Senator McLachlan 2017 Mid-Session Legislative Update

April 4, 2017

We are half way through the 2017 Legislative Session, which will end on June 7 at midnight. Most committees have approved the bills that be voted on by the full House and Senate, although some bills will be placed on the foot (bottom) of the calendar where they will die a quiet death of inaction. Other bills that did not make it out of committee may gain new life as amendments to other bills.

You never know how things will turn out till the clock strikes midnight. That’s when all the staff turn into pumpkins, and legislators turn into mice and scurry back to their home districts.

Before that happens, I’d like to tell you about some of the bills I may vote on and particularly those I would like to see become law.

As Vice-Chairman of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee, I am pleased to say we approved SB 976An Act Concerning Conservator Accountability. This bill provides more accountability over conservatorships and enables the probate courts to randomly audit conservator accounts in order to verify conservatorship finances.

Most conservators are honest, well-meaning people and this law will help them by setting standards for how a conservatorship should operate. It also seeks to prevent the egregious cases of conservators taking advantage of individuals and estates. Often, those living under a conservatorship are some of our state’s most vulnerable residents.

I support SB 919An Act Concerning Veterans’ Services At State Colleges And Universities, which requires the creation of Operation Academic Support for Incoming Service Members (OASIS). OASIS centers would provide support and outreach to help veterans succeed at college.

HB 7181An Act Honoring Deceased Veterans, is necessary because the Governor, once again, sought to strip funding for the honor guard rifle salutes at veteran’s funerals. This bill would permanently restore funding for these services so they will no longer be subject to the budgetary whims of a governor or legislature.

After many years of Republicans calling for a transportation funding lockbox, HJ 41Resolution Proposing An Amendment To The State Constitution Limiting The Use Of Moneys In The Special Transportation Fund, made it out of the Transportation Committee. This bill is one of two intended to create a mechanism so that money in the Special Transportation Fund can only be spent on transportation projects. I support this bill because any lockbox should be tamperproof.

HB 6058An Act Concerning Electronic Tolls, is a bill I hope will die on the House calendar.  I am a long-time opponent of measures to reinstitute tolls in Connecticut and I know my Republican colleagues will join me in fighting this proposal.

A bill that will help communities take more control of spending decisions is SB 711An Act Increasing The Amount A School District May Reduce Its Minimum Budget Requirement When It Experiences A Decline In Student Enrollment. This bill prevents the state from forcing communities to spend the same amount of money to educate fewer students when our school population declines. Paying the same amount of money for a shrinking student population is a senseless mandate.

Recently, the Appropriations Committee heard testimony about several bills designed to address the state budget deficit by reigning in spending. Many of these bills called for changes to the employee pension funding formula, more contributions by state employees toward health care and retirement, and the adoption of strong definitions for the state spending cap. I wish I could tell you the committee approved all these bills, but it has until the end of April to make that decision.

These are only a few of the bills that have been released by committees, but I hope it gives you an idea of the work that is being done at the capitol on your behalf. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns about these, or any other state issues. You can follow me on social media, through my website, or call (800) 842-1421.

Sen. McLachlan represents the communities of Bethel, Danbury, New Fairfield, and Sherman