The Capitol Beat: March 2-6, 2015

March is a month without mercy for rabid basketball fans.  There is no such thing as a ‘gentleman gambler’ when the Big Dance rolls around. – Hunter S. Thompson

Votes on Numerous Wage and Workplace Bills Anticipated Next Week As Labor Committee’s March 17 Deadline for Reporting out Bills Approaches

The Legislature’s Labor and Public Employee’s Committee has until March 17 to winnow down and vote on – or not – hundreds of pending workplace and wage proposals. Following is a summary of some

of the Labor proposals that have been heard by the Committee and that we have been monitoring closely:

  • HB 5080 – An Act Concerning Large Retail Stores and Employment of Workers
    During the Holiday Season – As its title implies, this proposal would require large retail stores (occupying 5,000 square feet or more) to either allow their employees to decline to work on family holidays (Christmas and Thanksgiving) without penalty or to provide such employees with enhanced pay on such holidays.
  • HB 6784 – An Act Expanding Paid Sick Leave – This proposal would significantly expand the state’s paid sick leave mandate to include nonmanufacturing employers with 10 or more employees, and would expand the permitted uses of the leave to include care for extended family members. Or, in the words of one business person: This proposal “will make small businesses smaller.” Nonetheless, this concept appears to have steam.
  • HB 6791 – An Act Concerning Workers’ Wages at Large Corporations – This proposal seeks to impose a fee on employers with 250 or more employees, or franchisors with local franchisees that collectively employ 250+ employees, if they fail to pay a $15/hr. wage. The fee is $1 per hour, per employee. Under this proposal, if all 250 employees of a business are making less than or equal to the standard wage, and employees work an average of 20 hours per week, an employer could face a $5,000 per week fee.
  • HB 6850 – An Act Concerning Pay Equity and Fairness – This proposal, an outgrowth of recommendations from the 2013 Gender Wage Gap Task Force, would permit employees to discuss wages and salary information freely with the aim of helping eliminate gender wage gaps. While the concept appears to have broad support, some have suggested that a more appropriate way to address discriminatory behaviors such as this would be to seek remedies through the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.
  • HB 6880 – An Act Concerning Large Corporations Receiving State Assistance and Executive Compensation – This proposal, roundly opposed by large and small employers alike, seeks to make any employer that compensates any employee at a rate greater than fifty times that of the employer’s average employee ineligible for tax credits, exemptions, abatements or financial assistance from the state.
  • HB 6932 – An Act Concerning Paid Family Medical Leave – This proposal would greatly increase the number of circumstances and employees covered by Connecticut’s Family Medical Leave Act, imposing a costly new, one-size-fits-all mandate on employers and an unbudgeted administrative burden on the Department of Labor. While this bill may well be voted out of committee, unless funding is included in the adopted 2016-17 budget, its future seems uncertain.
  • HB 6933 – An Act Concerning Predictable Scheduling for Employees – This proposal would require, effective October 2015, employers to provide work schedules to employees 21 days in advance, obtain written consent from employees should there be a need to work additional shifts not included in the schedule, and provide “predictability pay” when the schedules are changed. Numerous individuals, including those representing contractors and hospitals, testified that this proposal would present additional hardships and costs.

February 24th Special Election: For Both Parties, It’s a Wash

Democrats held onto two Bridgeport districts – the 23rd Senate district and the 129th House district –and Republicans held onto the 107th House district in a special election February 24th. The seats became vacant as a result of Malloy administration appointments.

Former Senator Ed Gomes was elected to serve Bridgeport once again in the 23rd Senate district, replacing Andres Ayala. Committee assignments: Labor (Chair), Veterans’ (Vice Chair), Regs Review, and Public Safety.

Republican Stephen Harding succeeds David Scribner in the 107th House district. Committee assignments: Finance, Judiciary, and Energy & Technology.

Bridgeport Democrat Steven Stafstrom was elected to represent the 129th district, assuming the seat vacated by Auden Grogins. Committee assignments: Environment, Finance, and Judiciary.

In the news