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March 27, 2024

Democrat, Republican leaders lay out priorities for second half of session

HBJ Photo | Skyler Frazer A panel of state legislators speak at Connecticut Business Day in March 2024.

Democrat and Republican leaders on Tuesday provided business leaders an update on their legislative priorities with just six weeks left in the General Assembly’s short legislative session, which ends May 8.

Policymakers spoke at the Connecticut Business & Industry Association's annual Connecticut Business Day at the Bushnell Performing Arts Center.

Bills related to artificial intelligence, housing, education and workforce development are among top priorities for legislators over the next several weeks while they debate bills that have passed out of committee.

And a push to allow association health plans also remains a focus for some legislators, even though the proposal failed to make it out of the Insurance and Real Estate Committee before deadline.

“It's something that I think would help as an economic driver for so many small businesses in the state and also their employees …,” Senate Republican Leader Stephen Harding (R-Brookfield) said during a legislative panel Tuesday morning.

CBIA Vice President of Public Policy Chris Davis, a former Republican state representative, moderated a panel discussion of top legislative leaders.

For Senate Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk) said Senate Bills 1 through 8 are his caucus’ focus as the session closes out. Those bills deal with safety measures for healthcare workers, consumer protection regulations, artificial intelligence, housing, prescription drug costs, paid sick leave expansion, and education, among other things.

House Speaker Matt Ritter (D-Hartford) and House Majority Leader Jason Rojas (D-East Hartford) said housing remains a huge focus for their caucus. Rojas said there are multiple bills that have moved forward this session that provide incentives for housing-related investments and construction, and Ritter said housing development is important for strengthening Connecticut’s workforce.

“We're just not doing a good enough job of allowing housing to be built in this state,” Rojas said. “It’s about trying to move us in the direction of loosening up some of those burdens so that the marketplace can actually respond to a pretty significant demand that is out there, not just for single-family housing, but for multifamily housing, too.”

Ongoing legislative work

Ritter and House Republican Leader Vincent Candelora (R-North Branford) both emphasized the need to continue efforts to expand child care access in Connecticut, which has also been a top priority for CBIA and the business community.

Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney (D-New Haven) said one of the state’s ongoing challenges that needs to be addressed is the property tax burden many residents face.

“When people say the taxes are high in Connecticut, if you talk to them at least in my district, people are not talking about any tax directly levied by the state of Connecticut, they are talking about local property tax. And one of the reasons for that is that we've never been in a position to raise enough revenues from the state system to truly provide property tax relief for municipalities,” Looney said.

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