The Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA), the state’s largest business association, released legislative scores for lawmakers in the House of Representatives and the Senate, which reflect individual votes on key business issues that came before committees and the General Assembly during the 2023 legislative session.
CBIA based their scoring on lawmaker votes around ten bills that CBIA either supported or opposed because of their potential impact on the state’s economy, including granting unemployment to striking workers, creation of a first-time homebuyer savings account, expansion of paid sick leave and emissions targets.
Only two of the bills regarding workforce development and unemployment reporting requirements were passed and signed into law by Gov. Ned Lamont. The rest received committee votes but failed to be taken up by either the House or Senate. Because of the nature of the bills and the fact that many of them only received committee votes, not all members of the legislature had the ability to weigh in on all of CBIA’s top issues.
Overall, Republicans, who are vastly outnumbered in the legislature, received higher marks in CBIA’s score cards, with Senate Republicans averaging a score of 98.5 percent, while Senate Democrats averaged 49.6 percent, according to Inside Investigator’s calculations.
The House of Representatives was more even, with every Republican receiving a score of 100 percent, while House Democrats averaged 75.1 percent. Some of Democrats’ top leaders in the House received one hundred percent ratings, including House Speaker Matthew Ritter, D-Hartford, and House Majority Leader Jason Rojas, D-East Hartford, based on their voting record.
Conversely, many of the state’s lawmakers with close ties to labor unions received some of the lowest scores, including Sen. Julie Kushner, D-Danbury, a former labor leader who serves as chair of the Labor and Public Employees Committee, and Anne Hughes, D-Easton, who also serves on the Labor Committee.
All but one of the bills CBIA opposed passed through the Labor Committee where businesses and lawmakers often bump heads over business mandates.
“Our voting scorecards reflect lawmakers’ priorities, measuring their support for critically needed workforce development and affordability solutions,” CBIA President Chris DiPentima said in a press release. “However, it’s clear that we need more small business champions in the legislature.”
CBIA did applaud the General Assembly for extending the 2017 fiscal guardrails, which have been widely credited with putting Connecticut in a much better fiscal position, eliminating the need for more tax increases and paying down the state’s pension debt, and have received wide support from Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration.
They also praised 84 lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle for supporting CBIA’s Transform Connecticut policy solutions, which include lowering the state’s cost of living, providing more housing options, easing the tax burdens on small businesses, and promoting Connecticut as a business destination.
The business association has continually pointed out that Connecticut has tens of thousands of unfilled jobs, even as the latest unemployment report showed that Connecticut has gained back all the private-sector jobs lost during the pandemic. In a separate press release, DiPentima noted Connecticut must address its cost of living, housing options and childcare costs in order to lure more people to the state to fill those jobs.
But businesses have also been dealing with repeated and growing regulations and mandates passed down by the General Assembly, as well, including a rising minimum wage, paid family and medical leave, and sick day requirements – all of which CBIA opposed at the time.
During the 2023 session, CBIA listed several bills they opposed as criteria for their grading system. Those bills included unemployment benefits for striking workers, expanded sick leave, and paid FMLA offsets, none of which ever received a vote by both chambers but did pass out of committee.
“Connecticut is often rated as a higher cost state to do business and the 2023 session featured a number of bills that would have made that situation worse,” DiPentima said. “We’re grateful that lawmakers from both parties were willing to reject these mandates, which do nothing to grow the population, create and fill open jobs, or help small businesses compete.”
The 2023 session also saw one of CBIA’s top priority bills die without a vote at the end of session. A bill that would have allowed business associations like CBIA to offer large group health insurance to their respective members, potentially lowering the costs of healthcare for small business who must purchase small group plans, reportedly had wide support but was never brought to the floor for a vote before the end of session.
“Small businesses are the heart and soul of our economy and deserve greater support so they can survive, compete, and grow,” DiPentima said.
**This article was corrected to reflect that Senate Republican’s total average score was 98.5 percent**