New taxes, laws take effect Wednesday in Connecticut [Norwich Bulletin]

July 1, 2015

Article as it appeared in the Norwich Bulletin

By John Barry The Bulletin
Posted Jun. 30, 2015 at 4:56 PM

Get ready for a host of state tax changes and new laws that take effect Wednesday.

Taxes and fees go up on businesses and hospitals, wealthy taxpayers face increased income tax rates, and the maximum property tax deduction goes from $300 to $200. Several planned tax cuts, including a sales tax exemption for clothing, are scrapped as well.

Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, said that adding the second-biggest tax increase in history to the biggest tax increase in history four years ago “is not a philosophy conducive to moving the state forward.”

Amid all the tax hikes is a tax cut. A law fully exempts veterans’ pensions from the state income tax, which state Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, praised as overdue. Previously, 50 percent of retirement pay was exempt.

State Rep. Emmett Riley, D-Norwich, said he was proud of a proposed tax change that now isn’t going to happen.

In the state budget approved in June, a 1 percent tax on computer and data processing had been increased to 3 percent. Legislators dropped the tax back to 1 percent at a special session Monday and Tuesday.

Riley said he worked hard to stop the tax hike on behalf of a major Norwich business. “Computer Science Corp. in the BusinessPark would have doubled or tripled their tax,” he said.

In the special session, legislators also provided more money than they had for hospitals and nursing homes, The Associated Press reported.

Osten said the budget changes address complaints of businesses and hospitals “while maintaining necessary things for middle class people.”

Also today, liquor stores can, if their owners want, stay open an extra hour to 10 p.m. and to 6 p.m. on Sundays.

The changes to the state’s liquor law also lets restaurants and bars sell draft beer to take out in containers known as growlers. The law had limited growler sales only to beer that has been brewed by the sellers.

Many liquor store owners don’t see a benefit in staying open longer, Formica said.

“I think they remain skeptical that it will generate more money,” he said.

Another new provision of the law bans powdered alcohol.

Other changes taking effect today include:

Adults whose adoptions were finalized after Oct. 1, 1983, and their adult children and grandchildren can get a copy of their birth certificates by applying to the state Department of Public Health. A probate court order and permission of a biological parent is no longer required.

“People should have the ability to know who their biological parents are,” Osten said.
n Teachers are required to get at least 12 hours of training in detecting and providing help for students with dyslexia.

“Fully one in five children has a form of dyslexia,” Osten said. “I think this will make a dramatic difference.”

n Driver’s license suspensions when someone is charged with drunken driving are 45 days regardless of the number of offenses, the driver’s age and whether or not they refused a breathalyzer test. Formerly, the suspensions ranged from 60 days to three years. But before they get their licenses back, the drivers will have to install ignition interlock devices on all their vehicles, preventing them from driving if they’ve been drinking, for up to three years.

“I think that’s a good thing we’re doing,” Riley said.

n Towns and cities can cut their education budgets if school enrollments decline without losing state aid.

n Students no longer can be restrained or secluded from other students for discipline purposes. Restraints and seclusion now can be used only in an emergency to protect other students.

“It isn’t something we should be doing to our kids,” Riley said.

“I think there needs to be a balance” between the proper treatment of students and the protection of teachers and other students, Formica said.

n Examinations of sexual assault victims on college campuses to collect evidence can now be done at an on-campus clinic instead of only in a hospital.

n Court fee hikes that began on July 1, 2012, are automatically rolled back. For example, filing a small claims complaint goes from $90 to $75 and filing a counterclaim in a small claims case goes from $90 to free.

n Immigrants living here illegally can qualify for lower in-state tuition at public colleges and universities if they attended a Connecticut high school for two years instead of four years. They still must be graduates of a state high school.

n Non-alcoholic beer containing genetically modified grain becomes exempt from a future labeling requirement. Beer already is exempt. The labeling law does not take effect until similar laws have been passed by four states, one of which borders Connecticut, whose population in the Northeast tops 20 million. This hasn’t happened yet.