reduce or eliminate licensing fees for veterans and military spouses, disabled, and low-income individuals. Other bills would have the Department of Consumer Protection and other state agencies examine occupational licenses and attempt to streamline them in order to remove barriers to employment while still maintaining standards and protections for public health and safety. Finally, other bills (including HB-6398will be examining the impact an applicant’s past criminal history may have on the ability to obtain or maintain an occupational license. On the general business front, the employers will have to close watch legislation that calls for a $15 per hour minimum wage; a bill to establish a state-run paid family medical leave system for most employers in the state; bills to strengthen gender pay equity; among others.
As the legislative session moves along, public hearings will begin to be scheduled in February and March in advance of committee voting deadlines in March and April, and CHCC and the Government Affairs committee will be closely monitoring and weighing in on these proposals. Remember, as a CHCC member, you can view all of the bills being monitored, stay informed 24/7 on the latest status of any piece of legislation or find and email legislators with exclusive access to CHCC's online bill tracking system and legislative email center. A username and password is required. For more information and how to access, please contact Jenn Jennings. As always, if you have questions on legislation or regulations or if you would like more information on an issue, please feel free to contact the Government Affairs committee or CHCC’s lobbyist Andy Markowski at: (860) 256-8295 or firstname.lastname@example.org.