Legislative solutions considered and fought for in 2016:
HB 5427, AN ACT CONCERNING THE SHARED CLEAN ENERGY FACILITY PILOT PROGRAM: Shared solar is not yet in working order after the 2016 legislative session. Changes needed to be made to 5427 to require utility companies to buy generated power for the "life of the facility," as recommended by the CT Academy of Science and Engineering. Passage of the changes would also have removed the limit of 6 megawatts (too small). More importantly, there was and is no need for a pilot project at all! Shared solar is working in a dozen states already. Anything but full roll-out is mere delay by reluctant utilities. CCAG opposed this bill without proposed changes.
SB 334, AN ACT CONCERNING MINOR REVISIONS TO THE ENERGY AND TECHNOLOGY RELATED STATUTES:
The bill did not pass. Passage would have implemented technical fixes to existing statutes governing shared solar development. This bill should have been passed instead of H.B. 5427 (above), a deeply flawed bill that includes financing requirements designed to make projects uneconomic and insure failure. CCAG also continues to fight for a full roll out of shared solar, not pilot programs.
HB 5299, AN ACT CONCERNING TOXIC FLAME RETARDANT CHEMICALS IN CHILDREN’S PRODUCTS AND UPHOLSTERED RESIDENTIAL FURNITURE: This bill was submarined by 1 Senator, when it was on the verge of passage. Again, we see the extreme power of money in politics using obscure levers to block the common good. The bill would have banned any product containing the flame retardant chemicals TDCPP, TDCP or TCPP that was marketed for the use of children three years of age or younger. Momentum for passage was large, and it had overwhelmingly passed the House before that single Senator killed it by threatening to run out the clock with a flood of amendments.
RB 5618 AN ACT REQUIRING THE DEVELOPMENT OF A CARBON FOOTPRINT METHODOLOGY TO ANALYZE STATE PROCUREMENT CONTRACTS: Did not win passage in 2016. CCAG followed and advocated for several bills that would have increased green procurement by state government, including this foundational one.
2016 Legislative Wrap-up
Each annual Legislative Agenda is a master plan for lobbying, research, organizing, and communications. The 2016 Legislative Agenda was our 45th. (You can see the agenda farther down this page.) This Wrap-Up summarizes key results.
Public Act 16-29 AN ACT CONCERNING THE CONNECTICUT RETIREMENT SECURITY PROGRAM: This passed! We all pay when our loved ones, friends, and neighbors aren't prepared for retirement. So does the collective Connecticut economy. Nearly 600,000 private-sector workers in Connecticut have no access to workplace-based retirement saving! Thus CCAG strongly supports this bill, based on the work of the Connecticut Retirement Security Board (CRSB). Passage creates a private-sector retirement savings program for all small business employees. The fund is independent of employer and government. Participation is completely voluntary, and retirement savings stay with the saving employee through any job changes (portability).
HB 5237, An Act Concerning Fair Chance Employment: It passed! There are over 70 million people in the U.S. with arrests or convictions that make it almost impossible to find work. They languish, the economy loses wage-earners, and we pay for their forced inactivity. Passage of this bill helps give former offenders a second chance to participate. For instance, criminal background checks must now wait until a provisional offer has been made. Then, after getting to know and choosing a potential employee on his or her merits, the employer still has full discretion to withdraw the offer after finding any criminal record, should they choose to do so. This Bill passed the Senate, and then the House amended and passed it. After “concurrence” (agreement on a common version), the bill goes as Public Act to the Governor.
HB 5564, An Act Concerning Card Balances: It passed! Why the plethora of gift cards? Because, in part, there are many ways for companies to quietly increase profits at the expense of the buyer. Passage took one away. Now, issuers of gift cards have to provide a written receipt to any buyer. The dregs of the gift card (the last few dollars) often go unused by the buyer, which is part of the profit calculation. As of October 2016, on presentation of said receipt, the buyer can redeem any gift card for the remaining $3 or less of cash value. (Often too small for an actual purchase.) CCAG supported this bill with lobbying and public testimony.
HB 391, An Act Concerning the Recoupment of State Costs Attributable to Low Wage Employers: Not this year, sadly. Many large, profitable corporations choose to pay their workers poverty wages with no benefits. Taxpayers are forced to subsidize company profits when underpaid employees claim the child care subsidies, food stamps and Medicaid meant for those who cannot work. This bill is a step toward presenting such companies with a choice: pay non-poverty wages with benefits, or repay state taxpayers through a fee. This bill went to the Senate with a favorable committee report, but was never called for a vote even though it would have helped close the budget gap in a tough budget year.
SB 221, An Act Concerning Paid Family and Medical Leave: This bill was killed by the “business lobby” (read “the micro-layer of self-enriching business leadership”). It would have cost the state no money. As in all other developed countries, its provisions would have improved the nurturing environment for tens of thousands of young children at a delicate stage of development. While many CT employees are covered by the federal Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA), roughly 78% of eligible workers don’t use it. They can’t afford to lose pay. Passage would have required that Connecticut employers create a very modest paid family and medical leave program based on a state-managed trust fund amassed through modest wage deductions from all full-time, eligible workers. Every developed nation but the US invests in paid family leave for a better future! Why not us?
HB 5571, An Act Concerning Consumer Collection Agencies and Debt Collection Actions: It passed! Just as consumers should pay their debts, debt buyers that engage in unfair or abusive practices should be held accountable. Passage restores important consumer protection lost in recent years. This bill is a direct result of the report “Unfair, Deceptive, and Abusive” released jointly by Alliance For A Just Society and CCAG in Feb 2016. View the full report at www.ccag.net
HB 5299, An Act Concerning Toxic Flame Retardant Chemicals in Children's Products and Upholstered Residential Furniture: This bill came achingly close. Passage would have banned any above-named product containing the flame retardant chemicals TDCPP, TDCP or TCPP. On the last night, with a midnight deadline, we had the votes and the intent of the leadership to call it for a vote. Then, one Senator blocked it by lining up it with poison amendments, while also vowing to kill the clock (by talking until midnight) if the vote were called. A powerful chemical lobby, a willing assassin, and parliamentary rules killed a life-saving clean-air bill with very broad support.
HB 5427, An Act Concerning the Shared Clean Energy Facility Pilot Program: Passed, but in a useless form that takes us backwards. Changes needed, such as to require utility companies to buy generated power for the "life of the facility," as recommended by the CT Academy of Science and Engineering, did not happen. Nor was the crippling limit of 6 megawatts (too small) raised. More importantly, there is no need for a pilot project at all! Shared solar is working in a dozen states already. Anything but full roll-out is mere delay by reluctant utilities. CCAG opposed this bill without the changes.
SB 334, An Act Concerning Minor Revisions to the Energy and Technology Related Statutes: It passed, but in useless form. CCAG wanted a bill that would have implemented technical fixes to existing statutes governing shared solar development. This does not. CCAG continues to fight for a full roll-out of shared solar, not pilot programs.
RB 5618, An Act Requiring the Development of a Carbon Footprint Methodology to Analyze State Procurement Contracts: Died on the House Calendar, no vote. CCAG followed and advocated for several bills that would have increased green procurement by state government, including this foundational one.
INSURANCE COMPANY MERGERS: Concerned about the impact of the pending $54 billion merger of Anthem with Bloomfield-based Cigna, CCAG has joined with The Universal Health Foundation and the CT State Medical Society to form the CT Campaign for Consumer Choice. An Anthem-Cigna merger would create the nation’s largest health insurer, with large impact on patients, doctors, hospitals, and our state’s economy. The CT Campaign for Consumer Choice is educating consumers and families, and fighting for thorough and public review of any pending mergers. To see more info and protect your interests, visit: www.consumerchoicect.org. Here is an editorial: CT Viewpoints.Go to our home page to see breaking events. We and others are asking that the Insurance Commissioner, who has held no public hearings and seems to be acting more as an ex-insurance company employee than a consumer protector, to recuse herself from consideration of the mergers.
HOSPITAL MERGERS AND CONVERSIONS: Similar to the above merger, for-profit hospital networks are buying up local non-profit hospitals in a nation-wide wave. CT is no exception, as in, for example, the proposed takeover of L+M Hospital by the Yale New Haven Health System network. Experience shows that despite promises made, consumers/patients often lose choice and services, while costs and profits rise unabated. Protecting consumer/patient interests during these mergers is the key organizing area for CCAG in 2016. Currently, support is coalescing around outlawing any merger that gives a single corporate entity control of more than 20% of the healthcare market in any region that includes parts of CT.
STRENGTHENING OUR DEMOCRACY
HB 5511, An Act Concerning Disclosure of Coordinated and Independent Spending in Campaign Finance: This passed the House but died on the Senate Calendar. Connecticut, due in large part to the work of the Government Administration And Elections committee over many years, has arguably the best campaign finance system in the country. But an activist Supreme Court has weakened some of our laws. New avenues have opened for moneyed interests to exert undue electoral influence. Proposed improvements in this bill would have tightened up disclosure and regulation of independent expenditures.
SB 342, An Act Concerning Electronic Filing of Campaign Reports: Passed both Senate and House, now in “concurrence” to resolve differences between the two versions. It requires electronic filing of campaign finance disclosure statements with the State Elections Enforcement Commission for certain committees that raise or spend one thousand dollars or more, with several weakening exceptions that may or may not be abused in the future (and thus bear scrutiny.)
Democracy Spring: CCAG joined hundreds of national groups from across the country in calling for the end of big money in politics, to ensure that every American has equal access to our democracy. In fact, Executive Director Tom Swan was arrested in an act of purposeful civil disobedience in support of this absolutely critical cause! Find out more about Democracy Spring, a national week of civil disobedience, April 11th-16th, centered in Washington D.C.: www.democracyspring.org for details.