June 19, 2017

Businesses held largely harmless in regular session

While the legislature this session passed many bills, and left many more to rot on the House and Senate floors, it's unclear which proposals could be revived as lawmakers continue to negotiate a two-year budget that will eventually need to be approved in special session.

A bill to help Millstone Nuclear Power Station bolster its financial position is one proposal not likely to be brought back to life, according to House Minority Leader Themis Klarides.

Millstone failed in its quest to convince lawmakers to establish a new structure for utilities to purchase a large portion of the power it produces. Many argued the measure would lead to higher electricity prices.

Tesla's third attempt at getting permission to sell its electric vehicles directly to Connecticut consumers also failed to reach a vote in either chamber, despite perhaps the California company's fiercest lobbying effort yet.

The Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA) said it was pleased with the passage of bills that will:

• Make more small businesses eligible for angel investor investments

• Require a ratepayer impact analysis for any future legislation that will increase electricity and gas bills

• Allow voters to weigh in next year on creating a constitutional "lockbox" to protect transportation infrastructure funds from legislative raids

• Create a small business hotline

CBIA President Joe Brennan said there weren't any earth-shattering bills passed during the formal session.

"It's more just the totality of the positive ones that passed and negative ones that didn't pass," Brennan said.

Mandated paid family leave and a higher minimum wage were among the bills CBIA successfully lobbied against, Brennan said.

One bill the business lobby supported but couldn't get through the legislature was unemployment compensation reform.

House Bill 6461 sought to increase the solvency of the state's unemployment insurance fund, mainly through changing benefit calculations aimed at seasonal workers and prohibiting beneficiaries from receiving unemployment compensation while they are receiving severance from a former employer.

The Office of Fiscal Analysis estimated the bill would have saved the fund $265.5 million over the next two years.

Brennan said the main focus now is keeping a close eye on budget deliberations.

"Obviously it's the biggest issue we had going into the year, and the fact it's unresolved, it gets our attention," Brennan said. "We know how critical it is, particularly what's been going on in Connecticut over the past couple of years with subpar job growth and economic growth."

"People do make location decisions if you push too hard on the revenue side," he added, echoing businesses' opposition to further tax increases.

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