Legislative Session Recap

Last night, the legislative session concluded without passing a budget, meaning we will be going into special session in the coming weeks. This session has been particularly contentious, with an even split of Democrats and Republicans in the senate, a small Democratic majority in the house, and a $5 billion deficit in the state’s budget, resulting in few bills and no state budget passing into law.  Currently, Governor Malloy, the Senate and House Democrats, the Senate GOP, and the House GOP have released budgets, all of which, if implemented, could result in cuts to crucial programs. Keep reading to learn more about what happened this session and what to look out for in the coming weeks.  

 

The Good:

  • S.B. 912- An Act Concerning Revisions to the Staff Qualifications Requirement for Early Childhood Educators
    • This bill amends previous legislation requiring early childhood educators to have a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or a teaching certificate with an endorsement in early childhood education to include those with a bachelor’s degree with a concentration in early childhood education and provides an easier route for individual review on a teacher’s credentials. It also provides additional time for providers to achieve the staff qualifications requirement. This bill reaffirms the need for high quality early childhood educators, while also providing adequate time and means for providers to meet goals. Read CAHS’s testimony here.
    • Status: This bill passed both the House and Senate.
  • H.B. 7312 – An Act Concerning the Department of Revenue Services’ Recommendations for State Taxation and Collection and Improving Tax Gap Compliance. 
    • This bill, originally S.B. 1047, creates a regulatory system for paid tax preparers, protecting lower-income residents from exploitative practices.  Read CAHS’s testimony here
    • Status: This bill passed the House and Senate.
  • H.B. 7044- An Act Concerning Pretrial Justice Reform
    • This bill makes changes to bail practices, including prohibiting judges from setting cash-only bails, restricting judges from setting bail for misdemeanors, accelerating bail redetermination hearings for misdemeanor cases, and authorizing a study by the bail industry on the practicality of placing a surcharge on bond agents’ clients to help indigent defendants.
    • Status: This bill passed both the House and Senate.
    • Read more here.
  • H.B. 7212- An Act Concerning the Promotion of Loan Forgiveness Programs
    • This bill requires public service employers to provide their employees with information regarding the federal loan forgiveness program for public service employees. Read CAHS’s testimony here.
    • Status: This bill passed both the House and Senate.  
  • H.B. 6997- An Act Concerning the Well-Being of Children
    • This bill requires the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to evaluate its programs and their impact upon children’s well-being.
    • Status: This bill passed the House and Senate.
  • H.B. 7271- An Act Concerning the Establishment of the Technical High School System as an Independent Agency
    • This bill implements a process to transition the technical high school system into an independent agency, strengthening alternative pathways to the workforce for many students who do not wish to or are unable to pursue post-secondary education and other more “traditional” pathways to the workforce.
    • Status: This bill passed the House and Senate.
  • H.B. 7229- An Act Concerning the Creation of Connecticut Brownfield Land Banks, Revisions to the Brownfield Remediation and Revitalization Program and Authorizing Bonds of the State for Brownfield Remediation and Development Programs
    • This bill would authorize the creation of Connecticut brownfield land banks for the purpose of revitalizing these unused industrial zones and bringing new industry to Connecticut’s in-need areas.
    • Status: This bill passed the House and the Senate. 

 


 Close Calls:

  • H.B. 7155- An Act Requiring the Office of Early Childhood to Develop a Proposed Early Childhood Educator Compensation Schedule
    • This bill would have required the Office of Early Childhood to develop an early childhood compensation schedule that would help to ensure a pool of well-qualified candidates for early childhood educators, while also reflecting the cost associated with maintaining high quality early childhood educational programs.
    • Status: This bill passed through the House, but was tabled in the Senate.
  • H.B. 7216- An Act Concerning Family Impact Statements in Cases of Defendants with Dependent Children
    • This bill would allow defendants the opportunity to submit a family impact statement before sentencing about how it impacts their family. This bill could allow for special circumstances for parents in the interest of the well-being of their children.
    • Status: This bill was voted down 83-67 in the House.
  • H.B 7022- An Act Concerning the Children’s Report Card
    • The children’s Report Card evaluates state policies and programs in order to track outcomes. This bill would establish a leadership committee to review aspects of the report card and determine how best to measure progress.
    • Status: This bill passed the House and was tabled in the Senate.
  • H.B. 7030- An Act Concerning the Credit of Certain Utility Customers
    • This bill would have protected the credit of low-income residents by preventing utilities company from reporting them for non-payment to credit rating agencies for 120 days.
    • Status: This bill passed the house, but was tabled in the senate. 

 


 The Sad:

  • S.B. 1- An Act Concerning Earned Family and Medical Leave
    • This bill would have implemented a system of paid family and medical leave in Connecticut, ensuring Connecticut’s workers do not have to choose between their family and health, and their jobs.  Read CAHS’s testimony here.
    •  Status: This bill was not voted on in either chamber.
  • H.B. 7314- An Act Concerning a Tax on Certain Sweetened Beverages
    • This bill would have implemented an excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages and the funding could have been used to reopen the Care4Kids program and anti-obesity education programs and campaigns.  (This could be resurrected in the budget bill, but that seems unlikely.)  Read CAHS’s testimony here.
    • Status: This bill did not progress past its public hearing.
  • S.B. 13- An Act Concerning the Minimum Fair Wage
    • This bill would have created a graduated schedule to raise the fair minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2022.   Read CAHS’ testimony here.
    • Status: This bill did not progress past its public hearing.
  • S.B. 1055- An Act Concerning Stranded Tax Credits and Strategic Economic Development
    • This bill would have allowed the use of stranded tax credits in order to encourage the expansion of industries in Connecticut.  Read CAHS’s testimony here.
    • Status: This bill did not advance after its public hearing, but could be included in the budget implementer.
  • S.B. 837- An Act Concerning Apprenticeship Opportunities for High Growth, High Demand Jobs
    • This bill would have established a task force to identify high, growth, high demand jobs and analyze the implementation and creation of partnerships to provide apprenticeships for such jobs.  Read CAHS’ testimony here.
    • Status: This bill was placed on the Senate calendar, but never voted on.
  • H.B. 7234- An Act Concerning Students in Crisis at Institutions of Higher Education
    • This bill would have required Connecticut’s public institutions of higher education to provide more support services to students in-need.  Read CAHS’ testimony here.
    • Status: This bill was placed on the House calendar, but was never voted on.
  • H.B. 6162- An Act Concerning a Study of the Implementation of a Debt-Free Higher Education Program
    • This bill would implement a study to determine the feasibility of a debt-free higher education program in Connecticut.  Read CAHS’s testimony here.
    • Status: This bill was placed on the House calendar, but never voted on.


What to Watch for in the Coming Months:

As the session concluded without the passage of a budget, the Senate and House passed a resolution calling for a special session in order to pass a state budget and implement any bills or resolutions needed to pass the budget. There is significant pressure for the legislature to adopt a state budget before the new fiscal year on July 1st, so it is crucial to advocate for a budget that both includes revenue options that do not harm low-income people and funds the vital institutions and programs that help low-income families survive and progress towards self-sufficiency. The budgets contain measures that may impact low-income families in the following ways:

  • Early Care and Education
    • The Office of Early Childhood
      • The Office of Early Childhood was established in 2013 with the intention of providing a coordinated system of early care and education in our state. The OEC ensures that child care systems in our state are blended and braided and placed Connecticut as a national leader of early care and education. Several proposals during the session called for the closure of the Office of Early Childhood and the transfer of its programs to other agencies, including the Department of Education and the Department of Social Services. However, in order to build and maintain a coordinated system of early childhood services, Connecticut must retain the Office of Early Childhood.
      • The four proposed budgets address this issue in the following ways:
        • Governor’s Budget: Maintains the OEC, but moves the Birth to Three Program to the Department of Social Services.
        • Democratic Budget: Moves the OEC and its programs to the Department of Education.
        • Senate GOP Budget: Moves the OEC and its programs to the Department of Education, with the exception of Birth to Three, which is moved to the Department of Social Services.
        • House GOP Budget: Maintains the OEC, but moves the Birth to Three program to the Department of Social Services.
    • Care4Kids Child Subsidy Programs
      • This program provides child care subsidies to low-income working families, allowing parents to work and children to access high-quality early care and education. However, in 2014, changes were made the child care development block grant (CCDBG), requiring that families no longer eligible for the subsidy to be phased out over three months and eligibility redeterminations to occur every 12 months, rather than every eight months. While these changes positively impact continuity and stability of care for low-income children, they also increase the cost of the program, creating a $33 million deficit. This led to the program closing to all families, with the exception of those receiving TANF funds, and resulted in 5,500 fewer child care slots for low income families between August 2016 and February 2017. It is crucial that the state budget fully fund Care4Kids, so parents can work and children can access high-quality, consistent care.
      • The four proposed budgets address this issue in the following ways:
        • Governor’s Budget: Maintains closure of the program by cutting $7.4 million (6%) in FY 2018 and $12.6 (10%) in FY 2019. However, it keeps the program in the Office of Early Childhood.
        • Democratic Budget: Partially reopens the program in FY 2018 by allocating an additional $2.8 million (2%) in the first year by transferring TANF funds from DSS to the Care4Kids program. In the second year, however, the budget maintains the Governor’s FY 2019 $12.6 million cut and does not allocate any additional funds. The program is transferred from the Office of Early Childhood to the Department of Education.
        • Senate GOP Budget: Partially reopens the program by allocating an additional $2.8 million (2%) in FY 18 and $8 million (6%) in FY 2019. The program is transferred from the Office of Early Childhood to the Department of Education.
        • House GOP Budget: Maintains cuts similar to those in the Governor’s proposal, cutting the program $7.4 million (6%) in FY 2018 and $12.6 (10%) in FY 2019, keeping the program closed to new families. It also keeps the program in the Office of Early Childhood.
    • Birth to Three
      • The Birth to Three Program provides developmental services children birth to three years old. Although the program is mandated by the federal government to be fully funded, it has been underfunded and run in a deficit for many years. The program is shifting to a fee for service model, but does not take into account the administrative time and costs required.
      • The four proposed budgets address this issue in the following ways:
        • Governor’s Budget: Moves the program to the Department of Social Services and cuts funding by $10.5 million (43%) in both years.
        • Democratic Budget: Maintains full funding, but moves the program to the Department of Education.
        • Senate GOP Budget: Maintains full funding, but moves the program to the Department of Education.
        • House GOP Budget: Maintains full funding, but moves the program to the Department of Education.
    • Family Resource Centers:
      • Family Resource Centers promote comprehensive, integrated, community-based systems of family support and child development services located conveniently in public schools. The proposed budgets threaten the funding for FRCs in a variety of ways.
      • The four proposed budgets address this issue in the following ways:
        • Governor’s Budget: Block grants FRCs with into a “Student Support Service Grant” with a variety of other programs, including After School Programs and Neighborhood Youth Centers, and cuts the grant by 50%.
        • Democratic Budget: Reduces funding by $2 million (26%) in both FY 18 and FY 19.
        • House and Senate GOP Budget: Reduces funding by $236,845 (3%) in both FY 18 and FY 19.
    • The Connecticut Two Generation Initiative
      • The two generation project looks at systems change to serve both parent and child concurrently. Presently it supports five two generation initiatives statewide.
      • All four proposed budgets eliminate the two generation initiative.
    • The elimination of several programs that help support low-income children and families:
      • Help Me Grow, Healthy Start, Community Plans for Early Childhood are almost sure to be eliminated upon the implementation of the state budget in the coming weeks
      • Several Early Childhood programs are likely to see a 3% cut, including Early Head Start.
      • Even Start: This two-generation early learning program provides families with young children with adult education services and pathways to the workforce, high-quality early care and education opportunities, and wrap-around supportive services, treating both parent and child as a member of a family unit and dependent upon the success of the entire family unit. The program is evaluated and has proven positive outcomes for parents, children, and families. Despite its proven success, the program is eliminated entirely in all but the Senate GOP Budget, which only reduces its funding by $13,537 (3%) in both FY 18 and FY 19.
  • Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
    • The EITC is a vital tax credit for low-income families. The credit is proven to encourage employment, lead to more positive outcomes, and the return from the credit typically goes directly back into the state’s economy, as it is used to pay for a family’s costlier expenses, such as car repairs or outstanding debts. However, in order to balance the budget, the proposed budgets reduce or eliminate this credit as a cost-saving measure balanced on the backs of low-income working families.
    • The four proposed budgets addressed this issue in the following ways:
      • Governor’s Budget: Reduces the EITC from 27.5% of the federal EITC to 25%.
      • Democratic Budget: Reduces the EITC from 27.5% of the federal EITC to 26.25%.
      • Senate GOP Budget: The Senate GOP provided two options. The first option would reduce the EITC to 25%. However, in a May 31 budget update, they presented another other option, which provides a graduated schedule for the EITC—5% for a single adult, 10% for a family with one child, 15% for a family with two children, and 25% for a family with 3+ children.
      • House GOP Budget: Both reduces the rate and makes it a non-refundable credit.
  • Medicaid/HUSKY A
    • HUSKY A/Medicaid is the state’s insurance program for children, teens, parents, relative caregivers, and pregnant women below 155% FPL or $38,130 for a family of four. This program is threatened in all budgets.
    • The four proposed budgets address this issue in the following ways:
      • Governor’s Budget: Reduces the income eligibility from 155% to 138% FPL.
      • Democratic Budget: Reduces the income eligibility from 155% to 138% FPL and suggests imposing monthly $26 co-payments, which may or may not be legal.
      • Senate GOP Budget: Reduces the income eligibility from 155% to 138% FPL and suggests imposing monthly $26 co-payments, which may or may not be legal.
      • House GOP Budget: Maintains the eligibility rate at 155% FPL, but suggests imposing monthly $26 co-payments and eliminates optional services.
  • Potential Cuts to Higher Education
    • Both the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System (CSCU) and UCONN provide access to higher education and pathways to the workforce for Connecticut’s students. All the proposed budgets suggest sweeping cuts to both CSCU and UCONN, threatening the system of higher education. These cuts could result in the closure of several community colleges, the reduction of available student financial aid, and many other programs within Connecticut’s institutions of higher education.
  • Potential Elimination of the Commission on Women, Children and Seniors and the Commission on Equity and Inclusion.
    • These Commissions, having already faced huge cuts and consolidations in previous budget years, help legislators ensure that Connecticut’s laws ensure the well-being of all of Connecticut’s residents.
    • The four proposed budgets address this issue in the following ways:
      • Governor’s Budget: Reduces funding for both Commissions by approximately 14% each year.
      • Democratic Budget, Senate GOP Budget, House GOP Budget: Eliminate both Commissions.  
  • Please note: While the Senate GOP budget does provide funding for various programs that help low-income people, they balance this through large union concessions. 

 

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