Capitol Report

HARTFORD — Several pieces of landmark legislation have been passed in the Connecticut General Assembly this month, underscoring the common ground being enjoyed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the Democrat-controlled Legislature, allowing for swift changes.Among the major changes passed in June are this week’s decriminalization of posession of small amounts of marijuana, a new law requiring employers to offer paid sick leave, a new energy bill, anti-discrimination measures and legislation aiming to eliminate instances of prison rape. The fiscal impact of the new laws, along with a completely reworked budget, is still a question mark for many legislators.Earning the most attention nationwide this week were the pot decriminalization and paid sick leave bills — the former because of its relevance to an ever-changing sea of marijuana-related laws across the country and the latter because it made Connecticut the first state in the nation to adopt a paid sick leave requirement.State Rep. John Rigby (R-63) said he was conflicted about marijuana decriminalization at first, but came around, and was strongly against the paid sick leave bill. Both measures passed the House and Senate, and Republican legislators are now looking ahead to see how a vastly reconfigured budget will actually save the state money over the next two years.“I was on the fence about the marijuana legislation during the debate, but I felt it ended up being a real improvement,” Rigby said, noting that the legislation will keep many young people out of prison and lessen the burden on the state’s criminal justice system. “I think it’s a good move in trying to reduce the cost and burden on our courts.”In press releases and public appearances during the past month, Gov. Malloy has shown support for the marijuana decriminalization law. On June 7 he applauded passage of the legislation. “Final approval of this legislation accepts the reality that the current law does more harm than good, both in the impact it has on people’s lives and the burden it places on police, prosecutors and probation officers of the criminal justice system,” Malloy said. “Let me make it clear — we are not legalizing the use of marijuana. In modifying this law, we are recognizing that the punishment should fit the crime, and acknowledging the effects of its application.”Malloy also hailed passage of the paid sick leave bill for service workers, which he called “a reasonable compromise” that would be good for public health. “Without paid sick leave, frontline service workers — people who serve us food, who care for our children and who work in hospitals, for example — are forced to go to work sick to keep their jobs,” the governor said. “That’s not a choice I’m comfortable having people make under my tenure, and I’m proud to sign this bill when it comes to my desk.”Rigby disagreed with the proposal throughout the debate, saying it would be bad for business in Connecticut. “I’m strongly opposed to the paid sick leave mandate,” he said. “Businesses lobbied so hard against it and we heard jobs were going to be lost. It’s bad policy at the worst possible time.” Fiscal conservatives have also criticized the governor for raising taxes and increasing spending, claiming any tax increases will translate into a loss of business for the state.Many of the governor’s proposed budget savings for the next two fiscal years rely on consolidation of departments, and Rigby said he is not convinced that the savings will come through.“A lot of it is consolidation simply for the point of consolidation,” he said. “If you look at some of these proposals, there is no significant savings. People have to move around and things have to be organized and regrouped.” After the fiscal year begins July 1, the General Assembly will receive quarterly reports on how much money is being spent and if the governor’s budget projections are being realized. “If revenue figures drop, we’re going to have more work to do,” Rigby said. “Everyone’s going to be watching to see if the savings materialize.”

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