As we look to wrap up the legislative session on June 5, the General Assembly has a lot of unfinished business: tolls, family medical leave, the expansion of gaming in Connecticut, the legalization of marijuana, and the biggest of all, our two-year state budget.
The Speaker of the House has raised the possibility of a special session over the summer being needed for legislators to act on a bill allowing tolls on state highways, even though we have been discussing the issue of tolls since January of this year.
The truth is, the Speaker of the House and Gov. Lamont do not have the votes for tolls as of today and I speculate the Speaker hopes the passions of the anti-toll movement wane during the summer vacation season so they can pass a tolls bill.
We shall see what remaining proposals do get debated during the legislative session. Subject matters like the Family Medical Leave (FMLA) seem to have many funding questions surrounding the proposal. As written, FMLA would take .5 percent out of everyone’s paycheck.
The latest information we heard on a proposal to legalize marijuana is that the bill lacks the support in the House of Representatives by at least 10 votes.
On May 15, we debated H.B. 5004 which increases Connecticut’s minimum wage from $10.10 per hour to $15 per hour (a 48.5 percent increase) over a four-year period beginning October 1, 2019 ($11/hour). The rate would then increase $1 per year until June 1, 2023, when it becomes $15. From then onward, the minimum wage would rise automatically with the employment cost index.
Only individuals under 18 years of age will be eligible to receive 85 percent of the minimum wage for the first 200 hours of employment.
House Republicans made several attempts to amend and improve the bill. Amendments included language to protect municipalities (LCO 8201), and non-profits, hospitals and universities (LCO 8204). Other amendments addressed seasonal employees (LBO 8259), learners and beginners, training wage (LCO 8280), as well as farm and agricultural workers (LCO 8266).
None of the Republicans’ amendments that would have improved the bill passed the House of Representatives, forcing me to vote against it.
We need to be cognizant of the fact that, according to state Department of Labor, Connecticut dropped 3,400 jobs in the first three months of 2019, losing 1,300 jobs in March alone, pushing unemployment one-tenth higher than the national rate of 3.8.
And still no peep about voting on a state budget that was voted out of the Appropriations committee on April 30.
Unfortunately, there seems to be no real sense of urgency from the majority party to fix our state’s precarious economic situation. I hold out hope that they come to their senses.
As always, feel free to contact me on these issues or any other questions or concerns at (800) 842-1423 or email my office at Lezlye.Zupkus@housegop.ct.gov.