FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – Connecticut’s state legislature gets back to work Thursday, with the House of Representatives and Senate set to take on economic, education and social issues in the 2014 session.
The session officially begins at about noon, when Gov. Dannel Malloy delivers his State of the State address to a joint session of the General Assembly. The speech and the opening were delayed a day by the winter storm that hit the state Wednesday.
Last week, Democratic House and Senate leaders released their agenda, which focuses on job growth.
“Connecticut’s middle class is disappearing, and these proposals will help bring it back to life, while helping our local businesses grow,” said House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz (D-Berlin).
The Democrats’ plan includes renewing wage subsidies or training grants for companies that hire unemployed workers. The agenda has also proposals to improve school-to-job training and expand business enterprise zones to encourage employers to work with universities on development programs.
Democratic leaders also say they want to “cut red tape” by fast-tracking permits for new businesses, cleaning brownfield sites where contamination is stalling development and cutting down on “patent trolls” who file bogus claims against businesses.
But Senate Minority Leader John McKinney (R-Fairfield) aid Democrats have hurt the job market with high tax rates and strict regulations. He pointed to laws such as requiring paid sick leave and corporate tax surcharges.
House leaders "need to understand that they will never have a successful jobs agenda until they get serious about creating a tax and regulatory environment that encourages economic growth. To date, they have failed to do so,” McKinney said. “We cannot continue to take one step forward and two steps back.”
Republicans in the House also plan to put forward a set of tax cuts they say will save $247 million. The proposal includes restoring sales tax exemptions for clothes under $50 as well as eliminating assessments on businesses to pay for unemployment insurance interest.
“This is a responsible step forward toward undoing the Democratic tax hikes that hit the middle-class, lower-income families and small businesses,” said House Republican Leader Larry Cafero (R-Norwalk). “Enacting this legislation will boost our economy, help businesses grow and but avoid larger budget holes in the future.’’
Education reform could also be a hot topic as Connecticut implements the controversial Common Core State Standards, a math and language curriculum shared by 45 states and includes new electronic standardized tests and more regimented teacher evaluations.
“If we are implementing standards that so many teachers, administrators, school districts and parents disagree with, then we are doing more harm than being helpful,” state Rep. Brenda Kupchick (R-Fairfield) said. “The state’s Common Core standards need to have public and professional input.”
The Office of Legislative Research’s annual major Issues report also includes a set of social reforms, . For example, the task force asked to look into actions against “puppy mills” was set to release its findings last month, which may lead to a potential ban.
The full report is available online.