On January 4, the 2017 session of the Connecticut General Assembly begins. The session is scheduled to adjourn on June 7, 2017. Numerous proposed bills affecting Connecticut employers and employees will be unleashed during the session, most of which will never see the light of day.
The Labor and Public Employees Committee will be where the “real” action initially occurs. Hearings on those bills deemed somewhat worthy by the Committee will likely take place in February and early March. While not yet firmly scheduled, the deadline for the Committee to approve and “forward” bills out of Committee will be sometime in mid-March. Bills affecting labor and employment issues may also emerge from other committees (such as the Judiciary Committee).
While it is always difficult to forecast with certainty what the General Assembly may contemplate, especially now that there is a closer balance between the two major political parties, legislation concerning the following matters may receive serious consideration:
1) workers’ compensation coverage for severe emotional trauma;
2) extensions of “ban the box” to further restrict an employer’s ability to consider a new hire’s prior criminal history;
3) the establishment of firm timelines for the issuance of awards by the State Board of Mediation and Arbitration and the State Board of Labor Relations, including interest arbitration awards under the Municipal Employee Relations Act;
4) revisions to the Connecticut Family and Medical Leave Act, including a program of paid FMLA leave;
5) revisions to the “prevailing wage” threshold for public construction projects;
6) increases to the minimum wage and efforts to increase penalties for employers of “low wage” workers who violate wage and hour laws;
7) revisions to unemployment compensation benefit calculations; and
8) further adjustments to the investigatory and hearing procedures for the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.
Of course, attempts to resolve the state’s continuing fiscal crisis will likely predominate during this session, and the increased membership and role of the Republican Party in the General Assembly may have a cooling effect with respect to the advancement of traditionally “pro-labor” or “progressive” legislation.
Working Together will follow the action at the General Assembly and report on any significant developments as they may occur. There is always the potential for last minute surprises, including bill provisions emerging with little or no debate. Stay tuned.