March 2023 Update
The 2023 Legislative Session is in full swing with CSEA members testifying in public hearings, filming videos for legislators and attending webinars to learn more about the legislative process and how we are fighting for items on our legislative agenda.
CSEA members are up at the Capitol (or sitting in front of Zoom from the comfort of their home!) demanding change and insisting that we cannot continue on with the status quo. From expanding paid sick days to improving the work of the State Contracting Standards Board to making it easier to vote early or by mail to much more, there are a number of other issues on which we are focused and with CSEA members standing collectively, hopefully some of these proposals will become law.
As a reminder of the legislative process, before any bill is ready to be signed into law, or even get a vote on the House and Senate floor, it must first make it through the committee process. There are 27 committees in the General Assembly, covering every facet of public life and government operations. From the Appropriations Committee that has oversight of the state budget to the Education Committee that handles matters related to K through 12 schools, there is a committee for everything.
These committees hold public hearings throughout February and March to hear from members of the public, ask questions and, eventually, decide what bills will be voted out of committee and which ones will not. Public hearings are a core function of our democratic process and legislators rely on those that testify to learn more about the bills, but more importantly it’s an opportunity for you to tell your story.
All public hearings will continue to be hybrid, and anyone can testify. Testifying in person or virtually is easy to do - and submitting written testimony is even easier! And, best of all, CSEA staff helps you through all of it.
So far, we have had dozens and dozens of members testify, including over 60 childcare providers who turned out to tell their story at the Appropriations Committee hearing where they demanded that the legislature fully fund and expand the Care4Kids childcare program.
And this work is not going unnoticed, at the time of publication, we have the following progress to report:
- Both Recovery For All proposals, SB 351 and HB 5673 had a public hearing in the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee on February 27.
- We are waiting for our School Paraeducator Advisory Council proposal to be formally raised with a bill number and language but in the meantime, lobbyists, including our own Danny Medress, has continued to meet with legislators about the specifics of the bill while members continue to prepare for the eventual public hearing in the Education Committee.
- Paid Sick Days, State Contracting Standards Board (SCSB), and FOIA Exemption proposals have all been raised as concepts, and we are waiting on a bill number, language, and public hearing dates.
- We do not yet know which of the Early Voting Implementation and No-Excuse Absentee Voting proposals will be the ultimate legislative vehicle for early voting, but the discussion right now largely revolves around whether there will be ten or fourteen days of early voting.
- Our Collective Bargaining Rights for Probate Court Workers proposal, SB912, had its public hearing in Labor on January 31 and was voted out of the committee on February 16. It’s likely to go to two more committees, Appropriations and Judiciary.
- The Governor has released his budget proposals and public hearings started on the budget in Appropriations started on February 15 and concluded on March 1.
February 2023 Update
The 2023 Legislative Session is in full swing with public hearings expected to start this week. CSEA’s full legislative agenda is available on our website at CSEA-CT.com and we encourage you to follow along throughout the session to see what ideas become concepts, what concepts become bills, and what bills become law.
CSEA members are fighting to pass bills that will protect the services we provide and improve funding for the work we do. As public employees, we know what a huge impact the General Assembly has on our careers and lives. That’s why members from throughout our Local are joining together to make sure that legislation that respects and honors working people makes it to the Governor’s desk.
However, before any bill is ready to be signed into law, it first has to make it through the committee process. There are 27 committees in the General Assembly, covering every facet of public life and government operations. From the Appropriations Committee that has oversight of the state budget to the Education Committee that handles matters related to K through 12 schools, there is a committee for everything.
A lot of bills are introduced during a legislative session, and most of them will never make it out of a committee, must less be voted on in the chamber of the state Senate or state House. Public hearings are an important tool legislators, and the public, use to determine which pieces of legislation have worth and merit and should move forward, and which lack support from Connecticut residents. The public hearing portion of the legislative session will last throughout the month of February and into March and is the best time for your voice to be heard at the Capitol. All public hearings will be hybrid, and anyone can testify. Testifying in person or virtually is easy to do - and submitting written testimony is even easier! And, best of all, CSEA staff helps you through all of it.
General Assembly members, the press, and the public turn out to watch these public hearings, and the importance of testifying on behalf of our legislative agenda cannot be overstated. As the CSEA News goes to print, only a few public hearings have been scheduled, but this will change over the next couple of days and weeks.
The Appropriations Committee has announced they will be holding hearings on the state budget from February 13 through February 24. This will follow Governor Ned Lamont’s budget address on February 8 and his staff’s presentation to the Appropriations Committee on February 9. During the Appropriations Committee’s budget hearings, committee members hear from state agencies during the day, and from the public during the evening. Legislators take these hearings very seriously and they are a great opportunity to speak to them directly as they work to piece together a budget package.
CSEA members have a big and broad agenda this year, but already there is progress to report:
As part of our work with the Recovery for All coalition to improve Connecticut’s tax system and make it fairer for working people, two bills have been introduced - Senate Bill 351: AN ACT CONCERNING THE RESTRUCTURING OF CERTAIN TAXES AND TAX EQUITY and House Bill 5673: AN ACT CONCERNING THE REFORMATION OF CERTAIN TAXES AND TAX EQUITY. Simply put, these bills will require the very wealthy to pay a little more in taxes while lowering the tax burden for working people;
A bill improving pay, benefits, and working conditions for paraeducators has been raisd as a concept in the Education Committee. Soon, that concept will be turned into legislation, given a bill number, and be scheduled for public hearing; and
Working with our allies in other municipal and board of education unions, we are proposing legislation that will provide those workers with pandemic pay bonus; like the ones being given to private sector workers as a result of state law and state employees through negotiation and arbitration.
As you can see on the CSEA legislative agenda, from expanding paid sick days to improving the work of the State Contracting Standards Board to making it easier to vote early or by mail to much more, there are a number of other issues on which we are focused. Please make sure you are signed up for CSEA emails to make sure you get the latest news and updates as more of our legislative agenda moves forward and as additional public hearings get scheduled.
2023 LEGISLATIVE AGENDA
Recovery for All Legislative Proposals
Recovery For All is a coalition bringing together more than 60 community, faith, labor, and nonprofit advocacy organizations representing hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life across Connecticut. CSEA was a founding member organization of the coalition because we know that every working person is an ally in the battle to create an economy that works for everyone.
Today, billionaires and wealthy corporations are seizing more and more wealth while working people have been left to struggle during one of the most challenging times our society has ever faced. Imagine what our communities would look like if wealthy corporations and billionaires paid their fair share so we can invest in quality public schools, colleges, and universities; child care; health care, mental health and addiction services, and re-entry services that all our families deserve.
From tax increases on the ultra wealthy to tax relief for working people to investments in public services and broad economic development, Recovery for All’s Equity Agenda presents a set of transformational policies to build a more equitable Connecticut—where all residents have the chance to live a fulfilling life, not just the wealthy few.
SEBAC Legislative Proposals
Joining with allied unions in the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC), CSEA will be working to advance legislative proposals that fund services and jobs, protect against attempts to privatize public work, and address the continuing problem of short staffing.
CSEA members will also work with our allies in SEBAC to get the General Assembly to, not only, maintain full funding of the State Contracting Standards Board (SCSB), but also to pass legislation that will improve and enhance its operations. Additionally, CSEA will support our brothers and sisters in Connecticut’s Higher Education system as they fight against harmful consolidation and privatization proposals.
Reliable and Affordable Healthcare for Municipal and Board of Education Workers
CSEA members have long been at the forefront of the fight to expand and improve access to quality health insurance. CSEA members were instrumental in the creation of the Partnership Plan, the Comptroller-managed version health plan modeled on the State Employee Health Plan. CSEA will work with other impacted unions to ensure this critical program is, not only, protected, but strengthened so that more workers have access to this important health care option.
School Paraeducator Advisory Council Legislative Proposals
The School Paraeducator Advisory Council - which includes a representative from CSEA, other unions representing paras, as well as policy experts in education and the work of paras - advises the Commissioner of the State Department of Education and the General Assembly about the career, training, and professional development needs of paras.
Following up on legislative progress from last session that saw paras make critical gains when it comes to career training, as well as participation in Planning and Placement Team meetings, CSEA will work with our partners on the Council to pass legislation that will make significant improvements to para pay, healthcare, and retirement benefits.
Pandemic Pay for Municipal and Board of Education Workers
CSEA will fight to expand Connecticut’s pandemic pay program to include public sector workers, specifically for people working for municipalities and boards of education. These essential workers, along with all others who are publicly employed, were excluded from the current program. CSEA will work with our allies in other municipal and board of education unions to push for legislation that honors their sacrifice and commitment.
Expansion and Improvement of the Paid Sick Days Law
Connecticut was the first state in the nation in 2011 to require certain employers to provide service workers with accrued paid sick days. Now, more than 10 years later, and as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, CSEA and our allies in the Paid Sick Days coalition recommend legislation that strengthens current law and ensures access to paid sick days for all workers, regardless of their job title or size of their employer.
Passage of the Childcare Providers’ Contract
Currently, the family childcare providers represented by CSEA are in contract negotiations with the state. And, just like with state employee contracts and arbitrated awards, before an approved contract can be finalized, it must be voted on in both chambers of the General Assembly. Throughout the pandemic, childcare providers never stopped working and never closed their doors. Their continued work through dangerous circumstances has been remarkable. They have more than earned a fair contract, and all CSEA members will join with them to ensure that when one is reached, it will pass any votes in the House and Senate.
Worker Safety and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
No one should be allowed to abuse Connecticut’s transparency laws to harass, intimidate, or inflict violence upon a public employee. CSEA members will work to add Disability Determination Services employees and Supervising Judicial Marshals to the list of state employees whose home addresses are protected from release through a FOIA request. This sort of personal information is already protected from release for workers in the Department of Children and Families and the Department of Correction, as well as the State Police. What is a major safety concern for those workers, is also one for these state employees.
Improving Indoor Air Quality in Schools
CSEA is part of a school indoor air quality coalition with other board of education unions, building trade unions, environmental advocates, and other community groups. Last session, we helped pass legislation that, among other things, created an indoor air quality working group. The working group is putting together legislative recommendations for the next session regarding implementing high quality indoor air standards in Connecticut’s schools. CSEA looks forward to seeing the final recommendations, ensuring they protect and empower our members, and supporting their passage.
Justice Reinvestment Coalition Legislative Proposals
Medical and mental healthcare for state prison inmates has been cut over 25% in the last decade, despite skyrocketing medical costs and an aging inmate population with a higher acuity of health needs. Staffing ratios and care standards for too long have been determined by the bottom line rather than what is necessary for patient health and safety. Connecticut must expand services to save lives by investing in healthcare, education, housing, and employment opportunities for individuals currently and formerly incarcerated. CSEA is working with our allies in 1199 as well as community organizations to ensure funding for reentry programs for inmates released from state prisons, as well as funding for educational programs in Unified School District #1 that are provided by CSEA members.
Early Voting Implementation and No-Excuse Absentee Voting Constitutional Amendment
With the success of the early voting constitutional amendment in the last election, the General Assembly is now empowered to pass legislation that will allow Connecticut voters to cast their ballot in person in the days prior to Election Day. CSEA will work with other early voting allies to pass strong legislation to implement our newly won early voting system.
Right now, 27 states offer no-excuse absentee voting and eight states conduct their elections entirely by mail. This places Connecticut, with our strict vote by mail rules, in a dwindling minority of states. So, on top of the early voting legislation, CSEA will also work with allies to pass the no-excuse absentee voting constitutional amendment. This constitutional amendment will allow for no-excuse absentee voting and needs to pass through both chambers in the coming session. If it does, it will be on the ballot in 2024. And, if approved, Connecticut voters will no longer need a reason to request a mail ballot.
Collective Bargaining Rights for Probate Court Workers
For the past several sessions, CSEA has been working to pass a bill that will give employees in Connecticut’s probate court system collective bargaining rights and the ability to join a union if they want. It is just plain wrong that there is a group of workers who are legally barred from even thinking about joining a union and engaging in collective bargaining. CSEA members stand with the probate court workers and will work with them to pass this necessary update to Connecticut’s labor laws.
Safety and Security in Connecticut’s Courthouses
The Supervising Judicial Marshals, who are represented by CSEA, along with members of the Judicial Marshals’ union - together, these are the workers who provide security in Connecticut’s courthouses - will work together on legislation that will improve and enhance the safety protocols in the state’s courthouses.
2022 ENDORSEMENT PROCESS IS UNDERWAY
The 2022 election season is well underway and CSEA has already begun the endorsement process for the primary election. In the process of evaluating candidates, CSEA members ask tough question designed to determine which candidates will support our legislative initiatives and, more generally, which candidates understand and respect the value of public services. Below, please review the endorsement process and ways that you can get involved to ensure that pro-worker candidates are elected to the General Assembly and state-wide offices. The world of politics has a profound impact on our jobs and on our contracts – as such, our work in this sphere is critically important to our overall success as a union.
Our process starts with a request from the candidate - only candidates that reach out to the union requesting an endorsement are considered. Candidates are then sent an in-depth questionnaire which they must complete before an interview is scheduled. From there, CSEA joins our fellow CT SEIU locals (SEIU 1199, SEIU 32BJ, 4Cs, and CEUI/MEUI Local 511) to hold candidate interviews. This process is open to candidates from any party. The interviews are attended by members of the Legislative Action Committee (LAC) from each of the State Council locals.
After candidates are interviewed, the CSEA LAC makes a recommendation to endorse or not. These recommendations are then presented to the CSEA Executive Council where they vote to approve or deny the endorsement.
Any member is welcome to join the Legislative Action Committee. To join or to get involved in these races, please reach out to our Political Director, Danny Medress at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By using the candidate questionnaire and interview, the LAC and Executive Council are aiming to ensure that candidates hold pro-CSEA and pro-union values and will be allies in their position upon a successful election. Endorsement is only the first step in our involvement in these races, we must mobilize our members to make calls and knock doors for these candidates while our communications program also sends out mailers to registered voters in their district.
2022 LEGISLATIVE SESSION WRAP UP
Former President and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, William Howard Taft once said, “The world is not going to be saved by legislation.” And, while we might understand the sentiment, CSEA members know the profound and lasting impacts of the legislative process. That’s why we fought hard during this year’s session of the Connecticut General Assembly, which came to a close at midnight on May 4, to advance our pro-worker agenda.
Over 60 CSEA members testified on numerous bills at dozens of public hearings and thousands more took action contacting General Assembly legislators, attending rallies, and writing letters to the editor. While we did not make progress on every issue, the involvement of members from throughout our union helped move critical pieces of legislation through committees, the House and Senate chambers, and to the Governor’s desk. And, despite the calls from some elected officials for cuts to public services, layoffs of public employees, and changes to collective bargaining, CSEA members were successful in protecting the jobs we do and the pay and benefits we have earned.
As we wait for Governor Ned Lamont to sign or veto the bills before him, here’s what happened with CSEA’s 2022 legislative agenda:
CSEA’s 2022 Legislative Agenda -
Approval of Collective Bargaining Agreements for State Employees. The seven state bargaining units represented by CSEA, as well as the 27 others represented by different unions, negotiated contracts with the State that were approved by both chambers of the General Assembly. The votes in the chambers followed months of negotiations and were ultimately successful due to the work done by members to move Representatives and Senators to vote Yes on the contracts. Although each state bargaining unit has their own contract, the General Assembly chose to vote on the contracts as a part of a single package. And, while the contracts were put up for a vote in each chamber, they did not take the form of a bill, but rather a resolution. So, the House approved one resolution (H.R. No. 11) and the Senate approved another (S.R. No. 12). Since resolutions do not need to be signed by the Governor, the contracts were formally approved with their passage through each chamber.
SEBAC Legislative Proposals. The unions that make up the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition proposed several pieces of legislation to address a range of important issues Senate Bill 419: An Act Establishing a State Training Account for State Service Career Development. CSEA members have long talked about the need for a properly staffed and trained state workforce. SB 419 had the potential to be an important part of achieving that goal by establishing a training fund for state employees that could be used to reimburse workers or pay for things like certifications, training, and conferences. Supporting the career development of state employees will help enhance the quality of services provided while reducing the state’s reliance on costly outside consultants.
Senate Bill 420: An Act Concerning the State Workforce and Discrimination and Retaliation in the Workplace. Discrimination has no place at any worksite. SB 420 would have ensured that state managers and supervisors cannot retaliate or discriminate against an employee who alleges discrimination. Imagine going to your manager in good faith, to talk about the discrimination you are facing at work and, instead of being heard and your experience respected, you’re retaliated against or told to be quiet. The bill called for a Racial Justice Ombudsperson who would be responsible for fostering a workplace where managerial authorities are accountable to lead and model antiracist practices, and make changes needed to ensure an antiracist, equitable workplace for all. Our Nation’s work towards “a more perfect Union” continues, and SB 420 would have provided all state workers with the protections against discriminatory and retaliatory behavior that no one should have to deal with when they are just trying to do their job.
House Bill 5441: An Act Adopting the Recommendations of the Task Force to Study the State Workforce and Retiring Employees. The coming wave of retirements of state employees is certainly a challenge, but we are not powerless when it comes to making sure that Connecticut is ready. HB 5441 was a proactive response that prioritized planning and data over panic to deal with the so-called “Silver Tsunami.” The bill would have empowered key stakeholders such as state employees, commissioners, the Comptroller, and policymakers to use data and planning to help make educated decisions when it comes to the large number of retirements expected this year.
House Bill 5445: An Act Concerning State Staffing Levels. The state employee staffing issues we are facing are not by accident. Connecticut has a history of staffing up drastically and then ignoring staffing levels until it is too late. The most famous case of this was in the early 1980’s after the Mianis River Bridge collapse in Greenwich. The hiring that followed in the late 1990’s is a major contributor to the “Silver Tsunami'' that we are having this year. Instead of level hiring since the late 1990’s, the state workforce has been neglected and slowly starved to the brink. HB 5445 would have required state agencies to fill vacancies and engage in continuous recruitment for open positions.
As the legislative session went on, all of these bills were eventually merged together into one legislative vehicle. This is a not uncommon practice that helps streamline the legislative process. Unfortunately, as the time of the legislative session drew to a close, we were unable to move these legislative proposals forward.
Funding and staffing the State Contracting Standards Board. The State Contracting Standards Board was established in 2007 after 15 years of advocacy to bring real oversight and transparency to state contracting. The Board’s formation came on the heels of the I-84 storm drain fiasco. Private consulting inspection forces failed to notice that the construction company did not complete drainage runs during the construction of I-84 heading West into Waterbury. A DOT engineer from CSEA discovered this $24 million dollar error that would have eventually led to the highway washing out, causing catastrophic damage and possibly loss of life.
This session was a mixed bag for the Board. On the plus side, for the first time in its history, the Board will be properly funded. The state budget, House Bill 5506, provides the Board with the financial resources it needs to do its work. However, CSEA members and our allies in SEBAC, were fighting all session long to make additional improvements that would have protected the Board’s funding and enhanced its abilities to deliver for Connecticut residents. The best piece of legislation to do that was Senate Bill 473. That bill would have protected the Board’s funding from future budget cuts, in the same way that the budget for state agencies like the State Elections Enforcement Commission is protected, while improving and expanding its contract analysis work. Despite SB 473 passing unanimously out of the Government Administration and Elections Committee and the Senate, there was too much pushback from state agencies to get this bill called in the House.
Recovery for All Legislative Proposals. CSEA members helped form the Recovery for All coalition because we know that every working person is an ally in the battle to create an economy that works for everyone. Recovery for All is a statewide coalition of labor, community, and faith organizations representing hundreds of thousands of people united in a long-term mission to eliminate systemic inequalities and rebuild a better Connecticut. CSEA and our partners in the Coalition advocated throughout session for the creation of a truly equitable state tax system, protecting funding for public services and jobs, and establishing racial and economic justice. Despite rallies, press conferences, phone calls, op-eds, letters to the editor, advertisements, emails, and social media actions - to say nothing of record gains for the uber-rich and a historic budget surplus, the General Assembly failed to make meaningful progress in addressing the inequities that continue to exist in our tax
Paraeducator Legislation from the School Paraeducator Advisory Council. Last session, CSEA members helped pass House Bill 6621: An Act Concerning Assorted Revisions and Additions to the Education Statutes which included language directing the School Paraeducator Advisory Council to put together a study and legislative recommendations regarding improving para career development, professional training, pay, and benefits. The Council formed a task force that included CSEA members, which submitted the study and recommendations that formed the basis of House Bill 5321: An Act Implementing Certain Recommendations of the School Paraeducator Advisory Council during 2022 legislative session. HB 5321 would have required the State Department of Education to conduct an annual review of healthcare plans and compare them to the Connecticut Partnership Plan to find savings; allowed paraeducators to attend Planning and Placement Team meetings and view student Individual Education Plans; directed the State Department of Education Commissioner to create a working group to explore a paraeducator certification program; established clear professional development plans for paraeducators; and directed local or regional boards of education to collect information on the number of paraeducators employed within each district and several data points on wages and healthcare costs. As often happens during session, after passing unanimously out of the Education and Appropriations Committees, this bill did not move forward. But, due to the tireless efforts of CSEA paraeducators as well as members of other unions representing paras, several parts of HB 5321 were put into other pieces of legislation that are now on the Governor’s desk. Senate Bill 9 includes money for paraeducator professional development programs, House Bill 5506 includes the language creating a system of paraeducator career development, and House Bill 5466 includes the language that will allow paras to attend PPT meetings and view IEPs. There is more work to do, but this represents a major step forward for Connecticut’s paraeducators.
Family Child Care Providers. This session, CSEA family child care providers supported a bill that would “clarify and enforce protections for licensed group child care homes and licensed family child care homes and prevent landlords from placing restrictions on the operation of such homes.” The bill, Senate Bill 291: An Act Concerning Certain Protections for Group and Family Child Care Homes, made it through the committee process, but did not receive a final vote in the Senate. And, while this bill did not make it all the way this year, providers helped pass several major pieces of legislation that will have positive and far reaching impacts. Senate Bill 1: An Act Concerning Childhood Mental and Physical Health Services in Schools, Senate Bill 2: An At Expanding Preschool and Mental and Behavioral Services for Children, and House Bill 5001: An Act Concerning Children's Mental Health are all focused on the continued well-being of our state’s children. Child care providers, like many other CSEA members, never stopped working during the ongoing, deadly COVID-19 pandemic. And, they know firsthand what a major impact it had and continues to have on kids. These three bills are a commitment to our youngest residents and an example of the type of legislation that we wish we didn’t need to pass, but know we have to. And, as part of the budget, providers helped secure a $150 million investment in the Office of Early Childhood. This money will go towards fixing long standing problems in the early child care system, such as improving mental health programs as well as hiring and retaining child care workers. And, in addition to wage supplements that providers will receive, this funding will help add 13,000 infant and toddler spots in state funded child care programs, while at the same time increasing workforce training.
Indoor Air Quality in Schools. As we have in past legislative sessions, CSEA joined with a wide range of other unions and organizations to support a bill to improve indoor air quality in schools, Senate Bill 423: An Act Improving Indoor Air Quality in Public School Classrooms. Although this bill did not make it to the Governor's desk, major parts of it were included in the budget: such as $75 million for a school HVAC grant program over the next two years (with the possibility of an additional $100 million in bonding); in-depth HVAC assessments for all schools to be completed by certified technicians by July 2024 and every five years afterward; and the creation of a special working group to identify and develop optimal indoor humidity and temperature ranges, emergency school closure criteria, protocols to be used by school districts to receive, investigate, and address complaints or evidence of mold, pest infestation, hazardous odors or chemicals, and poor indoor air-quality, as well as a number of other important issues regarding indoor air quality in schools.
Probate Court Collective Bargaining. For the past several sessions, CSEA has been working to pass a bill that will give employees in Connecticut’s probate court system collective bargaining rights and the ability to join a union if they want. This session, the bill was Senate Bill 209: An Act Concerning the Status of Probate Court System Employees. SB 209 passed out of the Labor and Public Employees and Appropriations Committees, but it was not called for a vote in the Senate. Even with this legislative setback, the struggle to win respect and dignity for all workers will continue. No worker should be denied the basic and fundamental rights of collective bargaining. CSEA stands with our fellow workers in the probate court system and will always support legislation that expands a worker’s right to choose to join a union.
As we await the Governor’s signing pen or veto stamp and reflect on the advances we made, we’re mindful of the many challenges and threats that lie ahead. As the labor leader Samuel Gompers said so many years ago and is still true today, “Our movement is of the working people, for the working people, by the working people.... There is not a right too long denied to which we do not aspire in order to achieve; there is not a wrong too long endured that we are not determined to abolish.” While the 2022 legislative session might have come to an end, we will be ready for 2023 with a determination to achieve for our members and all workers.
Governor Lamont Delivers Budget Address
Governor Lamont delivered his FY 2022-2023 proposed mid-term budget adjustments to the General Assembly in his state of the state speech this month. The $24.2 billion budget proposal Governor Lamont offered is 2.4% more than the biennium budget approved in June 2021 and is $5.6 million under the spending cap. It is compliant with the revenue cap, volatility cap and statutory debt limit. It includes $325 million in revenue policy changes and $274 million in expenditure policy chances.
With an influx of federal COVID-relief monies and swelling revenues from investors and high-income earners during the pandemic, the state’s financial picture is rosier than it has been in recent years. The State Comptroller has projected a FY 2022 budget surplus of $1.48 billion and other analysts predict it could grow to almost $2 billion. The Rainy Day Fund also stands at its statutory maximum of $3.1 billion.
Governor Lamont proposed a package of modest tax cuts, including:
(1) increasing the property tax credit from $200 to $300 and expanding it to all property owners with household incomes of up $130,500; (2) accelerating a planned phase-in to exempt pensions and annuities from state income tax from 2025 to 2022; (3) expanding the student loan tax credit for employers who pay down workers’ student loans; and (4) lowering the mill rate cap on motor vehicle property taxes from 45 to 29 mills and reimbursing local governments for lost revenue.
Several weeks ago, Governor Lamont announced that he would use federal COVID relief funds to increase the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) from 30.5% to 41.5% for tax year 2020. In this budget proposal, he maintains most of that increase for tax year 2021, but does not continue it in future years.
In addition, better than assumed revenue projections caused Lamont to propose shifting $810 million of federal ARPA funds previously allocated for revenue replacement into an off-budget account for new and expanded programs. The mechanism would allow the Governor and policymakers to bypass the spending cap.
And while we are glad that Governor Lamont took a step in the right direction by proposing $15 million for pandemic pay for essential state workers (which is in addition to the $20 million that was previously allocated for state essential workers in the FY 2022-2023 biennium budget), he refused to include any for municipal or private sector essential workers. None of those funds have been distributed and are part of ongoing negotiations. Despite declaring healthcare workers, firefighters, janitors, teachers and school staff, police officers, transit workers, grocery store employees, corrections officers and many others “essential” with the stroke of a pen, Governor Lamont has ignored their sacrifice and the risks they have had to take.
Another disappointment was the Governor’s failure to adequately fund the State Contracting Standards Board. Instead, the Governor largely moves oversight of state contracting to the Auditors of Public Accounts and allows the Auditors “to receive referrals of procurement issues” from the State Contracting Standards Board. This change will effectively neuter one of our state’s most important oversight entities. The proposal to eliminate the Board’s enforcement powers, at a time when contracting procedures need as much transparency as possible, is dangerous and shortsighted.
CSEA members have been busy testifying in front of the Appropriations Committee to ensure that our legislative priorities are pushed through this short legislative session. If you are interested in testifying - either in person or by submitting written testimony - please contact Danny Medress, our Political Director, at DMedress@csea760.com. He will be able to help you craft your testimony, walk you through the process of signing up for in person testimony or submitting written testimony.
2022 Legislative Agenda
As we say goodbye to 2021 and look forward to what 2022 has the potential to bring, CSEA members are focused on the coming start of the General Assembly’s next legislative session. From February 9 through May 4, 151 state Representatives and 36 state Senators serving constituents from throughout the 169 municipalities of Connecticut will convene to conduct the people’s business. What this session will look like - in-person or virtual - and which people will be served - working and middle class residents or the super rich and large corporations - remains to be seen. The ongoing pandemic will dictate the former, but the latter is up to us. CSEA members have a long history of pushing General Assembly members to make the right choices when it comes to budget and legislative priorities, and that involvement and activism will be crucial to ensure our elected officials are advancing legislation which puts working people first.
The CSEA Legislative Action Committee (LAC), which is composed of members from every council in our local, working with rank-and-file members, member-leaders, and staff have recommended and the Executive Council has approved a strong and expansive agenda for the 2022 legislative session. It is one that includes items which impact every member of CSEA. The next legislative session presents a range of challenges and obstacles, but also significant opportunities to shape critical public policies that will improve our careers, our lives, and the services we provide.
2022 Legislative Agenda
Approval of Collective Bargaining Agreements. All state employee collective bargaining agreements and arbitrated awards must be voted on by both chambers of the General Assembly. Currently, the seven state bargaining units represented by CSEA, as well as the 27 others represented by different union locals, are negotiating contracts with the State. In the 2022 legislative session, we are hopeful that all state employee bargaining units will have agreements or awards before the legislature. CSEA members will fight to pass, not only, our own contracts, but will work with our fellow union members to ensure that every contract is approved. CSEA represents multiple state bargaining units:
*P-3A (Education Administrators);
*P-3B (Education Professions);
*P-4 (Engineering, Scientific, & Technical);
*NP-8 (Correction Supervisors Council);
*Police Inspectors Council;
*Supervising Judicial Marshals; and
*NP- 9 (State Police Lieutenants and
SEBAC Legislative Proposals. - The State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC) is made up of the unions that represent state employees. And, while the coalition was created by state law to consolidate bargaining over pensions and healthcare, there is no denying the power of all state employee locals coming together to advocate with one clear voice.
For the 2022 session, SEBAC unions will be working to advance legislative proposals that fund services and jobs, protect against the misguided push for privatization, and address the longstanding problem of short staffing. CSEA members will also work with our allies in SEBAC to get the General Assembly to, not only, restore full funding of the State Contracting Standards Board (SCSB), but also pass legislation that will improve and enhance its operations. A properly resourced SCSB will be an effective tool for safeguarding public dollars, services, and jobs.
Recovery for All Legislative Proposals - CSEA members helped form the Recovery for All coalition because we know that every working person is an ally in the battle to create an economy that works for everyone. Recovery for All is a statewide coalition of labor, community, and faith organizations representing hundreds of thousands of people united in a long-term mission to eliminate systemic inequalities and rebuild a better Connecticut. CSEA will work with our partners in the Coalition to support legislation focused on creating a truly equitable state tax system, protecting funding for public services and jobs, and establishing racial and economic justice.
Paraeducator Legislation from the School Paraeducator Advisory Council - Last session, CSEA members helped pass House Bill 6621: An Act Concerning Assorted Revisions and Additions to the Education Statutes which included language directing the School Paraeducator Advisory Council to put together a study and legislative recommendations regarding improving para career development, professional training, pay, and benefits.
The Council formed a task force, that includes CSEA members, which is working on the study and
recommendations which will be submitted to the Education Committee for action in the 2022 legislative session.
Zoning for Child Care Providers - In the previous legislative session, CSEA supported a bill championed by our allies in All Our Kin - an organization that trains, supports, and sustains family child care educators, SB 87: An Act Concerning Certain Protections for Group and Family Child Care Homes, that would “clarify and enforce protections for licensed group child care homes and licensed family child care homes and prevent landlords from placing restrictions on the operation of such homes.” This is an important bill for the home-based family child care providers represented by CSEA that made it all the way to the floor of the Senate, but was not called for a vote before the end of session. Next session, we will join with our allies to get it to the Governor’s desk.
Indoor Air Quality in Schools - During the 2021 session, CSEA joined with a wide range of other unions and organizations to support a bill to improve indoor air quality in schools, SB 288: An Act Concerning Indoor Air Quality in Schools. This bill made it out of the Education Committee, but did not make it any further. This has always been an important piece of legislation, but especially so in the time of the airborne, deadly COVID pandemic. While this bill fell short in the last session, CSEA members and the other supporters of this legislative proposal will be working hard to get it signed into law in the upcoming one.
Probate Court Collective Bargaining - For the past several sessions, CSEA has been working to pass a bill that will give employees in Connecticut’s probate court system collective bargaining rights and the ability to join a union if they want. Last session, the bill was HB 6382: An Act Concerning the Status of Probate Court System Employees. It is just plain wrong that there is a group of workers who are legally barred from even thinking about joining a union and engaging in collective bargaining. CSEA members stand with the probate court workers and will work with them to pass this necessary update to Connecticut’s labor laws.
It turns out the old saying “Laws are like sausages. It is best not to see them being made,” is wrong. The only way to ensure good laws - or sausages that won’t give you food poisoning - are made is to be involved. That’s why we put forward this agenda, testify at public hearings, contact our General Assembly members and do what we can to be part of the legislative process. Afterall, there is another old saying that is accurate: “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”
CSEA SEIU Local 2001 Political Education Director, Daniel I. Medress Delivers an End of Session Wrap Up on June 11, 2021
Since March of last year, we have found ourselves in unprecedented times. A deadly global pandemic has caused disruption on a scale we have not seen in any of our lifetimes. And, we all bore witness to the insurrection in Washington, D.C. on January 6. We have lost friends and loved ones, we have watched our democratic republic challenged like never before, and we have tried to continue on in the hopes that some semblance of normalcy returns. CSEA members, like too many others, have had to put their lives on the line to make sure that the critical work we do gets done.
And, just like we have continued to serve the public, on January 6, members of the Connecticut General Assembly convened their regular legislative session to conduct the people’s business. As we are every year, CSEA members were deeply involved in this year’s session. From proposing bills to testifying at public hearings to contacting legislators and so much more, CSEA members adapted to the challenges of this legislative session. We fought hard for a legislative agenda that put members first while honoring and respecting the important work we do.
2021 General Assembly Session Highlights
The Budget: At the top of CSEA’s 2021 Legislative Agenda was passing a fair budget that increases revenue through taxes on Connecticut’s wealthiest residents, rejects privatization schemes, and funds the services we provide and the benefits we have earned. While the General Assembly was able to pass a biennial budget (House Bill 6689) and a bond package (House Bill 6690), they were not able to pass the so-called “implementer bill” (this is the legislative term for the bill(s) that outline how the money allocated in the budget is spent - the bill implements the budget). As the CSEA News goes to print, we do not yet have a date for the Special Session the General Assembly will hold to pass an implementer bill. During this Special Session, the House and Senate will also take up legislation detailing the distribution of the remaining federal funds received through the American Rescue Plan (ARP). They are also expected to take up legislation to legalize and regulate the recreational use and sale of cannabis; a bill to do this (Senate Bill 1118) passed the Senate, but stalled in the House on the final day of session.
The $46 billion budget that covers FY2022 and FY2023 falls short in many areas. As is constitutionally required it is balanced, but, to achieve that, legislators relied on over $2 billion in money from the ARP. This use of federal money is a one-time thing. Two years from now, Connecticut will not have this resource to balance the books. That was part of the reason why CSEA joined with allies in the Recovery for All coalition to advocate for a realignment of our current tax system, which places too much of a burden on working people, and instead ask our state’s millionaires and billionaires to pay a little more in taxes. Governor Ned Lamont was adamant that this was a policy decision he was unwilling to explore, but the problems of Connecticut’s unfair tax system is not one that is just going to go away. Going forward, the work CSEA and other Recovery for All coalition partners do to fix this unequal system will be vital to ensuring that Connecticut has an economy that works for everyone and a budget that is not balanced on the backs of public employees.
The budget does not make progress in addressing short staffing issues that are experienced firsthand by CSEA members. It does not include increased funding for the educational programs in our state’s prisons provided by CSEA members. And, it does not include a consultant line item in the Department of Transportation’s section of the budget. All things CSEA members fought hard to achieve.
The budget, also, does not fund pandemic pay bonuses for workers who were required to go to worksites during the pandemic. CSEA members like those working in the Southbury Training School, in our state’s prison facilities, as family child care providers, or board of education workers like bus drivers and paraeducators literally put their lives on the line to do their jobs. Recognizing the commitment and bravery of these people with a pandemic pay bonus for the time they spent at their worksites is the right and fair thing to do. Creating a pandemic pay program and passing legislation to fund it with ARP money and put it into effect is at the core of CSEA’s Special Session agenda.
As frustrating as these things are, there are a few bright points in this year’s biennial budget: municipalities and boards of education are receiving an increase in state funds, the State Contracting Standards Board will finally be properly funded with enough money to do it’s important oversight work, and billions of dollars are going into the state employee pension and health care funds. This is not the budget that we would have passed, but it contains no layoffs and no attacks on collective bargaining.
Pass State Employee Contracts. All state employee collective bargaining agreements and binding arbitration awards must be approved by a vote of the House of Representatives and Senate. This session, the contract for the newest members of the CSEA family, State School Principals, passed through both chambers of the General Assembly with bipartisan support.
Paraeducator compensation improvement and career development. After many years of hard work, CSEA paraeducators, working with our brothers and sisters in other union locals that represent paras, passed legislation that will start the process of dramatically improving their pay, benefits, training, professional development, career opportunities, and working conditions. Sections 509 and 510 of House Bill 6621 will direct the School Paraeducator Advisory Council to spend the next several months compiling a series of legislative recommendations for the 2022 legislative session. This proposal will allow for the development of a statewide, uniform system for paraeducator qualifications, career development, pay rates, and retirement and health care benefits.
Post-Traumatic Stress Injury coverage for Department of Corrections workers. For years, members of CSEA’s Correction Supervisors Council have been working to pass legislation that expands PTSI coverage to include them, and other emergency responders. Although current law covers police officers, DOC-employed parole officers, and firefighters diagnosed with PTSI, other DOC workers, emergency dispatchers, and EMS workers were excluded. Senate Bill 660 corrects that problem and passed unanimously through both chambers of the General Assembly.
Early voting and no excuse voting by mail. Allowing voters to vote early or by mail without an excuse is something Connecticut should have done long ago. CSEA and allies helped pass two constitutional amendments that will give voters the chance to finally create a system of early and no excuse voting. House Joint Resolution 58, a constitutional amendment to allow no excuse absentee voting, passed through both chambers, but because it did not pass with a supermajority, it needs to be voted on again by legislators during next year’s General Assembly session. If it passes through the House and Senate, it will be placed on the 2024 General Election ballot. House Joint Resolution 59, a constitutional amendment to allow early in-person voting, passed through both chambers and will be on the 2022 General Election ballot for voter approval (it was already approved by both chambers during a previous session).
Protecting collective bargaining after the Supreme Court’s bad decision in the Janus case. Anti-union forces funded the Janus case because they saw it as an opportunity to deliver a body blow to the labor movement. For them, it was not about public policy or free speech, but a chance to financially hamstring labor unions. Labor unions are still here, members are still here, and now, thanks to the passage of Senate Bill 908, we have a key tool to ensure that members rights, jobs, and benefits are protected. The bill (1) requires public employers to provide the union with access to orientations for new public employee hires and up-to- date bargaining unit lists with worksite locations and contact information; (2) clarifies the dues deduction authorization process; (3) maintains the union’s ability to meet with members during the workday to respond to grievances, complaints and other issues; and (4) requires public employers to refrain from deterring or discouraging public employees from becoming or remaining members of a union.
These are just a few highlights from the 2021 Connecticut General Assembly session. With the State Capitol closed to the public due to the ongoing deadly COVID-19 pandemic, CSEA members rolled up their sleeves, literally and virtually, to pass, amend, and defeat legislation of crucial interest and importance. Some parts of our agenda - the public health care option (Senate Bill 842) and collective bargaining rights for probate court workers (House Bill 6382), for instance - did not move forward this session. Other bills we were able to stop - such as the privatization of building inspections (Senate Bill 846) - or fix - Senate Bill 920, for example, started as a bad public-private partnership bill, but CSEA members got it amended to take out dangerous language and to put in strong protections for workers and the general public - can always come back later.
As we close the chapter on this very unique legislative session of the Connecticut General Assembly, we look ahead and remember the words of former 1199 President Carmen Boudier, “The work, it never ends.”