If you work for a company that has 50 or more employees and you currently don’t get paid sick time, starting Jan. 1 chances are very good that you’ll start getting it.
A new state law that takes effect New Year’s Day in Connecticut mandates that most companies with 50 or more workers allow those workers to accrue paid sick time at a rate of 1 hour for every 40 the employee works. The law, the first of its kind in the country, imposes the requirement regardless of a company’s business demands or ability to pay the sick time. The companies that are exempted under the legislation include manufacturers and certain tax-exempt organizations. Also, it does not require covered employers to provide paid sick leave to day or temporary workers or non-hourly employees, such as salaried professionals.
The new law, one of the more controversial of the 2011 legislative session, was passed by the General Assembly despite the vehement opposition of the state’s business community and lobbies.
The legislature this year also passed 28 other laws that will take effect starting Jan. 1, including ones that make changes in how DUI offenders are treated, increase the fines for drivers caught texting while behind the wheel, several health-related mandates and business-related laws aimed at creating jobs and trying to jump-start the sluggish economy. Some of the more noteworthy include:
AN ACT PROMOTING ECONOMIC GROWTH AND JOB CREATION IN THE STATE
This law creates new business assistance, economic and workforce development and job training programs and expands existing ones. Among other things, it authorizes rapid response financial assistance programs for small businesses, temporary subsidies for employment and training costs for small businesses that hire eligible new employees and establishes new airport development zones. It expands the First Five and Manufacturing Reinvestment Account programs to more companies and broadens the options and creates additional incentives for establishing captive insurance companies in Connecticut.
It also allows state and quasi-public agencies to contract with private entities for building, financing, operating, or maintaining facilities. It establishes processes to accelerate state agency decisions on permits, occupational licenses and economic development assistance applications and remediation of state-owned Brownfield properties.
AN ACT MAKING REVISIONS TO MOTOR VEHICLE STATUTES
One of the biggest changes under this new legislation includes a provision allowing repeat drunk drivers to keep their licenses by using so-called ignition interlock devices that can detect if the driver is drunk and, if they are, bar them from starting the vehicle. The new law also will now allow imprisoned DUI offenders to serve their mandatory minimum sentences in home confinement. The changes were backed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving and lawyers who handle DUI cases as a means of allowing offenders to get treatment while protecting the public. Some of the other numerous changes to the motor vehicle laws taking effect Jan. 1 include substantial hikes in the fines for texting while driving. Under the law the fines for texting and driving violations will increase from $100 to $125 for the first offense, from $150 to $250 for the second offense and $200 to $400 for all subsequent offenses. Other portions of the new law requires school bus companies to remove a driver from a school bus within 48 hours, rather than 10 days, of learning that the Department of Motor Vehicles has suspended or revoked the driver’s license, ends the distribution of handicapped license plates (except for motorcycles), but allows people who already have them to renew them and requires new and used car dealers to sell only vehicles that meet state emissions standards and which have passed emissions.
AN ACT CONCERNING THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE MAJORITY LEADERS' JOB GROWTH ROUNDTABLE
This law authorizes programs and policies for establishing or expanding businesses and creating jobs. It authorizes up to $5 million in bonds for developing new business concepts. It authorizes credits for investing in technology-based start-up businesses and expanding businesses, including those using green technologies. The law also authorizes funding and technical assistance for established businesses. It taps up to $15 million in bonds from an existing authorization to provide loans and lines of credit for small businesses, provides technical assistance for all businesses seeking foreign markets for their goods and services, and authorizes financial incentives and technical assistance for businesses developing alternative energy technologies. It authorizes up to $500,000 in bonds to fund the technical assistance. It creates a council to continuously assess the state's strategic business clusters and recommend how to address their needs.
In addition, it addresses workforce needs. It authorizes tax credits for businesses hiring new employees, including those with disabilities. It provides loan reimbursements and grants to Connecticut students seeking jobs in alternative energy technology and other related fields funded by transferring $3 million from the quasi-public Connecticut Health and Educational Facilities Authority to the General Fund. The act authorizes up to $1 million in bonds for programs to train unemployed people and up to $1.5 million bonds for the existing Mortgage Crisis Job Training Program.
AN ACT CONCERNING HEALTHCARE REFORM
This new law requires the state comptroller to offer employee and retiree coverage under “partnership plans” to nonstate public employers beginning Jan. 1, and to nonprofit employers beginning Jan. 1, 2013. It also establishes a new Office of Health Reform and Innovation SustiNet Health Care Cabinet in the lieutenant governor's office.
AN ACT CONCERNING HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE OF PRESCRIPTION DRUGS FOR PAIN TREATMENT
Under this law certain health insurance policies that provide prescription drug coverage are prohibited from requiring an insured to use an alternative brand name prescription drug or over-the-counter drug before using a brand name prescription drug prescribed by a licensed physician for pain treatment. But, it allows these policies to require an insured to first use a therapeutically equivalent generic drug. The act applies to individual and group health insurance policies delivered, issued, renewed, amended, or continued in Connecticut that cover basic hospital expenses, basic medical-surgical expenses, major medical expenses, hospital or medical services, including coverage under an HMO plan; and limited benefits.