General Assembly sends bills to the governor

Among the bills passed by the General Assembly and sent to Gov. M. Jodi Rell:

Expediting State Permits

A bill passed by both the House and Senate establishes a procedure for expediting issuance of state permits for projects that create jobs or provide other economic benefits.

If signed into law, the bill would require creation of teams including the departments of Economic and Community Development, Environmental Protection, Transportation and other relevant agencies to establish a plan to get permit applications acted on in 90 days. The proposal was prompted by complaints from businesses of long wait times to get plans approved.

Work from Home

Telecommuting may become a reality for state employees this year, as a bill headed for the governor’s desk requires the state to create guidelines for agency officials to use if they choose to allow employees to work from home.

The bill is aimed at helping the environment and saving the state money by getting workers to be more efficient.

Restricting background checks when hiring state employees

A bill headed for the governor’s desk would bar state hiring managers from asking questions about or researching a prospective employee’s criminal background until the last step of the hiring process.

Current law allows the question to be asked now on the application for both private and state jobs. Employers are not allowed to discriminate based on an applicant’s checking “yes,” but advocates say it’s hard to show that the rule is being broken.

The bill will only affect the state employment vetting process, not private industry.

Expansion of health care pilot program

A program that removes health insurance companies from managing the care of low-income patients won’t be expanded statewide this year as proponents had hoped.

HUSKY Primary Care gives children and some adults in low-income families the option to have their doctors manage their heath care, from approving treatment by specialists to arranging tests, without the involvement of an insurance company.

bill is headed for the governor’s desk that would expand the existing pilot programs in Greater Hartford, New Haven, Windham and parts of Waterbury to include Putnam and Torrington.

Oversight of insurance rate increases

A bill completely reorganizing how insurance rate increases are approved is headed for Rell’s desk. Currently the Insurance Department has sole discretion, but the bill would require public hearing to review every increase and make public the supporting evidence justifying a price increase.

The bill was raised after Anthem Health Plans Inc. requested a 23.5 percent rate increase last year. A recent legislative report says the state’s five largest insurance companies have received nearly every increase they asked for in the past four years.

Snow and ice removal from vehicle

Another bill would impose a fine of $75 for drivers who fail to remove snow and ice from their vehicles, and a fine of up to $1,000–$1,250 for commercial vehicles–if snow or ice flying from their vehicles results in an accident.

Proponents say the fine is necessary since motorists, when confronted with flying ice or snow will try to swerve to avoid the object, sometimes resulting in accidents. Opponents say it would be impossible to clear off tractor-trailers and other service vehicles.

State checkbook may go online

Another bill would create a searchable database of the state’s checkbook and payroll to be posted online for public review.

The site will mirror a new website launched by a conservative think tank earlier this year. Proponents say it is necessary for the legislature’s non-partisan budget office to launch its own site because of inaccuracies on the Yankee Institute for Public Policy’s site.

If it becomes law, the site will go live in July 2011.