Statewide Updates 10/2/20

 Statewide Updates: Special Session 

House Bill 7008, An Act Concerning Enhancements to the States Environmental Justice Law had been discussed in previous sessions by Waterbury representatives & senators, but nowhere appeared in the published discussions about the Special Session. So, we can feel a bit of the Republicans pain in their complaints that they were not consulted on the actual legislative agenda. 

As to H.B. 7008 itself, we have attached a citation to the complete bill for your review. It does not impact us at all since we have already concluded the process. However, what is concerning for future such agreements are two provisions that if there are 5 or more such facilities in a town the town the entities must enact an environment justice agreement and even more troubling, the bill now hands the enforcement of the terms of such an agreement (in all circumstances in the future) to the Administrative Authority of the community (i.e. the Town Manager, First Selectman or Mayor as the case may be) 

H.B. 7006: An Act Concerning Emergency Response by Electric Distribution Companies, the Regulation of Other Public Utilities and Nexus Provisions for Certain Disaster-Related or Emergency-Related Work Performed in the State. This bill requires utilities to pay customers $25 for each day power is out beyond 96 consecutive hours, $250 for lost food and medicine if power is out for that period of time, and would begin a process aimed at providing more reliable staffing levels for storm response. 

State lawmakers voted overwhelming Wednesday night for a high-profile bill establishing performance-based rate-making for electric utilities after Eversource came under fire from politicians and consumers for a slow response to Tropical Storm Isaias. 

The bipartisan bill passed by 136 to 4 with four Republicans voting against the measure after nearly 3 ½ hours of debate. 

The vote was taken shortly before 10:30 p.m. during a day-long marathon at the state Capitol that stretched into Thursday morning as lawmakers passed multiple bills on a wide variety of topics from cleaning up contaminated properties to approving a new public high school in Norwalk with an indoor swimming pool. 

Politicians blasted Eversource as town halls, homes and businesses had power outages across the state in August that lasted as long as nine days, but top Eversource officials said the utility had actually performed well under difficult circumstances by bringing in thousands of workers from out of state. The bill originally referred to a goal of restoring power within 72 hours, but the final version now calls for 96 hours. 

Eversource’s chief executive officer, James Judge, testified to the legislature that there had been a “perception” that Eversource had performed slowly and poorly during the storm, but he said the company actually “fared very well” considering the size of the damages and the widespread nature of the outages. Concerning the chances of power being fully restored in 72 hours after a major storm, Judge said, “It’s just not possible.” 

In other matters Wednesday, the House voted 138 to 5 for a bipartisan bill that would make it easier for local officials to count absentee ballots for the Nov. 3 presidential election that is expected to have a high turnout in the bitter battle between President Donald J. Trump and Democrat Joe Biden. 

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, state officials believe that as many as 66 percent of the votes could be cast by absentee ballot. Already, more than 425,000 ballot applications have been processed at towns across the state — with Stamford having the most with more than 15,000 and West Hartford in second place with nearly 15,000. Lawmakers said that the pre-counting work would now be streamlined, but they stressed that the actual counting of the ballots would not take place until Election Day. 

Lawmakers also voted unanimously to make it clear that condominiums are included in the state’s crumbling foundations law and that condominium associations are eligible for loans from the state’s Supplemental Collapsing Foundation Loan Program. 

Some Republicans had complained that the bills were not necessary and could have waited until the January regular session, but they approved multiple measures on a unanimous basis. 

Other bills on the agenda Wednesday: 

  • House Bill 7002. It revises fees for judicial marshals. 
  • House Bill 7003. This revises the state’s hemp program to comply with U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations. 
  • House Bill 7004. It clarifies that condominiums are eligible for the special loans available for the repair of buildings affected by crumbling foundations due to a mineral, pyrrhotite. 
  • House Bill 7007. The bill, which have made changes how the prevailing wage is set, was the only legislation not taken up. 
  • House Bill 7009. The bill, among other things, extends by five years the deadline for Bridgeport’s Steel Point Infrastructure Improvement District to issue bonds. 
  • House Bill 7010. This bill authorizes 12 school construction grants totaling $209.2 million toward total project costs of $501.3 million. 

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