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CCM reminds state leaders that unfinished business remains on three issues of concern to towns

For immediate release
Friday, January 29, 2016
Kevin Maloney (203) 710-3486
Ron Thomas (203) 430-5537

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) today (Friday, January 29, 2016) said that the State faces some significant unfinished business regarding three issues of concern to towns and cities, passed during the final hours of last year’s Special Session, as the new state legislative session commences next Wednesday, February 3.

Small Business Set-Aside Mandate Remains Problematic back to top

The haste in which the proposal passed has created problematic issues. First, the law places the responsibility to administer the program with the Connecticut Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) Commission, although the agency with decades experience in administering the State program is the Department of Administrative Services. CHRO experienced mid-year cuts. Further, the broadly-worded law is confusing for municipal and state officials alike.

CCM empathizes with the policy goals of this legislation. However, the administrative costs will be substantial and the increased contract costs potentially significant. For smaller towns which don’t have a robust purchasing infrastructure, compliance with these requirements will be significantly difficult as a practical matter.

CCM is also unsure how the law interacts with Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Peña, wherein the courts ruled that federal set asides were discriminatory in a guard rail case and, therefore, local officials signing them were subject to treble damages. Finally, the law was passed without an accompanying disparity study.

Greater Reason and Clarity Needed for New Mandated Municipal Spending Cap back to top

CCM opposes the municipal spending cap imposed by the 2015 General Assembly, as it unnecessarily and unfairly ties the hands of local government. However, if the cap is not outright repealed, CCM seeks the following modifications in order to add reason and clarity:

Delay implementation of the municipal spending cap enacted in PA 15-5, until FY 20.

Amend the list of exemptions to the municipal spending cap to include (i) increased fees for state services, regulations and permits and (ii) state aid reductions from the previous year (in case the State cuts non-education aid or ECS, or a reduction in sales tax revenue, etc.).

Allow municipalities the option to request a waiver from OPM for exceeding the spending cap in the event that unforeseen circumstances require an increase in municipal spending.

Allow municipalities to override the spending cap with a 2/3 vote of local legislative bodies (board of selectmen in town meeting forms of government) — without a reduction of funds.

Allow municipalities with automatic referenda to override the spending cap by a simple majority — without a reduction of funds.

Exclude arbitration awards from the list of exemptions to the cap.

Exclude costs associated with new unfunded state mandates.

Expansion of Pesticide Mandate back to top

This law expanded an ineffective and costly unfunded mandate on towns and cities by prohibiting the use of synthetic pesticides on “municipal playgrounds”. The legislation has created additional confusion on where certain products, whose use is currently regulated by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), may or may not be applied and under what circumstances. The new legislation may also expose towns and cities to increased liability if an employee knowingly fails to remove a potential hazard such as a hornet’s nest from a playground.

The expansion of an already costly and ineffective mandate that has prohibited the use of synthetic pesticides on K-8 school grounds, has resulted in rapidly deteriorating athletic fields across the state and towns and cities have been faced with increasing costs while attempting to maintain or rehabilitate them.

In November 2012, the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its updated strategic plan for implementing school IPM programs citing, “full implementation of Integrated Pest Management is cost effective, reduces exposure to pests and pesticides, and reduces pesticide use and pest complaints.” Connecticut’s restrictions have continued to be in place for several years now, even though the EPA has continued to identify IPM as a “safer, and usually less costly option for effective pest management in the school community.”

CCM calls on the State to re-establish the Pesticide Advisory Council within the State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to develop a science-based approach to regulation and use of synthetic and organic pesticides on municipal lands.