Buried in the budget: Dozens of new policies included in state spending plan

Connecticut lawmakers approved a new state budget Tuesday that includes historic tax cuts. But buried in the massive 832-page document are dozens of major policy changes.

John Craven

Jun 6, 2023, 11:31 PM

Updated 349 days ago

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Connecticut lawmakers approved a new state budget Tuesday that includes historic tax cuts. But buried in the massive 832-page document are dozens of major policy changes. Here’s a look at a few of them:
VOTING RIGHTS ACT
Lawmakers included a new Connecticut Voting Rights Act that bans discriminatory voting laws.
“I want to make sure nobody is disenfranchised for reasons they can't get to the voting place, that they can't understand the language,” said Gov. Ned Lamont.
The Connecticut Voting Rights Act’s protections include: 
  • Launching a “preclearance” program requiring local governments with a record or other signs of discrimination to prove that certain voting changes won’t harm voters of color before they can go into effect. 
  • Providing new legal tools to fight discriminatory voting rules in court.  Expanding language assistance for voters with limited English proficiency. 
  • Creating strong protections against voter intimidation, deception or obstruction. 
  • Establishing a central hub for election data and demographic information to increase transparency and help Connecticut voters fight for accessible elections. 
  • Instructing judges to construe state and local laws and rules in a pro-democracy manner to make the fundamental right to vote as accessible as possible.
CANCER AND FIREFIGHTERS
Another provision would let certain firefighters who get cancer on the job finally collect workers' compensation. Many lobbied for the change earlier this year.
West Haven fire chief James O’Brien said he’s even seeing cancer in healthy firefighters.
“We've had young firefighters – you know, 30 years old and so – with these cancers,” he told News 12 in December 2021.
Cities and towns would have to pay the benefits; an existing Firefighters Cancer Relief Program would reimburse them within 45 days. The fund is chronically under-funded, but the new budget injects $5 million into it.
If the fund runs out of money, firefighters could be out of luck.
“If the account becomes insolvent, the municipality has no obligation to continue providing the workers’ compensation-like compensation and benefits funded by it,” says a legislative analysis of the budget. “It is unclear how the disability retirement benefits required by the bill would be affected in these circumstances, as it appears that the bill also requires municipalities to be reimbursed for these benefits.”
ATTORNEY GENERAL QUALIFICATIONS
The new budget also impacts who can serve as state attorney general. Currently, a person must have at least 10 years of active trial experience. But under the new qualifications, an attorney general would only have to be “engaged in the practice of law in this state for at least 10 years, either consecutively or nonconsecutively.”
The current language disqualified now-Lt. Gov. Susan Byswiewicz from running in 2010.
Earlier this session, lawmakers considered dropping the requirement to six years and the “active practice” requirement to expand the number of candidates.
STOLEN CAR PROTECTION DROPPED
Lawmakers dropped one provision that could have proven costly for auto dealers. They would have had to pay customers up to $5,000 in cash and credits if their new car was stolen three to five years after purchase.
Dealers also would have been required to etch a vehicle identification number on major car parts, in an effort to curb catalytic converter thefts. The requirement had previously been dropped out of another bill on catalytic converter thefts.
“IMPLEMENTER” LANGUAGE
These extra policy provisions are part of the “implementer” – language that actually implements the state budget. Sometimes it becomes a last-minute “wish list” of ideas and bills that didn't pass elsewhere.
Much of Monday’s behind-the-scenes budget negotiations revolved around removing several parts of the implementer, including changes to the federal drug pricing program and a new tax credit for people making donations to private schools.
“The minute we got that implementer, it was sort of a ‘Hell no,’” said state Rep. Vin Candelora (R-North Branford), the Connecticut House GOP leader. “As we discussed some of the provisions, we came to understand them.”


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