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After nearly six weeks of activity and multiple snowstorms, the pace at the Capitol is set to increase. Until now, most of the bills are merely “proposed” bills, which are concepts and not fully drafted. Committees are now starting to fully draft several of those, and more importantly, Governor Malloy will submit his budget proposal on February 18th.

Despite projected deficits that exceed $1.25 Billion per year, the Governor has promised not to raise taxes. He is also expected to announce a major transportation infrastructure initiative and a method of funding it. Other expected proposals in his budget may involve removing several sales tax exemptions and lowering the rate, and amending the system of taxing motor vehicles.

Besides the Governor’s budget, there are several issues of specific concern to LDAC members. HB 5117 and SB 887 involve mechanics’ liens. SB 887 is the Department of Consumer Protection’s bill. It would prohibit anyone who doesn’t have the required DCP license or registration from filing the lien/ Materialmen would not be affected. HB 5117 would change the time for filing from 90 days to 90 business days.

Two proposed bills HB 5262 and 6235 would increase the jurisdiction of Small Claims Court from $5,000 to $10,000 or $12,000.

As usual there is significant activity from the Labor Committee which include several bills that would increase payroll costs. HB 6784 would expand paid sick leave to companies with 10 or more employees, increase the amount of mandated leave from 5 to 7 days, include temporary and day workers and expand eligibility to those who worked only 120 days regardless of the number of hours.

SB 798 would require the provision of paid family and medical leave. The bill has not been fleshed out yet, but it is a major priority for organized labor.

Regarding unemployment compensation issues, the Department of Labor continues to consider ways to restore solvency to the Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund. Despite paying the highest FUTA taxes in the nation, the DOL would increase the taxable wage base from $15,000 to $26,000. LDAC is participating in a broad business coalition that will support HB 5851, which would restore solvency through a number of expense reduction measures. Those would include a one week waiting period, requiring claimants to post resumes on line, basing benefits on the annual salary, not the current two highest quarters.

Although Connecticut continues to consider a public sector retirement plan for private sector employees, legislation awaits the report of a consultant and action may be delayed this year.

Another study is being done on chemical road treatments used by the Department of Transportation. Evidence is that such chemicals are highly corrosive to vehicles and structures. The report is not due until July, so it is unlikely that any progress on this issue will come before the next legislative session.

In summary, without question, the budget debate will dominate the rest of the session. There will be major fights over spending and taxes. How the Governor can balance the budget without tax increases remains to be seen. Within the next few weeks, we will have a better picture of the fiscal issues that will affect LDAC members and which of the onerous labor / cost of doing business issues are the most serious.