May 6, 2022
In This Issue:
From Paddi's Desk
CT Agency Corner
Municipal Roundup
Inside Scoop
This Day in CT History
What started three months ago, ended last night—the 2022 Legislative Session, and what a trail of lefts and rights; thrills of victory and agonies of defeat; facts and myths, and the fun and not-so-much-fun. 
That’s the best way I can summarize this session. Once again, for the third year in a row, what started out one way ended another. In 2019, the world was normal, it was a year of the dreams and hopes of a new administration and a new legislative class. There were a lot of learning curves with newly elected Governor. His course was abruptly rerouted as he was forced to lead Connecticut through one its most challenging crises.
2020 was the moment that politicians were defined. During a crisis they listened, learned, and led. They quickly learned that you either lead, follow or stay out of the way depending on each and every reaction to the fast paced changes. They listen to the people with the best information, the folks in the eye of the storm and then people on Main Street. And they lead with heart, a path forward and a calming voice. 
With Connecticut barricaded corner-to-corner, people isolating with only their core families, worksites shuttered with no expectation of return to a normal workplace, shortages of almost everything on the shelves of the local grocery and drug stores, Connecticut families surely struggled. The legislature too was struggling, and within days, shut down for the remainder of the 2020 Session. The Governor stepped in and became a leader. 
After a campaign season of limited person-to-person interactions, the 2021 legislature arrived in Hartford with almost 1/3 of the newly “seated” legislature only serving as a State Senator or State Rep for less than two years. A look back saw the 2021 session struggling with all the new committee chair match ups, the large group of newbies to the process, the lack of in-person interactions, issues adapting to virtual platforms, deciding how to lobby without ever walking into the LOB and Capitol and issues with legislators trying to collaborate without in person meetings. How we all got through it is still a wonder. As the summer arrived everyone took a breath and with a vaccine proliferating throughout the state, things started to get better. 
The Governor was leading and so were the people in the street. After rallying around the caretakers, the healthcare workers and the first responders, people all across the state were restless about the continued isolation at school and work places. Restaurants were up and running again, retail stores re-opened for business and local governments opened their doors. But, state agencies and the state government was still limited in access and working in a hybrid fashion. They focused in July on the strange new accessory, the face masks. For the Governor, the pressure was on. By the end of the summer, with the positivity rate dropping, the Governor lifted the mandates and left decisions about personal safety up to the individual and local officials. 
 I thought it was important to reflect back on how we got to the 2022 session in order to figure out what happened during the 2022 session, since it would be the second year of limited access to the decision makers. In the halls of the Capitol and the LOB, intelligence gathering is critical to figuring out the temperature of our issues. It is an important part of staying in-tune with the side bar conversations between committee chairs, across-the-aisle discussions, and even talks between the House and Senate members that could change the course of a piece of legislation. 
We started out with access to only the first floor of the LOB and the Capitol as committee meetings and public hearings went virtual once again. Halfway through the committee process, we gained access to hybrid final action votes for some committees, as well as access to the second floor of the Capitol and the cafeteria. As the session gaveled out on Wednesday, we still were restricted from the Senate's floor and any committee meetings on referred business, as they were back to virtual in order to accommodate legislators who needed “to take care of business in the district”.
During a day of R&R on Thursday I looked back on how the session went. It went kind of well to be honest.
Lessons learned from the 2020 session helped get our game play in shape. We focused on networking during the interim. We continued our culture of being there before the gavel opens the session, and staying there until after the gavel closes business each day. We had our highs, our victories, our restarts, our disappointments and even our war story moments. When things weren't looking so good, we pivoted and we doubled down. With grit, determination, street smarts and a lot of teamwork, we left the Capitol early Thursday morning with heads high and knowing that we used every arrow in our quiver, turned over every stone, and as is the Sullivan & Leshane way, we had our last three bills hit the consent calendar in the Senate at 11:55 P.M. just as the House and Senate were about to gavel out. Nothing better than that. 
We used our test run of the 2020 session by using texts, emails, zoom calls and in-person one-on-one lobbying to set up our last move on the chess board. It felt good, it felt seamless, and it was definitely a fun last night of session. BUT enough is enough of this.
On Opening Day 2023 we will see two thirds of the legislature with four years or less of service. With the passage of legislation which would almost double the compensation for legislators, there will be plenty of freshmen legislators who sought the office with a focus on making changes, making a difference, and breaking down old traditions, having the ability to work full-time toward their goals. I’m wondering if the good old days of public service, the days of working together to find a solution, might be challenged with many of the newly elected folks arriving with a clear agenda as to what the solution is for the problem, rather than listening and learning the traits of leadership.
We will have to wait and see. Come November 8th (Election Day). I’m really hoping I’m wrong.
List of Legislators not Seeking Re-Election

We would like to give a huge thanks to the following legislators that will not be seeking re-election this year for all they have done for Connecticut, and we wish them all the best in their future endeavors!
  • Rep. Cathy Abercrombie (D)
  • Rep. Dave Arconti (D)
  • Rep. Whit Betts (R)
  • Sen. Dan Champagne (R)
  • Rep. Tony D'Amelio (R)
  • Rep. Joe De La Cruz (D)
  • Sen. Paul Formica (R)
  • Rep. John Hampton (D)
  • Sen. Will Haskell (D)
  • Rep. Brandon McGee (D)
  • Sen. Craig Miner (R)
  • Rep. Chris Perone (D)
  • Rep. Rosa Rebimbas (R)
  • Rep. Brian Smith (D)
  • Rep. Dave Wilson (R)
  • Rep. Mike Winkler (D)
  • Sen. Kevin Witkos (R)
Surplus Budget Finds Major Funding for Long Standing Initiatives
To quote former Vice President Joe Biden after the Affordable Care Act passed congress in 2010, the new spending and tax cuts in the state budget adopted this week is a “big f-n’ deal”.
The budget heading to the Governor’s desk for signature contains the deepest tax cuts and new spending plans seen since the first state income tax was adopted in 1991, and comes on top of the total spending for state employee union raises and bonuses that were approved last week. This article will outline the extent of what passed as part of the spending package that we likely will not see for quite some time:
  • Creates a new $250-per-child credit against the state income tax for low- and middle-income households, up to a maximum of $750. This would send $125 million to single filers with earnings less than $100,000 per year and couples making less than $200,000.
  • Caps the car tax for residents in 75 towns in the state with car tax rates that are above 32.76 “mills” which is the measurement tool used for evaluating the total property tax per town. This is the equivalent of $100M in property tax relief being supplied for residents in those towns. 
  • Extend the suspension of the gas tax through December 2022.
  • Over $100M in new child care programs created to launch a “universal” child care initiative for private providers in the state to create new classrooms for families.
  • $30M in a “pandemic pay” initiative available to those who make a certain income level and worked throughout the pandemic in frontline jobs since March 2020.
  • Exempting pension and annuity earnings from the state income tax and creating a new credit to help filers cover student loans which costs approximately $50M.
  • Repealing the admissions tax for all movie theaters in the state.
  • Offers all non-profit providers of state services a 5-8% raise for reimbursement based on which department is being provided the service.
  • Repealing the ambulatory surgery center tax which will cost the state approximately $18M.
Budget Overtime

If you're reading this, you know it’s the end of the road for this budget blogs’ budget discussions that have had its many ups and downs as the final approval happened late last night in the senate. A week ago, Team S&L located a copy of the budget outline and on Monday morning, we saw the full language of the budget as written by the Governor and the leadership in the House and Senate. 600+ pages and a few short hours later, the budget was being voted on by the House. The Democrat-controlled chamber voted 95-52 along party lines shortly after midnight to approve the budget with over $1 billion of one time spending thanks to the generous ARPA funding form DC allocated to CT.
An interesting development occurred in that there were several errors in a variety of sections which caused the house chamber to “stretch” the debate in order to get a new and improved version ready for House approval.

On Tuesday. the budget passed its last hurdle, the Senate, by a margin of 24-12 despite some Republican efforts to bring up specific issues, Senator Ryan Fazio wasn’t the only one scratching his head wondering what some of the allocations were for and what they were going to be used for once received by the organizations and municipal entities. The budget contains a ton of line items for specific local nonprofits and educational, social and environmental organizations.

Let’s dive in. The budget extends free bus service until December while extending suspension of the state 25-cent-per-gallon gas tax. The special focus of Representative Sean Scanlon (D-Branford) is a new $250 per child tax credit for lower and middle earning families while expanding for one year the eligibility for the current Earned Income Tax Credit. This is a huge campaign boost for Democrats across the state. Yet another tax break included is a provision that caps the municipal vehicle property tax mill rate at 32.46 which will reduce the car taxes in 75 towns while also including an expansion of eligibility for a property tax cut.

Governor Lamont, the Greenwich businessman up for re-election, asked for much of the state's surplus to go unspent to ensure the state can make a scheduled $3.58 billion contribution to its long unfunded $95 billion pension debt. Get those movie tickets ready as this budget also includes a repeal on movie-ticket taxes, a Sen. John Fonfara (D-Hartford) initiative.

Hidden in the depths of the Office of Legislative Management is a $2.6 increase in compensation for the 187 members of the legislature as well as the 5 statewide constitutional officers starting in Jan 2023. 

So as we come to a close of this year's legislative session, thank you for coming along for this budgetary trip down the road of Connecticut fiscal process. With a special allocation of $2 million in the budget for non-stop flights to Jamaica, (see page 65), maybe we’ll take a quick trip and hit the beach! 
This week, we are featuring an article from our intern, Sarah Farney. Sarah is a Senior at UCONN, majoring in Women's, Gender and Sexuality studies. She is deeply involved with the UCONN Women's Center, and is a lifetime member of the Girl Scouts:

As my internship at Sullivan & LeShane is coming to an end, I would like to reflect on the amazing experience I have had these last few months. Although the position unfortunately started off virtual due to the ever-evolving pandemic we have been living through for the past two years, I have had the opportunity to learn so much about the legislative process and what a typical day in the legislature is like. From covering different committee meetings online to actually being able to see them happen in the Legislative Office Building, I learned an immense amount about how our state government works. Although I came into Sullivan & LeShane unsure of what to expect, I have been honored to get to work with such an amazing group of people who have been more than happy to help me learn something new about the work they were doing.

One specific element from my time at the internship that I would like to recognize as I wrap up my time here is the excitement of Legislative Reception Days. These days seem just like any other, but I believe that they are vital to the state of Connecticut since they attract residents into the Capitol and encourage interest in learning more about how our government works. Yes, you can come by any day to explore these government buildings in Hartford, but what better way to get young people and children in and have them actually be excited, with events such as "G.O.A.T” Day (which featured New Milford Rep. William “Bill” Buckbee bringing a baby goat into the Capitol). These special events and days here are vital to having our legislators, senators and representatives connect with the real working people of our state. So as the days start getting warmer, and people feel more comfortable coming out, I hope that the Capitol will continue to hold more of these days/events, and continue to strengthen their connection with the people of Connecticut.

-Sarah Farney, UCONN ' 22
May 6: The Hartford Whalers Leave Connecticut

May 6, 1997 marks a day that will live in infamy in the eyes of Connecticut sports fans. On that day, Peter Karmanos, owner of the Hartford Whalers, announced he was moving the NHL team to North Carolina and renaming them the Carolina Hurricanes. Connecticut has lacked a major professional sports franchise ever since.

Connecticut’s only pro hockey team was founded in 1971 as the New England Whalers. The team played in Boston until 1974 as a member of the World Hockey Association, a professional hockey league that rivaled the National Hockey League until 1979. The Whalers moved to Hartford and played their first game in the city’s brand-new Civic Center Coliseum in early 1975, which remained their home rink for the remainder of the team’s stint in Hartford.

In 1979, the World Hockey Association merged with the National Hockey League to form the modern-day NHL, and the New England Whalers were renamed the Hartford Whalers. While the Whalers were never one of the most popular or successful NHL teams, they had an incredibly dedicated fan base in Connecticut — one that has waned very little in the years since the team’s departure.

According to Reebok and other retailers, Hartford Whalers merchandise remains popular — and surprisingly profitable — not only in Connecticut, but nationwide, owing to a mix of nostalgia and the strong, iconic design of the Whalers logo. Celebrities like Snoop Dogg and Megan Fox have been spotted wearing Whalers merchandise since the NHL reauthorized the use of the logo in 2009.
The hope of bringing the NHL back to Hartford remains one of the most quixotic and unshakable dreams of many Connecticut sports fans. That dream was bolstered after the sale of the Carolina Hurricanes to a new owner in January 2018. He announced a desire to embrace the Hartford heritage of his team by playing select home games in Whalers gear. The Whalers uniforms (1975 road uniforms) returned to the ice for the first time in a Carolina home game against the Boston Bruins on December 23rd, 2018 and continued to appear in at least one game in each of the next four seasons.
Hopefully, the Whalers uniform tradition will continue into the future. Regardless of the Hurricanes’ future plans, the Hartford Whalers remain one of the state’s most beloved symbols, despite their departure many years ago, today in Connecticut history.

The original article from the CT Humanities Council can be found here.
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