The End of Legislative Session 2017 Update & Recap
This was most certainly a busy legislative session for NASW-CT. We have lobbied at the State Capital, held meetings with legislators, sent out numerous legislative alerts and updates to our members, had monthly Education and Legislative Action Network meetings, and collaborated with coalitions in support of a wide variety of human rights. We also submitted 15 testimonies on a number of bills, and although not all ended up in of our favor or had an opportunity to get voted on, together with your support we have gained some positive changes for the lives of people in Connecticut.
Here is a recap on bills and issues we have worked on:
HB 6695: AN ACT CONCERNING THE PROTECTION OF YOUTH
Was nearly unanimously passed and signed into law by the Governor. We submitted written testimony on this and strongly collaborated with the CT Equality Coalition. We sent out legislative alerts asking you all to contact your state legislators to support this very important bill, which has now outlawed conversion therapy practice for minors in the state of Connecticut. Thank you all for your time and support on this very important piece of legislation!
SB 903: AN ACT CONCERNING EDUCATIONAL AND
PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS FOR PROFESSIONAL COUNSELORS
"To strengthen and clarify academic qualifications for licensed professional counselors and require licensed professional counselors to complete continuing education in professional ethics." NASW-CT submitted written testimony in support and this legislation was passed successfully.
SB 1: AN ACT CONCERNING EARNED FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE
This bill would have implemented a paid family medical leave policy in Connecticut. NASW-CT submitted written testimony and in person testimony was given on behalf of NASW by MSW intern Tim Demers. Unfortunately, this bill was not voted on in either chamber. It was however debated in the Senate, which is the first time paid family & medical leave has actually been debated by a chamber of the CT General Assembly.
H.B. 7314: AN ACT CONCERNING A TAX ON CERTAIN SWEETENED BEVERAGES
This bill would have implemented a tax on sugary beverages which could have brought in more revenue to support much needed social service programs. NASW-CT submitted written testimony in favor, unfortunately this bill did not pass, however may be included the state budget that is eventually adopted in the special session.
SB 586: AN ACT EXPANDING MANDATED HEALTH BENEFITS FOR WOMEN, CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS
"To: (1) Expand mandated health benefits for women, children and adolescents; (2) expand mandated contraception benefits; and (3) require the Commissioner of Social Services to amend the Medicaid state plan to provide expanded contraception benefits." This bill that was supported by NASW/CT, passed the Senate unanimously but unfortunately died when it was not brought up for a vote by the House due to threats of numerous amendments.
HB 6980: AN ACT CONCERNING ART THERAPISTS
NASW-CT sent out legislative alerts to members asking for opposition of this proposed bill due to the concern that it may prevent social workers from utilizing art therapy within practice. An agreement on language protecting social work practice was worked out. This bill died when never called for a vote by the House.
HB 6497: AN ACT CONCERNING LICENSURE REQUIREMENTS FOR CLINICAL SOCIAL WORKERS
"To protect the employment of those whose academic credentials and working history have been in the area of providing social work services but have not obtained the required statutory credentials for licensure as a clinical social worker." This bill would have jeopardized and threatened licensing credentials for social workers in the state of Connecticut. Legislative alerts went out encouraging members to contact legislators on the public health committee to express opposition to this bill. With your tremendous support we were able to stop the bill from being considered by the Public Health Committee!
SB 977: AN ACT CONCERNING ACCESS TO ORIGINAL BIRTH RECORDS BY ADULT ADOPTED PERSONS
Testimony was submitted by NASW-CT and legislative alerts issued, with the bill closely monitored by the chapter's Legislative Committee. Unfortunately, despite a strong lobbying effort, it died in the state senate where the bill was never taken up for a vote.
HB 5434: AN ACT ADOPTING THE INTERSTATE COMPACT TO ELECT THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES BY NATIONAL POPULAR VOTE
"To enter Connecticut into the Agreement Among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote, thereby committing the state's votes in the Electoral College to the presidential candidate that wins the popular vote nationally, regardless of whether such presidential candidate wins the popular vote within the state." NASW-CT submitted written testimony on this and other related bills, unfortunately this bill was not voted on by the House.
HB 7091: AN ACT CONCERNING THE DEPARTMENT OF MENTAL HEALTH AND ADDICTION SERVICES' RECOMMENDATIONS REGARDING REVISIONS TO THE PROFESSIONAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM FOR REGULATED PROFESSIONALS
"To implement the recommendation of the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to prohibit diagnosis with a mental illness or behavioral or emotional disorder from being grounds for a petition regarding a health care professional's inability to practice with reasonable care or safety." As described best by our lobby firm, Gallo & Robinson, "The bill eliminates the current requirement for a health care professional to notify the Department of Public Health (DPH) within 30 days of their being given a diagnosis of a mental illness, behavioral or emotional disorder." This bill was passed by both the House and Senate and is expected to become effective October, 2017.
Connecticut State Budget Updates:
Legislators have called themselves into special session, as a budget still has not been passed. In addition to the budget, they will focus on a bond package, school construction package, and budget implementers. It is likely that they will not convene for special session until a promising budget is put together that has the likelihood of passing. Legislators face a deadline of July 1st, when the new fiscal year begins. If no budget is passed by this deadline, the Governor will then begin running the state government with monthly allotments. Which according to our lobby firm, Gallo & Robinson, LLC, "That means he will release an allotment report each month until there is a budget passed by the legislature and signed by him, listing what he plans to allot to each line item for which the funding is not mandated or statutorily required." It is highly unlikely that a budget will be successfully voted upon before the start of the new fiscal year on July 1st.
One of the very important considerations we must pay attention to is the threatened cuts to Medicaid/HUSKY A, which is the state's insurance programs for children, parents, caregivers, pregnant women, and families that have a household income currently below 155% of FPL (which is only $38,130 for a family of four). According to the Connecticut Association for Human Services (CAHS), the following are the proposed Medicaid/Husky changes for the budget:
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.
Please note that in all of these budget proposals the HUSKY A/Medicaid program is threatened significantly in Connecticut and this could mean over 9,500 parents losing healthcare coverage as soon as the budget is passed! It is imperative that we continue dialogue with legislators over this extremely concerning issue. It is also crucial that we stay informed of what is going on both on the state and federal level when it comes to the current healthcare proposals and budget cuts. Proposed Medicaid cuts at the federal level when combined with proposed cuts at the state level will be a double whammy for Medicaid recipients. The work is still far from over.
As for revenues NASW/CT continues to press legislators to adopt new revenues as part of the final budget that is adopted. We ask our members to send your state senator and state representative a simple message, by calling or email, telling them that you are willing to pay a little more in taxes to preserve the state's social service and health care programs funded by the state.
Please continue to advocate on behalf of those we serve and for the greater good of Connecticut and beyond. As always we thank you for your continued support and we encourage you to reach out to your legislators to also thank them for their hard work.
If you need information on resources in relation to advocacy and legislation please contact our office or visit our website.
Stephen A. Karp, LMSW
National Association of Social Workers, CT Chapter
2139 Silas Deane Highway, Ste. 205
Rocky Hill, Connecticut 06067