March 15, 2019
The latest from the folks across the street from the Capitol

From Paddi's Desk
by Paddi LeShane

With spring right around the corner, CT looks for the usual signs of the new season. Are the white snowcaps up yet? What about some buds on those early flowering shrubs? And where are those daffodils and tulips?
Around the Capitol when we hit this time of year, everyone's spring observations are focused on the Governor's relationship with the legislative leaders, and vice versa. For the past six years things started to get hot right about now, with former OPM Secretary Ben Barnes making it quite clear there really wasn't much negotiation within the two-year proposal or the Governor's major initiatives. Armed with his thick binders and steel trap mind, he could rattle off all kinds of data research to demonstrate that the Governor had it right, and the pesky legislative committees just didn't understand.
Suffice to say...not a productive exchange of ideas.
As the Governor's proposals on lifestyle and workplace issues have been approved in a partisan manner, on some hot button ones - like $15/hour pay, paid family medical leave for all (with no company size limitations) and predictive schedules for hourly workers (many in the service industry don't see how they can compete now, given the huge financial resources required to implement these, especially for a small family-owned business) - what was missing was the rough and tumble back and forth between OPM, the agencies and the committee leaders.
Pretty much in my observation, it was the message from the Governor, "I like these policy changes. You decide how you would like to see them implemented, and then we can talk about how we finally make it happen."
Today in the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee's public hearing on the Governor's signature bills, SB 877 (AAC The Governor's Budget) and SB 876 (AA Authorizing and Adjusting Bonds of the State for Capital Improvements, Transportation and Other Purposes), there was a packed house and an even larger overflow. There were attorneys, CPAs, boat salespeople and travel agents. There were senior public health advocates for a sugar tax, and environmentalists for expanding the bottle bill and increasing the hidden cost of returning your container after use. There were even legislators themselves appearing, pleading their cases on all that was bad about these proposals.
Kicking it off was OPM Secretary Melissa McCaw, starting out in her now famous cool-and-collected cooperative attitude, but after several legislators began to question her on several proposals, she started to get annoyed! She ranged from "Hey, if you aren't comfortable, I'm happy to continue to work with you and answer your questions so we can come to an understanding," to "I guess then we'll have to agree to disagree." And finally, after an hour of grilling, she replied to a question posed by a number of legislators with a less than cordial response: "I believe I have answered that question numerous times."
While those in the room were not aghast, since many were accustomed to her predecessor starting out with that tone, you could see the faces of many Finance Committee members (both Democrats and Republicans) take note that she does have a boiling point. And that maybe she's open to questions here and there, but enough is enough and no piling on!  All things ended cordially, with commitments to work with leadership to get a proposal out of committee that meets the Governor's litmus test of structural soundness, minimal dependence on borrowing and using financial resources to change people's behavior.
The Finance Committee has about a month to find a proposal that both the Democrats and Republicans can live with, and that the Governor will be willing to use as the next starting point.
So as those snow caps come and go, the daffodils and tulips begin to pop, and the budding flowering bushes burst into color, expect the same to happen under the gold dome on Capitol Avenue. Proposals coming and going, tempers beginning to pop, and bursts of colorful descriptions about the elements of CT's next two-year spending and tax plan.  

The Legislative Scoop
Hearings and Approvals For Bills 
by Mike Johnson
As the building gets closer to approving bills for final action at the first stage, it's important to mark one significant milestone: As Bon Jovi once said, "We're halfway there!"
On March 21st, we will officially be halfway done with the legislative session, which also means that in the coming weeks you will receive mid-session reports from our office that contain narrative summaries of the bills we have worked on so far in 2019. We also will include in the report a detailed summary of the major topics being considered this year by the House, Senate and Governor's Office. 
It's important to remember that the bills being included in the report will, for the most part, change as the process moves on and bills become consolidated by the leadership of the committee. In a legislative session like the one we've had with a record number of bills that have been filed, we will certainly start to see certain concepts be consolidated in order to cut down on the amount of time for considering legislation. 
As you receive these reports and have any questions on the process, please don't hesitate to reach out to us. 

2019 Behind the Scenes
by Chelsea Neelon

This week, we featured State Representative Jason Doucette of the 13th House District.

What motivated you to run for office?
I've been interested in government and politics my whole life and have been involved in varying degrees from time to time.  Like a lot of Democrats, I decided after the elections of 2016 to get off the sidelines and take a more active role.

What are your legislative priorities this session?
Lots of priorities, but I've spent a good deal of time working on the Infrastructure Bank (SB 70), which I think can be critical part of the larger discussion on the future of transportation finance. I'm also looking forward to digging into the budget on Finance Committee and coming up with a budget that works and is fair and equitable.   

Last question! What's your favorite hobby?
I am a drummer, guitarist and vocalist - rock, blues, and funk.  I've played in a number of local bands over the years.  Not much time for that these days, but you can catch me from time to time at Manchester's finest rock clubs like the Hungry Tiger and Grady Tavern.
In This Issue:

CT Agency Corner
By Chelsea Neelon

One piece of legislation that has drawn a lot of attention this session is that of the religious exemption to vaccinations that made its way through the Children's committee.

On Tuesday, the committee moved forward the bill, HB 7005. As reported by CT News Junkie, "The bill had initially sought to remove school nurses as a person approved to witness a parent's signature on a religious exemption form. That language was scrapped in favor of adding a disclaimer to the top of the form to let parents know a nurse has the right to refuse to witness their signature."

The bill barely made it through committee with a 8-6 vote, but Rep. Liz Linehan, chairwoman of the Children's committee, reiterated that though she will not use this bill as a vehicle to get rid of religious exemptions entirely, it is her intent in the future to put forth or support legislation that would eliminate the religious exemption.

Following that up, on Wednesday Democratic Majority Leader Matt Ritter stated that within the next 12 months, the General Assembly will vote on legislation that would eliminate religious exemptions for vaccines for school children. Opponents of that notion swarmed outside the press conference, but the Ritter doubled down on his statement by stating, "This is about as public as you can be. We are going to call a bill in the next 12 months on the House floor to get rid of the religious exemption."

by Ryan Bingham

A recent wave of auto thefts across Connecticut have put pressure on Hartford lawmakers to address the issue.

Local law enforcement officials from various municipalities have noted that repeat juvenile offenders are overwhelmingly responsible for these crimes. In order to address the issue, HB 7332 was crafted, which would require the automatic transfer of a juvenile charged with the theft of a motor vehicle to adult court if the juvenile has at least two prior felony convictions.  The bill's public hearing on Tuesday drew many police chiefs and law enforcement officials from across the state to testify in support.

Proponents of the bill believe that the recent impetus in car thefts is due to Connecticut's juvenile justice reforms. They claim that juvenile offenders know they will only receive a slap on the wrist if they are caught stealing a car.  According to Waterbury Police, the city of Waterbury had 972 cars stolen in 2018, a significant majority of which were stolen by juveniles.  Waterbury Police Chief Fernando Spagnolo also states that these thefts cause a serious public safety concern, as car thieves are often unlicensed, and drive their stolen vehicles at high speeds.

HB 7332 provides a heavy handed approach that may successfully reduce car thefts in Connecticut. However, the extent to which the legislation will impact a youthful offender's rehabilitation process may be significant.

Did You Know?
This Week in History
March 14, 1791
Eli Whitney Patents the Cotton Gin

Today in 1794, Eli Whitney, one of Connecticut's most influential inventors, received a patent for the Cotton Gin, a machine that revolutionized the production of cotton by optimizing the time-intensive task of cleaning seeds from raw cotton bolls.

Click here to learn more about what lead him to this discovery.