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Senate Majority Leader

Bob Duff

Representing Norwalk & Darien

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Connecticut Senate Democrats Highlight Successful 2019 Legislative Session

HARTFORD, CT (June 10, 2019) – Today, Senate Democrats highlighted a series of bills that passed in the 2019 legislative session which will strengthen our economy, improve education, strengthen gun safety, and ensure Connecticut support middle-class and working-class families in Connecticut.

“Years from now Connecticut residents will look back on the 2019 legislative session as one of the most beneficial and productive for the typical working family in our state,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney. “This package of legislation and new laws will vastly improve our quality of life and benefit our economy. Between debt-free community college, paid family and medical leave, and a raise in the minimum wage, Connecticut residents will see positive, tangible benefits from this legislative session.”

ECONOMIC COMPETITION & FAIRNESS

Creating Paid Family and Medical Leave: Senate Bill 1: An Act Concerning Paid Family and Medical Leave
In a United Nations survey of 185 countries, only two lacked paid family and medical leave programs: Papau New Guinea and the United States. One quarter of new mothers in the United States return to work just two weeks after their children are born. This program provides up to 12 weeks of paid leave for new parents, those taking care of seriously ill family members, and those caring for their own serious illnesses--thereby preventing the public from having to choose between work and family. Connecticut becomes the seventh state to offer this global standard to its residents.

Raising the Minimum Wage to $15: Senate Bill 2: An Act Increasing the Minimum Fair Wage
When costs rise but wages stay stagnant, paying rent and utilities or providing for a family become almost impossible. As New York and Massachusetts pass laws to raise the minimum wage, Connecticut cannot continue to lag behind. Senate Bill 2 will raise the minimum wage in Connecticut to $15 by 2023 by implementing five minimum wage increases over the next five years. According to a Quinnipiac University poll, 63 percent of Connecticut residents support increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour. This increase will keep up with rising living costs, ensure businesses remain strong with competitive wages and bring many who are earning the minimum wage in this state closer to a genuine living wage.

Continuing the Success of the Workforce Pipeline Initiative: Senate Bill 5: An Act Establishing A Workforce Pipeline and Job Creation Task Force
In 2018 Senate Democrats led passage of a Workforce Pipeline & Apprenticeship initiative to provide rapid work skills training for people seeking employment, then place up to 10,000 participants directly into good paying jobs with a bright future. In order to begin addressing the state’s many workforce needs, a collaborative workforce training effort known as the Eastern CT Manufacturing Pipeline Initiative was established two years ago by Electric Boat, the Eastern Advanced Manufacturing Alliance, the Eastern Workforce Investment Board, and other partners. Through this effort 1,000 entry-level workers were rapidly trained and placed into jobs over a two-year period. This bill will establish a workforce pipeline and job creation task force to continue the positive progress of this initiative. With a track record of success, this is a proven model piloted by this effort, and it will expand to other sectors and areas of the state.

GUN SAFETY

Statewide Ban On Ghost Guns: House Bill 7219: An Act Concerning Ghost Guns
Ghost guns are increasingly becoming a problem across the country. These firearms can be made using a 3D printer and assembled with kits purchased online, allowing anyone to have access to an unmarked, unregistered firearm without a permit. Ghost guns have been seized in Torrington, Ridgefield and Waterbury, and these firearms have been used in mass shootings in California in 2013 and 2017. This session we passed a bill that will prohibit manufacturing a firearm without a serial number, manufacturing a plastic gun that can pass through security measures if its grips, stocks and magazines are taken off, and prohibits the possessing, receiving or transferring of an unfinished firearm frame or lower receiver lacking a serial number. Ghost guns are dangerous and difficult for law enforcement to trace, and banning these firearms will make our state safer for all.

Ensuring Guns Are Stored Safely When Around Minors: House Bill 7218: An Act Concerning the Safe Storage of Firearms in the Home and Firearm Safety Programs in Public Schools
The tragic death of Ethan Song, the 15 year old Guilford boy who was accidentally killed by an improperly stored gun at a friend’s house, rocked the state. In the aftermath of Ethan’s passing, we’ve had an important conversation in Connecticut about safe storage of firearms—whether they are loaded or unloaded—when in a household with a minor. In response, we passed legislation which will strengthen our state’s gun laws by requiring safe storage for all guns—loaded and unloaded—and increased the age restriction which requires gun owners to secure loaded or unloaded guns in locked containers from 16 years old to 18 years old. The legislation will also require the Connecticut Board of Education to develop a K-12 guide on gun safety. This bill prioritizes the lives of our state’s young people while also educating them on proper gun safety.

Ensuring Safe Storage of Firearms in a Motor Vehicle: House Bill 7223: An Act Concerning The Storage Of A Pistol Or Revolver In A Motor Vehicle
As gun thefts from cars rise throughout the country, this legislation will prohibit storing a pistol in an unattended motor vehicle, unless that pistol is in the trunk, a locked glove box or a locked safe. This legislation can reduce the up to 600,000 guns stolen each year and is another improvement to our state’s gun laws to ensure the safety of each and every person in Connecticut.

EDUCATION

Debt-Free Community College: Senate Bill 273: An Act Concerning Debt-Free College
Connecticut has the third-highest student loan debt in the country, and the cost of public college education in the state has grown nearly three times faster than inflation in the last 50 years. This problem ties an anchor around recent graduates’ feet, preventing them from starting their lives and families. Starting in Fall 2020, students in good academic standing will receive credit for the first 72 credit hours they take at state community colleges, allowing them to graduate without accruing debt. This provides students relief from crushing debt and strengthens Connecticut’s workforce for the future.

Helping Pay Down Student Loan Debt: Senate Bill 72: An Act Establishing A Tax Credit For Employers That Make Payments On Loans Issued To Certain Employees By The Connecticut Higher Education Supplemental Loan Authority
Connecticut student loan debt more than doubled from 2008 to 2017. It is estimated that new college graduates in Connecticut carry over $35,000 of student debt. This level of debt can affect were you decide to work, where you decide to live and what purchases (such as a house) you can make. In addition, Connecticut employers are struggling to fill positions in careers with shortages. This bill creates a tax credit program for businesses who help pay off the debt of their employees. By giving a credit of up to 50% (capped at $2,625) to businesses who pay off the loans of their employees, we are giving businesses an incentive to hire people right here in Connecticut. Employees must have graduated within five years, which limits eligibility for the employer for five years of credits and only applies to loans issued by the Connecticut Higher Education Supplemental Loan Authority. These credits can be deducted from corporate or insurance industry taxes.

HEALTH CARE

Raising the Smoking and Vaping Age to 21: House Bill 7200: An Act Prohibiting the Sale of Cigarettes, Tobacco Products, Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems and Vapor Products to Persons Under Age Twenty-one
Ninety-five percent of adult smokers started smoking before they turned 21. The lifelong consequences of smoking tobacco clearly damage public health, and we need to use every tool in our toolbox to prevent our young people from falling into this deadly habit. We also need to fight the nationwide epidemic of “vaping” among middle- and high-school students. We passed this bill to raise Connecticut’s smoking age, and the age at which someone can purchase tobacco products (including vaporizers and vaping liquid) from 18 to 21. In addition to raising the smoking age, the bill also increases penalties for tobacco sales for individuals under the age of 21, and it bans smoking and e-cigarette use on school and child care center grounds.

Protecting Nursing Home Residents: Senate Bill 375: An Act Concerning Nursing Home Facility Staffing Levels
Patients in our state’s nursing homes are some of our most vulnerable residents, and they must receive adequate care and attention from staff. This bill requires nursing homes to post in a conspicuous space every day information regarding the number of advanced practice registered nurses, registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and nurse’s aides who will be providing direct patient care during each shift. The bill also allows DPH to take disciplinary action or issue a citation against a nursing home if the home substantially fails to comply with the state’s minimum direct care staffing requirements (i.e. 1.9 hours of direct nursing staff per resident per day). The home would have to post the staffing violation prominently on-site.

Treating Mental Health at Colleges and Universities: Senate Bill 750: An Act Concerning the Prevention and Treatment of Mental Illness at Institutions of Higher Education
College students have been diagnosed with depression, anxiety and panic attacks at increased rates in recent years. While up to 75 percent of mental illnesses arise before the age of 24, just one in five college students with mental illnesses seek help each year. This bill creates a task force to study current approaches to treating mental illness in higher education and find ways to improve them. Those recommendations will help us put a better support system in place, allowing students in crisis to find the help they need.

Protecting Patients: Senate Bill 42: An Act Concerning Coinsurance, Copayments And Deductibles And Contracting By Health Carriers
Too many patients are overbilled or receive surprise bills from their insurance company. It is critical that our state increase health care transparency and protect patients. This bill includes the following provisions: 1) establishes a task force to look at issues of affordability around high deductible health plans, 2) requires hospitals to disclose fees associated with trauma activation, 3) prohibits disability insurance policies from containing discretionary clauses that allow the insurance company to interpret language it has itself presented in the contract, 4) prohibits insurers from denying coverage for ER services due to the fact that an insured could have received care elsewhere, 5) adds out of network lab services to the existing “surprise billing” law, 6) decreases the timeframe from 72 to 48 hours, (except during the weekend) for adverse determination review, and 7) ties out of pocket costs to the actual cost of services and prohibits insurers from charging insureds for care more than an uninsured would pay.

A CONNECTICUT FOR ALL

The “Time’s Up” Act: Senate Bill 3: Time’s Up Act: An Act Concerning Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment
Compared to other states, Connecticut’s statute of limitations for rape – just five years to bring a complaint – is one of the shortest in the country. Forty-five states have no statute of limitations for rape, or they have a longer limit than Connecticut. But our country is in the midst of a long- overdue reckoning regarding sexual assault and sexual harassment, and Connecticut can no longer lag behind other states in protecting victims of sexual assault. That’s why we passed a bill extending our statute of limitations for sexual assault crimes from 5 years to 20 years, extending the time limits people have to file lawsuits for sexual assault, allowing more time for criminal prosecution of sexual assault, and requiring more employer-sponsored sexual harassment training.

A Council on Protecting Women’s Health: Senate Bill 394: An Act Establishing A Council on Protecting Women’s Health
If a federal agency changes the definitions of domestic violence and sexual assault, should Connecticut residents be concerned? If an administration dictates that overseas groups receiving U.S. health funds may not use this money to provide legal abortion services, what could possibly be the effect on Connecticut? If the Affordable Care Act is repealed, how does that affect health care in Connecticut? What about an Appellate Court or Supreme Court decision regarding abortion? These are all questions of great importance to Connecticut women and their families. That’s why we created The Council on Protecting Women’s Health, to monitor legislation and policy at the federal level and its potential negative impact women’s health right here in Connecticut.

Protecting the Transgender Community: Senate Bill 792: An Act Creating an Advisory Committee to Study Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Expression That Occurs in Workplaces and Schools in the State
According to the Transgender Law Center, Connecticut is in the top tier of states for laws protecting members of the transgender community. However, the current federal administration has taken several actions to backtrack on progress. For example, the U.S. Department of Justice reversed a policy that provided non-discrimination protections for transgender people in the workplace, and the Department of Education also reversed policy and will not take action on any complaints filed by transgender students who are banned from restrooms that match their gender identity. Given these developments, this bill would establish an advisory committee to inform the General Assembly whether our laws have been successful, and what changes may be necessary to ensure equality and opportunities for all residents of our state.

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