The state House of Representatives took a significant step July 24 toward solving Connecticut’s fiscal crisis by ratifying a concessions deal with the state workforce. The State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC) agreement now heads to the state Senate for further consideration. If passed by the state Senate, the savings achieved by this historic deal are substantial and unprecedented.
Last month, we learned that insurance giant Aetna, after operating in Hartford for 160 years, will move to New York. But Connecticut’s loss is not New York’s gain. In fact, it’s a losing proposition for working families in both states.
Connecticut is at risk of losing an opportunity to boost the state’s economy and create hundreds of jobs unless lawmakers act quickly on pro-growth legislation. With just hours before the regular legislative session comes to a close, the legislature has yet to pass a bill seeks to change existing laws related to vehicle sales, allowing manufacturers — such as Tesla — to open brick-and- mortar stores across Connecticut where they can sell cars directly to consumers.
If there were a proposed policy that would create more jobs in our state, would you support it? If you could cut taxes and regulations on small businesses and entrepreneurs, would you do it? If you could help ex-offenders stay in a job and out of prison, would you help them? Thankfully, the General Assembly is considering two licensing reform bills that would accomplish these goals by cutting red tape.
Amidst growing concern over the shaky financial conditions of California, Illinois, and New Jersey, my home state of Connecticut is often overlooked. Its size and population are relatively small, and its position between Manhattan and Boston make the state appear unimportant. Moreover, with some of the nation’s wealthiest communities — Darien, New Canaan, and Greenwich — how bad could things really be? Very bad, according to a 2016 study for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. The study calculated the fiscal health of each state according to its short- and long-term debt, unfunded pensions, and other key fiscal obligations. Connecticut came in the sickest of all.
As the owner of a small business in Colchester, I support paid family and medical leave as a critical safety net that will support workers during times of financial insecurity, when their last concern should be missing a paycheck. Contrary to the narrative spread by the big business lobby, a new poll shows that 77 percent of small business owners in Connecticut support paid family and medical leave. When respondents learn more about paid leave, including how a range of research has demonstrated its benefits for businesses, support for legislation climbs to 85 percent. And it’s easy to see why.
This past January, Connecticut lawmakers introduced two paid family and medical leave bills: Senate Bill No. 1 and House Bill No. 6212: An Act Concerning Earned Family and Medical Leave. The legislation passed through the Labor Committee successfully in March, but since then supporters of paid family leave have anxiously awaited further action from the Assembly. With less than a month to go before Connecticut legislators adjourn for the summer, Connecticut citizens need to demand that our representatives take action on these bills and pass paid family and medical leave in Connecticut.
The organizing efforts of black and white abolitionists in the 1800s can provide us with powerful inspiration as we face the dangers of Trump and the Republican majority. That’s one reason on May 18 I will be joining the upcoming celebration of Frederick Douglass’s first visit to the capital city at the Center Church (First Church of Christ in Hartford).
Connecticut’s legislature has proposed to create a task force to study the effectiveness, impact and cohesiveness of workforce development programs and initiatives in the state. The commitment to promote better coordination and collaboration and a more effective and efficient system for workforce development should be applauded. One of the first agenda items for the task force should be to identify and examine existing strategies that demonstrate cross-cutting, collaborative approaches to job training and employment and promise opportunity for residents who face the greatest challenges to obtaining a living wage.
Right now, in Hartford, state legislators are facing a decision that will have repercussions for Connecticut workers and taxpayers for years to come. The General Assembly is considering three different bills regarding the future of Connecticut’s gaming industry, and while they deliberate, thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in casino revenue sharing hang in the balance.
According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, nationally, women earn about 80 cents for every dollar earned by men and this gap is even more pronounced for women of color – black women earn 63 cents and Hispanic women earn 54 cents as compared to white men. This economic injustice affects not only women, but every man and child who has a woman in their lives.