After a few weeks at a frantic pace, legislative hearings are coming to an end for most committees in the General Assembly. Two committees — Appropriations and Finance — will remain active during the next few weeks, with the state budget even more front and center.
We are at the midpoint of the legislative session. As this is our 10th Voices from the Capitol newsletter, we want to ask you for your feedback with this brief survey. It won't take more than 5 minutes of your time to complete, but your responses will help us make Voices from the Capitol even more helpful as we reach the crucial days of the session.
This week: Committee Hearings
Thursday, March 16 – Room 2C, 10:30 AM
H.B. No. 7252 An Act Establishing an Adjudication Process for Special Education and the Right of Parents to Observe their Child at School.
This bill gives parents the right to observe their children at school and establishes a process for parents to advocate for their children.
Why is it important? We support this bill because observation is an important part of advocating for children with special needs, especially children who have difficulty communicating with others.
H.B. No. 7255 An Act Establishing a Task Force to Conduct a Feasibility Study Regarding the Creation of a Special Education Predictable Cost Cooperative.
This bill seeks to study a method for making special education costs more predictable and affordable for municipalities.
Why is it important? We applaud the intent of the bill but have concerns about representation within the task force as well as the narrow focus of the study on a predictable cost cooperative. We will advocate to expand the task force to include representatives of children with disabilities; parents of children with disabilities; special education advocates; special education instructors; and academic experts in special education. We will also advocate to expand the focus of this taskforce to consider multiple ways to ensure adequate funding for special education.
How to testify (for either bill): Public speakers will be determined by a lottery system. Lottery numbers will be drawn from 8:00 A.M. to 9:00 A.M in the first floor atrium of the LOB. Bring 45 copies of your testimony. If you want to submit written testimony, e-mail to EDtestimony@cga.ct.gov.
Friday, March 17 – Room 2E, 12:00 AM
You can find the agenda for the hearing here.
How to testify: A lottery determines speaker order, sign up is from 10:00 A.M. to 11:00 A.M in the first floor atrium of the LOB. Bring 35 copies of your testimony. If you want to submit written testimony, e-mail to FINtestimony@cga.ct.gov.
News: Hearings and Budget Updates
Judiciary Committee (March 13)
H.B. No. 6002 An Act Concerning "Sexting" by a Child
This bill would prevent children under the age of thirteen from being punished more harshly than children over age thirteen for engaging in sexting behaviors.
Why is it important? Currently, sexting (sending sexual photos of oneself, or receiving them) is a misdemeanor for minors over thirteen – but a felony for children twelve and under. Sexting is a risky, but normalized, behavior during adolescent development. Imposing felony charges upon children who engage in sexting doesn't protect children – it hurts them further. Connecticut should extend the misdemeanor exception to all minors, so children who engage sexting receive age appropriate diversion services and access to supports. Here is our testimony.
The Governor's budget takes on significant structural imbalances in the state budget and is balanced in its approach in that this year's budget includes cuts and revenue, unlike last year's cuts-only approach. New revenue in the Governor's budget, however, is generated largely by raising taxes on those who can least afford it, low- to middle-income families, while at the same time providing an average tax cut of approximately $100,000 for some 600 residents by raising the estate tax exemption. See our testimony here for more details, including an estate tax compromise proposal that would cost less in term of lost revenue.
We also remain concerned about proposals to exempt retirement income given the state's rapidly aging population and the impact it could have on the adequacy of income tax collections in the future. We have also proposed a compromise proposal that would exempt retirement income for resident earning less than $150,000 per year, which you can find here.
For additional information, see the impact of last year's cuts-only approach on the Children's Budget here, and see our analysis of the Governor's current biennial budget recommendations here.
Spotlight: The Federal Health Reform Bill
The American Health Care Act (AHCA) is the legislation introduced last week in the U.S. House of Representatives to replace the Affordable Care Act. The AHCA represents the largest cut to federal health insurance programs in a generation. Its impacts are wide ranging, starting with the loss of insurance coverage for millions of low- and middle-income children and families, steep increases in out-of-pocket health care costs for millions of families, significant long term fiscal impacts on state budgets, and major tax cuts that go disproportionately to the wealthiest one percent of taxpayers.
We will be looking at the effects of the AHCA in Connecticut in the coming weeks. For now, here is what we have been reading on the new law:
- The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is expected to release its official report on the AHCA as early as today. The Five Big Numbers to Look For in the C.B.O. Report on Health Care Reform
- House Tax Credits Would Make Health Insurance Far Less Affordable in High-Cost States
- House Republicans' ACA Repeal Plan Would Mean Big Tax Cuts for Wealthy, Insurers, Drug Companies
- House Republican Health Plan Shifts $370 Billion in Medicaid Costs to States
- Top 5 Reasons the House GOP Bill to Repeal the ACA is Bad for Children and Families
- Changing Medicaid to a Block Grant or Per Capita Cap Could Hurt Connecticut Residents
- Tax Credits under the Affordable Care Act vs. the American Health Care Act: An Interactive Map
- Who Wins and Who Loses Under Republicans' Health Care Plan
- American Health Care Act: Who gains and loses in Connecticut?
Connecticut Voices for Children has joined the Protect Our Care CT campaign to protect the gains that we have made as a nation and a state in health coverage and care. The campaign brings together organizations and individuals who are taking action to preserve health care for the hundreds of thousands of Connecticut residents who rely on Affordable Care Act protections, Medicare, Medicaid/HUSKY, Access Health CT, and women's health programs. The campaign's website has links to many ACA/AHCA related resources, as well as more information on their campaign and how to join.
The Hispanic Federation, Connecticut General Assembly's Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, and the Commission on Equity and Opportunity are hosting the Diversity in Public Policy-Policy Day for Communities of Color in Connecticut at the Capitol on Thursday, March 16th.
Policy Day for Communities of Color is a one-day public forum that brings together leaders, policymakers, community advocates, and constituents across our state to discuss and advance successful initiatives that support and promote government policy, program initiatives, and contributions to our mission of building strong families and strong communities. Panels and topics to be discussed include:
- Session 1: From Budget Stability to Equity-How Do We Get There: 1:10 – 2:10 PM
- Session 2: The Formula for Education Equity: 2:15 – 3:15 PM
- Session 3: Achieving Health Equity: 3:30 -4:30 PM
Connecticut Voices for Children will participate in the first panel. You can register for the event here.
What We are Reading:
- Handing Out Tax Breaks to Businesses Is Worse Than Useless: A new study on how states spend money on economic development incentives.
- Does Universal Preschool Hit the Target? Program Access and Preschool Impacts: a new study suggests that universal Pre-K programs have much stronger positive impacts than those only targeted at low-income children.
- Left Behind: 20 Years After Sheff v. O'Neill, Students Struggle In Hartford's Segregated Neighborhood Schools: first article of a series of three by the Hartford Courant.
- States that raise the age see cost savings, less recidivism, JPI report says – CT Mirror reports on a new report from the Justice Policy Institute.
- We appreciate your feedback – make sure to fill out our survey to help us improve our Voices from the Capitol newsletter.
- Take action – we sent an alert urging you to call your legislators and tell them that we need a balanced budget approach that includes new revenue. Call now if you haven't done so.