2010 Legislative Session Wrap-Up

May 18, 2010

The 2010 Legislative Session ended at midnight, May 5th and I want to take this opportunity to highlight some of the accomplishments and frustrations of the past five months.

First, let’s talk about the accomplishments. I am very proud to have successfully championed our newly passed Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children legislation. This new law, set to take effect on October 1st, will protect sexually exploited children and young teens from the possibility of being prosecuted for prostitution. Under this law, no one under the age of 16 can be charged with prostitution. Furthermore, it calls for creating a presumption, one that must be rebutted by the prosecution, that 16- and 17-year olds alleged to have engaged in prostitution were coerced or enticed. Just as importantly, this legislation increases the penalties for promoting prostitution of those younger than 18.

I have more good news. I successfully championed legislation that makes it feasible for companies like Crystal Rock Water Company in Watertown to continue their generosity to so many good causes in Connecticut. Many may not have realized that companies that donate beverages in redeemable containers are responsible for paying the per-bottle redemption fee to the state. That means that Crystal Rock Water Company has to pay the state five cents for every bottle of water it donates – and this company donates about 12,000 cases of water each year. Not only is this an unreasonable tax on a for-profit company’s generosity, it is a disincentive for these companies to donate to worthy causes in their communities. Fortunately, we changed this law so that companies like Crystal Rock Water Company will no longer be required to pay the redemption fee on donated goods.

Also, I worked with other Republican Senators to promote this year’s adoption of legislation to do the right thing for Connecticut sportsmen who purchased their hunting and fishing licenses before the General Assembly voted in April to lower those fees. Of course, I agree with Connecticut residents who believe that the legislature never should have raised the cost of hunting and fishing in our state in the first place – and I voted against the state budget that included those fee increases. Under legislation I championed and helped to pass, the state Department of Environmental Protection will apply the difference in cost when those who purchased the more expensive licenses this year buy their licenses next year.

Furthermore, I supported comprehensive legislation to set in place programs and policies intended to encourage the creation and expansion businesses, which will lead to the creation and expansion of jobs. Among other things, this new legislation authorizes tax credits for investing in new and expanding businesses; pre seed capital for developing new concepts; financial and technical assistance for established businesses; tax credits for hiring new employees, including those with disabilities; and assistance for businesses seeking foreign markets. Also, this pro jobs legislation helps us prepare for the future by directing our community-technical colleges to develop training programs to help unemployed people qualify for jobs, creates a council to assess and develop policies to address the needs of the state’s strategic business clusters, and establishes a task force to promote government efficiency and eliminate waste.

Unfortunately, not everything I have to tell you about the 2010 Legislative Session is positive. For example, I was not able to vote in favor of the newly revised state budget pushed through by the General Assembly’s majority leadership. This new budget for Fiscal Year 2011 relies on federal revenues that will most likely not be available next year, fiscal gimmicks and better-than-anticipated tax collections. Putting this irresponsible budget in place allows the General Assembly to put off making the difficult, inevitable, and necessary decision to significantly cut spending and restructure state government. I will continue to work with my legislative colleagues in a bipartisan manner to help make those decisions.

And, I said “no” to a far-reaching energy reform bill that was passed in the final hours of the legislative session. While supporters hope this new initiative will lower electric bills in Connecticut, there is reason to fear that it will end up hurting the people it is meant to help: households and businesses that are already paying some of the highest electric bills in the nation.

While certain provisions of this legislation seem promising, there are many others that could derail benefits we are just now starting to see as a result of the legislature’s 1998 vote to deregulate the electricity market. I will monitor the effects of our newly passed energy bill – and work in a bipartisan manner to respond quickly at any signs that this new initiative is hurting, instead, of helping, us.