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Voices Speaking

February 28, 2018

Voices from the Capitol II: Hearings and Fiscal Restrictions

Roger Senserrich

In today’s email:

  • Legislative hearings: our budget views
  • Upcoming hearings
  • Bills of the Week
  • New event: breaking the Bond Lock
  • Federal update: the farm bill and SNAP

Legislative Hearings: Our Budget Views

The Appropriations Committee budget hearings dominated the legislative agenda this week, with lawmakers slowly analyzing and reviewing each section of the Governor's budget proposal. We believe that creating opportunity should be the guiding principle for the state: as we explained in our budget analysis, it is the morally correct thing to do, will better serve Connecticut's changing population of children, and will help grow the economy in the long run. This was our perspective when we testified in front on the Committee, offering an in-depth look at the potential impacts of the Governor's proposal on children and families as well as the state economy as a whole.

Here is our testimony on each of the budget areas:

Highlights for the Week Ahead

In this section we highlight two bills of interest for next week. For a full listing of next week’s hearings, please scroll to end of newsletter.

Support: S.B. 188 An Act Establishing the State Oversight Council on Children and Families.

This bill will establish a Child Welfare Oversight Council, external to the Department of Children and Families, to sustain the Department´s progress once federal oversight ends. The Council will help coordinate family-serving agencies, identifying gaps in information and services, increase transparency and accountability, reduce costs, help improve the child welfare system, and work to further keep families from becoming involved in the child welfare system. The hearing for this bill will take place this Tuesday at the Children's Committee. Connecticut Voices for Children strongly supports the proposal.

Oppose: S.B. 187 An Act Concerning the Transfer of a Child Charged with Certain Offenses to the Criminal Docket and the Grounds for Detention of an Arrested Child

During the same hearing, Connecticut Voices for Children will testify against this proposal. The bill changes the rules that mandate transferring a juvenile justice case to the adult criminal docket, adding more offenses to the list and lowering the age for automatic transfer from 15 to 14. The bill would also allow children to be detained if their home is unsafe or for children’s own safety. Our research shows that detention should be the very last resort, both because there are more effective alternatives and because of its high cost.

Upcoming Hearings

After Appropriations, the other committees take the stage. As this is a short legislative session year, the General Assembly will have a very full agenda in the coming weeks. Here are the relevant dates and locations of hearings related to children and families. The full schedule is available here.

Education Committee
Monday, February 26, 2018, 11:00 A.M, Room 1E

We are focused on the following bills:

S.B. No. 183 An Act Implementing The Recommendations Of The Department Of Education.

H.B. No. 5169 An Act Implementing The Recommendations Of The Office Of Early Childhood.

Government Administration And Elections Committee
Monday, February 26, 2018, 11:00 A.M, Room 2A

We are focused on the following bill:

H.B. No. 5172 An An Act Concerning State Agency Data Management and Processes, the Transmittal of Town Property Assessment Information and the Suspension of Certain Regulatory Requirements

Committee On Children
Tuesday, February 27, 2018, 10:00 A.M., ROOM 1D

Sign-up for the hearing will be from 8:00 A.M. to 9:00 A.M. in Room 1D of the LOB. Bring 30 copies of your written testimony. You can submit written testimony by email to KIDtestimony@cga.ct.gov. We are focusing on the following bills:

H.B. No. 5190 An Act Extending The Reporting Deadline Of The Task Force To Study Voluntary Admission To The Department Of Children And Families.

S.B. No. 187 An Act Concerning The Transfer Of A Child Charged With Certain Offenses To The Criminal Docket And The Grounds For Detention Of An Arrested Child.

S.B. No. 188 An Act Establishing The State Oversight Council On Children And Families.

Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee
Tuesday, February 27, 2018. 1:00 P.M., Room 1E

Sign-up for the hearing will begin at 12:00 P.M. in Room 1E of the LOB. Bring 30 copies of your written testimony. You can submit written testimony by email to HEDtestimony@cga.ct.gov. We are tracking the following bill:

H.B. No. 5037 An Act Establishing The Division Of Postsecondary Education.

Insurance And Real Estate Committee
Tuesday, February 27, 2018, 12:00 P.M., Room 2D

Sign-up for the hearing will begin 10:00 A.M. in Room 2800 of the LOB. Please bring 25 copies of written testimony. You can also submit written testimony by email to INStestimony@cga.ct.gov. We are tracking the following bill:

S.B. No. 199 An Act Concerning Special Education Funding

*Public Health Committee
Wednesday, February 28, 2018, 11:00 A.M., Room 1D

Sign-up for the hearing will begin at 9:30 A.M. in the First Floor Atrium of the LOB; bring 10 copies of your testimony. You can submit written testimony by email to ph.testimony@cga.ct.gov. The Public Health Committee prefers a separate testimony for each bill.

Aging Committee
Thursday, March 1, 2018, 10:00 A.M., Room 1B

Sign-up for the hearing will begin 9:15 A.M. in Room 1B of the LOB. Please submit 20 copies of written testimony. You can also email written testimony to AGEtestimony@cga.ct.gov.

Insurance And Real Estate Committee
Thursday, March 1, 2018, 10:00 A.M., Room 2D

Sign-up for the hearing will begin 10:00 A.M. in Room 2800 of the LOB. Please submit 25 copies of written testimony. You can submit written testimony by email to NStestimony@cga.ct.gov. We are tracking the following bills:

H.B. No. 5207 An Act Expanding Health Insurance Products Available In This State.

H.B. No. 5210 An Act Mandating Insurance Coverage of Essential Health Benefits and Expanding Mandated Health Benefits for Women, Children and Adolescents.

Finance, Revenue And Bonding Committee
Friday, March 2, 2018, 12:00 P.M., Room 2E

A lottery will determine public speaker order. You can get a number from 11:00 A.M. to 12:00 P.M. in the first floor atrium of the LOB. Please submit 30 copies of written testimony. You can email written testimony to FINtestimony@cga.ct.gov. We will cover the Finance bills in more detail in later emails, but these are the bills we are focused on:

S.B. No. 10 An Act Concerning Revenue Items To Implement The Governor's Budget.

S.B. No. 11 An Act Concerning Connecticut's Response To Federal Tax Reform.

H.B. No. 5009 An Act Exempting Car Wash Services From The Sales Tax.

New Event: Breaking the Bond Lock

Did you know that a new provision in last year’s budget threatens to tie the hands of the Legislature and prevent our state from making smart investments in a more prosperous tomorrow?

Did you know that this new provision, a bond lock, would impose restraints for the next ten years, regardless of the will of a clear majority in the Legislature?

Do you want to learn more about the Bond Lock and the newly imposed fiscal restrictions that put Connecticut’s prosperity at risk? Join us Wednesday, March 7, from 2:00 P.M to 4:00 PM at the Lyceum for a 2-hour event explaining the Bond Lock and its implications, as well as what steps we can take to break the lock.

On the agenda:

  • What is the Bond Lock?
  • The impact of the Bond Lock: putting investments in opportunity at risk
  • Legislative outlook: the General Assembly and fiscal restrictions
  • Advocating for change: tactics and messaging
  • Breaking the Bond Lock: taking action  

WHAT: “Breaking the Bond Lock” Conference
WHERE: The Lyceum, 3rd Floor Conference Room, 227 Lawrence St, Hartford, 06106
WHEN: Wednesday, March 7, 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM

Click here to register

Federal Update: the Farm Bill and SNAP

Congress reconvenes today, with most of the budget battles already behind. On their agenda, besides immigration and gun control debates, there is a piece of legislation that might pose a threat to a key low-income food assistance program: the Farm Bill and SNAP.

The Farm Bill, which is renewed every five years, includes SNAP (formerly known as food stamps), our nation’s largest and most effective anti-hunger program. If the House Farm Bill—like the President’s budget proposal released last week—contains cuts to SNAP benefits and eligibility, nearly every type of SNAP participant could be hurt, including the elderly, individuals with disabilities, low-income working families with children, and those struggling to find work.

The deadline to reauthorize the Farm Bill is September 30th, and the process is just getting started. The debate is likely to be contentious, so expect to hear more about SNAP in the coming weeks.

What We Are Reading

 

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Child Welfare, Early Care, Education, Family Economic Security, Health, Juvenile Justice
February 20, 2018

Voices from the Capitol: Our Priority- Breaking the Bond Lock

Roger Senserrich

In today’s email:

Our Legislative Priorities: A Call to Action

Connecticut Voices for Children believes that every child in our state deserves a meaningful opportunity to succeed. Equity in opportunity will not only allow more of our children to reach their full potential but, in so doing, it will generate substantial economic benefit for the state as a whole.

For 2018, we have a “short session” that is focused on the state budget. We urge all child advocates to become as informed as possible on the state budget. Simply put, we fund what we value. If the budget does not fund critical services to support thriving children, families, and communities, if the budget does not open pathways to opportunity for all, then it undermines our values and our goals.

This year our legislative agenda centers on one key priority: amending harmful fiscal restraints created last fall as part of the budget compromise.  

You can download our full policy agenda here.

Last fall’s budget created a series of fiscal restrictions intended to impose fiscal discipline.  Unfortunately, the restrictions did not benefit from any public hearing or input, and they pose a significant threat to the long-term social and economic health of our state.  

The most critical and time-sensitive issue for this session is the bond lock. The bond lock stipulates that whenever the state issues a bond after May 1, it must vow not to change three new spending and revenue restrictions for the life of the bond (typically ten years) except in extraordinary circumstances. Because bonds are considered contracts, Connecticut would be legally bound to maintain these spending and revenue restraints, despite what future Governors or legislatures might find to be in the best interests of the state.

How damaging the bond lock will be depends upon the details of the other three restraints it seals into contract. These three budget restrictions—the spending cap, volatility cap, and bonding cap— contain drafting flaws, making it more difficult for Connecticut to perform the strategic investments necessary to promote equitable opportunity and inclusive economic growth.

The Governor’s budget did not address these restrictions, neglecting an issue that, if not addressed before the state issues bonds after this May, will hamper Connecticut’s core functioning for the next decade.

You can read a more in-depth take on the fiscal restrictions and the bond lock in our budget analysis here, or download our fact sheet here and here. You can watch our presentations on the issue here and here.

Upcoming Hearings

The session starts with a series of Appropriations Committee hearings to discuss the Governor's budget proposal. The hearings began yesterday and will continue through Friday, February 23.  As usual, a lottery determines public speaker order. Sign up takes place from 9:00 A.M. to 10:00 A.M. in the LOB First Floor Atrium and from 10:15 A.M. to 1:00 P.M. in Room 2700.

Here are the relevant hearing dates and locations relating to children and families. The full schedule is available here.

Health - Friday, February 16, 2018 (Room 2C).
Covering the Department of Developmental Services, Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, and the Department of Public Health. Public hearing begins at 4 P.M.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018 (Room 2C)
Covering the Judicial Department, Corrections, and Public Defender Services, plus Housing, Labor, and Economic and Community Development. Public Hearing begins at 6 P.M.

Human Services - Wednesday, February 21, 2018 (Room 2C)
Covers the Department of Social Services, Department of Children and Families, and Department of Rehabilitative Services. Public hearing begins at 6 P.M.

Education - Thursday, February 22, 2018 (Room 2C)
Covers (among others) the Department of Education, Office of Early Childhood and the Teachers’ Retirement Board. Public hearing begins at 5 P.M.

For more information on the Governor’s budget proposal, you can find our full analysis here.

Federal Update: Budget Resolutions

Two important documents came out of Washington these past few weeks. First, a two-year, bipartisan budget agreement that included doubled federal funding for child care subsidies (in Connecticut, that’s Care 4 Kids), some welcome long-term stability to several vital programs, including community health centers, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and maternal home visiting. According to Bob Greenstein (CBPP), there is a lot to like on this deal.

The second document is President Trump’s budget proposal. In this case, we have more a statement of principles than a plan, as Congress is unlikely to undo the budget deal they just passed. It is still relevant, however, as it signals the administration’s priorities. CBPP has an in-depth analysis.

Save the Date: Breaking the Bond Lock

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

2:00 P.M. to 4:00 P.M.

Lyceum, Hartford

3rd Floor Conference Room

Do you want to learn more about the bond lock and the newly imposed fiscal restrictions that put Connecticut’s prosperity at risk? Join us Wednesday March 7 at the Lyceum for a 2-hour event explaining the bond lock and its implications, and what steps we can take to break the lock.

In Case You Missed It

Connecticut Voices for Children published the following reports in January and February. Have a look!

What We Are Reading

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Child Welfare, Early Care, Education, Family Economic Security, Health, Juvenile Justice
February 7, 2018

Statement on the Governor's Budget Proposal: a Call for a New Direction

Ellen Shemitz, J.D.

This past Monday, the Governor released an overview of his recommended revisions to the FY 2019 budget, with a focus on revenue and spending changes to achieve balance. Ellen Shemitz, Executive Director of Connecticut Voices for Children issued the following statement in response:

The long-term fiscal stability and health of our state depend upon economic growth that affords shared prosperity to families, businesses, and communities. This kind of growth can only occur in a state that has a competitive business environment, a prepared workforce, a commitment to race equity and a fiscally sound state government.

The state budget announced Monday by Governor Malloy includes some welcome and decisive steps to narrow our long-term deficit, move the state toward fiscal stability, and tackle some of our pressing infrastructure needs. The proposal, however, fails to recommend a number of structural changes essential to grow the economy and move toward sustainable, shared prosperity.

Last year’s budget created substantive and harmful restrictions on economic growth through the combined effect of a newly defined spending cap, volatility cap, bond cap and bond lock. To build a vibrant, inclusive economy and remain competitive, our state needs to make strategic investments in transportation, education, healthcare, workforce development, and early childhood: the very kind of bold investments that our neighboring states have already launched. To the south, New York City is moving toward universal free preschool for all three-year-olds. To the east, Rhode Island is offering free community college. Connecticut must similarly invest and innovate or be left behind.

We remain hopeful the Governor will offer a bold call for investment and innovation in today's budget address. We hope the Legislature will address some of the missing elements in Monday's proposal, such as full restoration of the Earned Income Tax Credit, modernization of our tax system, and targeted state funding to assure equity in educational opportunity.

But first, both the Executive Branch and Legislative Branch need to free themselves from the unintended consequences of last session’s fiscal restraints. They need to amend the spending cap, volatility cap, bond cap and bond lock so that our state is free to meet today’s fiscal, economic and social challenges.

Working together, we can open pathways to opportunity for every child as we build a solid, inclusive economic foundation that benefits all of our residents and communities.

Issue Area:
Budget and Tax
Tags:
bond lock, budget, investments, tax
February 6, 2018

Guest Post: February Federal Update

Deborah Stein, the Network Director of the Partnership for America's Children

This article is a guest post by Deborah Stein, the Network Director of the Partnership for America's Children. It provides some much-needed context to the issues in front of Congress this month, and how they can impact children and families in Connecticut.

Things are happening at lightning speed in DC, so here is a brief update on where things stand.

February 8 Funding Deadline

The current continuing resolution (CR) expires Thursday, February 8. Congress is not expected to reach a spending deal for the rest of the year by that deadline. The open issue remains whether to raise domestic spending (that, is the overall sequestration cap) as much as defense; the bill cannot pass the Senate without Democratic votes since it needs 60 votes to raise the sequester caps, and the Democrats are fighting for increased domestic spending. There is no indication that Congress is close to reaching a deal on sequestration caps for non-defense spending.  Once they reach a deal, they can finish up FY 2018 appropriations, probably in one giant Omnibus bill. It's not clear how much time it will take to write the Omnibus once the caps are set.

The House is currently developing a fifth stopgap funding bill to keep the government open for six more weeks through March 23, which would take it past the expected date that Congress must raise the debt ceiling. Reports say that this will be a "clean" CR, with level funding on nearly all programs and nothing attached to it such as health extenders (community health centers and home visiting) or DACA.

The House stopgap funding bill may not come out until as late as Tuesday morning, February 6th. This late release is worrisome since the Democrats have their retreat Wednesday through Friday. Moreover, it's uncertain whether this CR will be passed by the House or Senate since Democrats want a deal on DACA and the House Freedom Caucus does not want to pass any more CRs. Though a number of members of Congress have expressed confidence that there will not be another shutdown, reaching a deal on another CR is not guaranteed at this point.

Debt Ceiling

The Congressional Budget Office said this week that the U.S. will hit the debt ceiling in early March and be forced to default on its obligations unless the debt ceiling is raised and it can borrow more funds. The Treasury Department separately urged Congress to raise the limit by the end of February.

Congressional leaders have said they prefer to pair the debt-ceiling vote with other must-pass measures like the government spending bill. However, if the proposed CR passes, the government risks default if Congress waits until after the March 23 deadline of the next CR to raise the debt ceiling.

In past debt ceiling fights, conservatives have tried to tie raising the debt ceiling to changes to budget rules such as Balanced Budget proposals. It is not clear whether they will try to do that this time.

Congress Likely to Avoid Reconciliation Process in FY 2019

Reports from the Republican Retreat indicate that congressional Republicans might forgo including reconciliation instructions in their FY2019 Budget Resolution (remember, the Budget Resolution, which is not a law, sets for the rules for all budget legislation for the fiscal year, and reconciliation is the fast track process that only requires 51 votes in the Senate). They were expected to use the expedited budget reconciliation procedure to pass cuts to entitlement programs benefiting children and families, much as they used reconciliation to pass the tax bill in December 2017. There was also a possibility they would consider using reconciliation to take another shot at repealing the ACA. At this point, it looks like neither of these will happen.  This is very good news, if it proves true, and is a strong testament to the success of the fight to save the ACA and Medicaid last year.
 

Issue Area:
Budget and Tax
Tags:
Congress, Federal, taxes, Trump
February 5, 2018

Press Conference: Using Data to Promote Health Equity in Connecticut

Connecticut Voices for Children and Health Equity Solutions hosted a joint press conference February 5, 2018, to present our new report "Data to Promote Health Equity for Children and Families in Connecticut" and a legislative proposal to address the current data gaps. 

Although Connecticut achieves high ratings on many healthcare indicators, wide disparities by race and ethnicity dominate the state´s health care system, with White residents having better access to care and health outcomes compared to people of color. In our report, we analyze how closing these disparities has proven difficult in part because state agencies lack consistent, reliable data to identify community needs and evaluate innovations, with serious consequences both for the impacted communities and the state as a whole.The report finds that despite widespread agreement on the importance of addressing racial and ethnic disparities in Connecticut, little actionable data on racial/ethnic health disparities is available, as data is dispersed among several agencies.

In this press conference, Health Equity Solutions presented legislation to fill these gaps. They proposed establishing a set of shared reporting guidelines for state agencies, as well as shared practices to improve data collection. You can watch the video of the press conference below:

Issue Area:
Health
Tags:
Data, disparities, health

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