The Capitol Beat: February 2-6, 2015

Speaker, Municipal Commission Back Incentives to Generate Revenues for Towns

In the latest push to give municipalities more flexibility and relieve them of their over-reliance on the regressive property tax system, House Speaker Brendan, D-Hamden, and the municipal commission he created several years ago, this week came out with a list of legislative initiatives for 2015. Some of the proposals mirror those supported by Senate Democrats, suggesting they may have some momentum.

Among other things, the Commission supports:

  • Keeping taxable property on a town’s grand list when newly acquired by a nonprofit college or hospital.
  • Reimbursing towns under the state Payment-in-lieu-of-Taxes (PILOT) through a tiered system based on the percentage of property that is tax exempt.
  • Allowing local option taxes to be levied on tickets for sporting or entertainment events on college or university campuses.
  • Exploring minimum (education) budget requirement savings.
  • Requiring regional common school calendars.
  • Bifurcating the expenditures of municipal and education budgets.

Businesses: Chemical Bill Proposed by Children’s Committee Costly, Unnecessary

The Children’s Committee has dusted off a proposal — HB 5653 – that would require the state Department of Public Health (DPH) to develop and regularly update a list of chemicals the agency believes are potentially harmful to children. In addition, HB 5653, which died of inaction last year, would require DPH to test and recommend regulating, restricting, or banning the sale of products containing the chemicals in Connecticut.

Representatives of several business associations noted that such regulation is unnecessary (in light of heavy federal regulations) and costly when imposed state-by-state.

DEEP Takes Wait-and-See Approach to Plastic Bag Ban, Bottle-Bill Expansion

The Environment Committee this week heard testimony on two recycling proposals that have become perennial favorites of the committee: one would expand the state’s bottle bill to include juice, teas and sports drinks, and the other seeks to ban the use of “single-use” plastic and paper bags in certain stores by 2019. Those opposed to the proposals far outnumbered supporters.

Perhaps because low-cost, convenience appeals to more people nowadays. As an example, numerous people – consumers and business operators alike – testified that they prefer using single-stream recycling over carrying around dripping bags. Go figure.

In its wisdom, and because the state’s recycling rate has been hovering at about 30 percent for some time, last year the Legislature, working closely with industry and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) passed sweeping legislation to begin addressing the problem. Public Act 14-94 created a successor agency to the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority (the quasi-public trash-to-energy authority), and charged it with, among other things, creating a Comprehensive Materials Management Strategy (CMMS) to dramatically increase the state’s recycling rates over the next 10 years.

When completed, the CMSS will include a detailed analysis of the components of the waste stream, Department of Energy & Environmental Protection Commissioner Robert J. Klee pointed out in his testimony on the two recycling bills. His recommendation: Let’s wait for the facts; analyze them; and then decide if it makes sense to continue pursuing these one off recycling proposals.

AG Launches Investigation of Anthem Breach

As news spread Thursday of a widespread breach of personal information kept by insurer Anthem, Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen said his office has launched an investigation into the hacking spree. Anthem covers some 1.14 million people in Connecticut.

Current and former members will be notified by Anthem if their information was accessed. The company is prepared to offer free credit monitoring and identity protection for those affected. For more information, contact: or call 1-877-263-7995.

State Tax Panel Hires Consultant to Help Prepare Report

The State Tax Panel charged with reviewing and recommending ways to reform Connecticut’s tax system to make it more stable, less regressive, and more equitable, has hired a consultant to help with the herculean task. Robert Ebel, who has done similar work in the District of Columbia, Minnesota and Nevada, will help develop the state tax policy report due in early 2016.

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