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Voices Speaking

March 19, 2019

Voices from the Capitol: Access to Health Care, Recent Successes

Improving Access to Health Care

The Connecticut General Assembly is well into the legislative session, and while public hearings continue, most legislative committees have passed their deadlines to introduce new bills. This week, Karen Siegel, Health Policy Fellow at Connecticut Voices, will submit testimony on health-related bills before the Human Services Committee, including the following proposals:

  • Expanding health coverage through a public option. House Bill 7339, An Act Concerning a Public Health Insurance Option, would establish a working group to make recommendations about the establishment of a public health insurance coverage option that would be funded by enrollee premiums and open to individuals ineligible for Medicaid. In our testimony, we make recommendations to amend the proposal to address who will benefit from public option and how it will be structured. Earlier this month, we testified about House Bill 7267, another public option bill.
  • Expanding Medicaid and HUSKY B coverage for children. We support Senate Bill 1053, which would cover all uninsured, income-eligible children, regardless of their immigration status. An estimated 17,000 of Connecticut’s uninsured children are undocumented.
  • Promoting two-generational family economic success. We support Senate Bill 1080, which would create a Two-Generational Family Economic Success Cabinet within the executive branch. The cabinet would facilitate interagency collaboration to support moving families towards economic security, workforce preparedness, and improved health, while promoting dignity and independence.
  • Expanding access to providers for pregnant Medicaid members. We will testify in support of Senate Bill 1078, which would provide state certification of doulas and Medicaid reimbursement for their services. It would also study the effects of doula services on health outcomes for pregnant Medicaid beneficiaries and their infants. Doulas provide physical, emotional, and informational support before, during and after the birth; they do not provide medical care. Evidence suggests that doula support is likely to reduce the dramatic racial disparities in maternal and infant health outcomes. These disparities are tied to social as well as medical factors. Access to doula care through Medicaid may help to ensure that low-income women of color have the support and advocacy they need before, during, and after childbirth.

Recent Successes

In the last week, legislative committees approved bills that are supported by Connecticut Voices:

  • The Labor Committee took an important step toward ensuring that parents who work full-time can make ends meet by approving legislation to increase the state’s minimum wage to $15. The Committee voted in favor of Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 5004, both of which were supported by Connecticut Voices.
  • The Committee on Children passed Senate Bill 452, which would establish a State Oversight Council on Children and Families. The Council provides a structure for various stakeholders to support the needs of children and families who could be at risk of entering the foster care system. As we described in our testimony, the Council could help the state to maintain and build upon important gains made under the Juan F. Consent Decree, even after we have exited from federal oversight.

Additional Recent Testimony

Connecticut Voices staff also submitted testimony on the following bills over the last week:

You can always find all of our legislative testimony on our website. 

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Child Welfare, Education, Family Economic Security, Health
March 14, 2019

Voices from the Capitol: Legislative Highlights, Educational Disparity Data

March 14, 2019

Highlights of Our Work at the Capitol

The General Assembly continues to hold hearings in several key committees. Connecticut Voices for Children testified recently on a variety of bills affecting children and families. These are some highlights:

  • Speaking up for low wage working families. Jamie Mills testified in support of Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 5004, which would raise the state's minimum wage to $15. As Jamie explained in her testimony and in an op-ed published recently, we need to both pay workers a living wage and adjust our system of public supports to ensure that improved wages do not result in the loss of resources such as Medicaid and child care subsidies.
  • Protecting public investments in children and families. Subcommittees of the General Assembly's Appropriations Committee held public hearings on the Governor's budget proposal. Our staff submitted testimony on elements of his budget plan that affect children and families served by health programs, the Department of Children and Families, the Judicial Branch, and the State Department of Education and Office of Early Childhood.
  • Calling for equitable and expanded educational opportunities. Wendy Waithe Simmons testified on several bills that would bring us closer to establishing equitable education opportunities. These include bills that would expand eligibility for Care 4 Kids child care subsidies and improve on low compensation for early care and education providers. For more information on how we can improve access to Care 4 Kids, see our fact sheet.
  • Protecting youth in foster care. Jessica Nelson testified in support of House Bill 6403, "An Act Concerning a Children in Care Bill of Rights and Expectations and the Sibling Bill of Rights." This legislation directly addresses concerns expressed by youth in foster care about opportunities to connect to their schools and communities and express their identities. The bill was approved by the Committee on Children. For more information, see our fact sheet.
  • Ensuring age-appropriate treatment of court-involved youth. Adult courts are not equipped to provide children with therapeutic, developmentally-informed services to help them become productive adults, and Black and Brown children are disproportionately more likely to be transferred to adult prison than their white peers. Lauren Ruth testified in opposition to House Bill 7332, which would loosen the statutes defining when the court may choose to transfer youth from juvenile court to adult court.

Also, this Friday, March 15, the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee will hold a public hearing on Senate Bill 877, which would implement the Governor's revenue proposals. We will submit testimony on this legislation and will oppose House Bill 6031, which would phase out the estate tax.

Thank You for Signing On to Protect Access to Educational Disparity Data!

Connecticut Voices would like to express our gratitude to the 39 organizations and 81 individuals who signed onto our letter to the Education Committee calling on its members to oppose Senate Bill 851! Your support can help us to preserve access to vital data that enable us to measure and reduce racial and ethnic disparities in education among our state's children and youth. This legislation, which could come up for a committee vote soon, would limit the ability to examine education data by student ethnicity, making it difficult to detect ethnic disparities in access to high-quality education or to measure the impact of reforms on specific student populations. To learn more, see our sign-on letter, fact sheet, and testimony.

Our Latest State Budget Reports

If you missed them, be sure to download our latest reports on the state budget:

  • Impact of the Governor's FY 2020-2021 Budget on Children and Families. Governor Lamont's proposed state budget avoids additional major cuts to essential programs and services for children and families, though it is based on revenue proposals that fall most heavily on our lowest income taxpayers. It asks little of our highest income taxpayers.
    Download the report
  • Connecticut's Radical New Budget Rules: Locking in Decreased Investment in our State for the Next Decade. Connecticut's rigid fiscal rules will ensure that Connecticut remains in a permanent state of fiscal deprivation, starving our schools, health systems and infrastructure of crucial investments.
    Download the report and fact sheet

Additional Recent Testimony

In addition to the legislative testimony described above, we delivered the following testimony on bills in recent weeks:

You can always find all of our legislative testimony on our website.

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Child Welfare, Early Care, Education, Family Economic Security, Health, Juvenile Justice
February 27, 2019

Voices from the Capitol: Disparity Data, Youth in Foster Care, Governor’s Budget

In today’s update:

  • Sign On Letter to Protect Access to Educational Disparity Data
  • Protecting Youth in Foster Care: House Bill 6403
  • Governor’s Budget Proposal
  • Our Recent Testimony

Sign On Letter to Protect Access to Educational Disparity Data

We need your help to ensure that Connecticut residents, advocates, and policymakers continue to have access to data that enable us to measure and reduce racial and ethnic disparities in education among our state’s children and youth. Senate Bill 851, which had a public hearing in the General Assembly’s Education Committee and could come up for a vote soon, would limit the ability to examine education data by student ethnicity, making it difficult to detect ethnic disparities in access to high-quality education or to measure the impact of reforms on specific student populations.

Please consider adding your organization’s name or your individual name to a sign on letter to the Education Committee calling on them to oppose S.B. 851. If you can sign on as an organization or individual, please complete our sign on form by the end of the day Thursday, February 28.  For more information, see our sign-on letter, fact sheet, and testimony on this issue.

Please sign on today!

Protecting Youth in Foster Care: House Bill 6403

During adolescence, youth should have experiences that contribute to their development into successful adults. These experiences can help them to develop and explore their identities. Some experiences in foster care – such as placement moves that result in changing schools – can disrupt a youth’s life and affect their sense of self. As part of our annual Youth at the Capitol Day research report and forum, Connecticut Voices heard from youth in foster care that they often feel disconnected from their schools and communities, valued the freedom to express their own identities, and need support in exploring their identities.

A new bill – House Bill 6403, An Act Concerning a Children in Care Bill of Rights and Expectations and the Sibling Bill of Rights – includes multiple provisions that directly address the concerns of these Connecticut youth. On Thursday, February 28, the General Assembly’s Committee on Children will hold a hearing on this bill, and Connecticut Voices will be testifying in support of this legislation. For more information, see our fact sheet on this bill.

Governor’s Budget Proposal

On February 20, Governor Lamont recently released his state budget proposal for the next two fiscal years (from July 2019 through June 2021). You can watch a video of the Governor’s budget address, read a transcript of his speech, and see the details of the budget on the Governor’s website.

You can provide your input on the Governor’s proposals at upcoming public hearings. Subcommittees of the legislature’s Appropriations Committee will hold hearings on the Governor’s budget bill (House Bill 7148) in the next week. The following are some key subcommittee hearings. The committees will hear testimony from the public at the times below and from state officials earlier in the day.

  • Health on Friday, March 1, 5:30 p.m.
  • Judicial and Corrections on Monday, March 4, 6:30 p.m.
  • Human Services on Tuesday, March 5, 4:30 p.m.
  • Elementary and Secondary Education on Wednesday, March 6, 4:00 p.m.
  • Higher Education on Thursday, March 7, 7:30 p.m.

For more details on the hearings and how to submit testimony, see the Appropriations Committee schedule.

Connecticut Voices is currently analyzing the impact of the Governor’s budget on children and families, and we’ll be sharing our summary in early March. Watch our website and email newsletter!

Our Recent Testimony

You can always find all of our legislative testimony on our website. We delivered the following testimony on bills in the last two weeks:

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Child Welfare, Education
May 25, 2018

Introducing our new Education Disparities Dashboard

Today we are pleased to announce a new online data tool to help community leaders, policymakers, advocates and parents better understand the vast disparities in educational opportunity that exist across our state and come together to create solutions to redress them.

Connecticut Voices for Children believes that the future economic and social well-being of our state depends in part upon opening pathways to opportunity so that all of our children and youth can reach their full potential and leave high school prepared for success in college and career.  Much of our work involves research, data analysis and policy recommendations which we share in briefs, like this one, discussing differences in educational access and outcomes between White and Black students statewide.

After discussions with many thoughtful advocates, community members and educators we have learned that many seek access to data as a tool they can use to better understand and work to improve opportunity within their communities.  

To meet this need, today we are proud to release the Educational Disparities Data Dashboard, an interactive data repository for the whole state with district-by-district education data, disaggregated by race/ethnicity.

The dashboard covers enrollment, chronic absenteeism, per-pupil funding, teacher diversity, exclusionary discipline, and academic achievement, all broken down by race and ethnicity. The purpose of this tool is to provide a "one-stop" resource for advocates, community leaders, policymakers, and reporters where they can find up-to-date data on their communities clearly and accessibly: data which they can then use to help drive systemic change.

The Dashboard is ready and online our Tableau site, available here. Please feel free to look around the dashboard and explore what it has to offer! 

Want to learn more?

We will be hosting a Webinar, Wednesday, June 6th at 11 A.M, where we will explain how to use the dashboard and some of its features.

Please sign up for the webinar by following this link.

If you have any questions prior to the webinar about either the webinar or the dashboard itself, please feel free to reach out to Associate Policy Fellow, Camara Stokes Hudson (chudson@ctvoices.org) or Communications Director, Roger Senserrich (rsenserrich@ctvoices.org). 

 

 

Issue Area:
Education
Tags:
Data, disparities, Education dashboard, Webinar
May 17, 2018

End of the Session Update: New Paths to Opportunity

Roger Senserrich

In today’s email:

End-of-Session Update:

New Paths to Opportunity

The 2018 legislative session came to a close Wednesday, with the usual flurry of late-night votes and budget negotiations. It has been an unusually busy, and in many ways exceptionally successful, short session, with many of our priority bills making it to the Governor's desk, with the promise of opening new paths to opportunity for many Connecticut children and families.

On the fiscal side, unexpectedly high revenues allowed the restoration of funding to many key programs. As a result, legislators renewed and even expanded some much-needed investments in transportation, health insurance coverage, education, juvenile justice, and early childhood.

Legislators also made important reforms to the Bond Lock: our top priority this session. Our end-of-session legislative report will provide detail as to how changes to the duration of the Bond Lock coupled with changes in the volatility cap mechanism have improved state policy, even as we acknowledge the need for ongoing work to assure fiscal responsibility, adequacy, and sustainability.

As we work on our budget analysis and legislative reviews, we extend our heartfelt thanks to the many legislators, advocates, policymakers, and friends with whom we have worked to ensure that all children in Connecticut have the opportunity to succeed. We deeply appreciate your leadership, insights, and hard work, without which none of the legislative victories described below would have been possible. It has been an eventful and at times challenging legislative session, but together we are moving equity and opportunity forward in our state.

 

Legislative Priorities

Key Bills that We Supported:

HUSKY A Parent Eligibility Restoration. The increase in revenues this year allowed the General Assembly to restore HUSKY A health insurance coverage for 13,000 low-income parents (we explained why this matters here and here). The Medicaid Strategy Group and Protect Our Care CT provided admirable support in raising awareness about the impact of the HUSKY cuts, and were key champions on their reversal.

S.B. 323 An Act Requiring Notice Prior To The Transfer Of A Child To A New Placement. A bill that emerged from our Youth at the Capitol event, it instructs the Department of Children and Families to provide at least 10 days notice to children and youth in foster care before they are moved to a new home. It received unanimous support in both chambers. Thank you to Senator Paul Formica and Senator Len Suzio for championing this bill, and thank you to Senator Marilyn Moore, Representative Diana Urban, and Representative Lezlye Zupkus for prioritizing this as a Committee Bill. Read our testimony here.

S.B. 188 An Act Establishing the State Oversight Council on Children and Families. This bill creates an oversight structure for DCF to continue monitoring its performance after the Juan F. consent decree expires. Approved with widespread support by both chambers, we want to recognize the leadership of Sarah Eagan, the Child Advocate and the partnership of the Alliance for Children's Mental Health, and the Center for Children's Advocacy, as well as Representative Toni Walker, Senator Len Suzio, and Senator Len Fasano. Read our testimony here.

S.B. 455 An Act Concerning Minority Teacher Recruitment. The bill passed both chambers with nearly unanimous support, including several amendments that made it stronger. We want to highlight the great work of Commissioner Subira Gordon, Commissioner Dianna Wentzell, Senator Douglas McCrory, Senator Gayle Slossberg, Senator Toni Boucher, Representative Andrew Fleischmann, and Representative Gail Lavielle in the approval of this bill. Read our testimony here.

H.B. 5449 An Act Concerning The Administration Of Certain Early Childhood Programs And The Provision Of Early Childhood Services By The Office Of Early Childhood. This OEC agency bill makes a number of statutory changes to better serve young children, including enabling increased rates for School Readiness and Child Day Care Center and new forms of program evaluation. We strongly supported this bill due to a section that enabled prioritization of infants and toddlers and other high-need populations (such as homeless families) when Care 4 Kids is operating with a waitlist, thereby helping to ensure that the most vulnerable children and families don’t have to wait long for the child care they need. Read our testimony here.

H.B. 5041 An Act Concerning The Transfer Of Juvenile Services From The Department Of Children And Families To The Court Support Services Division Of The Judicial Branch. Approved with widespread bipartisan support, this bill creates the structure for the creation of community-based diversion system for juvenile offenders. We worked on this bill as part of the Juvenile Justice Policy and Oversight Committee’s diversion group, in close collaboration with the Tow Youth Justice Institute, the Child Health and Development Institute, the State Department of Education and Juvenile Review Boards. Read our testimony here.

 

Celebrating Legislative Partnerships:

S.B. 256 An Act Concerning Racial and Ethnic Impact Statements. This bill requires that certain bills include a racial and ethnic impact statement at the request of any legislator. Connecticut is the first state in the country to adopt this policy. Both chambers passed the bill with widespread bipartisan support (unanimously in the Senate, 104-44 in the House). We want to thank Senator Gary Winfield, Commissioner Subira Gordon and Werner Oyanandel for their leadership on this issue. Read our testimony here.

S.B. 13 An Act Concerning Fair Treatment of Incarcerated Women. Connecticut is one of the first states in the nation to enact this legislation implementing a set of policies to improve the treatment of female inmates in Connecticut’s prisons. Floor amendments improved an already strong bill to include protections for transgender inmates, that passed unanimously in both chambers. The Commission on Equity and Opportunity and Planned Parenthood of Southern New England championed this bill to passage. Read our testimony here.

H.B. 5210 An Act Mandating Insurance Coverage Of Essential Health Benefits And Expanding Mandated Health Benefits For Women, Children And Adolescents. This bill protects essential healthcare for women and children and was passed by both chambers with widespread bipartisan support. Many thanks to Planned Parenthood of Southern New England and Representative Sean Scanlon for spearheading this bill and to Protect our Care Connecticut and for their collaboration ensuring its passage. Read our testimony here.

H.B. 5517 An Act Concerning Executive Branch Data Management and Processes. This bill codifies the creation of a state Chief Data Officer to coordinate data gathering and sharing across all state agencies. It passed with unanimous support in both chambers. Read our testimony here.

SB 312: An Act Concerning The Needs Of Children With Intellectual And Developmental Disabilities. This bill requires the Commissioner of DCF to develop and integrate procedures and practices that are responsive to the needs of children with disabilities at all points of the child welfare system. The bill passed both chambers unanimously. We want to thank the Office of the Child Advocate for their leadership on this legislation. Read our testimony here.

H.B. 5169: An Act Implementing the Recommendations of the Office of Early Childhood. This bill creates a 90-day grace period for vaccinations and physicals for homeless children enrolling in child care. Lowering barriers to accessing child care for homeless families helps keep kids safe, enables parents to work to support themselves, and provides stability for the whole family. It passed unanimously in both chambers. We commend the Partnership for Strong Communities, the Office of Early Childhood, and allies throughout the early childhood community for this legislation. Read our testimony here.

H.B. 5470 An Act Concerning The Provision Of Timely Notice Of Child Placement Information From The Department Of Children And Families To The Attorney Or Guardian Ad Litem Representing The Child In A Child Protection Matter. The Center for Children’s Advocacy championed this bill, that passed both chambers unanimously. This bill complements S.B. 323 to help ensure that foster children have appropriate support from their attorney or guardian ad litem when they transition between homes. Read our testimony here.

 

Key Bills We Opposed that Were Defeated:

S.B. 270 An Act Concerning Work And Community Service Requirements For Recipients Of Certain Public Assistance Programs. The bill would have added work and community service requirements and asset testing for adults under age 65 receiving HUSKY (Medicaid) insurance. It also would have barred the Department of Social Services from applying federal SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) waivers for high-unemployment areas. These changes would have added enormous administrative burden for the state while increasing the likelihood that eligible families would lose care due to red tape. The bill did not receive a vote in committee. Read our testimony here.

H.B. 5445 An Act Concerning The Development Of Policies Regarding The Provision Of Alternative Educational Opportunities For Expelled Students By Boards Of Education. The bill  removed minimum education requirements for expelled students, potentially leaving them behind on their education. Although it made it out of committee, but was not put up for a vote in the House. We worked closely with the Center for Children's Advocacy and Connecticut Legal Services to push back on this proposal. You can read our testimony here.

S.B. 373: An Act Concerning The Connecticut Health Insurance Exchange, Low Option Benefit Design and Short-term Care Policies. This bill and two others would have allowed insurers to offer short-term plans and insurance options with high-out-of-pocket costs and limited benefits. Such plans expose families to debt and can make insurance coverage unaffordable to use. The bill reached the Senate, but did not receive a vote. Read our testimony here.

S.B.316 An Act Establishing A Child Care Facility Neighbor Relations Task Force. This bill would have created a task force to address neighborhood concerns with local group homes without representation from any youth or staff - thereby risking further stigmatization and harm to children in DCF care. The bill reached the Senate, but did not receive a vote. The Alliance of Community Nonprofits was a key partner defeating this bill. Read our testimony here.

S.B. 486 An Act Concerning Notification To Boards Of Education Of The Release Of A Juvenile Sexual Offender And A Model Policy Concerning The Reentry Of Such Juveniles Into The School System. The bill reached the Senate, but did not receive a vote. The bill is similar to one introduced last year. It lacked key privacy protections for ex-offenders, running counter to research on rehabilitation and recidivism. We worked closely with the Juvenile Justice Alliance and the Office of the Chief Public Defender to educate legislators on the dangers of this bill. Read our testimony here.

S.B.187 An Act Concerning The Transfer Of A Child Charged With Certain Offenses To The Criminal Docket. The Senate referred this bill to the Judiciary Committee that voted it down. It would have expanded the number of juvenile cases that could be transferred to adult criminal courts. We want to thank the Office of the Chief Public Defender, the Juvenile Justice Alliance and Center for Children's Advocacy, the Alliance for Children’s Mental Health, and African Caribbean American Parents of Children with Disabilities (AFCAMP) for their support to defeat this bill. Read our testimony here.

H.B. 5584:  An Act Establishing a Tax Credit for Employers that Provide Paid Family and Medical Leave Benefits and Concerning Family and Medical Leave Accounts.The bill reached the House, but did not get a vote. While we applaud Paid Family Medical Leave (PFML) as a policy, this bill would have limited the number of people would could access PFML while costing the state revenue. Read our testimony in opposition here.

S.B. 359: An Act Prohibiting The Disaggregation Of Student Data By Ethnic Subgroups In The Public School Information System.The bill did not receive a vote in Committee. Helping lawmakers understand the value and necessity of disaggregated data for opening pathways to opportunity was a team effort, and we’d like to recognize the partnership of Commissioner Subira Gordon, Commissioner Dianna Wentzell, Health Equity Solutions, the Connecticut Association of Human Services, the Khmer Health Advocates, and the Asian Pacific American Coalition of Connecticut. Read our testimony here.

The Volatility Cap

The General Assembly revised budget introduced some welcome changes to the volatility cap. Under the old system, any revenue raised from estimates and finals above $3.15 billion went to the Budget Reserve Fund, without any further adjustments. The cap level, however, set a hard limit, without ties to actual volatility or accounting for economic growth or the overall budget situation.

The new provision indexes the actual cap to growth in personal income, allowing the revenue set aside to track economic activity. In addition, the General Assembly can raise the cap level with a three-fifths majority in both chambers to respond to changes in the tax code or economic growth.

Representative Vin Candelora has been a strong voice for a responsible, nuanced and flexible volatility cap in Connecticut, and we thank him for his leadership.

Lawmakers also introduced changes to the Bond Lock, limiting its application to five years. We are evaluating the legislative language included in the implementer to fully understand its implications, but we thank Representative Jason Rojas for raising the bill that made the Bond Lock a discussion amongst the legislature.

Analysis: Budget Proposals

We are working on a full-length analysis of the budget right now; expect to hear from us in the coming days. The overall picture is that increased revenues enabled the General Assembly to restore funding or limit cuts to several key programs. Nevertheless, legislators only made modest progress in tackling Connecticut’s structural deficits, leaving a challenging budget scenario for the 2019 legislative session. The CT Mirror, as usual, has a good overview.

Federal Update: CHIP Rescissions, SNAP Updates

  • The White House is set to request a rescission package this week, asking Congress to rescind funds previously allocated by Congress and signed into law — the first installment in what’s expected to become a larger Trump administration push to clamp down on government spending. The request will likely include cuts to CHIP (the Children’s Health Insurance Program). Vox has more on this proposal.

  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—formerly Food Stamps—provides low-income households with a monthly benefit that is redeemable only for food. More than 400,000 Connecticut residents relied on this program last year alone. Congress may soon vote on proposed changes to SNAP in the Farm Bill. These changes would increase food insecurity and hardship for children in low-income families, while increasing the state’s administrative burden. Click here to download our issue brief about the potential impact of the cuts in Connecticut.

What We Are Reading

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Child Welfare, Early Care, Education, Family Economic Security, Health, Juvenile Justice
May 4, 2018

Voices from the Capitol: A Call to Action - The Clock is Ticking on the Bond Lock

Roger Senserrich

In today’s email:

Legislative Priorities

The Bond Lock

The Bond Lock continues to be our main focus - and with the final day of the session less than a week away, the need for action becomes more and more urgent.

The good news is that the House of Representatives debated the bill that delays most of the Bond Lock Tuesday evening (H.B. 5590), including a new amendment introduced by Representative Rojas and Senator Fonfara. The bad news is that the bill did not receive a vote. Legislators have assured us that the bill is not dead and they are continuing negotiations.

Time, however, is running out. The Bond Lock is an untested legislative provision that can completely upend the budget process for more than a decade. It has the potential to crowd out investments in children, family well-being, and economic development and will have implications that extend long after the Bond Lock expires. The General Assembly must act now to prevent this legislative provision from severely undermining its fiscal authority for more than a decade, creating a cloud of uncertainty over Connecticut’s budget.

The newly introduced amendment moves the bill in the right direction, but still falls short of a full delay. It postpones implementing the Bond Lock for a year on three of the fiscal restrictions - appropriations cap, spending cap, bond cap - instead of just two, but it will still include a promise not to change the volatility cap in bonds issued after May 15th this year. The amendment also reduces the length of the bond covenant requirements from ten years after first bond issuance to five years, and excludes some additional bond types from including a Bond Lock covenant.

Although the amended bill would be an improvement, it is not enough. Connecticut Voices for Children urges legislators to consider a delay of the Bond Lock without exceptions, or a full repeal of the Bond Lock.

Call to action: Speak Up Against the Bond Lock

The Connecticut General Assembly is slated to vote on H.B. 5590, "An Act Concerning Covenants and the Bond Issuance Cap."

H.B. 5590 would not fully repeal the existing Bond Lock; rather, it would partially delay implementation. Under this proposal, bonds issued after May 15, 2018, would include a covenant locking in the volatility cap. Bonds issued after the end of the session (July 1, 2019, onwards) would lock in the spending, appropriations, and bond caps.

While an improvement over current law, further change is needed. We are calling legislators to amend the bill to:

  • Delay the effective date of all provisions of the Bond Lock until July 1, 2019.

  • Study and issue a report on the impact of the Bond Lock, with a committee hearing on the same, prior to the new effective date.
     

We urge you to join us in requesting the passage of an amended bill. Inaction is not an option, for existing law poses real threats to our state. If implemented, the Bond Lock would:

  • Risk billions of dollars in cuts to social services and other crucial programs for children and families in the state.

  • Create uncertainty regarding Connecticut's fiscal health, potentially damaging our credit rating and increasing our borrowing costs.

  • Leave Connecticut powerless to respond to emergencies. We do not know what the federal government is going to do regarding funding. We don't know if a natural disaster is coming. With the Bond Lock, we do know that we cannot address any of these challenges without facing serious penalties.

Other Legislative priorities

 

Bills that we support:

S.B. 323 An Act Requiring Notice Prior To The Transfer Of A Child To A New Placement. A bill that emerged from our “Youth at the Capitol” event, it passed the Senate on consent last week (that is, unanimously). It is currently waiting action on the House Calendar. Thank you to Sen. Formica and Sen. Suzio for raising and championing this bill in the Senate. We hope that Rep. Urban and Rep. Zupkus will do the same in the House.

H.B. 5210 An Act Mandating Insurance Coverage Of Essential Health Benefits And Expanding Mandated Health Benefits For Women, Children And Adolescents.The House amended the original bill, passing it on a 114-32 vote. It is currently on the Senate calendar. We thank Sen. Scanlon for his leadership on this bill.

S.B. 455 An Act Concerning Minority Teacher Recruitment. The bill passed the Senate yesterday on consent, with substantial proposed amendments. The amendments to this bill are mainly favorable, including the requirement that local school boards collect and report to SDE on the demographics of applicants to positions that require an education certification and the development of alternative routes to certification for Veterans, Charter School Educators and Paraeducators with Bachelor's degrees. It is currently on the Senate Calendar.

 

No movement yet:

S.B. 256 An Act Concerning Racial and Ethnic Impact Statements. This bill is on the Senate calendar.

H.B. 5415  An Act Concerning The Collection And Usage Of Health Equity Data. This bill is on the House Calendar.

H.B. 5517 An Act Concerning Executive Branch Executive Priorities. This bill is on the House calendar.

H.B. 5449 An Act Concerning The Administration Of Certain Early Childhood Programs And The Provision Of Early Childhood Services By The Office Of Early Childhood. Tabled for the House Calendar.

 

Bills we oppose:

H.B. 5328 An Act Concerning The Admissibility Of Admissions, Confessions And Statements By Children Under The Age Of Eighteen. This bill is on the House Calendar. Unless legislators vote on it along with a currently uncalled amendment, we oppose its passage.

H.B. 5445 An Act Concerning The Development Of Policies Regarding The Provision Of Alternative Educational Opportunities For Expelled Students By Boards Of Education. This bill is also on the House Calendar. You can read our testimony here.

S.B.453 An Act Concerning Classroom Safety and Disruptive Behavior. This bill is on the Senate Calendar; read our testimony here.

S.B.316 An Act Establishing A Child Care Facility Neighbor Relations Task Force. This bill is on the Senate Calendar. Read our testimony here.

S.B. 486 An Act Concerning Notification To Boards Of Education Of The Release Of A Juvenile Sexual Offender And A Model Policy Concerning The Reentry Of Such Juveniles Into The School System. Also waiting on the Senate calendar. Read our testimony here.

 

Analysis: Budget Proposals

First, the good news: tax collections are up by close to $2 billion, potentially making the General Assembly’s task of balancing the budget much easier. However, most of that surge in revenue will go into the Budget Reserve Fund, not the General Fund, following the new volatility cap rules. The CT Mirror has a good overview of the causes of this revenue surge, and how state agencies predict that the large increases will not continue over time.

The General Assembly, meanwhile, continues its work on the budget. On April 20, the Appropriations Committee and legislative Republicans put forward their proposals to modify the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 budget adopted last October. We analyzed both plans in our new budget report, comparing them to the Governor’s initial proposal. Our conclusion was that all three budget plans struggle to promote policies that support opportunity for all children and families, despite restoring some program funding, and that they do not increase revenues significantly. You can read the full analysis here.

Following the newly revised higher revenue estimates, Republicans released a revised budget document on Wednesday. We are currently going over the details, but the CT Mirror has a good overview here.

The Bond Lock under this Budget Proposals

Neither of the legislative budget proposals address the Bond Lock or include any changes to this legislation. Both plans breach some of the budget rules that the Bond Lock would cement into place for the next decade, highlighting the need to rethink its application. The funding in the Appropriations Committee bill exceeds the spending cap limit, while the Republican proposal breaches the volatility cap, using some of the additional revenue to fund the budget rather than  the Budget Reserve Fund. As we discuss in our budget analysis:

Getting around the volatility and spending caps this year may not be too heavy a lift, but the fact that both parties seek relief from the fiscal restraints they enacted just a few months ago should give pause to those who want to lock in the restraints through the use of broad bond covenants. While fiscal restraint is advisable, some amount of agility is necessary for unexpected circumstances. In the coming years, federal laws may decrease or delay Connecticut’s Medicaid funding. Natural disasters may bring evacuees to Connecticut, as did Hurricane Maria. The Bond Lock would make responding to these or other unforeseeable challenges much more difficult, if not impossible.

In Case You Missed It: Bond Lock Op-Ed

CT by the Numbers published this weekend an op-ed by Associate Policy Fellow Ray Noonan and Fiscal Policy Fellow Rachel Silbermann about the threat that the Bond Lock represents to Connecticut´s long-term fiscal health.

Connecticut’s future lies in opening new pathways to economic growth and opportunity for businesses, families, and communities. To achieve these goals, Connecticut needs a predictable and coherent fiscal policy that enables lawmakers to make the strategic choices that can spur economic growth. Unfortunately, a set of fiscal restrictions added to the budget in the final hours of negotiations last year might bring significant uncertainty on future fiscal policy and leave legislators unable to respond to current and future crises.

The fiscal restrictions – spending cap, bonding cap, volatility cap, appropriations cap, and Bond Lock – place a set of rules to guide Connecticut's fiscal policy. When well-designed, fiscal restrictions can help create a strong foundation for the state´s budget practices, enabling legislators to focus on forward-looking investments to generate opportunity and spur economic growth. When hastily designed, however, restrictions may constrain fiscal policy to the point of making it wholly ineffective.

You can read it here.

Federal Update:

The new Farm Bill is slowly moving forward in Congress. After a favorable vote in the Agriculture Committee, the House plans to vote on the bill next week. The proposed legislation has many problems, and would greatly increase food insecurity for low-income families that rely on this program. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities´analysis is clear:

The nutrition provisions of the farm bill that the House Agriculture Committee passed on April 18, if enacted, would increase food insecurity and hardship. The proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) would end or cut benefits for a substantial number of low-income people.

SNAP is the country’s most effective anti-hunger program, helping 1 in 8 Americans afford a basic diet, with most SNAP participants being children, seniors, or people with disabilities. Despite providing modest benefits — averaging about $1.40 per person per meal — the program combats food insecurity, alleviates poverty, and has long-term positive impacts on health as well as on children’s educational attainment. The Committee’s proposal would reduce SNAP’s effectiveness and put large numbers of families and individuals at increased risk of hardship.

Read the full report here.

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