The 2016 legislative session: first recap

 

Yesterday at midnight the 2016 legislative session came to a close. It was a strange year in many ways. Although we will be writing a longer recap soon, we wanted to share some initial notes of what happened, what passed, and what is left to do in this 2016 session. Let´s see.

The main story: no budget yet
The one thing that did not happen yesterday was the budget. The Governor and Democratic legislators did have an agreement (we covered it yesterday), but it was not brought up for a vote.

Why this happened depends on who you ask; some observers say that they did not have the votes in the House to pass it, some say that there was a consensus that legislators needed more time to pore over the numbers. The budget will be voted in a special session next week (probably Thursday), so the session is not really quite over yet.

To tell the truth, not getting the budget through yesterday was probably a good decision, as it allowed the General Assembly to vote on a whole bunch of legislation without having to scramble. Legislators could focus on other priorities, avoiding the pressure of having a messy and rushed budget debate right until the very end.

Namely, we got some good news out of it. See bellow.

Some good bills
Let me start with the good news: some very good pieces of legislation were approved this session, some of them at the very last moment.

  • Retirement security bill: this legislation will create a statewide public retirement program, filling a huge gap for workers across the state. We wrote about the bill here; here you can read our testimony. This legislation is a big, big deal for economic security in Connecticut.
  •  Ban the box: this bill is one of the reasons we are glad we did not get a budget yesterday, as it went through at 11 pm last night. It is an important step to end employment discrimination; read our testimony on the bill here.
  • Two-generation fixes: two bills including improvements and fixes for the 2-gen pilot program got final approval late yesterday as well. They enhance the evaluation component of the initiative, as well as improving access to adult education.
What did not make it
We had some good bills, however, that failed to pass:

  •  Paid family leave: the bill reached the Senate, but was never called for a vote.
  • EITC study bill: reached the House, but was not called.
  • TFA reform/study legislation: started as a bill with good changes to make TFA/TANF more effective, was downgraded to a study bill. It never got a vote in the House.
  • Workforce / brownfield remediation: a smart, pro-growth bill with a strong workforce component made it through two committees, but got stuck in the Senate.
  • Taxes and revenue: no new revenue, no tax reform.
What’s next?
A special session for both the budget and the implementer is scheduled next week. We do not expect many surprises. The legislative commissions are still on the line, so it is still a good idea to reach out to your legislators and tell them to keep them funded. They are an invaluable resource for many groups that otherwise would not have a voice at the Capitol.

The only other bill that will be discussed in the special session in S.B. 18, the second chance society initiative. Surprisingly, it was not debated in the Senate, despite being one of the Governor´s top priorities. It has quite a few very good reforms on it, so we would welcome its approval.

Plus, it will be a nice lead in to our event about children of incarcerated parents on May 26. We hope to see you there!

Thank you
 It has been an intense, strange session, with a very tough budget looming over any proposed bill. The cuts are going to be painful, and many good pieces of legislation have fallen by the wayside.

But we did get quite a bit accomplished this year. Retirement security, by itself, is a huge deal. Ban the box will immediately improve the employment prospects of thousands of people in the state. The two-gen pilots will continue to lay the groundwork for real, positive reform in how the state supports low income families. Many terrible budget cuts were avoided or minimized.

We could not have done any of this without your help. It was your calls, your advocacy and effort that made the difference. It was the work of many advocates, not just CAHS, that helped to change things for the better.

Connecticut, however, is still facing some real problems. We need more economic growth. We need a collective, intense effort to close our huge racial disparities. We need to fix how our government operates, both on how it raises revenue and how spends money. We need a truly ambitious agenda.

That is going to be our focus in the coming months, and that is going to be our main aim for the 2017 legislative session. We will not be able to do it alone. Can we count with you to move it forward? We are just getting started.



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