As the CT legislature hits the midpoint of the session, many committees are finishing their work and have begun voting measures to the House and Senate floor for final action. The legislative budget is expected in a couple of weeks, and after the Easter holiday, the legislature will make its final sprint, with the session concluding on June 7.
With more than 3,000 bills introduced since January, committees have been overwhelmed with the large volume and long public hearings occurring in March. One of the committees that had an early deadline to complete their work was Labor and Public Employees. Although not many measures died within the committee as we had hoped with the increased Republican presence, the Low-Wage Worker bill ($1.00 per hour tax on an employee making under $15.00 per hour) did meet its end. We will work hard throughout the months of April and May to kill a number of onerous bills that adversely affect employers. They include:
· Paid Family and Medical Leave (SB 1 & HB 6212) – this bill requires small businesses to continue to provide expensive non-wage benefits to an employee that is absent up to three months every year. There is a high fiscal note attached for startup costs totaling $13.6 million. We hope that given the State’s fiscal situation, the bill will die under its own weight.
· $15.00 Minimum Wage (HB 6208) – the bill increases the minimum wage from the current rate of $10.10 to $15.00 by 2022. It indexes future increases to annual increases in the consumer price index (CPI). We will work with Senate Republicans to kill this bill. They stated they will not vote for a minimum wage increase.
· On Call Scheduling (SB 747) – this bill requires employers to give 24 hours notice for all industries except medical personnel. There is a caveat in the bill that allows for less notice if it is agreed upon by the employee and the employer. Sen. Kennedy (D-Branford) is the sponsor.
· Pregnancy Accommodations (HB 6668) – this bill creates a presumption that any accommodations that were made, or could have been made, for a pregnant employee in the past was not an undue hardship and therefore should be made for future employees. Given the specific nature of each employee’s pregnancy, this bill opens up Pandora’s Box.
· Pay Equity (HB 5210) – this bill prohibits inquiries about prospective employee’s salary history. Many times salary history helps small business gauge whether their salaries are consistent with the market. This bill is sponsored by Rep. Slap (D – West Hartford).
· Unemployment Compensation Reforms (HB 6461) – this bill increases the earnings needed to qualify for unemployment benefits from $600 to $2,000. This threshold has not changed since 1968 and is the fourth lowest in the country. It also prohibits all individuals from collecting benefits while receiving severance pay. Based on the theory that most people find a job before their severance ends, the DOL projects $57 million in savings per year. The bill also freezes the maximum benefit rate from automatically increasing in any year when CT has not achieved 70% of the Unemployment Trust Fund solvency goal. The maximum rate increased during the recession and this protects the DOL from digging deeper into debt and paying out more when the fund is low. Lastly, the bill stops rewarding seasonal workers by taking into account three-quarters of earnings rather than two. A large coalition of CT businesses will be working hard to lobby this pro-employer bill to help ease the unemployment compensation burden.