April 28, 2021
Both the House and Senate met this week to refer and take action on bills. The House met on Monday where they covered and passed several bills with little to no opposition, including bills on housing authorities, studying the disparate impact of Covid-19, and allowing nursing home residents to use video technology to contact family members. In contrast, the Senate convened yesterday to vote on the bill eliminating the religious exemption to vaccines, which was passed by the house previously.
This prompted a major turnout of over 3,000 protestors who opposed the bill to rally at the capitol during the proceedings. After only 9 hours of debate (compared with 20 in the House), the bill passed the senate and was signed into law by the Governor today. The Senate met again today where they covered a longer agenda of relatively noncontroversial issues and referred over 50 bills that require “mandatory referrals." For reference, if a bill will cost the state money, it must be referred to Appropriations; if it will affect revenue, it must be referred to Finance; and if it carries a penalty over a certain threshold, it must be referred to Judiciary.
While certain bills may benefit from other committee action/vetting, the Senate appears to be limiting any referrals to these three committees. It is expected that the House will convene again as early as next Tuesday. The Senate is likely to convene again next week as well although a date has not yet been set. Additionally, Democrat Corey Paris claims victory in special election for state's 145th House District which was former State Rep. Pat Billie Miller's seat.
Governor Lamont Signs Bill Eliminating Religious Exemption for Vaccines
After passing both the House and Senate Governor Lamont signed the controversial vaccine bill which eliminates the religious, or non-medical, exemption for student vaccines. This bill saw long debates in both chambers where it ultimately passed on largely party lines. The law will take effect in September 2022. Children already in grades K-12 will be grandfathered in, meaning they can still claim the religious exemption. However, those starting school from then on, cannot claim it. Opponents of this bill pledged to take the state to court arguing it is an unconstitutional infringement on religious rights.
Connecticut to Adopt CDC Recommendations
The Governor announced Tuesday that the state will be following new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on the wearing of masks outdoors, which says that fully vaccinated individuals do not need to wear face coverings unless they are in a crowd of strangers. Gov. Ned Lamont said Connecticut will embrace those guidelines, effective immediately. The CDC is still recommending face masks be worn indoors whether you are fully vaccinated or not. They also recommend vaccinated individuals still wear masks outdoors when in large crowds, such as at sporting events or concerts.
Additionally, beginning on May 19, hundreds of Connecticut restaurants will offer a free drink to customers who order food and can prove they have been vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. The “Connecticut Drinks On Us" Program is aimed at encouraging both vaccine uptake and patronage of the state's restaurants. With much of the state vaccinated, vaccination appointments are no longer required at several locations.
Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee's Agenda
The Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee overwhelmingly voted Thursday to send a bill that creates a state-run public option health insurance plan to the Senate. A public option health insurance plan would allow small businesses and nonprofits purchase health insurance through the Connecticut Partnership Plan, which already covers municipal and school employees. The idea is that it would compete with private carriers and lower costs for everyone who purchases insurance. Despite committee passage, the biggest obstacle may be Gov. Ned Lamont as he voices some concerns about a “one size fits all package." The democrat-controlled committee also voted Thursday to raise taxes on higher-earners through a new “consumption tax" and establish a digital advertising tax to help pay for tax cuts for lower-income families in a two-year $46 billion budget proposal. The package includes a variety of taxes and tax credits that impact individuals and businesses around the state.
Connecticut's Plan for the American Rescue Act Funds
Monday, Governor Ned Lamont gave his proposal to the Connecticut General Assembly on how he plans to spend Connecticut's portion of the American Rescue Act Funds. Lamont centered his plans on jump-starting the economy, helping students recover from a pandemic learning gap, maintaining the battle against COVID-19 and avoiding any hikes in state taxes. He plans to use nearly two-thirds of the $2.6 billion in direct federal relief sent to Connecticut's coffers to help balance the next biennial state budget without tax increases.
That said, pursuant to Special Act 21-1, the Governor's plan is only a recommendation he must provide to the Connecticut General Assembly. The law also requires the legislature's Appropriations Committee to create its own proposal by May 16, and then the two plans will be subject to final negotiations between the legislature and the Governor.
As of March 19, 2021, Governor Lamont's Executive Order No.9S, Section 1 regarding travel is no longer in effect.
Connecticut residents and travelers to Connecticut should follow travel- related guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Connecticut Department of Public Health (CT DPH). Mandates and requirements are not currently in place in Connecticut.
During a public health emergency, the Governor essentially can run the state via executive order. Please review the Governor's most recent Executive Orders: 11, 11A, 11B, 11C, 11D, 11E.
Please review the updated list of executive orders here.