In addition to his position as chair of the Energy & Technology committee, State Senator Norm Needleman will be returning for a second legislative session as vice chair of the Planning & Development committee.
“I look forward to starting work on the Planning & Development Committee, working to improve and streamline processes to assist our state’s municipalities and support further development in Connecticut,” Needleman said. “I would like to thank Senator Looney for his appointment and am excited to continue my work in the upcoming legislative session.”
Needleman said he wanted to join the Planning & Development committee because of his experience as a first selectman.
“I’m suited for it much more than the banking committee,” Needleman said. “I have first-hand experience for how the state statutes impact towns.”
Instead of revisiting bills that he proposed last session, Needleman said his focus will be on new initiatives in his two committees.
A truly renewable energy grid
“Last session there was a focus on wind and solar energy, but these are not known for 24-hour power generation. We need a truly renewable grid. We need other power sources, to store power or generate power 24/7,” Needleman said. “If you don’t have that bridge for the hours that wind and sun aren’t, then you need to turn on a gas plant.”
As long as that is the case, said Needleman, we will not be able to rely solely on renewable energy.
Needleman said the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection needs to be able to incentivize companies to invest in grid-connected battery storage. In 2017, proposals from Eversource and Avangrid to test energy-storage technologies were denied after it was decided that the costs still outweighed the potential benefits to consumers.
“Until this technology improves we will be stuck,” Needleman said.
Needleman said he would also be working to revise the law governing large solar arrays.
“Commercial solar arrays, not arrays that I would put on my house or even my business, are generally non-taxable, property tax wise, until they reach five megawatts,” Needleman said. “We are seeing developers put in three megawatt arrays next to 3 megawatt arrays and avoiding taxes. It hurts municipalities while these companies make money selling the energy.”
Needleman said his goal is to make all commercial solar arrays larger than one megawatt taxable.
Changes for small businesses
As a business owner himself, Needleman said he is always looking for ways to make it easier for small businesses to thrive. This year he said the focus will be on helping smaller businesses regain their state and local tax deductions.
“There’s a small quirk in the law for very small, self-employed companies, partnerships and LLCs – one that make less than $35,000 per year — that prevents them from gaining this benefit,” Needleman said.
Needleman also said that the Neighborhood Assistance Act needs to be reformed to encourage small businesses to be involved in their communities. Currently, the way the law is written only C-corporations can receive a 60 percent tax credit for donating to nonprofit organizations.
“I would like to see the benefit expanded to S-corps and LLCs,” Needleman said. “The number of corporations that are C-corps is dwindling, if you are a private business, it is much better to not be a C-corp except for this.”
Needleman said that he is not suggesting the $5 million cap on corporate donations receiving the neighborhood assistance tax credit be expanded. Instead, he said the credit should remain a first-come-first-served program, but allow all businesses to have a fair chance.
“Any business should be able to donate to charity,” Needleman said.
Listening to his constituents
Each day, Needleman said, his email inbox is filled with more than 100 emails urging him to vote no on tolls.
“This morning I got 150 and a high percentage of them were people screaming at me ‘no tolls!’” Needleman said. “I have not committed one way or the other, I’m on the fence until I see the exact wording of the bill.”
However, Needleman said some of the statistics are quite convincing that tolls might be worth it.
“When you hear the statistics that tractor trailers generate 1,000 times more wear and tear on the road then a car, it makes sense to tax them and maybe not cars,” Needleman said. “But, I don’t believe in locking yourself out of options. I don’t want to build something out as a possibility, like tolls for cars too.”
Needleman has also committed himself to advocating for modernizing marriage license applications, driver’s licenses and legislator pay.
“I don’t think race or ethnicity should be on the marriage license. I don’t think that’s relevant now or ever has been,” Needleman said. “Also, why do our driver’s licenses say male or female? I’m not sure we should be asking those questions anymore.”
The first day of Needleman’s second year in the Senate begins February 5.