A newly elected Connecticut General Assembly convened the 2015 legislative session on January 7. Being an odd numbered year, our state legislature will, over the next several months, draft and pass a biennial budget, as well as a host of bills of importance to all the residents of the state. CSEA members will be working to pass a number of bills of direct importance to us, as well additional pieces of legislation that move Connecticut in the right direction for working families.
CSEA’s Executive Council has unanimously approved the legislative agenda you see here. This agenda was developed over several months by CSEA members and the Legislative Action Committee and includes proposals to increase the transparency of the operations of contractors & consultants, expand collective bargaining rights, and protect the opportunities and interests of our members.
CSEA’s 5 Point 2015 Legislative Agenda:
Contractor Transparency: Require the state to put invoicing reports of consultants and contractors on transparency.ct.gov or the state contracting portal. Right now, the only way to see the actual payment invoices contractors and consultants are submitting to the state is to travel to a state office in Newington and review paper copies. This is, both, unnecessary and inefficient. This is important and timely information that should be placed immediately online.
Health Care Pooling: Require all municipalities to submit health care claims data to the Comptroller’s office. CSEA members have been fighting for years to expand access to affordable quality health care. While there was limited success a few years with the opening of the State Employee Health Plan through the creation of the Partnership Plan, there is still a lot of work to be done. By requiring municipalities to submit their claims data, we will have a clearer picture of health expenditures. This will provide an improved foundation on which to discuss and bargain over health care coverage for municipal and board of education employees.
Paraeducator Protection: Protect the ability of paraeducators to serve as substitutes in the classroom. The education reform bill passed a few years ago by the General Assembly changed the qualifications for serving as a substitute teacher. That bill requires a substitute to hold a B.A. or receive a waiver from the State Department of Education. Prior to this, it was common for paraeducators, regardless of whether or not they held a B.A., to serve as a substitute. This proposal, simply, clarifies the rights of paras to do this work. The paraeducators working in a school system know the teachers, the students and the culture, and are certainly qualified to serve as substitute teachers.
Law Enforcement Indemnification: Add inspectors in the Division of Criminal Justice to the indemnification statute. Currently, virtually every other law enforcement professional employed by the state or a municipality is protected from costs resulting from a crime allegedly committed by any member of a law enforcement unit in the course of their duty if the charge is dismissed or the officer found not guilty. This indemnification protection should apply to all law enforcement professionals, including the CSEA members who serve as inspectors in the Division of Criminal Justice.
Union Rights: Collective bargaining rights for State Education Resource Center (SERC) employees. Last year, as a result of legislation passed by the General Assembly and signed into law, SERC was turned into a quasi-public agency. Unfortunately, that legislation was written in such a way as to deny SERC employees their collective bargaining rights. This was an oversight that needs to be corrected.
Legislation CSEA will be supporting through coalition with other organizations:
Paid Family Medical Leave: Through CSEA’s membership in the Campaign for Paid Family Leave, support the implementation of a system of Paid Family Leave;
Tax Fairness: Through CSEA’s membership in the Better Choices coalition, fight for a fair tax system that requires the wealthy to pay their fair share and does not force working people and retirees to make up the difference. Explore ideas such as a full exemption of Social Security benefits from state income taxes and the implementation of an intangible property tax;
True Pooling: Along with other unions that represent municipal and Board of Education employees, work to allow municipalities to participate directly in the State Employee Health Plan;
Hospital Insurance: Require insurance companies and providers to arbitrate rates to prevent any hospital closures; and
Low Wages Workers: Require large employers like Walmart to pay their workers a minimum of $15 an hour or pay a fee to the Connecticut General Fund and support the establishment of a Retail Workers Bill of Rights to protect the wages and working hours of retail workers.
As we work to advance our agenda, we will also work to make sure the anti-public employee, anti-union, anti-collective bargaining, and anti-retiree legislative proposals put forward every year do not become law. It is important to remember that when a bad bill is submitted, it is only a proposal, not an actual law. CSEA actively tracks bad bills and alerts members when necessary.
The two issues that will take up most of the focus of this legislative session for the General Assembly will be the state budget and Governor Malloy’s transportation proposals. CSEA members will be fighting to pass a budget that funds the services and benefits provided and earned by our members. A budget that is not balanced on the backs of working families, but instead a fair budget that asks the wealthiest among us to pay their fair share.
It is important that the experience, skills, and expertise of CSEA members are utilized to the fullest extent possible. Public employees can do it better, quicker, and for less. While CSEA members who work directly in the field of transportation look forward to working collaboratively with the Malloy administration, all CSEA members, regardless of the work we do, have a role to play. We must ensure that from transportation to education to law enforcement to health care to every issue of importance to CSEA members, our voices are heard.
If you would like to get involved in helping advance CSEA’s legisaltive agenda, please contact our political director, Danny Medress,