Business Day: ‘Make Your Voices Heard’

Issues & Policies
Connecticut Business Day drew hundreds of business leaders from around the state to Hartford.

“First of all, make your voices heard.” 

That was the message from Gov. Ned Lamont to hundreds of business leaders at Connecticut Business Day 2024.

The March 25 event at the Bushnell Performing Arts Center provided an important opportunity for business leaders to connect and engage with state lawmakers with less than six weeks left in the 2024 legislative session.

“It’s obviously become a critical piece of the session to have the business community come up here and engage with their lawmakers and policymakers about the things that are critical to their businesses, their employees, their families, and to all of Connecticut’s residents,” said CBIA president and CEO Chris DiPentima.

“Your presence at Connecticut Business Day sends a strong message that businesses are part of the solution,” added AT&T New England vice president and general manager Emily Wiper. 

“The leaders in this room can and will be catalysts for continued improvement of the economic environment of the state.”

Legislative Priorities

This year’s event featured a discussion about session priorities with the leaders of all four legislative caucuses, Senate President Martin Looney (D-New Haven), Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk), Senate Republican Leader Stephen Harding (R-Brookfield), House Speaker Matt Ritter (D-Hartford), House Majority Leader Jason Rojas (D-East Hartford), and House Republican Leader Vincent Candelora (D-North Branford).

CBIA vice president of public policy Chris Davis moderated the discussion that touched on key policy issues including state spending, housing, healthcare, childcare, and education.

CBIA’s Chris Davis speaks with the leaders of the four legislative caucuses during Connecticut Business Day.

The lawmakers noted that the policies they’re considering wouldn’t be possible without the state being in a positive fiscal position.

That position has a lot to do with the fiscal guardrails that were implemented in the 2017 bipartisan budget agreement.

Fiscal Guardrails

“I think the fiscal guardrails are really what has put us in the economic position that we’re in today,” said Harding. 

“I think we can’t take for granted, we can’t forget history of where we were and where we are now and why we’re here now,” added Candelora. 

Ritter said the guardrails have provided predictability and stability. But he also said that they shouldn’t come at the expense of denying the needs of today.

“You’re going to have to pay your pensions, you’re gonna have to make sure you have a stable budget,” he said. 

“We’ve had six balanced budgets in a row, we’ve had the biggest tax cut in the history of the state.”

Gov. Ned Lamont

“But you can’t ignore those large scale investments that have a chance to change the state of Connecticut.”

Lamont said that he’s a stickler on the guardrails.

“I think it served the state pretty well,” he said. “Over the last six years, we’ve had six balanced budgets in a row, we’ve had the biggest tax cut in the history of the state.”

Davis highlighted that the guardrails help make those investments possible.

“As employers, you know, having that predictability and sustainability is very important to us to be able to know that we can make those investments to grow that workforce,” he said.


One of the key issues the panel highlighted was the need to address the housing crisis. 

“It’s an extraordinary challenge,” said Looney. “It’s critically important because we need workforce housing as well as housing for lower income people.”

“I never go by a moment not talking about housing as a major economic issue in our state,” said Rojas.

“We’re just not doing a good enough job of allowing housing to be built in a state.”

Rep. Jason Rojas

“We’re just not doing a good enough job of allowing housing to be built in a state.”

He said it’s important to look at legislation that will add incentives and loosen burdens to encourage more affordable housing.

“An economic driver in this state is housing,” added Duff. “Employers are not going to come to the state and build and hire people if they don’t have the employees to hire.”

“So we’ve got to make sure that we have the housing so that we have the employees,” he said. 

Education and Childcare

Education and childcare are also among the key issues this legislative session. 

The legislative panel touched on policies to improve early childhood education, teacher certification, and funding for higher education. 

One of the proposals lawmakers are debating creates a tri-share model in New London County for childcare costs to be shared between participating employees, employers, and the state.

“We have so many kids who come to kindergarten unprepared to be there, and then never catch up.”

Sen. Martin Looney

“I put the question back out to all of you as business owners,” said Rojas. “What are you going to do about the childcare crisis that we face? Because you guys have a role to play in this too.”

Looney said that it’s important to have a comprehensive education plan to build the workforce of the future. 

“What happens in children’s lives from the time they are born until they reach kindergarten is sometimes determinative of what their pattern will be thereafter,” he said. 

“We have so many kids who come to kindergarten unprepared to be there, and then never catch up.”

Lasting Impact

Candelora noted the lasting impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on children. 

“We’re sort of headed into a moral crisis,” he said, referencing the rising crisis of disconnected youth in Connecticut. 

AT&T's Emily Wiper speaking at Connecticut Business Day 2024.
“Strong message.” AT&T’s Emily Wiper speaks during Business Day.

“That is going to be the challenge for employers moving forward is how we help pull this generation up, sort of out of the funk that they are in.

“For us [COVID] was a disease. For them, it was a total cultural change that they’re still not getting out of.”

License Reforms

The panel discussed proposals to reform teacher certification, as well as license reforms for a number of different trades. 

“I think that there are a lot of individuals that are in the trades that want to be able to work with students in terms of their craft, and may not be able to because of the certification requirements that some teaching certifications require,” said Harding.

He said this is an area where it’s important for the state to not over regulate. 

“Not doing it in a way that harms people from coming in and being entrepreneurs or opening a small business.”

Sen. Bob Duff

Duff said it’s important to maintain high standards for trades, but expensive licenses can’t be a barrier to entry. 

“We have to have that balance,” he said. “Making sure that whatever the service is, can still be done in a safe manner and not put the public at risk.

“But also not doing it in a way that harms people from coming in and being entrepreneurs or opening a small business.”


A key proposal facing lawmakers this session is a bill to allow small businesses to pool together to purchase affordable, high-quality health benefits for employees.

The bill was one of many that failed to be acted on by the General Assembly’s Insurance and Real Estate Committee before its deadline.

However, there is still hope that the measure can still pass this session.

Small business employee healthcare press conference outside Connecticut Business Day 2024.
Connecticut River Valley Chamber president Jessica Olander speaks at a March 26 press conference on small business employee healthcare costs with Rep. Jill Barry, Sen. Tony Hwang, CBIA’s Chris Davis, Rep. Vincent Candelora, Sen. Stephen Harding, and Sen. Kevin Kelly.

Lawmakers from both parties held a news conference outside Business Day expressing the importance of the bill. 

“This has been a priority,” said Rep. Jill Barry (D-Glastonbury) during the news conference.

“We remain committed to getting this passed and we will work to do so.”

“It’s something that would help as an economic driver for so many small businesses throughout the state and also their employees,” added Harding.


The panel noted that despite disagreements, they have built a culture where they can work together to reach compromise.

“We do have our disagreements,” said Ritter. “But the culture here in Connecticut is very different. And a lot of that is because Republicans and Democrats make that choice.”

“The culture here in Connecticut is very different.”

House Speaker Matt Ritter

“It is a lot easier to throw snowballs from the sidelines,” added Candelora. “But you know, we’ve made a decision to get in this game and stay in this game.”

Davis noted that it’s that spirit of bipartisanship and working together that helped put Connecticut in a good fiscal position. 

“These leaders have been truly working together in a bipartisan way in many aspects to make sure that Connecticut moves in the right direction,” he said. 

‘Use Your Voice’

All the lawmakers agreed that to continue on that path, it will take stakeholders from across the state working together.

“You really have a lot of folks from very different paths who are coming together, saying that these issues are important for us in the state and these issues are important for our future and for the long-term viability of our economy,” said Duff. “And I think that helps all of us do our job.”

The lawmakers encouraged business leaders to engage with their lawmakers, and to advocate for what’s important to them.

CBIA's Chris DiPentima speaks at Business Day.
CBIA’s Chris DiPentima told Business Day attendees “it’s critical that the business community’s voice is heard.”

“There’s an opportunity for us to learn from each other to help inform some of the policies that we’re considering in any given year,” said Rojas. 

Harding and Ritter both stressed the importance of taking the time to reach out in a personal way.

“If I get a personal email that talks about your personal experience, I will read it.” said Harding. 

“Don’t let today be the only day to make your voices heard,” said DiPentima. “Continue to reach out, contact your lawmakers every day, whether we’re in session, not in session.

“It’s critical that the business community’s voice is heard.”


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