Winners and losers: The 2014 legislative session
The 2014 legislative session ended at midnight Wednesday. As usual, some folks came out happy. Others are already plotting their strategies for next year. Here’s a look at the groups that won and lost this session.
United Technologies Corp.
One of the state’s largest employers is eligible to receive up to $400 million in tax breaks in exchange for a $500 million investment in its research facilities and headquarters in Connecticut. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy says the deal will help to safeguard the state’s aerospace and engineering base and help to preserve about 75,000 jobs.
Cities and Towns
The new budget adds $48 million in Education Cost Sharing funds for local school districts and allocates an extra $20 million to reimburse communities for lost revenue tied to tax-exempt property.
After years of trying, nurse practitioners are poised to gain the ability to practice independent of doctors. Nurse practitioners currently can prescribe medication, treat patients and open their own practices, but only if they have a collaborative agreement with a doctor. Under the bill, which Malloy is expected to sign, they’ll have to spend at least three years — and at least 2,000 hours — working in collaboration with a doctor, but after that will be able to practice independently. Many doctors opposed the measure and warn that it could lower the standard of care for patients.
A bill passed that would allow younger adults who were adopted access to their original birth certificates. The measure limits access to people over 18 who were adopted on or after Oct. 1, 1983. It’s not clear if Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will sign it.
Young kids from low-income families
1,020 more 3- and 4-year-olds will be offered seats in preschool programs beginning this summer and next school year. Lawmakers also approved funding for public schools to renovate and expand their schools to accommodate future increases in prekindergarten enrollment.
Children with dyslexia
Legislators passed a bill that will require school officials to include dyslexia as a learning disability when education officials screen for whether a student needs special education services. Dozens of students and their parents testified to legislators that schools failed to identify and provide them services to accommodate their dyslexia. The governor — who has dyslexia — has said he intends to sign the bill.
Connecticut State Colleges and Universities
Lawmakers passed a funding package aimed at spurring enrollment growth at the state’s largest public college system and curbing large tuition hikes. The funding is meant to help the college system close the 3 percent structural deficit the four Connecticut State Universities and 12 community colleges face. Without the additional state funding, the system would have likely turned to large tuition increases or further cuts in programs at the schools.
A proposed $55 rebate for middle-income taxpayers was canceled amid declining revenue projections while an income tax break for teachers and sales tax cuts tied to clothing and medications were pushed back about a year. And with nonpartisan analysts projecting a big deficit — about $1.3 billion — in state finances starting in 2015-16, the fate of all these deferred cuts remains in doubt, as does the ability of state leaders to fill the gap without another tax increase.
The new budget raids close to $20 million from the tobacco and health trust to support general operating expenses. Since 2001, the state has diverted funds from the tobacco fund 65 times, totaling more than $175 million.
A measure the industry has fought in previous years gained the governor’s backing this year and passed both chambers of the General Assembly, despite a lengthy filibuster by the House minority leader. The bill requires for-profit nursing homes to disclose more financial information. Unions pushed for the bill as a way to more accurately understand the finances of nursing homes, which they said can use related companies to obscure their financial status. The industry argued that the new requirement is burdensome and won’t help the state. A separate bill that the industry wanted failed. It would have allowed nursing homes to delay paying taxes on occupied beds if they haven’t received timely Medicaid payments for those patients.
Abused and neglected children
Funding cuts to the state agency responsible for thousands of abused and neglected children were not restored despite outcry from child advocates and the federal court monitor overseeing the agency. Concerns have routinely been raised about the caseloads of social workers at the Department of Children and Families as the number of workers has steadily declined to save money. Savings have also been achieved by housing fewer children in costly group homes, but advocates have said that the level of support for children staying in the community has not increased enough.
Restaurants and Bars
Hundreds of Connecticut establishments would have been able to offer keno later this year. But legislators and Malloy removed authorization to launch the lottery-like, electronic drawing game from the revised budget. Proceeds were expected to be worth about $26 million annually to the state.
New restrictions were placed on pensions for retiring state judges with less than 10 years of service. Judges had been eligible for a maximum pension of a two-thirds of their salary — about $100,000 for a Superior Court judge — once they reach the mandatory age of 70, regardless of years of service. But judges appointed after July 1 face a new system that reduces the pension by 10 percent for each year less than 10 years of service.
Their signature issue, banning fracking waste from coming into the state for storage and/or treatment, failed. It was replaced by a plan to eventually regulate the waste and allow it in. Last minute drama nearly scuttled that and would have left the state open to waste coming in with no controls. The concept of shared solar, a way for the 80 percent of homes in the state unsuitable for solar electric systems to benefit from them anyway, failed. So did a plan to ban genetically modified grass seed, extending pesticide bans to high school lawns, and a so-called Blue Plan that would have developed three-dimensional planning for Long Island Sound. But legislation requiring better sealing of leaks on natural gas lines from the potent greenhouse gas methane made it through, with barely a minute to spare.
Sign up for CT Mirror's free daily news summary.
Free to Read. Not Free to Produce.
The Connecticut Mirror is a nonprofit newsroom. 90% of our revenue comes from people like you. If you value our reporting please consider making a donation. You'll enjoy reading CT Mirror even more knowing you helped make it happen.YES, I'LL DONATE TODAY