CSEA members have been on the move at the capitol over the past month, testifying before committees making decisions on both bills and budgets that affect our work. There’s strength in numbers and we’re making a big impression as CSEA members have submitted over 60 pieces of testimony so far this legislative session. P-4 members have been especially active this year, focusing on budgetary issues affecting their departments, especially the state’s overuse of expensive outside consultants and short staffing.
The General Assembly committee in which a bill is introduced is known as the committee of cognizance. These committees introduce bills, hold public hearings, and then have to pass bills out of committee prior to what is known as a committee’s joint favorable deadline. In most cases, bills that pass out of committee will be subject to votes in other committees which have overlapping areas of interest. For instance, if a bill appropriates money, no matter what committee in which it was introduced, it will ultimately make its way to the Appropriations Committee for a vote. All bills are either Senate or House bills, and after a bill completes the committee process, it gets sent to its respective chamber for a vote. Committees are now reaching their JF deadlines and there has been a lot of action on CSEA’s priorities.
CSEA 2015 Legislative Agenda:
- Contractor Transparency: CSEA proposed that invoicing reports of consultants and contractors are placed 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. The Comptroller, while supportive of the underlying concept has expressed some concerns about the resources needed to do this. Given the constraints of the state budget and the lack of resources in the Comptroller’s office, we were unable to forge a compromise. CSEA members will continue to fight for this important layer of transparency in future legislative sessions and will continue conversations with the Comptroller’s office;
- Health Claims Data Reporting: CSEA members have fought for years to lower health care costs and improve access to health plans through pooling. At the start of the legislative sessions, we proposed to require all municipalities to submit health care claims data to the Comptroller’s office to provide a more accurate picture of local health care insurance costs. Our proposal was taken up by the Labor and Public Employees Committee as Senate Bill 913. The committee voted in favor of the bill. It is on the Senate calendar and will most likely be sent to another committee for review and a vote;
- Paraeducator Serving as Substitutes: Protect the ability of paraeducators to serve as substitutes in the classroom. This proposal was taken up by the Education Committee as House Bill 6968. Unfortunately, this bill will not be moving forward this year as we continue to speak with paraeducators outside of CSEA and work to gain additional support for our proposal;
- Law Enforcement Indemnification: Currently, CSEA members who serve as inspectors in the Division of Criminal Justice are excluded from the state’s law enforcement indemnification statute. Senate Bill 1106 in the Judiciary Committee would change that. The bill is not yet in a form members can support – but we are speaking with committee members and working to amend the bill. As of this writing, SB 1106 is awaiting a vote in the Judiciary Committee; and
- Union Rights: Collective bargaining rights for State Education Resource Center (SERC) employees. This proposal was taken up by the Labor and Public Employees Committee as Senate Bill 984 and was favorable voted out of committee.
Legislation CSEA will be supporting through coalition with other organizations:
- Paid Family Medical Leave: As part of the Campaign for Paid Family Leave, CSEA is fighting to create a system of paid family leave in Connecticut. The concept was taken up by the Labor and Public Employees as House Bill 6932 and was favorably voted out of committee;
- 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. This concept has been introduced in, both, the Labor and Public Employees Committee as House Bill 6791 and the Human Services Committee as Senate Bill 1044. This bill could generate upwards of $200 million a year in revenue for the state, to say nothing of the impact it will have in increased wages for working men and women. Both versions of the low wage worker bill successfully passed out of their respective committees.