Six Bills To Watch in Connecticut, Say Advocates

With the 2021 legislative session underway, Connecticut Examiner checked in with six advocacy groups from across the state to see what bills they’re watching that are flying under the radar


State Bill 1018, An Act Concerning Prosecutorial Accountability, focuses on the roles states’ attorneys play in the system of mass incarceration, and tries to shed a light on the critical role they play in whether or not folks are being treated fairly. State attorneys are really left to run their districts as they see fit, and that discretion can lead to bias. This would ensure that if a person is arrested and charged, their outcome isn’t different based on where they are. Right now, what we’re seeing and what states’ attorneys admit themselves, is that a person who gets arrested in one city can face a different outcome if they’re arrested under the same circumstances in another city. Creating uniform policies would ensure that individual prosecutors’ biases aren’t driving outcomes. – Claudine Fox, Public Policy and Advocacy Director, ACLU of Connecticut 

State Bill 1037, An Act Concerning Solid Waste Management, is huge, because we’ve been trying to modernize the Bottle Bill program for years. This program charges a deposit on a bottle at the time of purchase, and that deposit is returned to the consumer when the bottle is returned. The bill expands the types of bottles that should be included in the deposit program to include alcohol bottles, and the deposit itself goes up from 5 cents to 10 cents. Those two things together are absolutely proven to boost our recycling rates. Our deposit rate hasn’t been raised in 40 years, and five cents is just not the incentive that it used to be. Distributors say they can’t afford this and it will put them out of business, but that’s just not the reality in any state. There are ten other states with 10-cent deposits and they function fine, and have recycling rates closer to 80 or 90 percent, compared to ours, which is below 50 percent. We’ve had so many years of this being blocked and attacked by the industry that does not want this, but this session, it’s finally happening – Lori Brown, Executive Director, Connecticut League of Conservation Voters 

House Bill 5377, An Act Concerning the Removal of Covid-19 Related Layoffs from the Unemployment Compensation Experience Account, is a bill that could be incredibly important for the business community in the state. There was a massive surge in unemployment claims during the pandemic, with 1.2 million claims in a matter of months, which is unprecedented in Connecticut history. The unemployment trust fund is exclusively funded by the business community, so it’s not at all taxpayer funded or funded through a payroll deduction for employees. We had to borrow heavily from the federal government to pay out those claims, and that ultimately has to be paid for by the business community. The amount of unemployment tax an employer pays is based on how much they use the system, and a lot of businesses that don’t normally use the unemployment system much could see higher taxes because they had to shut down last year during the pandemic. This bill would prevent last year from impacting businesses’ tax rates, and this is critically important for employers – Eric Gjede, Vice President of Government Affairs, CBIA 

Senate Bill 993, An Act Removing The Property Tax Exemption For Solar Projects And Reclassifying The Tax Calculation Of Solar Projects On Single Parcels Of Land, is a bill that we support, because while we support renewable energy, there is a loophole in the law that incentivizes solar energy through tax breaks that allows commercial solar facilities to avoid paying municipal property taxes, which really hurts our cities and towns, especially Stonington and Lebanon. The intention is to ensure larger commercial facilities paid their fair share of property taxes. Instead of just taking up this bill and closing the loophole, the bill was amended in committee to place a $5 per kilowatt fee on large commercial facilities, which helps ensure larger facilities pay some taxes to municipalities, it is still less than what they would pay if they just closed the loophole. We’re still supportive of efforts to promote the use of renewable energy in our communities, but larger facilities still have to pay their fair share – Betsy Gara, Executive Director, Connecticut Council of Small Towns

House Bill 6175, An Act Concerning Educational Access and Opportunity Scholarships, is a bill that would create tax credits for those who donate to organizations that offer funds to disadvantage children to access education choices. Children where school just isn’t working for them, whether they’ve fallen behind in the pandemic or are far ahead and aren’t challenged by their school, could apply to one of these scholarship granting organizations like the Children’s Educational Opportunity Foundation, and then they could obtain a scholarship that would help them afford a different school. The goal is to help disadvantaged children have access to the same educational opportunities enjoyed by their wealthier counterparts. I’m grateful that legislators from across the political spectrum have noticed how much these kids need a boost and have chosen to support the bill – Carol Platt Liebau, President, Yankee Institute 

House Bill 6654, An Act Establishing a Child Tax Credit Against the Personal Income Tax, would create a child tax credit that would allow the next generation to start off on a more equal footing. We are at the forefront of advocacy work on progressive taxation and children, and it’s central to our mission of having a more equitable Eastern Connecticut. We’ve funded over 1.8 million in grants toward youth empowerment in the region, and given somewhere around $700,000 in scholarships to high school and college students, so any bill that advances the needs of children in our state is something we support – Maryam Elahi, President and CEO, Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut

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