What’s New In CT? New Laws On The Books

A number of bills have made their way out of the House and Senate and onto Gov. Ned Lamont’s desk, where they were signed into law in the past few weeks after the state’s General Assembly 2021 Regular Session adjourned on June 9th.

They did convene a special session this week to tackle the legal marijuana bill, which was passed and signed and goes into effect on July 1st.

Bills signed into law in the past few weeks are:
Senate Bill 1019: Called the “clean slate bill”. This reform bill wipes out the records of criminal convictions after 7-10 years, including some felonies. The provisions do not apply to class A, B, or C felonies, some unclassified felonies, family violence crimes, or certain crimes requiring sex offender registration.

During the first full session after George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis in May 2020, Connecticut legislators passed a slew of bills aimed at reforming the state’s justice system.

• They passed a measure that automatically clears certain convictions from a person’s record if they stay crime-free for seven or 10 years.
• They approved a bill that curtails the Department of Correction’s use of solitary confinement.
• They gave final passage to a measure that enables free telephone calls for the incarcerated.
• They expanded the definition of domestic violence to include “coercive control”.
• Broadened the crimes for which people can ask the court to vacate if they committed that crime while they were a human trafficking victim.

Misdemeanors become eligible for erasure after seven years, and class D and E felonies, or unclassified felonies with prison terms of five years or less, can be wiped after 10 years. The records are erased automatically for offenses that occurred on or after Jan. 1, 2000. For offenses before then, the records are erased when the person files a petition. This law was signed on June 10th, and becomes effective Jan. 1, 2023.

House Bill 5158 addresses nursing employees. Existing law requires employers to make reasonable efforts to provide a room or other location near a nursing employee’s work area, other than a toilet stall, so the mother can express her milk in private during a meal or break period. That law’s been upgraded, and effective October 1st, that designated nursing area must be free from intrusion and shielded from the public, include or be near a refrigerator or employee-provided portable cold storage device in which the employee can store her breast milk, and have access to an electrical outlet.

House Bill 6105: When a child born in Connecticut gets adopted, the Department of Public Health seals their original birth certificate and creates a new one, substituting the adoptive parents’ names. Persons adopted prior to October 1983 would have to get a court order if they wanted to obtain their original birth certificate. If either of their birth parents were still alive, it would become more difficult. House Bill 6105 obtaining a copy of an original have been mostly removed, regardless of when the adoption took place. The new law, effective July 1, also moves most of the paperwork associated with obtaining the document away from the state Department of Health and over to the town registrar.

House Bill 63880, requires employers to provide both their existing employees and job applicants with the wage range of the positions they have or for which they are applying. Included in the bill’s definition of “wage range” is the pay scale, previously determined wage ranges for the position, actual wage ranges for current employees, and the employer’s budgeted amount for the position, as applicable. The law goes into effect on October 1st.

House Bill 6491, “An Act Concerning Electronic Weapons,” allows those age 21 and older to carry an “electronic defense weapon” if they possess a valid firearm credential, such as an eligibility certificate or permit to carry or sell handguns or long guns, or an ammunition certificate. Currently, such a weapon will score you a class D felony if carried in a motor vehicle, and a class E felony if you’re just carrying it.

Senate Bill 840 allows certain aquaculture operations, including farm, forest, open space, and maritime heritage land to be taxed based on current use value rather than fair market value. The bill also expands Connecticut’s shellfish restoration program by allowing the state to acquire, and not just purchase, the cultch material necessary to deposit on and build out state shellfish beds. The bill also makes some tweaks to the Connecticut Seafood Advisory Council and renames it the Connecticut Seafood Development Council. The new law is effective October 1st.

Senate Bill 908, which goes into effect on October 1st, mandates that employers must provide the union with every new employee’s name, job title, work address, work phone number and home address within 10 days of the hiring. The employer must also allow the union access to new employees’ orientation, and government buildings and facilities to hold union meetings.

Senate Bill 1093 now makes it a crime to “entice a juvenile to commit a criminal act”. You will have committed this class A misdemeanor if you are at least 23 years old and knowingly cause, encourage, solicit, recruit, intimidate or coerce a minor to commit or participate in a crime. This bill also does away with “no knock warrants,” whereby law enforcement officers could enter certain premises without first knocking and announcing their presence or purpose. The law will also allow a judge or jury to draw an “unfavorable inference” from a police officer’s deliberate failure to record the use of physical force on their bodycam. All these go into effect October 1st.

House Bill 6107. The new law requires that zoning regulations, among other provisions, be designed to address disparities in housing needs and access to educational and occupational opportunities. It also requires zoning regulations to provide for, rather than merely encourage, the development of housing opportunities for all residents of the town, including opportunities for multifamily dwellings. The law was signed June 10th, and went into effect immediately.

Senate Bill 1083 instituted changes to current public health statues, including:

• Health clubs must maintain at least one automatic external defibrillator, and employ someone who knows how to use it
• 16-year-olds, with written parental consent, may give blood. The existing law, which remains unchanged, allows a person age 17 or older to do so without consent.
• Hospitals may provide the written discharge materials and document acknowledgement of them solely through electronic means
• Marriage license applications and certificates must replace references to “bride” and “groom” with “spouse one” and “spouse two,” and remove references to a spouse’s race or ethnicity.

More than 40 bills on environmental issues – most of them related to climate change – were proposed during the session, but relatively few made it through.

One of the casualties was the Transportation and Climate Initiative. Proponents called it the most important climate change legislation in a decade. Opponents called it a gas tax. It would allow the state to develop its plan to cut carbon emissions in the transportation sector as part of a large regional strategy. Gas prices would likely go up slightly as a result. It didn’t get a vote in either chamber, but advocates, who say the votes for passage are there, are pushing to include it in the upcoming special session.

Another emissions bill that could wind up in the special session would start a process to tighten emissions on medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. It passed the Senate but was not taken up in the House.

After years of contentious hearings and demonstrations, the General Assembly succeeded in passing a bill repealing Connecticut’s religious exemption from mandatory school vaccinations. Under the new law, the religious exemption will be erased starting September 1st, 2022. Students in kindergarten through 12th grade who currently claim the exemption will be allowed to continue using it for the remainder of their academic careers, while those in pre-kindergarten, day care or who are new to the school system will no longer qualify.

Lawmakers also adopted broad health equity reforms, declaring racism a public health crisis, requiring better data collection on race and ethnicity in health care, mandating that hospitals conduct implicit bias training for employees who provide direct care to pregnant or postpartum women, requiring that the public health commissioner study the development of a recruitment and retention program for state health care workers who are people of color, and directing the health department to explore whether to create a certification process for doulas.

Other ambitious health care reform efforts, however, failed to cross the finish line.

Legislators failed again this year to pass legislation that would expand government-sponsored health insurance. The latest version of the public option bill would have extended that coverage to small businesses and nonprofits, and also expand access to Medicaid and add an assessment on insurance carriers that would fund additional subsidies on the state’s health insurance exchange.

A bill that would let terminally ill patients access medication to end their lives did not come up for a vote in either chamber

Housing insecurity was considered by the legislature with several reforms that aimed to address the state’s longstanding issues surrounding segregation and housing insecurity. With an onslaught of evictions expected in the coming months, legislation ensuring that low-income tenants have access to an attorney was signed by the governor this week.

Ambitious changes in state law aimed at remedying the high housing costs and the segregation that festers between poor and tony municipalities were not approved.

Legislation that would have made it easier for those with Section 8 housing vouchers to use it more places — as well as allow housing authorities the ability to develop public housing in neighboring suburban towns — was not approved, despite the threat of the federal government forcing Connecticut to make the change.

In an effort to respect local control, but not allow towns to ignore their obligations under the Federal Fair Housing laws, another bill that failed to win approval would have left it entirely up to municipalities to determine how to provide their so-called “fair share” of affordable housing but would have attached strict enforcement mechanisms if a town’s plan or implementation was not ambitious enough.

Language was scrapped from another bill that would have required towns to allow the construction of multi-unit housing around some train stations and suburban towns’ commercial centers. Instead, legislation was signed by the governor that would require towns to allow single-family homeowners to convert parts of their dwellings or detached garages into so-called accessory dwelling units, nicknamed “granny pods,” without needing special permission from local officials — but it allows towns to vote to opt out.

The bill places limit on how many parking spaces a new home or apartment must have — but also allows towns to vote to opt out. That bill also strikes current state law that requires zoning regulation to consider the “character of the district” with “physical site characteristics” that local officials must prescribe.

Education: In the wake of the pandemic that caused trauma in the lives of so many children — and with many more children showing up in hospital emergency rooms in crisis — scaling up social-emotional learning in schools and addressing children’s mental health was a top priority this legislative session.

Legislation an influx of state and federal aid to help local school districts and cities and towns respond and recover from the pandemic is headed for municipalities.

A bill that would allow Connecticut college athletes to profit off their names, images and likenesses, as well as make money through endorsements and hire an agent, passed out of the General Assembly this session and is awaiting the governor’s approval. If signed into law, Connecticut would join several other states with similar legislation in place, but a pending decision from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) could also create a nationwide policy.

Legislation was passed that would require college campuses to distribute a sexual misconduct survey to students every two years has to date not been signed by Gov. Lamont. It would establish a council that would be required to submit a report about survey results to the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee. The measure would also provide amnesty to those who report an assault so that they will not be subject to disciplinary action for violating a college’s drug or alcohol policy. Another bill heading to Lamont would require colleges and universities in the state to include campus accidents resulting in death or serious physical injury in each institution’s annual crime and safety report.

Crumbling foundations: Gov. Ned Lamont has signed into law a comprehensive crumbling foundation bill that aims to protect unsuspecting buyers from purchasing affected homes. It also establishes a low-interest loan program for repairs, allows condominium owners to participate in the captive insurance company, and develops more cost-effective methods for repairs.

The bill makes permanent the Connecticut Foundation Solutions Indemnity Company (CFSIC), a captive insurance company created to distribute money to homeowners with faulty foundations as a result of the mineral pyrrhotite. The CFSIC will also study the damage related to pyrrhotite in nonresidential buildings, an attempt to keep track of further incidences of decay.

The legislation will direct up to $175,000 from the Healthy Homes Fund for the CFSIC study’s expenses, and it authorizes the commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to adopt regulations for the testing of pyrrhotite in aggregate held in quarries.

Concrete aggregate quarries in the state will submit an annual operations plan to the state geologist and DEEP commissioner, and they will also submit a geological source report (GSR) every four years to keep tabs on the status of the concrete that is used.

The bill removes a five-year maximum on reduced assessments for properties made with abnormal concrete. Homeowners will benefit from the reduced assessments, and they can rest easier knowing some of the burden has been lifted from their shoulders.

Sports betting: A bill legalizing sports betting and online casino games and lottery sales in Connecticut won final passage, an effort to boost state revenues and help casino employment rebound in the state’s struggling southeastern corner. Passage came after a relatively brief debate, an anticlimactic ending to a multi-year push to expand the customer base of Foxwoods Resort and Mohegan Sun, two tribal casinos squeezed by competition in New York, Rhode Island and Massachusetts and a temporary closure forced by COVID-19.

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