Session Opens

The 2009 legislative session got underway today. The governor gave her state of the state address, which struck an unsurprisingly somber tone about the bleak financial picture. The message is pretty clear: cuts, big ones, are on the way.

There are already some very, very interesting new bills that have been filed. Let’s take a look:

Rep. Joe Mioli has proposed quite a bit of legislation. For instance, AN ACT PROHIBITING THE RETAIL USE OF PLASTIC BAGS would, well, ban retail use of plastic bags. Simple enough.

Another: AN ACT CONCERNING THE IMPOSITION OF THE ESTATE TAX, which would eliminate the “cliff” in the estate tax. No go?

One proposal of Rep. Mioli’s that I found especially interesting was this one, AN ACT INCREASING THE TERM OF OFFICE FOR MEMBERS OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY, which is being pushed as a way to cut expenditures of the Citizens’ Election Fund by half each cycle! The bill would amend the state constitution to “increase the term of office for members of the General Assembly from two years to four years. Additionally, the election of such members shall be staggered to have one-half of the members of each chamber of the General Assembly elected at each general election.” Hmm. I’d love to know what people think about this one.

The Interstate National Compact to elect the president by popular vote is back, and is sponsored by a ton of legislators. I bet it goes nowhere.

Another bill having to do with elections is AN ACT TO STUDY THE NEED FOR EARLY VOTING IN CONNECTICUT, proposed by Rep. Drew.

Rep. Morin has proposed AN ACT CONCERNING THE INSTITUTION BY MUNICIPALITIES OF A LOCAL HOTEL TAX, which I’m betting would be popular with cash-strapped towns and cities.

Rep. Drew wants to see more parking at train/bus stations, and has proposed AN ACT CONCERNING THE DETERMINATION OF PARKING NEEDS AT RAILROAD AND OTHER MASS TRANSIT STATIONS. Certain towns in Fairfield County won’t like this one.

Over in the Senate, a bill that I’m guessing will get a lot of play is AN ACT CONCERNING ECONOMIC SECURITY FOR CONNECTICUT FAMILIES. Still no word on what this bill will actually do.

Sen. Prague and Rep. Ryan want to stop CRRA from placing an ash landfill in Franklin or Windham, and has proposed AN ACT PROHIBITING THE ACQUISITION OR USE OF CERTAIN PARCELS OF LAND AS ASH RESIDUE DISPOSAL AREAS. I wonder if they had a problem with an ash landfill being in Hartford? Probably not.

Sen. Crisco is proposing AN ACT CONCERNING MONTHLY PAYMENT OF PROPERTY TAXES, which is designed to help people cope with high property taxes.

So, they’re off and running!

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27 responses to “Session Opens

  1. Heard the Gov’s speech on the radio today.

    Pretty much the as expected “We got no dough=Some sacred cows gotta go” schtick. Her best shot at lowering expectations….

    Didn’t I read the new House Speaker’s a union organizer?

    Definitely what we need in a position of power in Connecticut now!

    I’m sure he’ll be the first to sign on to ways to reduce spending.

    I hope someone said prayers before they started this year’s circus, anyone who pays taxes (and doesn’t belong to a union), is going to need them answered.

    Big time.

  2. I hope someone said prayers before they started this year’s circus, anyone who pays taxes (and doesn’t belong to a union), is going to need them answered.

    Hey, El Kabong admitting that union laborers enjoy economic security that at-will employees don’t?

    If that’s the GOP line this session, maybe we really are entering a new era of cooperation!

  3. Sen. Crisco is proposing AN ACT CONCERNING MONTHLY PAYMENT OF PROPERTY TAXES, which is designed to help people cope with high property taxes.

    Exactly how does paying monthly reduce property taxes? Most people escrow, and if you don’t it’s easy enough to put the money away on a scheduled basis to meet the taxes.
    Joe claims to be an accountant, but having watched him over the years, I have my doubts that he really has any real world skills. Paying taxes in six monthly installments rather than in a lump sum up front, is a reduction in cash flow to the town or city, and will cost them money eventually raising taxes.
    Poor Joe still hasn’t figured out that the only way to “reduce” property taxes is to reduce spending.

  4. Hey, El Kabong admitting that union laborers enjoy economic security that at-will employees don’t?

    Most at-will employees have jobs; while union ranks are now at what percentage of the total labor pool as opposed to 30 years ago?

  5. Rep. Drew wants to see more parking at train/bus stations, and has proposed AN ACT CONCERNING THE DETERMINATION OF PARKING NEEDS AT RAILROAD AND OTHER MASS TRANSIT STATIONS. Certain towns in Fairfield County won’t like this one.

    You’re right, and I live in one of those towns. But those towns need a dose of good ole fashioned big government to whack some sense into their heads.

    If anyone can explain why vast one-level lots should be maintained at below-market costs coupled with caps on out-of-town parking access and decade-long waiting lists, I’d love to hear it.

    IMHO, towns should either build parking to meet the demand, or charge enough to eliminate the waiting lists and subsidize other transit improvements. I’d prefer to see every interested transit customer able to rely on convenient parking, but if that’s not going to happen, why should Cash-Strapped Municipalities® leave cash on the table?

    On another note, are there any standalone bus terminals in Connecticut, or are they all part of “transit centers” that include trains / cabs / etc?

  6. I am of the belief that until the budget deficit is addressed, no other business should be taken up by the legislature. The legislature can not afford (literally) to not act swiftly and deal with this record deficit.

  7. If anyone can explain why vast one-level lots should be maintained at below-market costs coupled with caps on out-of-town parking access and decade-long waiting lists, I’d love to hear it.

    I certainly can’t explain it. If we want to get people off the highway and onto the train, stations need big, accessible parking lots or garages.

    On another note, are there any standalone bus terminals in Connecticut, or are they all part of “transit centers” that include trains / cabs / etc?

    There are a few actual bus-only terminals. I recall there being one in Meriden… but that was ten years ago. Out-of-state, Springfield’s bus station is around the corner and down the block from its train station.

  8. On another note, are there any standalone bus terminals in Connecticut, or are they all part of “transit centers” that include trains / cabs / etc?

    In Waterbury there is a unique situation with the transit system. The CT Transit busses have their pulse point around the Waterbury Green. The train station is a few blocks to the west, next to the Republican-American building. And the charter busses and taxis have their pulse point at a privately run “Travel Center” at the corner of Bank and Grand, a few blocks away from the green to the south!

    The city is working with the state DOT to build a multi-function transit center next to the train station, but it’s meeting some wierd resistance.

    The private “Travel Center” doesn’t want it because it complains it will lose business, which is a dubious argument at best. Their biggest customers are people going to Hartford, or Atlantic City, not NYC.

    CT Transit doesn’t want to move its pulse point off the green because it will lengthen routes. This despite the fact that the busses only run Mon-Sat, stop by 6:30 PM, and the routes haven’t been updated in over 50 years. But they hide behind a bogus claim of disenfranchisement to justify their stance.

    The resolution of this issue is still a few years off, but that the last that I heard on the issue.

  9. Plastic Bags. Is this the most important thing the legislature faces? I for the record find plastic bags more useful than paper bags. I used to live in Germany, where the grocery stores charged for plastic or paper bags…

    General Assembly Terms. Staggered four year terms would mean that half the state reps would have terms coinciding with the presidential years, and half wouldn’t. That seems odd. Also, you’re not going to solve the budget by eliminating the elections. Also, if you are for this bill, don’t you sort of have to be against the early voting bill? Early voting must make elections more expensive.

    Electoral Vote. If the EV system is so unfair, why should the US have Senators? Aren’t they equally unfair?

    Early Voting. I’m not a fan. Stuff happens in the last few days of a campaign. Also, how is this constitutional? I know other states do it, but still, how is it constitutional?

    Hotel Tax. Seriously, how much woud this raise? I assume that the casinos are exempt since they’re on a reservation. What would the rates be?

    RR Parking. Absolutely. It is crazy that as a state we spend huge sums on trains, then have waiting lists for parking that are several years long. At the very least, the local towns should not have the ability to restrict parking to town residents only. Everyone in the state pays taxes to subsidize the trains (so that other people can commute out of state and thus not pay any taxes to Hartford). The state should be in charge of issuing parking permits for trains, not the local towns. And local towns should not be able to pass zoning regulations that limit the number of people that can park there. We need to massively increase parking at some of the stations in Fairfield County. Those towns may object, but since everyone has to pay for the trains, perhaps they could let some other people ride on the trains.

    Economic Security. I’m for economic security. I just may have some problems with some of the details about how this is going to be achieved…

    Monthly property taxes. Most people already do this via escrow.

  10. easthartfordtaxpayer

    I escrow my real estate tax but for my car I gt a bill which has the total annual amount and a split amount if I decide to pay in July and January.

    I’m not aware of any tax collector who wouldn’t take a monthly payment against my bill as long as the total is paid by the due date. The only difference with the law would be the added cost for the tax collectors of producing 12 statements or 12 stubs and envelopes. Why add overhead on something that already exists for free?

    You can’t legislate proper financial handling. It’s interesting that 7th graders in the early 1900’s had a full comprehension of applied mathematics including stocks, bonds, bank accounts, amortization and other odds and ends. Ultimately what is more important for publicly educated students, critical viewing of foreign films (a course recently approved by the EH BOE) or a knowledge of real world mathematics?

  11. Everyone in the state pays taxes to subsidize the trains (so that other people can commute out of state and thus not pay any taxes to Hartford).

    This makes me wonder if it would be possible to link increased permit fees with the income tax, such that if you use transit to commute in-state you see no increase in costs, but if you commute elsewhere then Connecticut could recover some share of the lost revenue.

  12. ACR said:

    Most at-will employees have jobs; while union ranks are now at what percentage of the total labor pool as opposed to 30 years ago?

    Um, all at-will employees have jobs. As do all union employees. Not really sure what you’re getting at.

  13. FWIW… multi-level parking (an issue I’ve advocated for a proposed mall in Cheshire) costs in the $20,000 to $30,000 / space range. So it’s not cheap… but would reduce impervious surfaces.

    As for term lengths… two words GC… incumbency protection. If they’d do a good job, they wouldn’t be worried about this. Though the Rep proposing it to reduce spending may very well be sincere, I am confident that many legislators would use that as a strawman while their true intention is to not be held accountable as often.

  14. Not really sure what you’re getting at.

    You own three assembly plants but have surplus capacity so shuddering a plant altogether makes more sense than laying off here and there.

    Your production costs are identical at all plants, but one is a union shop the other two are not; which plant do you close?

  15. CrankyYankee71

    AN ACT INCREASING THE TERM OF OFFICE FOR MEMBERS OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY, which is being pushed as a way to cut expenditures of the Citizens’ Election Fund by half each cycle! The bill would amend the state constitution to “increase the term of office for members of the General Assembly from two years to four years.

    This is step two of a brilliant strategy.

    First, we taxpayers were forced to subsidize the campaign budgets of every would-be politician. Now, because “the State” is obligated to pay for these campaigns, the politicians cry out that the campaigns are too expensive. What a shock. No one could have predicted that a givernment run program would be too expensive to maintain!

    Hence, the proposed solution is to cut the cost “to the State,” i.e., you and me, in half by doubling the time each politician gets to spend in office without going before the voters. Conveniently, this solution means the politicians don’t have to bother with that pesky and inconvinient matter of elections. Sounds like a non-too-subtle strategy to provide office security for incumbants.

    Why stop at 4 years? Why not maek it 6? That would cut the cost of our mandated campaign contributions even further.

    The bill should be renamed AN ACT CONCERNING THE INCONVENIENCE OF HAVING TO RUN FOR OFFICE AND ASSURING CONTINUED POWER FOR INCUMBANTS.

  16. As for term lengths… two words GC… incumbency protection. If they’d do a good job, they wouldn’t be worried about this. Though the Rep proposing it to reduce spending may very well be sincere, I am confident that many legislators would use that as a strawman while their true intention is to not be held accountable as often.

    Since the odds of defeating incumbents is so low already, why NOT save the costs of election by having them less frequently? The idea of having rolling elections as we do for the U.S. Senate would also help strike a balance between change and consistency over time. I think it’s a great idea. Why can’t innovative ideas become legislation, particularly in times that call for innovation?

  17. Your production costs are identical at all plants, but one is a union shop the other two are not; which plant do you close?

    Depends on what’s in the contracts. If the production costs are really identical at all three, I imagine it would make more sense to close one of the non-union shops.

    It turns out that paying workers better and giving them better benefits leads to better workforce retention, better customer service, and higher levels of productivity. That’s why CostCo (a union shop) earns more per customer and per square foot than Sam’s Club (virulently anti-union). So equal production costs despite higher labor costs is not an implausible situation.

  18. First, we taxpayers were forced to subsidize the campaign budgets of every would-be politician. Now, because “the State” is obligated to pay for these campaigns, the politicians cry out that the campaigns are too expensive. What a shock. No one could have predicted that a givernment run program would be too expensive to maintain!

    Mioli’s proposal is an anomaly that will be opposed by most Democrats (who will want to protect the CEP) and most Republicans (who don’t want to make their minority status even harder to overcome).

    I think the public financing is cheap for the benefit we get from it. The only downside is the exploratory committee loophole, which I expect will close after this upcoming Governor’s race.

  19. It turns out that paying workers better and giving them better benefits leads to better workforce retention, better customer service, and higher levels of productivity.

    Right – which is why Walmart inc (etc. and et al) enjoys a labor turnover of around 33% that of their competitors.

    That’s why CostCo (a union shop) earns more per customer and per square foot than Sam’s Club (virulently anti-union). So equal production costs despite higher labor costs is not an implausible situation.

    I hadn’t realized Costco was union before; I’ll discontinue shopping there immediately; thanks for the heads up!

  20. Matt, you claim,

    “Depends on what’s in the contracts. If the production costs are really identical at all three, I imagine it would make more sense to close one of the non-union shops.”

    Matt, That is the problem with liberals. You imagine everything. Unfortunately the world does not currently function as you imagine. I must admit I wish it did.

    Before I retired I was responsible for running manufacturing facilities in 40 different countries all over the world, including 6 here in the US. The cost was always higher in the unionized ones, and comparatively out of sight here in CT. The ones I was always forced to close first, or relocate jobs else where were always the least cost completive ones, which for some reason were always first, the unionized ones, and in particular the ones here in CT. Other than the union contracts and the CT stuff, the rest was identical. No safety, training, job advancement, or quality issues. Why anyone these days feels the need to pay union taxes on top of all the other taxes they pay is beyond me.

    The unionized workers were not any less hard working or dedicated. Most of them, except the dead beats the unions spent most of their dues on defending were no different than the other hard working people in the non union shops, but neither was the value of the work they were being paid to do.

    In the end will you spend $100 more to buy a TV, or $1,000 more to buy a car, just so you can say it was made by unionized workers? Even if you answer yes, not enough of you liberals practice what you preach to make it cost effective.

    Tell you what, if all you union “supporters” are willing to support your pro union attitudes by paying the difference to buy unionized made products at a higher cost made here in the U.S. we would see a lot less jobs shipped to China. So it’s simple, if you and the rest of your liberal friends put your money where your mouth is, all will be well.

    BTW, we have not even talked about the cost of doing business here in CT that your democratically controlled general assembly has blessed us with, on top of your union issue.

  21. According to this admittedly older (2005) article only 14,000 of Costco’s 103,000ish workers are unionized, mostly inherited from acquiring PriceChopper.
    A business that pays well because of capitalism tendencies, not unions or government.

  22. Tell you what, if all you union “supporters” are willing to support your pro union attitudes by paying the difference to buy unionized made products at a higher cost made here in the U.S. we would see a lot less jobs shipped to China. So it’s simple, if you and the rest of your liberal friends put your money where your mouth is, all will be well.

    Which explains why I was able to count all the way up to 11 American cars with Obama bumper stickers for the entire season.

    Saw dozens if not hundreds on imports.

    Even if it was assembled here, save for a handful of Toyota’s coming out of the GM /Toyota joint venture Nummi plant in Van Neys, CA – none employ any union labor.

    Hypocrisy.

  23. According to this admittedly older (2005) article only 14,000 of Costco’s 103,000ish workers are unionized, mostly inherited from acquiring PriceChopper.
    A business that pays well because of capitalism tendencies, not unions or government.

    That bit I am aware of — however, they use the union-negotiated contract across the board.

  24. Matt, That is the problem with liberals. You imagine everything. Unfortunately the world does not currently function as you imagine. I must admit I wish it did.

    ACR laid out a premise, which I accepted. If the production costs were not the same, then it would be a different situation.

  25. Right – which is why Walmart inc (etc. and et al) enjoys a labor turnover of around 33% that of their competitors.

    Retail average first-year turnover is 65%. WalMart’s reported average is 50%. CostCo’s is 22%.

    Walmart’s turnover is close to 33% less than the industry average, but certainly not 1/3 of the average.

  26. Matt,

    “ACR laid out a premise, which I accepted. If the production costs were not the same, then it would be a different situation.”

    To which you imagined one would chose to close the non union shop…… But why would you just imagine that?

    Even if in this hypothetical example of ACR’s of three plants with identical production costs it still would more often than not make more sense to close the unionized plant first.

    Of course here I am assuming the managers of the unionized plant did not negotiate away the keys to the plant during the last round of contract talks…… I will admit that is a fairly big assumption since the UAW seems quite skilled in getting GM etc, to do almost just that. However I digress……….

    The key reason it usually makes more sense is that the higher cost of unionized labor and the inefficiencies certain contract language brings makes the automation to reduce jobs in unionized plants more cost effective then in a non unionized plant. The result is you can get to a fairly similar final production costs with differing numbers of people in all three plants.

    However when it comes time for one reason or another to shut down a plant (all other things being equal) you would then chose to close the unionized one. Why? Less people to pay severance etc to……… Also at that point you could then move the now idle automation equipment which you have invested in to the non unionized plant to further reduce your costs. Remember it wasn’t cost effective to invest in it for that non union plant. But once you did invest in it for the unionized plant and it is now idle it now makes perfect sense to move it there.

    Look, I realize what I wrote here does sound very cold, but it simply is how it works. As I said if everyone who is so pro union was willing to pay more for the union made products this would be a different story, but I doubt even Chris Donovan would pay more for everything he bought just so he could buy union made stuff.

  27. Try to find American made dress shoes, go ahead, try.

    The days when Brockton, Mass was loaded with shoe manufacturers are gone and now one of the few domestic shoemakers left is Alden shoes.

    Somehow I suspect that most union supporters have never even heard of them.

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