May 28, 2021
In This Issue:
From Paddi's Desk
CT Agency Corner
Municipal Roundup
From Inside The Golden Dome
Behind the Scenes
This Day in CT History
It’s the Wild, Wild West out there—and in Hartford!

As we count down the final hours of the 2021 Session (216 to be exact—if they work around the clock every day until June 9th), there are some very unusual things happening in both the House and Senate.

Something I can’t recall ever happening before is happening now—several Senate-approved bills are being amended on other bills in the House, which are being sent to the Senate with the hope they get approved before the House takes action on the original Senate bill.

Yeah—confusing.

We’re also seeing duplicate amendments turning up as language in several bills to ensure the substance gets through the legislature, even if it gets passed twice. This creates real concern in that you better like the bill it’s been attached to, or you may be disappointed if it stalls in the other chamber or gets vetoed by the Governor!

Much of this, clearly, is due to the inability of legislators, state agencies and even the lobbying corps to be in the factory where the sausage gets made. Many have already lamented the lack of critical eyes on the practicality of bill language, the realistic expectations of the proposal and even the direction of what has been passed out of the House and Senate.

What started out as a very amicable and collegial session has now been reduced to “power by numbers.” If you have the votes—vote. And if you don’t have the votes—talk for hours. On several occasions the Speaker in the chair has had to call for a recess based on the request of majority leadership, and then the bill is placed in quarantine (passed temporarily) due to the length of debate and the number of amendments being filed by the Republican caucus.

The amount of legislative intent being put on the record for potential legal challenges, as well as clarification, is amazing. Some say this additional information could very well play into reelection efforts for Democratic swing seats come 2022. Others see it as the best way for the Republican Party to slow the clock and keep more alarming issues from coming up for debate. In the House, this strategy may be a little but more effective, as there are 53 Republican members with two shots at speaking on each bill, and amendments if they so choose—versus the Senate where twelve GOP Senators eat up far less time than if they were at their pre-2020 election number of 16.

With the two-year budget still not put to bed and the tax package under a lot of stress—as well as some hefty bills still left in the House and Senate—one wonders if the long weekend will give leaders a chance to sort this out. Maybe they can come to an understanding of what’s doable and how to take care of the most critical issues before the final gavel comes down.

Parades, speeches and picnics will fill most legislators’ time this weekend, but so will the hundreds of calls and emails that are being generated by groups who are “outside the wire” so to speak—the ones who can’t engage in one-on-one buttonholing these last few days of session.

So tick tock, tick tock. The clock is running. Let’s see what Tuesday brings!
CT CREATES Report Sheds Light on “Silver Tsunami”

The state commissioned a report based on 2018 legislation to predict how to (1) Identify the likely number of retirees that the state will see when state benefits maximize by June 2022 and (2) How to add more efficiencies into the system to assist with this production. Here are the major takeaways from this report:

-Over 8,000 employees eligible for retirement by June 30, 2022
-Different agencies that are eligible (Slide 4)
-5-6k Potential retirements based on survey responses
-31% Intend to move out of CT upon retirement

Most common reasons cited for retirement include
  • Changes to COLA
  • Health benefits

Road Blocks: 
  • High number of vacancies due to difficulty in recruiting and retention for certain positions
  • Long duration hiring process
  • Non-competitive compensation for managers and high-skill jobs
  • Lack of flexibility in changing org structures and job classes
  • High levels of overtime experienced
  • Tightly defined job duties

Recommendations: 
  • Streamline the hiring process
  • Improve manager value proposition and retention
  • Manage overtime/absenteeism
  • Improve management of workers’ compensation expenses
  • Return DOC staffing to previous levels
  • Optimize CSP trooper target and civilianize administrative functions
  • Optimize CTECs administration and teacher levels

Uneven digital capabilities across the State:
  • Many agencies operating on legacy IT systems and paper records
  • Digital-laggard agencies unable to build capability individually
  • Residents restricted in their ability to conduct motor vehicle transactions at home or from partner locations
  • Below average audit coverage ratios within DRS Recommendations

Recommendations
  • Expand usage of common payment platform
  • Digitize document management
  • Streamline Affirmative Action reporting
  • Digitize more DMV transactions
  • Complete Revenue Services digitization program
  • Modernize Unemployment Insurance
  • Digitize DMHAS patient records
  • Adopt new maintenance and inspection tools in DOT
Governor Lamont Opposes New Taxes

In recent years, Connecticut residents have faced tax increases in many forms. From gas taxes, to property taxes, our residents are feeling overburdened. Listening to his constituents, Governor Lamont argued for no increase to the capital gains tax, and opposed a consumption tax on Connecticut's wealthiest. These increases were proposed by members of his own party. The Governor signaled his intention to veto any budget that came across his desk with those provisions.

Lamont's reasoning behind his opposition to new taxes stems from a number of factors. The primary reason is that the state of Connecticut now boasts a robust $3.5 billion rainy day fund. The state has also received a bond upgrade, and positive economic forecasts. Furthermore, the state has received billions in federal COVID dollars. His opposition, namely progressive house and senate democrats, argue that that "this is a good year to attempt bold efforts to fight poverty, which has been exacerbated in the pandemic." - Senator Scanlon (D). Senator Fonfara(D) , chair of the Finance Committee, and Senator Looney (D), President Pro Tempore of the Senate, criticized the Governor's plan in a press conference earlier this month, stating that the time is now to address the inequities in our communities. Municipal leaders are worried that increased capital gains taxes, and consumption taxes, will continue to deter wealthy people from moving to Connecticut, or may push away those that are already here. With grand lists continuing to struggle, municipalities rely on those individuals staying in their communities

The legislature has until June 9th to hash out this budget debacle. Stay tuned, Sullivan & LeShane will keep you updated as this plays out.
A Step towards Regionalization Passes the House

Often deemed a "third rail" topic in CT government, regionalization of services in local governments is something many have talked about for years and years. This week, the House took action on a bill that would allow local governments if they chose to, to merge local services even if their charters did not allow it. The bill was originally supported by the CT Conference of Municipalities (CCM).

Legislative proponents of the bill explained that most charters don't explicitly ban regionalization, but the way certain provisions are worded leave some gray area that can cause confusion. They also argued that many municipalities look to regionalize as a way to more efficiently use taxpayers dollars and avoid raising property taxes.

This is completely optional, but would give the opportunity to those municipalities that do want to pursue partnerships with other municipalities to regionalize certain services. Towns would still individually have to authorize this if they chose to take advantage of it. HB 6655: An Act Concerning Municipal Taxation and Incentivizing Regionalization was originally raised by the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee, and now after its passage in the House, awaits action by the Senate.
Freshmen Legislator Profile: Cindy Harrison (R-Southbury)

Representative Cindy Harrison (R-Southbury) was elected last November and is another member of the 2021 Freshmen Class you may not have had the opportunity to meet yet. She decided to run when the seat for the 69th General Assembly District became vacant because she wanted to be part of the solution to addressing the state’s economic condition.

Her district covers the towns of Bridgewater, Roxbury, Southbury, and Washington. Prior to her election, she spent five years working for the First Selectman in Southbury, her hometown, so she brings a local perspective to many issues debated at the state level. She’s also been enjoying getting to know community members in the other more rural towns in the district.

Rep. Harrison mentioned that session has been much different than she expected, given that it’s all been virtual and so much of a “normal” session is missing. Because of this, she is having a tough time meeting other legislators, particularly from the other side of the aisle, but does enjoy the opportunities she's had to get to know a few of her colleagues, both on zoom and in real life.

She was appointed to three big committees - Appropriations, Environment, and Transportation, and has learned a lot through the committee process. Her biggest take away was that while she knew going in that she would need to advocate for her own district, she's also observed that other bills that may not affect her district directly are still really important to others, and still need her attention to better the state as a whole. Rep. Harrison also mentioned that she realizes that many perspectives are "missing" in the building including lobbyists, since the Capitol building remains closed to the public.

We're all looking forward to a return to some sort of normalcy next session!
May 28th: Preparing Connecticut Women to Exercise Their Rights as Citizens

On May 21, 1919, the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of a constitutional amendment that would give American women the right to vote — legislation that would eventually become the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Even though the legislation still had to be approved by the U.S. Senate and ratified by 3/4 of the states before becoming law, suffragists in Connecticut immediately leaped into action following the encouraging House vote. Just one week later, on May 28, 1919, the Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association (CWSA), founded in 1869 by Isabella Beecher Hooker. officially launched a massive campaign to reach and teach every Connecticut woman of voting age “intelligent citizenship” to prepare her for her new civic duties.

“When complete suffrage comes, women will be confronted by many new problems and responsibilities. It is the duty of Connecticut to prepare this new electorate, just as much as it is her duty to conduct citizenship work among the male citizens.”
– Mrs. Samuel Russell, Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association

Here is a link to the full article - Provided by CT Humanities Council.
Sullivan & LeShane, Inc.
www.ctlobby.com | (860) 560-0000