RB 5591, AN ACT CONCERNING THE CONNECTICUT RETIREMENT SECURITY PROGRAM: 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).
SB 391, AN ACT CONCERNING THE RECOUPMENT OF STATE COSTS ATTRIBUTABLE TO LOW WAGE EMPLOYERS: 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. As of 3/23 this bill was on its way to the Senate floor.
RB 5237, AN ACT CONCERNING FAIR CHANCE EMPLOYMENT: 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 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.
SB 221, AN ACT CONCERNING PAID FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE: Many employees are covered by the federal Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA). However, 78% of workers don’t use it. They can’t afford to lose pay. Passage requires that Connecticut employers create a 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.
RB 5571, AN ACT CONCERNING CONSUMER COLLECTION AGENCIES AND DEBT COLLECTION ACTIONS:
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
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.
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.
HB 5427, AN ACT CONCERNING THE SHARED CLEAN ENERGY FACILITY PILOT PROGRAM: Changes need 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 remove the limit of 6 megawatts (too small). 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 opposes this bill without the proposed changes.
SB 334, AN ACT CONCERNING MINOR REVISIONS TO THE ENERGY AND TECHNOLOGY RELATED STATUTES:
Passage implements technical fixes to existing statutes governing shared solar development. This bill should be 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 would ban any product containing the flame retardant chemicals TDCPP, TDCP or TCPP marketed for the use of children three years of age or younger. Momentum is growing for passage.
RB 5618 AN ACT REQUIRING THE DEVELOPMENT OF A CARBON FOOTPRINT METHODOLOGY TO ANALYZE STATE PROCUREMENT CONTRACTS: CCAG is following and advocating for several bills that increase green procurement by state government, including this foundational one.
STRENGTHEN OUR DEMOCRACY
HB 5511, AN ACT CONCERNING DISCLOSURE OF COORDINATED AND INDEPENDENT SPENDING IN CAMPAIGN FINANCE:
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 tighten up disclosure and regulation of independent expenditures.
Democracy Spring: CCAG will join with 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. Find out more about Democracy Spring, a national week of civil disobedience, April 11th-16th. Visit: www.democracyspring.org for details.
2015 LEGISLATIVE WRAP UP:
SB 573 AAC Variable Electric Rates: When PURA held hearings last year, the number one consumer complaint was the variable rate. Over and over people testified that their rates were doubled and tripled, and asked that the variable rate be eliminated. The passage of this bill means that Connecticut residents will be the first in the nation to be protected from deceptive, variable electric rates. The new legislation will not affect existing contracts, but will prohibit new ones going forward and takes effect on Oct. 1st, 2015.
Thank you to AARP for taking the lead on this and to all of the CCAG allies and members who showed up at the hearings, wrote the letters, made the calls to legislators, and to all of the legislators who championed this bill!
570 AAC Electric Savings and Fixed Bill Fee: This bill initially capped at $10 the fixed charge all electric customers pay regardless of how much power they use. That charge has skyrocketed to $19.25 for Eversource and $17.25 for United Illuminating, though each company requested much more. By lowering and capping fixed charges, all consumers, including the most vulnerable, would have had a real chance to benefit economically from the rapid advances in technology that are already modernizing the power grid.
The bill — which passed the Senate but never made it to the House floor — eliminated a specific cap and replaced it with a new delineation of what could be calculated as part of the fixed charge, a prospect that had us worried as it could not be determined how this would play out. Some calculations actually projected that the fixed rate would go up!
There is some possibility that elements of SB570 may get folded into the "budget implementer" bills during special session.
SB 928 Shared Solar: A shared renewable energy program would have allowed a broader group of energy consumers to meet their energy needs with clean, renewable energy. Whether or not they own an appropriate rooftop or property themselves, Connecticut families and businesses would have been able to subscribe to a local shared renewable energy project and get credit on their utility bills for their portion of the clean power produced.
This legislative season, the Energy and Technology Committee received not one but two bills concerning shared renewables. One called for a full-scale program. The other, supported by the state’s major electric utilities, called for a three-year pilot which has been amended to two-years. In spite of a high-quality study by the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering supporting full roll-out, the committee endorsed the pilot.
Since shared clean energy programs and policies have been developed in over a dozen states, it is difficult to understand exactly what we need to pilot. CCAG is disappointed with this outcome as it will only serve to ensure most Connecticut families and businesses do not have access to renewable energy for years to come.
SB 950 AAC Enabling the Refinancing of Student Loans: this plan would call for the Connecticut Higher Education Student Loan Authority to refinance the loans of state residents.
HB 6915 AAC A Student Loan Bill of Rights: Connecticut has passed the first Student Loan Bill of Rights in the nation! This bill will ensure that borrowers who take on student loans have adequate resources at their disposal, and gives the banking commissioner the authority to investigate and take action against predatory loan servicers.
SB 913: AAC Concerning the Enrollment of Nonstate Public Employees in the State Employee Health Plan: Opens up the state employee health insurance pool for qualified non-state public employee groups, (such as teachers, police, clerical and maintenance locals) to voluntarily opt to purchase health coverage via the state employee pool. This new high-quality health coverage option to non-state public employees could save municipal taxpayers significant money and continues to build a possible pool for a public option. This bill passed and has been signed by the Governor.
SB 1044 AAC Concerning the Recoupment of State Costs Attributable to Low Wage Employers: Right now the cost of healthcare in CT consumes an enormous portion of our budget much due to some of the largest employers in the state, like Wal-Mart & Dunkin Donuts, forcing taxpayers like you and me to pay for their employee’s healthcare costs. Currently our state is subsidizing these large corporations to the tune of about $486 million annually.
During this session, we fought for SB1044 which would have given these big employers a choice, either pay their workers a decent wage ($15) per hour or pay a fee for dumping their health care costs onto the state and taxpayers. This additional revenue estimated at between $189 million to $305 million, would have provided needed funds for health & childcare programs and leveled the playing field for small businesses.
While it didn't pass, it was the first of its kind in the nation and has shaped the terms of debate by exposing the role that large low wage companies play in putting strains on state budgets.
CCAG is working to build on the current momentum toward making this a national model for the country and will be holding a Worthy Wages phone conference after special session. If you would like to be notified when that is scheduled please join our e-list. For more information on this issue visit: worthywagesct.org.
For more information or to comment on these or other issues contact:
Duste Dunn (860) 233-2181 Ext.321 Email: email@example.com