State Capital Notes …
In the second session of the biennium, Connecticut legislators approved a $19 billion budget for FY15 that increases spending by 2.5%.
Toward the end of the session, revised revenue forecasts forced lawmakers to scale back in a number of areas. Gov. Dannel Malloy’s promise to provide Connecticut taxpayers with a $55 rebate was put on hold as projections for declining revenues came into focus. Also, plans were put off for a year to give retired teachers an income tax break as were cuts to the sales tax on clothing and nonprescription medications.
After passing Keno in the previous session, lawmakers repealed it in the second session. Nonpartisan fiscal analysts forecast a shortfall of $1.4 billion for FY15. Questions remain about how to address a looming budget shortfall without increasing taxes. Administration officials maintain that outstanding tax receipts will materialize to reduce the shortfall, while Republican lawmakers question the wisdom of relying on those who have yet to pay their taxes
The budget includes:
- $70 million in grants to Connecticut municipalities
- $50 million in additional funding for Educational Cost Sharing
- $21 million for PILOT (payments in lieu of taxes) to cities, towns with private colleges, hospitals and state-owned land
- $42 million in operational funding for Connecticut State Universities and Colleges
- $10 million to improve remedial education
- $83.5 million in bond funding as part of the Transform CSCU initiative
- $9.4 million to enroll 3– and 4-year olds of low-income families in preschool
- $13.5 million increase in funding for magnet schools
- $12 million for past-due state and real estate conveyance tax revenues to cities and towns
- $10 million in additional funding for certain outpatient mental health services
- $3 million to $4 million for mental health services to children and adults on Medicaid.
Lawmakers raised the minimum wage: rising from $8.70 per hour to $9.15 in January 2015, then up $9.60 in 2016 and to $10.10 in 2017. Three other New England states have taken similar action. Massachusetts will raise the minimum wage to $11 by Jan. 1, 2017, the highest in the nation. Rhode Island increased the minimum wage to $9 beginning in January 2015. Over the next four years, the minimum wage in Vermont will increase to $10.50 in January 2018.
Building on the success of the Subsidized Training and Employment Program (Step Up), Connecticut lawmakers provided an additional $10 million to help small businesses hire more employees.
Lawmakers also created a “new apprentice” grant program under Step Up, which provides grants to small businesses and manufacturers to hire high school and college students.
In exchange for $400 million in tax relief, United Technologies Corp. (UTC) will invest $500 million at several of its locations, including: a new world headquarters and engineering facility in East Hartford; renovated, refurbished lab and office space in UTC’s Research Center in East Hartford; a new customer training center and engineering lab at the UTC Aerospace Systems facility in Windsor Locks; and upgrades to the engineering lab and other facilities at Sikorsky Aircraft in Stratford. Malloy suggested the deal will preserve an engineering knowledge base essential not only to UTC, but also to thousands of small subcontractors and suppliers.
Lawmakers enacted new consumer protection initiatives that will make electric rates, customer accounts and billing more transparent. Suppliers will be prohibited from raising rates for the first three billing cycles of new supplier contracts entered into on or after July 1, 2014. The law requires electric suppliers to notify residential customers in advance of certain rate changes and prohibits them from charging early termination fees to residents who move within the state and do not change suppliers or residents who lack a contract with a supplier and receive month-to-month variable rates.
The Legislature also prohibited hydraulic fracturing waste in Connecticut until the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection adopts regulations to control it as a hazardous waste and imposes certain licensing and disclosure requirements.
Legislators restored the Earned Income Tax Credit to 27.5% for 2015, up from the 25% it had been lowered to in the 2013 session.
Higher Ed Legislation Enacted
An Act Making Adjustments to State Expenditures and Revenues for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2015, (Sections 50-57)
In 2011, when Malloy and state legislators were confronted with an unprecedented deficit, funding for the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities was cut by 15%.
In FY15, as part of Malloy’s Transform CSCU initiative, state lawmakers approved $42 million in new funding in the state budget, including: $24 million in new operating funds and tuition support; $1 million for Early College Program; $10.8 million for developmental education; and $6 million for Malloy’s Go Back to Get Ahead intended to encourage individuals who dropped out of a higher education degree program to return and earn a degree. Eligible participants may receive up to three free three-credit courses required to complete an associate or bachelor’s degree program. To be eligible, the student must be a Connecticut resident, previously enrolled in an associate or bachelor’s degree program at any public or private college or university, left before completing the degree program, not attended any college or university for at least 18 months as a June 30, 2014, and enrolled in an associate or bachelor’s degree program by Sept. 30, 2016 at a Connecticut State University, Connecticut Community College or Charter Oak State College.
An Act Implementing Provisions of the State Budget for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2015, (Section 68)
Requires the Connecticut Board of Regents (BoR) to report to the General Assembly and submit monthly reports on developmental education, Go Back to Get Ahead, early college/dual enrollment programs and Transform CSCU 2020. Allows the Department of Education, BOR and UConn to consult with the Connecticut Department of Banking to institute a program of financial literacy for students in high school and higher education institutions.
An Act Authorizing and Adjusting Bonds of the State for Capital Improvements, Transportation and Other Purposes, and Concerning Miscellaneous Programs, including the Smart Start Program, the Water Improvement System Program, School Security Grants, the Regenerative Medicine Research Fund, the Connecticut Manufacturing Innovation Fund and the BOR for Higher Education Infrastructure Act.
Changes the name of the Connecticut State University System (CSUS) 2020 program to the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) 2020 program to include Connecticut Community Colleges and Charter Oak State College. Adds $83.5 million in new funding and $20 million in reauthorization of community college bonds for the system. Requires the BOR to report to the General Assembly’s Finance and Higher Education Committees the details of allocating the funds in a timely fashion.
An Act Concerning the English Language Learner Educator Incentive Program
Redesigns a loan-reimbursement program for teachers that is administered by the Office of Higher Education (OHE) as an incentive grant and loan program for college and university students studying to be teachers of English language learners.
An Act Establishing Uniform State Academic Degree Standards
Requires the University of Connecticut Board of Trustees to follow certain statutory requirements concerning standards set by the OHE when approving academic programs. Also eliminates the BOR authority to impose penalties on public institutions for violating program approval and licensure and accreditation requirements.
An Act Implementing the Recommendations of the Legislative Program Review and Investigations Committee on the Reemployment of Older Workers as They Relate to the Labor Department.
Requires the BOR to explore expansion of the advanced manufacturing center model to create centers of excellence in other career areas. Requires institutions to implement the Plus 50 initiative (based on national American Association of Community Colleges project to assess innovative college programs that engage workers ages 50 or older). By Jan. 1, 2015, the BOR must establish consistent parameters for noncredit vocational courses and programs recognized by each institution. Makes information available about financial aid.
An Act Concerning Sexual Assault, Stalking and Intimate Partner Violence on Campus, as amended by Sec. 163 of HB 5597 PA 14-217)
Expands the scope of the law requiring public and independent higher education institutions to adopt and disclose one or more policies on sexual assault and intimate partner violence and offer sexual assault and intimate partner violence primary prevention and awareness programming and campaigns. Specifically, the act applies to stalking and all institutions’ employees and requires for-profit institutions licensed to operate in Connecticut to comply with these requirements. It also requires all public, independent, and for-profit institutions to immediately provide concise written notification to each victim regarding his or her rights and options under the institution’s policies after a reported incident, and allows all institutions to permit anonymous reporting.
Requires all higher education institutions to report annually to the Higher Education Committee concerning their policies, prevention and awareness programming and campaigns, and the number of incidents and disciplinary cases involving sexual assault, stalking and intimate partner violence. It also requires institutions to include information about stalking and family violence in their annual uniform campus crime reports.
All higher education institutions must establish a campus resource team to review their policies and recommend protocols for providing support and services to students and employees who report being victims. The act establishes: 1) membership and education requirements for the team; 2) education requirements for the institution’s Title IX coordinator and special police force, campus police force or campus safety personnel; and 3) training requirements for members of the state or local police who respond to campus incidents.
Requires all higher education institutions to enter into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with at least one community-based sexual assault crisis service center and one community-based domestic violence agency. The MOU must establish a partnership with the service center and agency and ensure that victims can access free and confidential counseling and advocacy services, either on or off campus.
Exempts Charter Oak State College from several of this act’s requirements.
An Act Conforming Higher Education Purchasing Statutes with Department of Administrative Services Purchasing Statutes and Practice.
Allows the president of an institution to join with federal agencies, other states, Connecticut political subdivisions or private or nonprofit organizations in cooperative purchasing plans when it is in the state’s best interests to do so.
An Act Concerning Revisions to the Higher Education Statutes and Military Occupational Licensing Data.
Amends a law requiring various governmental licensing authorities to certify, waive, grant or award licenses, registrations, examinations, training or credit to veterans or armed forces or National Guard members with military experience or qualifications similar to those otherwise required. It limits the circumstances under which licensing authorities must inquire about applicants’ service member status and information authorities must annually report to the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
Requires the BOR and the UConn Board of Trustees to submit separate reports containing information that differs from the other licensing authorities’ and extends their first annual reporting deadline.
Changes reporting requirements for the Planning Commission for Higher Education, which by law must develop and ensure implementation of a strategic master plan for higher education in the state.
An Act Concerning the Findings of the Military Occupational Specialty Task Force as mended by House Bill 5028—An Act Concerning Revisions to the Higher Education Statutes and Military Occupational Licensing Data.
Section 11 requires higher education institutions to award college credit for military occupational specialty training to service members enrolled at the institution. The applicant must have experience in a military occupation recognized as substituting or meeting requirements of a course of study.
By July 1, 2016, the BOR must develop and adopt guidelines for awarding college credit for a student’s military training, coursework and education which must include course-equivalency recommendations adopted by the American Council on Education and other institutions deemed reputable by the BOR and the University of Connecticut Board.
An Act Concerning a Plan for Participation in a State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement Regarding Distance Learning Programs
Requires OHE to report to the Higher Education and Cultural Affairs Committee in January 2015 with a plan to enter into a multistate or regional reciprocity agreement that will allow for participation by the state and Connecticut institutions of higher education in a nationwide state authorization reciprocity agreement establishing uniform standards for distance-learning programs across states and eliminating the need for a participating state to assess the quality of a distance-learning program offered by an out-of-state institution of higher education through such the participating state’s traditional authorization licensing and accreditation process.
K-12 Legislation Enacted
An Act Establishing the Office of Early Childhood, Expanding Opportunities for Early Childhood Education and Concerning Dyslexia and Special Education
Creates the Office of Early Childhood (OEC) as the lead agency for the early care and education of young children. OEC will be responsible for administering early childhood programs previously administered by departments of Education, Social Services and Public Health. Also requires that all teacher-preparation programs that lead to teacher certification include instruction on detection and recognition of and evidence-based interventions for students with dyslexia.
An Act Establishing the Connecticut Smart Start Program
Creates the Connecticut Smart Start competitive grant program to be administered by the OEC with assistance from the Department of Education to reimburse boards of education with capital and operating grants to establish or expand a preschool program.
An Act Concerning a Plan for Career Readiness and Manufacturing Apprenticeship Preparation Programs at the Technical High Schools.
Requires the technical high school system to collaborate with the departments of Labor and Education and the BOR to develop a plan that would use technical high school manufacturing centers during off-hours for career readiness programs and DOL-approved apprenticeship training.
An Act Concerning the Recommendations of the Uniform Regional School Calendar Task Force, Licensure Exemptions for Certain After-School Programs and Expanding Opportunities Under the Subsidized Training and Employment Program.
Creates “new apprentice” grant program under the Step Up to provide grants for small businesses and manufacturers to hire high school and college students. A “new apprentice” is defined as a student in a public or private high school, preparatory school or higher education institution.
Carolyn Morwick handles government and community relations at NEBHE and is former director of the Caucus of New England State Legislatures.