|Senator Linares, file photo|
Wednesday, April 12, 2017
Senator Linares March 2017 Legislative Update
I’m pleased to report that a number of positive higher education, pro-business, and regulation-reducing bills have moved out of committees. Some of the bills detailed below I personally sponsored. I support all of them
A bill I am particularly proud of as co-chair of the legislature’s Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee is SB 837, An Act Concerning Apprenticeship Opportunities For High Growth, High Demand Jobs. The task force that will be established by this bill will bring together business leaders, the state Department of Labor, and educators to develop a public-private apprenticeship program that will train workers in highly skilled, in-demand jobs with good salaries. This will provide businesses with a workforce educated in the skills businesses need, while also helping workers develop marketable skills without incurring the debt often related to a college education. Another benefit will be a revival of the state’s economy for both businesses and workers.
SB 948, An Act Concerning Digital Discounts To Reduce The Cost Of Textbooks And Other Educational Resources, and SB 341, An Act Concerning Medicaid Cost Savings For Students, are both intended to help reduce the cost of higher education for college students and their parents. Many occupations still require a college degree, and as legislators, we need to find ways to make higher education more affordable for everyone.
As a proponent of free enterprise, protecting our environment, and making products and technology available to Connecticut consumers, I am pleased to say that HB 7097, An Act Concerning The Licensing Of New And Used Car Dealers, was favorably voted out of the Transportation Committee. This bill would allow electric vehicle maker Tesla to sell its cars directly to consumers in Connecticut.
I know some businesses are concerned that allowing Tesla to direct-sell its vehicles would threaten existing dealers’ business, but the bill would not allow other manufactures to direct-sell their vehicles. Connecticut would also join the majority of states that allow the Tesla direct sales model. Those states have not reported any evidence of dealership employee layoffs resulting from Tesla operations. If anything, I believe this would bring more job opportunities to Connecticut.
Reducing Regulations and Overreach
As part of efforts to reduce burdensome regulation on businesses, the Commerce Committee also approved SB 818, An Act Authorizing The Suspension Of Civil Penalties Imposed On Certain Business Entities Pursuant To State Regulations. Under this provision, businesses cited by a state agency for a regulation violation could have the fines waived if it is a first-time violation and if the violation is corrected. This would help businesses that unknowingly violate state regulation get into compliance without punitive financial measures. The business owners that I know want to comply with state regulations and will fix problems once they know about them.
A bill from the Education Committee, HB 7276, An Act Concerning Education Mandate Relief, would give local boards of education more authority over school calendars, alternative education for expelled students, and training in the use of physical restraint. In addition giving local communities more flexibility, reducing mandates on our schools also can help lower administrative costs. Lowering costs reduces the need for property tax increases.
As a way to try to get the state’s budget and spending in line, I introduced, SB 147, An Act Eliminating Mileage Reimbursements, Longevity Payments And Overtime Compensation From The Calculation Of Pensions For State And Municipal Employees, which had a hearing recently. This bill would eliminate the gimmicks being used by state employees, including legislators, to pad the salary used to calculate pension payments. The good news is that a growing number of legislators recognize, not only that these mechanisms must go, but also that the state must deal with its pension problem.
Another bill that seeks to reduce pension costs for taxpayers and require state employees to have more skin in the game is, SB 146, An Act Concerning Defined Contribution Retirement Plans For New State Employees. This bill would require all newly hired state employees and officials to enter into defined contribution plans, similar to a 401k, rather than the existing pension plan. Measures like this could go a long way to reducing fixed spending costs.
These are only some of the important bills we have discussed this legislative session, and we still have to develop a state budget. We have a lot of work to do.
I plan to provide more updates as we continue the legislative process. You can check out my website at www.senatorlinares.com and follow me on social media. Also, you can look up these and other bills on the legislature’s website at www.cga.ct.gov.