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May 27, 2024 Politics & Policy

2024 bill tracker: Here are business-related proposals that passed or failed during this year’s legislative session

PHOTO | MARK PAZNIOKAS/CT MIRROR House Majority Leader Jason Rojas (left) and House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora talk during the waning days of the 2024 legislative session.

State lawmakers debated dozens of bills during the 2024 legislative session that would potentially impact businesses.

Some were passed by the House and Senate and have been signed into law, or are awaiting Gov. Ned Lamont’s signature. Others died in committee, or on the House and Senate floors when the session ended May 8.

Here’s a look at business-related bills raised during the 2024 legislative session, and how they fared.

Bills passed by General Assembly and signed by governor, or awaiting his signature

Cannabis regulatory changes

House Bills 5150 and 5235 alter the state’s recreational cannabis regulations. The changes allow low-dose, THC-infused beverages to be sold in package stores, and also clarify what cannabis products can and can’t be sold in certain stores outside of licensed adult-use dispensaries.

The legislation also specifies that hemp is lawfully produced under federal law and can be legally transferred and shipped throughout the state.

Brewery and package store reforms

House Bill 5149 overhauls several brewery and package store regulations.

It allows: breweries to sell and deliver beer kegs to locations within a five-mile radius of their permitted premises; package stores to provide fee-based spirits tastings for education-related courses; and Connecticut craft cafe permit holders to sell additional alcoholic beverages manufactured in the state.

Workforce housing requirements

House Bill 5153 makes changes to a tax credit program created last year for “workforce housing development projects” through the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA) and state Department of Housing (DOH).

The bill modifies the specifications of new projects eligible through CHFA’s Housing Tax Credit Contribution program, which provides tax credit vouchers to businesses that make cash contributions to nonprofits that develop, sponsor or manage affordable housing developments. The tax credits can apply against various business taxes.

The bill increases the percentage of units that must be rented to the “workforce” population, such as teachers, police officers, firefighters or other eligible groups, from 40% to 50%. It also decreases the share of units that must be rented at market rate from 50% to 40%.

The remaining 10% of units must be affordable housing. That remains unchanged.

CT-Ireland Trade Commission

Senate Bill 248 establishes a 23-member trade commission to advance trade and investment between the country of Ireland and Connecticut, and encourages mutual business-related investment and collaboration.

Global Entrepreneur in Residence

Senate Bill 250 establishes a Global Entrepreneur in Residence Program that expands a student-visa program with the goal of bringing more immigrant-entrepreneurs to the state.

The new law will require the state Department of Economic and Community Development to develop a three-year pilot Global Entrepreneur in Residence Program that will facilitate partnerships between resident-entrepreneur employers and eligible institutions for employment.

Bills that failed to pass

AI regulations

A multipart proposal (Senate Bill 2) to regulate businesses’ use of artificial intelligence, while also ramping up investment in AI education and workforce training, didn’t receive a vote in the House, after passing in the Senate.

Lamont opposed and threatened to veto the bill, raising concerns about Connecticut jumping ahead of other states on AI-related regulation.

Tipped wages

A proposal to phase out the lower minimum wage for hourly employees who earn tips passed out of committee this session but didn’t get a vote in either chamber.

Connecticut’s hourly minimum wages for waitstaff and bartenders are $6.38 and $8.23, respectively, while the state’s regular minimum wage is $15.69 per hour. This proposal would have had all workers get paid the regular minimum wage.

Waitstaff and bartenders are still required to earn at least $15.69, but tips count toward that total. If tips don’t get workers to the $15.69 threshold, employers are required by law to make up the difference.

Noncompete agreements

House Bill 5269 banned new noncompete agreements for employees who are paid below three times the minimum wage, and independent contractors who are paid below five times the minimum wage.

It also proposed banning noncompete agreements when a worker leaves for “good cause,” and didn’t allow such agreements to last longer than one year.

Unpaid subcontractor wages

Senate Bill 409 made a contractor liable for unpaid wages owed to an employee of a subcontractor who performs work on any portion of a construction contract.

Warehouse quotas

Senate Bill 412 created protections for warehouse workers against unreasonable quotas imposed by employers. For example, it restricted the use of quotas based solely on ranking the performance of one employee in relation to other employees.

Work schedule changes

Senate Bill 413 required retail, food services, hospitality and long-term healthcare providers with 500 or more employees to provide workers 14 days advance notice of their work schedules, with limited ability to make schedule changes.

It also required employers to pay workers extra if they don’t provide enough advance notice about a schedule change.

Wage and hour inspectors

House Bill 5384 increased the number of wage and hour inspectors at the Labor Department in order to monitor the increasing number of wage-theft complaints in the state.

Climate change

House Bill 5004 declared a climate crisis and implemented several climate change-related measures statewide, including a commitment to reduce greenhouse gasses over the next 25 years.

Commercial property conversion

Senate Bill 416 made it easier for a developer or landlord to repurpose commercial buildings into residential properties.

The bill allowed the conversion or partial conversion of any commercial building into a residential development as-of-right, meaning that a municipality must approve such a proposal if it complies with normal zoning regulations.

As-of-right means a town or city cannot require a public hearing, special permit or any other discretionary zoning action, other than considering normal zoning rules. The bill passed the Senate, but didn’t get a vote in the House.

Work, Live, Ride

House Bill 5390 — known as “Work, Live, Ride” — gave municipalities that create transit-oriented districts priority for certain state infrastructure funds, with the goal of encouraging more affordable housing developments near train and bus stations. The bill passed the House, but didn’t get a vote in the Senate.

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