Co-chair CSEA Legislative Action Committee
This year’s session of Connecticut’s General Assembly began in early January with a somber and moving memorial service for the victims of the tragic shooting in Newtown. It was a needed reminder that for all the rancor we see in our political process, we are all united by a sense of purpose to make certain our state lives up to its potential.
Being an odd-numbered year, the General Assembly will be crafting Connecticut’s next biennial budget. Currently, our state is facing large projected budget deficits for the next two years. While there is a constitutional requirement for the state to balance its budget, we cannot let that be done on the backs of municipalities; a path which would lead to service cuts, layoffs, tax increases, or all three in towns throughout Connecticut.
As we’ve always done, CSEA members will keep the pressure on legislators to make better choices when it comes to the state budget. Whether it is implementing the cost-savings ideas of frontline workers or asking Connecticut’s wealthiest residents to contribute more, slashing municipal aid and funding for vital services is not the only way to more our state forward.
Members of CSEA’s Legislative Action Committee, which is composed of representatives from across all of our Union’s councils, have developed an aggressive 5-point agenda:
- Paraprofessional Reform. Paraprofessionals are an important part of the educational experience, but too often they are not given the respect they deserve. Working with members of CSEA Paraprofessional Council, the Governor’s administration, and members of the General Assembly; we will start the conversation to develop a legislative package that includes a para career ladder, mentoring program, a title change to accurately reflect the work done by paras, and a comparable pay pilot study.
- Partnership Plan. After fighting for many years to open the State Employee Health Care Plan to municipal employees, CSEA was successful in passing legislation that would do just that. CSEA proposes requiring municipalities to submit health insurance claims data every September to the Comptroller’s office. The Comptroller’s office would run the data and determine whether or not money would be saved by joining the Partnership Plan. No municipality would be forced to join, but residents would get to see if money could be saved.
- Cost-Benefit Analysis. Require agencies to perform cost-benefit analyses before contracting out work. This would be separate from and in addition to the work of the State Contracting Standards Board. Currently, no cost-benefit analysis is done and the SCSB can only evaluate contracts once they have been entered into.
- Child Care Providers First Contract. Negotiate and pass through the General Assembly the first contract for family child care providers. Last year, CSEA won collective bargaining rights for the over 4,000 family child care providers who provide child care and educational services to children who qualify for child care subsidies under Connecticut’s Care4Kids program. Now, it is time to get these workers their first contract.
- Voter Participation Reform. Last year, the General Assembly set in motion the process for amending the state constitution to allow for early voting in elections. Right now, Connecticut is one of just 16 states that does not allow early voting or no fault absentee balloting. The General Assembly must approve the amendment again this year, and then the measure would go before voters as a ballot question in 2014. It is only a matter of when we risk the chaos of a cancelled Election Day due to heavy snowfall or some other kind of severe weather related incident. Early voting would protect the integrity of our electoral process while insuring that every voter has the ability to cast a ballot in all elections.
As CSEA members work to advance our positive agenda, we will also work to make sure the anti-public employee, anti-union, anti-collective bargaining, and anti-retiree legislative proposals put forward do not become law. Already, members of the General Assembly have submitted legislation that would, among other thing, slash public employee pay, end defined-benefit pensions, and eliminate or cut back retiree health care. While Connecticut is seen as a union-friendly state, it does not take long when looking at the legislative agenda of some legislators to recognize that our state is not immune from the attacks on public employees which have been raging across the country for the last several years.
As public employees, everything about our job is political; down to whether or not we even get to have a job. We cannot afford to ignore what happens at the State Capitol or in the political process.
If you would like to get involved in helping advance CSEA’s political goals, please contact our political director, Danny Medress, firstname.lastname@example.org.