Posted on May 14, 2021
HARTFORD — State Representative Tony Scott (R-112th) joined House members of both parties this week in approving a bill ensuring the future solvency of the state unemployment trust fund, a resolution to the looming crisis of unemployment debts facing businesses during the pandemic. In addition, Scott and other lawmakers unanimously approved a resolution enabling the legislature to review the future use of emergency powers by Connecticut governors.
On Wednesday, the House took up HB-6633, ‘An Act Restructuring Unemployment Insurance Benefits and Improving Fund Solvency’. House Republicans and business groups have long insisted reforms were needed to prevent unemployment tax and assessment hikes for employers after the fund was depleted during the pandemic. Republicans and Democrats on the Finance and Labor Committees announced a bipartisan agreement on April 20th, which was welcomed by the Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA) and many businesses.
“I was pleased to join my colleagues in voting for this resolution, which was achieved with bipartisan buy-in and industry support. These reforms will not only ensure the trust fund remains solvent, but it will also spare many businesses from unexpected tax hikes as they recover from the pandemic. As the session continues, I will look for more opportunities to secure much-needed tax relief for our local businesses in Monroe and Newtown,” Scott said.
The Unemployment Insurance (UI) trust fund has been insolvent for 48 of the last 50 years, resulting in higher unemployment taxes and fees for the state’s businesses. According to the Office of Fiscal Analysis, beginning in fiscal 2024, these reforms will save the unemployment fund $84.25 million annually while generating $130.9 million in new annual revenues.
Following the House’s action, the bill now heads to the Senate for further review.
Emergency Powers Review
Earlier in the week, Scott and his colleagues also unanimously approved HB-5653, ‘An Act Amending the Civil Preparedness and Public Health Emergency Statutes’. For more than a year, the Governor and various state agencies have issued dozens of executive actions mandating business sector rules, placing a moratorium on evictions and more. Scott and House Republicans believe the legislature should be able to clearly define the limits of the governor’s powers in an emergency and enumerate the differences between ‘Civil Preparedness’ and ‘Public Health’ emergencies.
“The legislature and the executive need to be able to co-exist in a state of emergency. You should not have a situation like with COVID-19 where the people’s elected representatives don’t have a seat at the table in high-stakes decisions on public and economic health. While executive orders removing burdensome regulations helped enable the distribution of tests, vaccines and supplies, the continuing eviction moratorium has not resolved a growing housing crisis for tenants and an equally great financial crisis for small landlords. We need a thorough review the scope of these powers and get to work codifying necessary executive orders into law. I was glad to see this much-needed reform receive overwhelming support from members of both parties in both chambers,” Scott concluded following the Senate’s approval of the measure on Thursday in concurrence with the House.
The Public Health and Civil Preparedness Emergency statutes, first invoked by Governor Lamont in March 2020 and renewed multiple times on party-line votes, have effectively allowed the executive branch to govern by executive order, shuttering businesses and enforce social distancing protocols in group gatherings.
Under the bill, future emergency declarations would be limited to a duration of 60 days if the legislature is in session, and 180 days if it is not. It would also require that redeclaration of an emergency receive a majority vote of both chambers, and it establishes a bipartisan commission to review and recommend changes to the two emergency statutes.
Following its passage in the House and Senate, the bill now heads to Governor Lamont’s desk.
Rep. Scott encourages his constituents to keep up with the legislative session at www.RepScott.com.