Lamont Signals Openness to Taxing Digital Advertisers, Hears Concerns

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Gov. Ned Lamont said in a press conference on Thursday that he’d be willing to consider a proposed tax on large digital advertisers like Google and Facebook. I think it deserves a look,” Lamont said, adding that the state at one time relied on corporate income tax for 20 to 25 percent of its revenue.  “Now, very few companies pay it, and certainly not those big, digital out of state companies.”  Lawmakers have introduced two bills — H.B. 6187 and S.B. 821 — that would “establish a ten per cent tax on the annual gross revenues derived from digital advertising

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Scanlon Proposes $600 Child Tax Credit to Bolster Federal Aid

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Vice President Kamala Harris visited Connecticut last week to tout the American Rescue Plan, the federal COVID-19 aid bill that will bring billions in funding to the state.  Her visit came with a particular focus on the new federal child tax credit, which will bring a $3,000 yearly benefit per child between six and 17 years old, and $3,600 per child under six. The credit begins to phase out at individual incomes of $75,000 or couples earning up to $150,000. “Through this plan, we are going to lift half of America’s children out of poverty,” Harris said, speaking at West

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Bill to Ease Outdoor Dining Approvals Heads to Senate After 141-0 Vote in the House

The Connecticut House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill that attempts to streamline the process for restaurants to start or continue offering outdoor dining, which has been a lifeline for restaurants that have lived with capacity restrictions throughout the pandemic. The bill, approved in the House by a vote of 141-0, now goes to the Senate for final approval. Until March 31, 2022, the bill would allow restaurants to apply to local zoning officials to offer  outdoor dining without submitting a fee or the site surveys or other plans typically needed in zoning applications. Instead the restaurant would submit a

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House Legislators Extend Emergency Powers by Party-line Vote

The Connecticut House of Representatives voted 90-50 along party lines on Thursday to approve a bill that would extend Gov. Ned Lamont’s emergency declarations for another month. Citing the possibility of losing federal funds if the emergency declarations lapsed, Democrats advanced a bill to the State Senate that would extend Lamont’s emergency authority until May 20. Pushing back on familiar complaints from Republican leaders that the legislature has abdicated its responsibility during the pandemic, State Rep. Mike D’Agostino, D-Hamden, chair of the  General Laws Committee, said that the governor’s emergency authority was granted by lawmakers in a state statute passed

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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

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Legislators Heard 12 Hours of Testimony on a Bill to Declare Racism a Public Health Crisis in Connecticut

Legislators on the Public Health Committee listened to nearly 12 hours of public testimony, primarily focused on a bill to declare racism a public health crisis in the state of Connecticut. The hearing on Wednesday took up a few bills, but mainly centered on Senate Bill 1, An Act Equalizing Comprehensive Access to Mental, Behavioral and Physical Health Care in Response to the Pandemic.  The bill declares that in the state of Connecticut, racism is recognized as a public health crisis and, if passed, would establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to examine racial disparities in public health across state

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House Legislators Vote 147-0 to Assert Legislative Oversight of Federal COVID Funds

Connecticut House lawmakers on Tuesday took a step towards asserting legislative oversight over how federal COVID relief funds are spent. State representatives voted 147-0 to advance a bill to the State Senate that would require Gov. Ned Lamont to ask lawmakers to approve his plans to distribute federal COVID aid, using a process similar to how the state sets its budgets. Like in the budget process, Lamont must have his proposal for spending Connecticut’s share of the $1.9 trillion COVID aid package, which Congress approved last week, reviewed by the state legislature’s Appropriations Committee and approved by the General Assembly.

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Legislature Passes $137 Million Fix for PILOT with Bipartisan Support But No Funding as of Yet

A still unfunded plan to revise and increase state reimbursements to local governments for tax-exempt property, at an estimated cost of $137 million, received significant bipartisan support from Connecticut’s first selectmen and mayors before passing 125-24 in the House and 28-7 in the Senate.  The bill also included the elimination of welfare liens and provisions against double taxation for commuters Mayor Justin Elicker of New Haven said he was grateful that first selectmen and mayors from across the state — rural communities and urban ones, small and large, Democratic and Republican — have come out in support of funding the

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Why Members of Lamont’s Cannabis Equity Group See His Bill as a Betrayal

Late last year, as Gov. Ned Lamont prepared his push for legalizing and taxing recreational marijuana in the upcoming legislative session, his office gathered dozens of predominantly nonwhite activists, legislators and community leaders to form a cannabis equity discussion group, which met weekly via Zoom for two months.  The group discussed everything from equitable revenue allocation, and processes for expunging criminal records, to licensing that would be inclusive of Black and Brown entrepreneurs. Dozens of hours of work culminated in a set of recommendations delivered to the governor, all centered around how best to legalize cannabis in an equitable fashion,

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House Approves Bill With Aid for Commuters, Families on Public Assistance and Tax-Exempt Properties

HARTFORD — On Wednesday, the State House passed Senate Bill 873, three-part legislation to give tax credits to former commuters, remove liens from the property of recipients of public assistance and to modify the state’s PILOT program for reimbursing towns for tax-exempt property. The bill passed with a vote of 125-24 with one member abstaining.  This vote came despite assurances that each part of the bill would receive a separate vote.  A number of legislators expressed concerns about the combination of three apparently disparate issues into one bill. “All of [the items] deserve our attention. But are they critical to

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6 Connecticut Mayors React to Gov. Lamont’s Plan for Legal Marijuana

On Feb. 10, Gov. Ned Lamont released a plan to legalize recreational marijuana in Connecticut, saying that he anticipates the state will start to see revenue from cannabis sales as early as next year. In the Governor’s proposal, much of that anticipated revenue, including an optional 3 percent local excise tax, would go directly to municipalities. In an effort to better understand local responses to the plan, Connecticut Examiner checked in with six mayors from across the state to ask their thoughts on the proposal and what legal marijuana could mean for their municipalities.  As a former police chief, I

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Legislation Frees Stay-at-Home Commuters from a $500 Million Tax Bill, But Bends Process

The state budget proposed by Gov. Ned Lamont calls for Connecticut to concede $500 million of tax revenue — the majority from households earning more than $100,000 each year — in an effort to relieve the added burden of double taxation from as many as 110,000 tax filers in the state. These Connecticut residents in normal years would have commuted out of state to work — mainly into New York from Fairfield County — but have been working at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on the current laws, known as convenience laws, these Connecticut residents would owe income taxes

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Labor Coalition Calls Lamont Budget ‘Profoundly Troubling’

The budget announced by Gov. Ned Lamont on Wednesday proposes a wage freeze for state employees in 2022 and 2023, that would save the government an estimated $141.75 million — a concession the state employee unions say they are not willing to make. Lamont’s plan would save $44 million from the general fund in 2022 and $92.4 million in 2023 by not allowing wage increases for union employees currently in bargaining. It would also save $4 million in 2022 and $8.5 million in 2023 for the state’s transportation fund. Assuming no wage increases for non-union employees in 2023, Lamont included

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Five Southeast Connecticut Legislators Weigh in on Legalizing Marijuana

In Wednesday’s budget address, Gov. Ned Lamont not only called for the legalization of recreational marijuana, but allocated the expected revenue from cannabis sales in his budget, signaling his assumption that the state will legalize within the next year. Lamont also released his own proposed legislation, which was met with mixed feedback from leadership on both sides of the aisle.  Connecticut Examiner checked in with five state legislators from southeast Connecticut to get their thoughts on the Governor’s legislation.  I think it’s about time. I think we need to be pretty thoughtful with the revenue, because I’m not a big

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Lamont’s Budget Proposal Assumes Marijuana Revenues

In his budget address on Wednesday, Gov. Ned Lamont not only called for the legalization of recreational cannabis, but allocated expected tax revenue from marijuana sales as part of his budget, signaling his expectation that the proposal will become law.  “Our neighboring states are offering recreational marijuana on a legal and regulated basis,” Lamont said. “Massachusetts dispensaries are advertising extensively here in Connecticut. Rather than surrender this market to out-of-staters, or worse, to the unregulated underground market, our budget provides for the legalization of recreational marijuana.”  “Our proposal really centers equity at the forefront of licensing, the workforce, the training,

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Budget Proposal Relies on $440 Million in Federal Funding and Freeze to Cost Sharing Formulas

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In a move criticized by both Democratic and Republican leaders, the budget proposed on Wednesday by Gov. Ned Lamont’s budget would postpone a total of $96 million of promised funding increases to school districts over the next two years. Instead, the school districts would be expected to rely on $440 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to provide for their needs over that time. Melissa McCaw, secretary of the Office of Policy Management, said the funds originally designated for Educational Cost Sharing increases — $32 million for 2022 and $64 million for 2023 — would be directed instead toward closing a

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Connecticut Lags Behind Neighbors in Marijuana Efforts, Say Industry Experts

Vincente Sederberg, a Colorado-based law firm that played a key role in passing Colorado’s marijuana legalization ballot initiative, hosted a panel on Thursday afternoon to discuss the state of marijuana legalization in the tri-state area.  The panel also featured Michael Huttner, managing director of Young America Capital, and experts from Vincente Sederberg, including Michelle Bodian, a senior associate at the firm, Andrew Livingston, director of Economics & Research, Jennifer Cabrera, counsel, and Elliot Choi, counsel.  Vincente Sederberg has advised local, state and national governments around the world, including in Uruguay, the first country to legalize marijuana. In comments, Michelle Bodian,

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Connecticut’s Cities Press to Recoup Tax-Exempt Revenue

New Haven is facing a $41 million budget deficit in the coming year, said Mayor Justin Elicker, but with  sixty percent of the city’s property non-taxable, the city will be hard-pressed to balance its budget. New London Mayor Mike Passero said that even with the state’s PILOT program, his city loses about $30 million each year in tax revenue from tax-exempt property. In theory, PILOT, the state’s Payment in Lieu of Taxes program, should reimburse towns for 77 percent of the taxes for property occupied by nonprofit organizations, but in reality, most cities across Connecticut receive a far lower percentage

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Legislature Debates Tax Changes Aimed at Wealthy as State Plans for Life after COVID

A new legislative package carving out a fundamental change in the state’s tax structure is raising questions about where Connecticut’s budget priorities should be directed, as legislators of both parties debate budget priorities, caps and aid, as the state prepares to emerge from the pandemic. The bill proposes a number of initiatives aimed at increasing taxes on the wealthy and using that money to fund social programs and one-time payments of $500 to individuals who lost their jobs during the pandemic.  Charles Du, policy director with the New England Health Care Employees Union and one of the people involved with

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Lamont’s Extension of Emergency Powers Draws Questions from Republican Leadership

Gov. Ned Lamont announced Monday that he will extend the public health state of emergency, which was set to end on February 9, through to April 20. The state of emergency gives the governor sweeping powers to manage the pandemic, including restricting business, limiting gatherings, and mandating masks.  The Governor first declared a state of emergency on March 10, 2020 and extended the order an additional five months on September 9.  In a press briefing on Monday, Lamont said this additional extension would give Connecticut time to assess the vaccine’s efficacy as well as prepare for the new, more contagious

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Looney Proposes a Tax Package to Fund Poorer Communities

A new proposal before the legislature would use taxes on high-value properties and capital gains to funnel more money to distressed municipalities.  State Sen. Pro Tem Martin Looney, D- New Haven, wants to fund the Payment in Lieu of Taxes, or PILOT, program through revenue from a 0.1 percent tax on commercial properties and residential properties with an assessed value of more than $300,000.  Under the PILOT program, municipalities receive back a percentage of taxes that would have been paid for properties that are tax-exempt, such as hospitals, colleges and properties owned by the state.  The program, however, has long

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Marlborough State Rep. Proposes “Biz in a Box”

State Rep. Robin Green, R-Marlborough, wants to create a one-stop shop for first-time entrepreneurs who are looking to start their own business. Her bill, which she calls “Biz in a Box,” would connect potential small business owners with a mentor who can guide them through all the financial necessities and bureaucratic requirements that come with opening anything from a massage studio to a daycare center.  Green said that the idea came from her own experience starting a business. Twenty years ago, she said, she founded Discovery Zone Learning Center, a daycare center with three locations in Hartford County.    “When you

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Lawmaker Proposes Savings Accounts for First-time Homebuyers

HARTFORD — State Rep. Tom Delnicki, R-South Windsor, has proposed a bill to establish a first-time homebuyers savings account program geared toward graduates of Connecticut universities and possibly trade schools, with the goal of attracting and keeping young working people in the state.   “We all know if you become a homebuyer or a condo buyer, you’re more apt to stay in that state, and we keep losing a lot of good folks that are highly educated, that move out of Connecticut. My thought process is let’s do something to try to keep them here. Basically, this will give them a

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Legislators Pledge No Cut in Municipal Aid at Annual COST Forum

In a Wednesday forum hosted at the annual meeting of the Connecticut Organization of Small Towns, state legislative leaders took questions from town officials on their legislative priorities.  The forum was moderated by WTNH anchor Dennis House, and included both Republican and Democratic leaders. Speaker of the House Matt Ritter and House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora, Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney and Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly, all fielded questions ranging from municipal aid to Eversource. Though lawmakers largely avoided making commitments to specific policies, together they expressed a commitment to provide municipalities with the full level of state

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Looney Would Shift Sports Betting, Marijuana, Capital Gains Taxes to Distressed Communities

State reimbursements for tax-exempt properties have steadily declined over the past five years, leaving already distressed municipalities even more strapped for cash.   The PILOT, or Payment in Lieu of Taxes, program, pays municipalities a percentage of what they would receive for a property if that property were not either state-owned or being used for a tax-exempt purpose, such as a hospital or a community college. The current PILOT program is authorized to reimburse 100 percent of lost property taxes for any towns where more than 50 percent of the town is state-owned property, and at 45 percent for all other

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Cathy Osten Talks Mental Health, Workers Comp and Her Priorities this Session

State Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, returns remotely to Hartford for her fourth term representing a district that stretches from Marlborough to Ledyard. In a conversation with the Connecticut Examiner, Osten shares her legislative priorities for the upcoming session. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.  What are your top legislative priorities for the upcoming session?  I’ve always been interested in mental health awareness and improvements in the system. I’ve been meeting with people about this throughout the pandemic and even before. The initiatives I’ll be focusing on during this session have been on the forefront of my agenda

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Lamont Joins Massachusetts, Rhode Island and D.C. in Carbon Cap and Investment Plan

HARTFORD — Gov. Ned Lamont and the leaders of two other northeastern states and the District of Columbia signed a memorandum of understanding on Monday to pursue substantial reductions in motor vehicle pollution and invest $300 million per year in modernizing transportation in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region.  Governors Lamont, Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island, and Mayor Muriel Bowser of the District of Columbia represent the first states of a regional collaboration of 12 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states and the District of Columbia to join the Transportation and Climate Initiative Program.  The program, according to a

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Change Could Help Regions Compete for Federal Dollars

HARTFORD — A new proposal by the State of Connecticut and the U.S. Census Bureau would adopt Connecticut’s nine planning regions as “county-equivalent” geographical units used for tabulating census data. If approved, the change will increase eligibility for federal grants in the nine regions, which are represented by the Regional Council of Governments (COGs) made up of member municipalities. Many federal grants are designed for and around counties, making cities and towns in Connecticut ineligible. If the state’s planning regions are made equivalent to counties, then municipalities can join together through their COGs and submit for federal grants, said Sam

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It’s All in the Details: Connecticut Moves Toward Legalizing Marijuana

Arizona, Montana, South Dakota and New Jersey all voted to legalize recreational marijuana on November 3, joining eleven other states and the District of Columbia. Just 15 states still outlaw marijuana in any form, and Connecticut is not one of them, having decriminalized possession in 2011 and legalized cannabis for medical purposes in 2012.  New Jersey joins three other states in the region, Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine, which already legalized cannabis products. New York and Rhode Island are also mulling over the issue, and Connecticut’s state leadership has made it clear that marijuana legalization is a priority for the upcoming

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Audit Cites Long-standing Vacancy for Backlog in Discrimination Hearings

HARTFORD — A years-long vacancy in a key position at the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities appears to be delaying hearings on some of the most difficult to resolve cases alleging discrimination, a state audit released this week highlighted. State statute requires the commission to have three “human rights referees” who conduct hearings on contested cases alleging discrimination in the workplace, housing or public accommodations. Since June 2014, the commission has had only two referees, with one position sitting vacant.  The state audit released on Tuesday found that, as of April 21, there were 269 cases awaiting a hearing

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