The Mother of All ‘Implementers’: Responsible Policy or an End-Run Around the Legislative Process?

As Connecticut legislators give a post-mortem (and the patient is dead) on the 2015 session and special session, a major question of how things were done remains. Were majority Democrats simply responding to constituents’ wishes or did they circumvent the process because they couldn’t get bills through the proper way? That is the $40 billion question.

As The Shad has written before, majorities in the state House and Senate have long played fast and loose with implementers—adding on goodies (or “rats”) to bills that are supposed to simply put the budget into law. But this year was a new high—or low—for adding new provisions. In fact, this year’s budget implementer actually changed the budget itself to the tune of $178 million. That’s not exactly a minor issue especially since the changes dealt with taxes on businesses and corporations.

The implementer:
• Names the third-floor food kiosk in the legislative office building “First in Flight” café as excellent scribe Ken Dixon noted in his blog. It’s designed as a nod to Gustave Whitehead who allegedly beat the Wright brothers in flight.
• Names Armory Road near the legislative office building “Chief Fallon Way” after Capitol Police Chief Michael Fallon who died tragically of cancer at age 47 back in 2009.
• Requires that contractors with the state pay a minimum wage of at least $15 an hour. This was the provision that Republican Sen. Rob Kane said would result in a $10 sandwich in the legislative office building cafeteria.
• Allows a “First Five” extension allowing the governor to enter into his 15 First Five deals. The original First Five remain controversial.
• Requires the secretary of state to hire an election monitor for Hartford. Recent elections in Hartford have been an absolute mess.
• Allows Keno but limits any agreement between the state and the Indian tribes to no more than 12.5 percent of the gross operating revenue to each tribe. There is no such agreement with the tribes in place yet.
• Requires dry cleaners to register with the Department of Revenue Services.

• Allows the Hartford parking authority to mail parking tickets. Don’t think because you didn’t get pulled over that you’re off the hook.
• Exempts Norwalk from the open space requirements for planning and zoning applications for certain developments.
• Sends $1.5 million to Middletown in fiscal year 2017.
• Creates a Connecticut Port Authority.
• Phases out the use of microbeads in cosmetics and over the counter drugs by 2020.
• Extends the Commission of Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) minority set-aside program to cities and towns. This bill was not voted on in either the House or Senate but made its way into an implementer. It can be a substantial mandate to cities and towns.
• Directs state officials to study how Connecticut might implement a system to provide paid family and medical leave. This was a bill that didn’t pass during the regular session.
• Requires information on concussions be given to athletes or their parents when signing up for youth sports.
• Creates a council to make recommendations for the shellfish industry in Connecticut.
• Limits grants under the governor’s scholarship program under the need-based portion to Goodwin College in East Hartford.
• Allows the Department of Revenue Service Commissioner to issue administrative procedures without regulations.
• Allows the Hartford parking authority to mail parking tickets. Don’t think because you didn’t get pulled over that you’re off the hook.
• Requires health insurers to pick up the cost of needle exchange, AIDS, TB, cervical cancer screening and venereal disease control through an assessment instead of the general fund.
• Increases the fee to $98 from $55 for newborn screening tests done by hospitals.
• Requires that individual insurance coverage of autism include behavioral therapy, prescription drugs, psychiatric and psychological services, physical therapy, speech and language therapy, and occupational therapy. This is a key provision for autism support activists and a personal interest of The Shad.
• Increases nursing home reimbursement rates. $9 million goes to unionized homes, $4 million to nonunionized homes. Only 30 percent of the nursing homes in the state are unionized. A sop to the Democratic base?
• Requires people who install above-ground pools to get a license that has to be renewed every year. It’s $150 to get the license and $100 to renew it.
• Allows the governor to require appointees or nominees to be fingerprinted and submit them for criminal background checks.
• Allows graduate assistants and certain graduate students at UConn to join the state employee healthcare partnership.
• Creates an “Office of State Broadband.”

There are others. The point is that there are many, many new state laws that did not pass in the traditional manner.