Changes could soon be in store for the Land of Steady Habits.
Plenty of them, in fact, thanks to a number of bills approved by the General Assembly during a busy 2011 legislative session, which adjourned for the year at midnight Thursday.
Whether you support the myriad of legislation passed by the state House of Representatives and Senate in the final weeks probably depends on your political and personal temperament, but if signed into law the bills would have a noticeable effect on almost all aspects of life in Connecticut.
From a bill that makes it to to legislation that modifies the , large Democratic majorities in the assembly helped propel many high-profile, or, if you will, controversial pieces of legislation through to passage during the session.
All that remains now is for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to sign the bills into law before they take effect, which for the most part he has indicated he intends to do.
Malloy is the state’s first Democratic governor since William O’Neil left office in 1991, providing a marked difference from the last 20 or so years of Connecticut politics when Democrats controlled the House and Senate but often saw many of their legislative efforts thwarted by Republican governors who had the authority to veto whichever bills they chose.
For his part, Malloy has been largely supportive or neutral of the efforts of his Democratic counterparts in the House and Senate, even allowing Democratic leaders to make changes to his proposed biennium budget which he later concede had “improved” it.
In an at the state Capitol in Hartford early Thursday morning, Malloy thanked lawmakers of both parties and said that he was “proud of what we accomplished this session, but very mindful of how much more there is to do.”
The governor said that his priority over the next several months would be to focus on initiatives that led to job creation and improved education throughout the state, but that he was pleased that the legislature had resolved the matter of the budget in a timely manner and also passed a number of other pieces of legislation that “will define Connecticut as a place of common decency.” Malloy also said he hoped to organize a special session in the fall to focus exclusively on legislation aimed at creating jobs and rebuilding the state’s economy.
“In the legislative session that just ended, we made some real progress on some important issues, and we began to fix what was broken for so long in Hartford,” Malloy said. “We should feel good about what we did, but we should also be mindful of how much more there is to do.”
Notable pieces of legislation passed by the General Assembly during the 2011 include:
· Malloy called the that the legislature adopted in early May “the signature effort of this legislative session.” That budget, which includes total spending of $19.8 billion for the 2011-12 fiscal year, and $20.3 billion for the 2012-13 fiscal year, plugs a $3.5 billion estimated budget deficit in the coming fiscal year through a variety of spending cuts and tax and revenue increases. The governor’s budget also depends on that have already been factored in but have not yet been agreed to by the state’s various unions. The state’s 15 employee bargaining units are expected to vote on the agreement over the next several weeks, but if not ratified Malloy has said time and again that he would be faced with the alternative of laying off thousands of state employees to balance the budget, a point he reiterated in his closing remarks to the legislature. “I’m sure I speak for a lot of people when I say I hope they ratify the agreement so that we can avoid going to Plan B and large scale and long-term layoffs,” Malloy said.
· Connecticut became the first state in the nation to pass legislation mandating that private employers with 50 or more employees provide to workers. Under the legislation, which pertains exclusively to service workers such as those in the food and health care industries, eligible employees would earn an hour of paid sick time for every 40 hours worked, with the maximum number of paid sick days an employee could earn capped at five.
· House Bill 6599: An Act Concerning Discrimination, mandates that people who identify themselves as transgender or transsexual receive the same protections under Connecticut law as everybody else. The when opponents of it seized on one aspect of it that would allow those who identify themselves as transgender to use the bathroom of the sex they associate themselves with, which critics said could be taken advantage of by sexual predators to gain access to bathrooms and other private areas where young children might be present.
· The from a felony to an infraction that carries a fine. Violators would face a fine of $150 for the first offense, while subsequent offenses would raise the penalty from $200 to $500.
· Senate Bill 1243, An Act Concerning Connecticut’s Energy Future, consolidates the state agencies that are responsible for oversight of Connecticut’s environmental and energy resources into one agency, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, which Malloy said will allow the state to better “address the detrimental impact high energy costs have had on families, business and industry, and our overall economy.” “With the creation of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), the state’s approach to energy will work in tandem with our efforts to protect the environment, to strengthen the economy, improve our renewable energy portfolio and expand the clean energy sector and related jobs in Connecticut,” Malloy said in a release shortly after the Senate approved the legislation.
· is the governor’s plan to pump $864 million into the University of Connecticut’s Farmington-based Health Center to renovate and expand the medical campus in an effort to turn it into one of the state’s primary economic drivers. The plan passed the legislature in just three weeks, after four previous attempts in the past five years have stalled. Malloy’s administration has said that the plan will create 4,000 jobs annually over the next six years during the construction phase, and lead to long-term economic growth that would produce 16,400 jobs by 2037.
Republicans in the House and Senate have been critical of much of the success enjoyed by their Democrat counterparts and Malloy during the current legislative session. House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, said the session could best be summed up as “dominated” by a new governor “who said one thing and did another.”
“Whether it was with regard to union concessions, whether it was with regard to taxes, whether it was with regard to job creation,” Cafero said in a YouTube clip Thursday that is highly critical of Malloy and attributes most of the legislation approved by the General Assembly to the Democratic governor. “We started the session with great hopes, a new governor…and then he came out with the budget, and the first thing out of the block, as opposed to the last resort, as he said, is the highest tax increase the state’s history; a tax that was actually focused ironically – again contrary to what the man said – on the middle class.”
Malloy must still sign all the bills into law before they take effect. The governor’s administrative staff said Friday that no bill signings are currently scheduled.
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