There are several new members on the General Assembly's Labor and Public Employees Committee this year—but what’s not known is whether the committee will depart from a pattern of pushing out anti-business legislation that hampers the state’s economy.
The only familiar face returning to the committee leadership is Sen. Ed Gomes (D-Bridgeport), who will continue to serve as the Senate Democratic chair.
Senator Craig Miner (R-Litchfield), will serve as Republican chair as Senate leadership has appointed Senate co-chairs to every committee due to the chamber’s 17-17 tie.
The committee held its first organizational meeting Jan. 10. The co-chairs did not indicate if they would be supporting some of the same anti-business measures as they have in the past.
Some Bills 'All Too Familiar'
Some legislators have already filed bills that, to the Connecticut business community, are unfortunately all too familiar.
Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney (D-New Haven) and co-sponsors Sen. Mae Flexer (D-Danielson) and Sen. Cathy Osten (D-Sprague) filed SB 1, proposing a paid family and medical leave mandate on businesses.
Each year, the Senate’s majority party traditionally files their top priority legislation as “Senate Bill 1.” While there is no majority party in the Senate this session, the Democratic party retained this ability.
According to a study conducted by the Institute for Women's Policy and Research, a group in favor of paid FMLA, last year's version of the bill would have saddled Connecticut employers with $13 million in startup costs, and required the hiring of 120 new state employees to administer the program at an ongoing annual cost to taxpayers of $18 million.
CBIA believes the state should avoid implementing its own costly mandate until we see what will be required under federal law.
Also filed was SB 13, which proposes to increase the minimum wage in the state, likely to $15 per hour.
CBIA wants people to earn more money—but Connecticut has raised its minimum wage in each of the last four years, slowing our economic recovery and forcing businesses to reduce employee hours and raise prices.
Higher Wages Won’t Help Economy
At its Jan. 10 meeting, committee leadership did not discuss their priorities.
But one rank-and-file member, Rep. Edwin Vargas (D-Hartford), described low employee wages as the state’s top economic issue, reasoning that if employees were paid more, our economy would be better.
It appeared he failed to consider that many businesses are struggling with Connecticut's high taxes and mandates, and are trying to maintain staffing levels in the face of these costs.
The majority of the committee’s leadership did not publicly agree with Vargas.
CBIA will continue to oppose bills that its members view as unfriendly to business as they will only hinder the state’s economic recovery.
With the state having lost more than 11,000 jobs over the past six months, CBIA is hopeful that committee leadership will pursue a course that does not make it more expensive to create, sustain, and grow Connecticut jobs.