Source: Kevin Maloney, CCM
For immediate release
Kevin Maloney, 203 710 3486
The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) today (Wednesday, May 12) identified 10 key pieces of proposed state legislation that are critical to towns and cities in the budget year beginning July 1; and CCM is calling on state legislative leaders and Governor Lamont to support, oppose or seek needed changes in order to best serve the interests of Connecticut local governments and their residential and business property taxpayers.
“Towns and cities are approaching the critical juncture of the 2021 state legislative session,” noted Joe DeLong, CCM Executive Director and CEO. “As with any session, there are a collection of positive opportunities and really bad legislation that remain under consideration. There are bills that would make municipal operations more efficient and effective. There are also, while well-intentioned, proposals that would raise the cost of providing essential municipal services and hike property taxes. Here are key bills that CCM is supporting, or opposing, or seeking changes to in the final weeks of the 2021 General Assembly session.”
HB 6641 Remote and Online Provision of Municipal Services – This bill would 1) allow municipalities to use electronic equipment to hold remote or hybrid remote/in-person meetings; 2) allow municipalities to post legal notices on their website rather than in a newspaper; and 3) authorize town clerks and other municipal officials to accept electronic payments. This bill is permissive in nature and allows municipalities to hold remote or hybrid meetings at their discretion. Plus, it allows municipalities to post legal notices on their website rather than mandate that notices be posted in a newspaper. This has been a longstanding state legislative program item and the pandemic has demonstrated that residents go to municipal websites to keep abreast of local government meetings in their respective towns or cities.
Note: This bill is on the House “Go” List, but has yet to be acted upon in part because the Governor wants to mandate municipalities provide remote and hybrid opportunities for all municipal meetings instead of making it permissible. Your legislators need to hear from you that this bill needs to be adopted in its current form.
HB 6597 Police Department Accreditation and Body Camera Storage - The bill would make several changes to the police accountability bill by 1) allowing departments to be certified under the Police Officer and Standards Training (POST) Council standards rather than through the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), 2) allows Department of Administrative Services (DAS) and municipalities to enter into agreements for the storage of body camera data, 3) training for dealing with individuals with mental and physical disabilities, and 4) increase the funding for some communities for the purchase and storage of body cameras.
CCM in particular supports the provisions that remove the required CALEA accreditation as it is a costly endeavor that is not suited for all police departments. In addition, the bill does provide equity in body camera storage costs and explores new opportunities to lower body camera storage costs.
HB 6441 Stormwater Authorities - Would provide towns and cities with the option to create a Stormwater Authority in order to raise needed revenue to pay for the increasing costs of meeting the requirements of the federally and state mandated Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4).
Revenues raised through the stormwater authority would help municipalities reduce their overreliance on a regressive property tax system and diminishing state aid to meet these requirements.
HB 6442 Equitable Access to Broadband - Would Seek to achieve universal access to broadband internet download speeds averaging one gigabit per second and upload speeds of 200 megabits per second by 2027. To meet this goal the bill restores statutory build-out requirements for cable companies in the remaining unserved areas in the state and requires the creation of detailed broadband maps and adequate statewide broadband standards.
The pandemic highlighted the disparity in broadband access in Connecticut, especially in our urban centers and rural areas. This bill would go a long way towards providing greater access to broadband in these underserved areas and will allow municipalities to leverage federal funds more effectively.
SB 837 Use of PFAS in Class B Firefighting Foam - Would provide measures to ban the use of PFAS from firefighting foam and establish a state takeback program of the PFAS chemical.
CCM requests that the bill go further by providing municipalities with a fire suppression alternative, as part of the takeback program, for fighting certain flammable vapor and liquid fires that cannot be extinguished with traditional fire suppression methods. To the extent possible, CCM requests that it be done in a way that is not financially burdensome for municipalities.
SB 1002 & HB 6595 Labor Matters Related to COVID-19, Personal Protective Equipment and Other Staffing Issues - Among other things, would create a retroactive rebuttal presumption for COVID-19 including any employee who died, expands the eligibility for PTSI coverage to EMS, dispatchers and corrections & adds COVID-19 deaths to the list of qualifying events for PTSI benefits.
These bills would have dire financial consequences for municipalities. Specifically, 1) they would significantly increase our exposure to workers’ compensation claims with very little or no recourse as to how the individual contracted the disease; 2) Connecticut’s workers’ compensation system is working and fully operational; 3) there is a remedy for compensating employees who may have contracted COVID-19 while performing their duties in the course of work through CGS 31-275 (15), which does not upend the workers’ compensation market; 4) would significantly alter the competitive landscape that is currently balanced within the workers’ compensation market by making it difficult, if not impossible, for municipalities to obtain reinsurance; and 5) would create a retroactive rebuttal presumption that COVID-19 was contracted in the workplace, including any employee who died. The rebuttable presumption is reminiscent of the costly Health and Hypertension benefit, which was repealed in the 1990s.
SB 660 Expanding Workers' Compensation Benefits for Certain Mental or Emotional Impairments Suffered by Health Care Providers in Connection with COVID-19 - Expands eligibility for PTSI coverage to EMS, dispatchers and corrections and attempts to add COVID-19 deaths to the list of qualifying events.
CCM has been consistent in its support to add EMS to the existing statute; however, a new list of qualifying events needs to be considered for dispatchers and a narrower definition of who it applies to must be contemplated. CCM opposes any expansion of qualifying events without negotiating with all the various stakeholders and coming to an agreement that works for all parties as we did with PTSI for firefighters and police officers.
SB 908 (Janus Bill) Access to Certain Public Employees by the Exclusive Bargaining Representative of a Public Employer Bargaining Unit - Would require municipal employers to provide certain information regarding new and current employees, access to new employee orientation, access to municipal government buildings to conduct meetings with bargaining unit members, use of municipal employer communication systems to conduct union business, and direct employee requests to cancel or change certain deductions to the unions rather than the municipal employer.
Connecticut has been successful in achieving a positive working relationship between municipal employers and unions, and the requirements mandated in SB 908 harm the relationship between management and labor. The Janus vs. AFSCME Supreme Court decision has not eroded union membership and CCM views the bill as terrible solution in search of a nonexistent problem.
HB 6103 Property Tax Exemptions for Property Used for Charitable Purposes - Would expand the existing mandated property tax exemption provided for temporary housing where the average stay is less than 6 months to all housing provided by charitable organizations.
Towns are currently defending their right to assess and collect property taxes on housing that is not temporary (more than six months) and provided by charitable organizations. The increasing erosion of the property tax base in many towns has exacerbated Connecticut’s overreliance on the property tax as its primary source of revenue. If we are to preserve municipal tax bases then this bill must be defeated.
“These lists are by no means exhaustive, but are a targeted list of bills where state legislators and the Governor can be impactful and meaningful,” concluded DeLong.