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May 8, 2024

Key business-related bills hang in balance on last day of legislative session

HBJ FILE PHOTO The state Capitol with downtown Hartford in the background.

With the 2024 legislative session set to wrap up Wednesday night, several proposals that will impact businesses are close to becoming law, but haven’t yet reached the finish line.

Some major businesses-related bills, such as a sweeping paid sick leave expansion, have already passed both the state House of Representatives and Senate and await a signature from Gov. Ned Lamont to become law. Others, like state Sen. James Maroney’s (D-Milford) artificial intelligence proposal, Senate Bill 2, are already dead. Maroney told Bloomberg Law on Tuesday that his landmark AI proposal would have to wait at least another year after passing the Senate April 24

House Democrats have expressed hesitancy in calling the bill for a vote without the governor’s assurance he’ll sign it, which they don’t have.

Still, several proposals are at risk of dying this session if not taken up for vote today. Here’s a roundup of some key business-centric bills that have passed either chamber but are still awaiting further action:

Awaiting House vote

  • Senate Bill 248: Would establish a 23-member Connecticut-Ireland Trade Commission to advance trade and investment between the country and state and encourage mutual business-related investment and collaboration, among other things.

The bill passed the Senate on April 17.

  • Senate Bill 250: Would establish a Global Entrepreneur in Residence Program that would expand a student-visa program that aims to bring more immigrant-entrepreneurs to the state.

The proposal, which passed the Senate on April 30, would have the state Department of Economic and Community Development develop a three-year pilot Global Entrepreneur in Residence Program, that would facilitate partnerships between resident entrepreneur employers and eligible institutions for employment.

  • Senate Bill 416: Would make it easier for a developer or landlord to repurpose commercial buildings into residential properties.

The bill, which passed the Senate on May 1, allows 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 regulations. However, converted buildings still aren’t exempt from any applicable building, fire safety or fire prevention codes.

Awaiting Senate vote

  • House Bill 5004: Would declare a climate crisis and implement several climate change-related measures statewide, including a commitment to reduce greenhouse gasses over the next 25 years.

The bill passed the House on May 1.

  • House Bill 5149: Would overhaul several brewery and package store regulations in the state.

Specifically, the proposal would allow: 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, similar to wine education classes offered at such establishments; and Connecticut craft cafe permittees to sell additional alcoholic beverages manufactured in the state.

The proposal, which passed the House on April 23, faced pushback from both craft brewers and beer wholesalers after it was initially proposed. Breweries said the proposal doesn’t go far enough to help them at a time when the industry continues to struggle coming out of the pandemic, and distributors said the measure would further erode Connecticut’s three-tier alcohol distribution system.

  • House Bills 5150 and 5235: Would alter parts of the state’s recreational adult-use cannabis regulatory framework. The first proposal, 5150, would allow low-dose THC-infused beverages to be sold in package stores and also aims to clarify what cannabis products can and can’t be sold in certain stores outside of the adult-use dispensary system.

The other bill includes recommendations from the state Department of Consumer Protection, including specifying that hemp is lawfully produced under federal law and can be transferred and shipped throughout the state. There has previously been confusion regarding hemp products and what is and isn’t legal, so the proposal attempts to make that clear.

  • House Bill 5167: Would offer certain first-time homebuyers a property tax abatement of up to $500.

Specifically, the plan would authorize municipalities to abate up to $500 per assessment year of property taxes for certain first-time homebuyers who obtain a loan from the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority. The abatement could be up to five assessment years, according to the bill. A similar bill last year passed out of the House, but failed in the Senate.

The proposal passed the House on May 1.

  • House Bill 5390: Known as ‘Work, Live, Ride,’ this proposal would give municipalities that opt to 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 on May 3.

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