October 1, 2016 marks the effective date for a number of new or revised state laws impacting Connecticut businesses.
Energy & Telecommunications
Tree removal. Under PA16-86 (HB 5150), trees and shrubs on public lands that may interfere with power lines or transportation corridors will now have greater due process rights before they can be removed.
Privacy protections. PA 16-148 (HB 5640) changes the rules concerning disclosure of communications content and geo-location data, affording certain privacy protections to telecommunications subscribers.
Law enforcement will have to meet a higher standard (probable cause) when issuing orders to telecom companies to release certain information.
The law also provides for the release of information without a court order in emergencies involving danger of serious physical injury or death.
Transporting hazardous waste. PA 16-55 (HB 5412) requires commercial drivers transporting hazardous materials to comply with federal regulations on these materials with violations treated as an infraction or misdemeanor, depending on the severity.
State Water Plan. PA 16-137 (HB 5540) implements new procedural requirements concerning the adoption of a state water plan.
While it is no longer a requirement, certain legislative committees now may hold hearings on the plan.
In the event the legislature does not approve the plan, the Water Planning Council will have more time to revise it.
Unlike current law, should the legislature fail to approve the plan within two years of submittal, the authority for approval will shift to the Governor who may adopt or reject the plan.
Spill reporting. Under PA 16-199 (SB 301), the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection must now adopt regulations creating specific thresholds for the reporting of spills to the agency. The law does not require it but it is the agency’s intent.
Labor & Employment
Payroll cards. PA 16-125 (SB 211) allows employers to pay their employees through payroll cards under certain conditions.
An employee must voluntarily and expressly authorize, in writing or electronically, that he or she wishes to be paid with a card without any intimidation, coercion, or fear of discharge or reprisal from the employer.
No employer can require payment through a card as a condition of employment or for receiving any benefits or other type of remuneration.
- Employers must give employees the option to be paid by check or through direct deposit
- The card must be associated with an ATM network that ensures the availability of a substantial number of in-network ATMs in the state
- Employees must be able to make at least three free withdrawals per pay period, and
- None of the employer's costs for using payroll cards can be passed on to employees.
The bill also allows employers, regardless of how they pay their employees, to provide them with an electronic record of their hours worked, gross earnings, deductions, and net earnings (i.e., pay stub).
To do so, the (1) employee must explicitly consent; (2) employer must provide a way for the employee to access and print the record securely, privately, and conveniently; and (3) employer must incorporate reasonable safeguards to protect the confidentiality of the employee's personal information.
Lastly, current law allows employers to pay employees through direct deposit only on an employee's written request. The bill allows an employee's request for direct deposit to also be an electronic request.
Small business regulations. PA 16-32 (SB 302) requires state agencies to better understand, analyze, and report how proposed regulations would impact small businesses prior to holding a public hearing and ultimate approval by the legislature.
These new requirements are consistent with what is required of state agencies in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
This law also changes the definition of small business from 75 employees or fewer to 250 employees or fewer.
Regulatory review. Additionally, PA 16-58 (HB 5498) requires more regular review of state regulations.
At least every seven years, legislative committees must conduct a review of regulations for agencies that have regulations pertaining to that committees focus.
This same law makes minor changes to certain deadlines and effective periods associated with emergency regulations; and expands the reasons for which agencies may propose amendments to regulations without prior notice or public comment.
The law also modifies provisions concerning the agency's posting of notices of proposed regulations on the eRegulations system, delivery of the notices to certain interested parties, and responses to public comments.
CDL licenses. Under a provision of PA16-55 (HB 5412), courts are now prohibited from suspending prosecution and ordering treatment of people with drug or alcohol dependency if they operated a commercial motor vehicle or held a CDL license when charged with certain crimes.