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February 21, 2024

4 proposals to watch out for in CT’s 2024 legislative session

SHAHRZAD RASEKH / CT MIRROR Gov. Ned Lamont addressing the General Assembly at his sixth State of the State address.

Lawmakers have set off on a sprint of business in this year’s legislative session, which kicked off earlier this month. 

Some state leaders have said they hope to push issues like universal paid sick leave and some zoning reform through the legislative process, while others hope to target high health care costs and teacher shortages in Connecticut.

Here are four bills and initiatives to watch out for in this session that could impact people across the state in a tangible way.

Universal paid sick days

The current paid sick leave law exempts manufacturers, some nonprofits, and any employer with fewer than 50 employees from offering paid sick leave. Companies that already offer at least 40 hours of paid time off per year do not need to change any of their vacation policies.

Last session, the Senate passed a bill requiring every business with at least one employee to have time off. The Senate required at least 10 days off and for a person to get one hour off for every 30 hours worked. The governor proposed changing the exemption to businesses with 11 or fewer employees, but eventually agreed to the Senate’s amendments. 

But, the House never put the Senate bill up for a vote. 

Sen. President Pro Tem Martin Looney, D-New Haven, and House Speaker Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, have both signaled that they believe there will be a compromise that will allow passage of the proposal this year. 

Insurance reform, including tax breaks

A group of lawmakers unveiled a set of proposals that would create tax breaks for small businesses when purchasing silver level or higher coverage through the state’s health insurance exchange. The proposal was sponsored by Reps. Jillian Gilchrest, D-West Hartford, Liz Linehan, D-Cheshire, Christine Conley, D-Groton, Susan Johnson, D-Windham, and Sarah Keitt, D-Fairfield.

They also proposed expanding the Covered Connecticut program, which provides free health insurance through the exchange to qualifying individuals and families, by increasing the threshold to up to 200% from the current 175% of the federal poverty level. 

Finally, the group proposed an overhaul of the state’s certificate of need process, given the length of time it has taken the state to issue a decision on the Yale New Haven Health purchase of three troubled hospitals. Lawmakers, hospital officials and others have urged the state to be more expedient in its decision-making. YNHH and Prospect first filed for their merger in November 2022.

This proposal also includes amendments to the rate review process to include more rigorous vetting, making it similar to the scrutiny utility companies must face while hiking rates. 

While this group has brought forward these proposals, they did not coordinate with Rep. Kerry Wood, D-Rocky Hill, a co-chair of the Insurance and Real Estate Committee, whose committee will scrutinize most of these bills. She has raised concerns about the feasibility of these plans, specifically about where the money for these proposals would come from. 

Zoning reform; homeless shelter funding

Connecticut is short 92,500 units of affordable housing units for its lowest-income renters. Housing is considered affordable if it is no more than 30% of a person’s monthly income.

No omnibus housing bills are expected this term after the state legislature dedicated most of the 2023 session to dealing with zoning reform and rent caps. Both measures largely failed, with the final legislative text largely focusing on renters’ rights. 

House Majority Leader Jason Rojas, D-East Hartford, said he is targeting incremental zoning reform because wide-scale change has been so difficult to achieve. 

Lawmakers will likely work on a proposal to push towns to develop more density near train and bus stations, a planning concept known as transit-oriented development. Republican leadership in the Housing and Planning and Development committees said they’d like to focus on reforms to 8-30g, the state’s affordable housing law.  

Homeless service providers have also requested an additional $20 million for the state’s shelter system. During the last legislative session, they asked for $50 million to support the system and to annualize cold weather funding. They received only $5 million that had been previously allocated. Rep. Eleni Kavros DeGraw, D-Avon, co-chair of the Planning and Development Committee, has signaled her support for a funding bump. 

Streamlining of teacher certification process

The committee expects to hear and act upon recommendations from a council they set up last year on streamlining the certification process from the current three-step process. Currently, a teacher must receive initial education, provincial educator, and professional educator certificates. According to Rep. Jeff Currey, D-East Hartford, who co-chairs the Education Committee, the committee plans to take up recommendations to streamline the process by implementing more reciprocity for other states’ certifications. 

Alongside the streamlining of teacher certification, Currey hopes to implement plans to lessen the number of mandates school districts must comply with. 

Compiled by Yash Roy.

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