Good morning. We may be in the dog days of summer, but there still are some public policy issues the Waterbury Regional Chamber believes you should be updated on.
First, on Friday, August 14, Gov Ned Lamont issued another Executive Order, this one focused on safe workplace rules for essential employees. You can find the order here. Among the updated guidelines is one stating that any employee who cannot wear a mask due to a medical condition “must provide documentation to their employer.” Otherwise, the order states, each employee is required to wear a mask that covers the nose and mouth while in the workplace. The order also requires employers to provide masks for their employees. We strongly recommend that you review the executive order for all of its provisions.
The Chamber also reminds you that the state’s minimum wage is scheduled to increase once again. The rate rose to $11 per hour on October 1, 2019, and will increase to $12 per hour on September 1, 2020. It is scheduled to increase three more times: to $13/hour on August 1, 2021; to $14/hour on July 1, 2022, and finally to $15/hour on June 1, 2023. While a provision to delay or suspend an increase is included in the law that set the schedule for increases, the criteria has not been met and the increase is expected to take place as scheduled.
Lastly, a state law approved last year requires employers of any size to provide two hours of sexual harassment prevention training for all employees, not just for supervisors as was previously required. All employees must receive the training by October 1, 2020. Executive Order 7DDD allowed employers to request a 90-day extension of the deadline by filing a formal request with the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO). Requests filed by September 9, 2020, for reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic were likely to be granted; requests filed after that date may not be approved. Requests may be submitted to CHRO.Questions@ct.gov.
The Chamber plans to present a Sexual Harassment Prevention Training Webinar on Wednesday, September 16, 2020, at a time and fee to be determined. The training will be conducted by an attorney from the law firm Carmody, Torrance, Sandak & Hennessey. Complete details will be available soon.
The state Department of Labor has produced a pdf answering your Frequently Asked Questions about the coronavirus for employers and employees. It includes information for employees on how to file for state unemployment insurance, including if you are forced to stay home because of the virus: http://www.ctdol.state.ct.us/DOLCOVIDFAQ.PDF
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers guidance on its website for businesses and employers:
You can also apply for a Federal Disaster Loan here: https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/disaster-assistance
Connecticut was officially declared a federal disaster area Monday afternoon. To be eligible for a loan, a business must have exhausted its other options for loans/credit. Up to $2 million per business is available, for use in making payroll or paying bills, etc. Terms are for up to 30 years at 3.75% for for-profit businesses, 2.75% for nonprofits. Please note, approval can take up to three weeks, assuming you provide all the financial information requested.
Also, here is Gov. Lamont’s latest update on the virus in Connecticut:
This is his Executive Order from Monday: https://portal.ct.gov/-/media/Office-of-the-Governor/Executive-Orders/Lamont-Executive-Orders/Executive-Order-No-7D.pdf?la=en
I hope this information is useful to you. As I said, I plan to call you today to follow up on this email. Honestly, I hope you’re too busy to talk to me (because that would be a good sign for your business). If not, we’ll chat for a couple of minutes; but if so, reply to this email with the information you want the Chamber to know about your business.
The Connecticut Restaurant Association offers “What You Need to Know” on its website: https://www.ctrestaurant.org/about-coronavirus.html
If you have questions or need help, please reach out to me and I will do what I can to assist you.
David Krechevsky, Director of Public Policy & Economic Development, Waterbury Regional Chamber
The Connecticut General Assembly has halted its business to deal with the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. Here is an update on what's happening from Chamber Lobbyist Armando Paolino III of Paolino Public Affairs Consulting:
We are seeing daily assessments by the joint legislative leadership aimed at minimizing the health impacts on the members, staff and the public, including yours truly and my many lobbying colleagues.
Based on the latest public health precautions regarding COVID-19, the combined legislative leadership has decided to temporarily close the Capitol/LOB complex until March 30th. Leaders of the caucuses are going to be meeting next week to assess the situation further. They are aware that this means deadlines will be passed, and they are actively working on ways to continue business following this suspension.
Earlier this week on Wednesday, the House and the Senate voted on a bipartisan basis to alter the Joint Rules that govern the conduct of business by the legislature when they are in session. That followed the decision to close the Capitol complex early through Sunday in order to perform a cleaning.
They added days to public hearing deadlines and to Joint Favorable report (committee reporting) deadlines in order to accommodate the early closing this week. That was before the two week shut-down announced today.
The situation is fluid, and as promised, we will keep you up to date with the latest developments.
Testimony submitted on behalf of the Chamber opposing a bill that would limit the expansion of natural gas for use by business and residential customers.
March 5, 2020
STATEMENT OF THE WATERBURY REGIONAL CHAMBER TO THE ENERGY & TECHNOLOGY COMMITTEE OPPOSING RAISED HOUSE BILL 5350 (LCO 2199): AN ACT CONCERNING NATURAL GAS INFRASTRUCTURE
Senator Needleman, Representative Arconti, and members of the Energy & Technology Committee, my name is David Krechevsky and I am the Director of Public Policy & Economic Development for the Waterbury Regional Chamber. Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony on this legislation.
The Waterbury Regional Chamber, which serves 14 communities in Greater Waterbury and represents the interests of nearly 1,000 member businesses of all sizes on matters of public policy, strongly opposes House Bill 5350 (LCO 2199), An Act Concerning Natural Gas Infrastructure.
Our Chamber members believe that a main goal for state legislators should be to promote sound economic development that benefits communities by bringing in new business or improving existing businesses. This will foster job creation while also benefitting communities by increasing their Grand Lists, raising much needed tax revenue from businesses to ease the burden on residential taxpayers. Our Chamber members also know that energy costs in Connecticut are very high, so they want the legislature to do whatever it can to reduce those costs. That would benefit not only businesses, but residential energy consumers as well.
Regrettably, HB 5350 does not achieve either of these goals. In fact, it does the opposite. If enacted, this bill would effectively limit the ability to expand access to natural gas across the state by reducing the amount of time a utility has to recover its gas expansion costs. Shortening this recovery period would force consumers who want access to natural gas to make prohibitive upfront payments to connect to the system. Businesses and residential consumers that would choose to convert to natural gas under the current system would likely be unable to make that choice if HB 5350 is enacted, because of these significantly higher upfront costs. The result is an unlevel playing field, one tilted against natural gas providers.
This would adversely affect everyone:
For these reasons, the Chamber urges the committee to reject HB 5350.
Director of Public Policy
Waterbury Regional Chamber
Testimony submitted on behalf of the Chamber opposing a bill to make recreational use of marijuana legal for adults (21 and over). One major issue with the bill is it would make recreational and medical marijuana users a protected class, meaning businesses could not discriminate against hiring someone who uses marijuana. At the bottom of my testimony is a link to a U.S. National HIghway Transportation Safety Administration report to Congress from July 2017 on Marijuana-impaired driving. This report should be required reading for all legislators. It explains why setting a legal limit for THC (the chemical in marijuana that causes impairment) is virtually impossible, because unlike alcohol, there is not a direct relationship between how much THC is in a person's system and how impaired they are.
March 2, 2020
STATEMENT OF THE WATERBURY REGIONAL CHAMBER TO THE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE OPPOSING RAISED SENATE BILL 16 (LCO 724): AN ACT CONCERNING THE ADULT USE OF CANNABIS.
Senator Winfield, Representative Stafstrom, and members of the Judiciary Committee, my name is David Krechevsky and I am the Director of Public Policy & Economic Development for the Waterbury Regional Chamber. Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony on this legislation.
The Waterbury Regional Chamber, which serves 14 communities in Greater Waterbury and represents the interests of nearly 1,000 member businesses on matters of public policy, strongly opposes Senate Bill 16 (LCO 724), An Act Concerning the Adult Use of Cannabis.
The bill attempts to address the concerns of employers by stating in Section 45 that, “No employer shall be required to make accommodations for an employee or be required to allow an employee to: (1) Perform his or her duties while under the influence of cannabis, or (2) possess, use or otherwise consume cannabis while performing such duties.”
This provision, however, is flawed because the bill does not define what “under the influence of cannabis” means. Unlike alcohol, for which the state has set a legal blood alcohol limit of 0.08, no such blood level has been defined or established for impairment by THC, the psychoactive substance in cannabis. In addition, I refer the committee to a report to Congress issued in July 2017 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) titled “Marijuana-Impaired Driving,” which states that, unlike alcohol, which has a direct correlation between the level of alcohol in the blood stream and the level of impairment, there is no such correlation for THC and impairment. The report states, “As expected, the peak THC level is reached soon after smoking ends. However, peak performance deficits are observed long after the peak THC level occurs.” The report adds, “THC level in blood (or oral fluid) does not appear to be an accurate and reliable predictor of impairment from THC.” (Pages 7-8)
Given that there is no reliable way to determine an individual’s level of impairment, this becomes a subjective exercise that will lead to disputes between employers and their employees who ingest cannabis outside of work. Such potential impairment can have a negative effect on productivity, and could be especially troublesome for manufacturers, particularly those producing parts with high tolerances, such as parts for medical or aerospace use, and who utilize equipment that can be dangerous if operated while impaired. The bill attempts to address this by allowing employers to conduct screening tests of employees in certain jobs where the need for safety is at a premium – such as medical careers, caring for children, driving, or operating dangerous equipment – but the value of such screening tests is questionable, as presented in the NHTSA report.
This leads to a larger point: There still is a tremendous amount that we don’t know about cannabis. Because it is still categorized as a Schedule 1 substance by the federal government, cannabis and THC have not been as thoroughly tested as other substances to determine their long-term health effects. Many of our Chamber’s healthcare-related organizations have raised serious questions about allowing recreational use of cannabis/marijuana, citing the potential for abuse and the unknown long-term physical and mental health impacts, especially on our youth. U.S. Surgeon General Vice Admiral Jerome Adams has issued an advisory warning that the level of THC in marijuana increased three-fold from 1995 to 2014, and that as the TCH increases, so does the risk of addiction. He also noted that edible marijuana takes time to be absorbed, increasing the risk of unintentional overdoses, as well as accidental ingestion by children and adolescents.
The Chamber shares these concerns, and believes it defies logic to expand the legal use of cannabis at a time when the state is dealing with the public health crisis of opioid abuse, as well as at a time when efforts are being made to limit the use of electronic cigarettes, especially among teens and young adults. The legislature’s focus should be on what is best for the health of the citizens of Connecticut, and we believe legalizing the recreational use of cannabis does not meet that standard.
For these reasons, the Chamber urges the committee to reject SB 16.
Director of Public Policy
Waterbury Regional Chamber
NHSA Report: Marijuana-Impaired Driving: https://www.nhtsa.gov/sites/nhtsa.dot.gov/files/documents/812440-marijuana-impaired-driving-report-to-congress.pdf
Testimony submitted on behalf of the Chamber to the Commerce Committee in support of extending the Manufacturing Apprenticeship Tax Credit to pass-through entities, which has been included in our Annual Legislative Agenda for the past several years:
STATEMENT OF THE WATERBURY REGIONAL CHAMBER TO THE COMMERCE COMMITTEE SUPPORTING RAISED HOUSE BILL 5212: AN ACT EXTENDING THE MANUFACTURING APPRENTICESHIP TAX CREDIT TO PASS-THROUGH ENTITIES
Senator Hartley, Representative Simmons, and members of the Commerce Committee, my name is David Krechevsky and I am the Director of Public Policy & Economic Development for the Waterbury Regional Chamber. Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony on this legislation.
The Waterbury Regional Chamber, which serves 14 communities in Greater Waterbury and represents the interests of nearly 1,000 member businesses on matters of public policy, strongly supports Raised House Bill 5212 (LCO 1432), An Act Extending the Manufacturing Apprenticeship Tax Credit to Pass-Through Entities.
This legislation addresses an issue that is important to many of the Chamber’s smaller manufacturing members. It is a way to address the ever-growing need in the state for trained, skilled workers in manufacturing. Our state’s major defense contractors — General Dynamics Electric Boat, Pratt & Whitney, and Sikorsky Aircraft — are seeking to hire tens of thousands of workers to meet production needs over the next decade or more.
Unfortunately, Connecticut continues to have a shortage of people with such skills, despite the state’s best efforts to train new workers. In addition, according to the state Department of Labor, more than 35 percent of workers in the state’s manufacturing industry are over the age of 54, the largest cohort of older workers for any industry sector in Connecticut. With so many workers enticed to work for larger manufacturers, while others are nearing retirement age, it leaves smaller manufactures — many of which are pass-through entities, such as subchapter S and limited liability corporations — to wonder where they will find the skilled staff they need, both now and in the future.
One way to address this is for the state to reduce the cost for smaller manufacturers to hire and train apprentices. Training apprentices is costly — they are paid while they learn and are not as productive at the start as they will be when their training is completed.
Additionally, trained workers must devote time to training apprentices, which adversely affects productivity. Providing smaller manufacturers with the opportunity to use the apprenticeship tax credit will encourage them to hire and train the workers they need, while easing the effect on their bottom lines.
Currently, pass-through entities cannot utilize this tax credit, which is available to larger firms. It doesn’t make sense to prohibit smaller manufacturers from doing what larger firms can do. Approving this legislation will level the playing field for all manufacturers.
The Chamber and our members understand there is a cost associated with this bill, in the form of lost tax revenue. We argue, however, that the financial return to the state in the form of income taxes paid as a result of the new jobs created, as well as the increased economic output that will result, outweighs the initial cost.
In 2017, both houses of the state legislature approved a bill to extend the tax credit to pass-through entities, but it was vetoed by then-Gov. Malloy. The Chamber hopes the General Assembly will send this bill to Gov. Lamont and convince him of the need to sign it into law.
For these reasons, the Chamber asks the committee to approve HB 5212.
Director of Public Policy
Waterbury Regional Chamber
Here is the testimony I submitted to the Transportation Committee on behalf of the Chamber:
February 24, 2020
STATEMENT OF THE WATERBURY REGIONAL CHAMBER TO THE TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE REGARDING RAISED SENATE BILL 155 (LCO 1588), AN ACT CONCERNING RAIL INFRASTRUCTURE IMPROVEMENTS
Senator Leone, Representative Lemar, and members of the Transportation Committee, my name is David Krechevsky and I am the Director of Public Policy and Economic Development for the Waterbury Regional Chamber. Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony on this bill.
The Chamber, which serves 14 communities in Greater Waterbury and represents the interests of more than 1,000 member businesses in matters of public policy, strongly supports rail infrastructure improvements, and specifically those that target the Waterbury Rail Line.
The Waterbury line is the longest of Metro-North’s three branch lines, running 27 miles from Waterbury to the mainline in Bridgeport, with stops in Naugatuck, Beacon Falls, Seymour, Ansonia and Derby. Despite this, ridership is generally low, about 1,000 passengers a day. You might think that makes the case for not improving the line, but the truth is just the opposite. As the saying goes, build it and they will come. The reason for low ridership levels is that service on the line is abysmal. That’s in part because only one train at a time can operate on the line, in either direction — and that’s when the train is operating at all. All too frequently, aging engines on the line break down, or worse, are removed from the line to serve the main line when a locomotive on that line breaks down. That relegates service on the Waterbury line to buses, with drivers who don’t know the stops — which, not surprisingly, has helped to produce an on-time performance as low as 75 percent.
Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary and Naugatuck Mayor Pete Hess have worked hard to remediate and develop brownfield sites, and both municipalities are poised for a renaissance and would benefit from improved rail service. Naugatuck has a plan for transportation-oriented design that would include an inland port, offering vastly increased property tax revenue and hundreds of new jobs, if only the improvements were completed and the rolling stock acquired. And Waterbury and Naugatuck are not alone; Naugatuck Valley communities along the line will benefit from the immense economic development opportunities created by a revitalized Waterbury Rail Line. Improving the line’s infrastructure also will alleviate traffic on Route 8 and the Mixmaster, easing the burden on its roadways and bridges.
Various studies also show that a dollar invested in improving transportation infrastructure creates three dollars of new economic activity. For all of these reasons, the Chamber asks the committee to support investing in improvements to the Waterbury Rail Line and to support LCO 1588.
Director of Public Policy
Waterbury Regional Chamber
The Connecticut State Legislature is back in business.
The General Assembly opened at noon today, with Gov. Ned Lamont presenting his State of the State address, which included providing his proposed revisions to the budget.
Among other things, he proposed pursuing recreational marijuana, debt-free community college, and an effort to reign in vaping. You can read about that here.
Meanwhile, CTMIrror.org says Lamont's revised budget keeps state spending lean while rebuilding reserves. You can read that here.
HBJ.com, meanwhile, says Lamont's revised budget cancels or slows some promised tax breaks for business. You can read that here.
The Yankee Institute for Public Policy issued a statement on Lamont's budget. You can read that here.
This may be a short session (it's set to end May 6), but the list of proposals that are bad for business is long and growing longer. So stay tuned.
The state legislature isn't scheduled to open for its 2020 "short session" (so-called because it's only supposed to be 3-months long) until Wednesday, Feb. 5.
But with Gov. Ned Lamont still trying to wrangle a vote on tolls, you can expect a special session to be held right before the official session begins.
To that end, Democrats have developed a draft bill; you can read that here. They plan to hold a public hearing on the draft legislation on Friday. Here's more on that, and how to register to testify, from Sen. Len Fasano, the Senate minority leader:
The hearing will be held Friday, Jan. 31, starting at 1 p.m. You can testify by going to the hearing, but you can also submit testimony online.
To testify in Hartford:
To submit testimony online:
What we don't know:
If you want to learn more about the Republican transportation plan, you can learn more at www.ctsenaterepublicans.com/FASTRCT.
We're still analyzing what the General Assembly did during the 2019 session, and will pass along a summary of the new bills soon. Gov. Lamont's office is still reviewing legislation that was approved by both the House and Senate, but is not expected to veto any of them.
What is certain is that there will be at least two special sessions, one to deal with bonding issues and another to address tolls and economic development. Exactly when those sessions will be held is unclear.
For an early look at the results of the regular session, which ended June 5, you can read these summaries:
Republican-American summary is here.
CT Post summary is here.
Courant analysis is here.
The Connecticut Business & Industry Association's summary is here.