New Report: Sales and Use Tax Exemptions

. April 27, 2015

OLR Report 2015-R-0104 provides a list of goods  and services that are exempt from the state sales and use tax.

 The state imposes sales and use taxes on retail sales of tangible personal property and services. It imposes a 6.35% tax, with some exceptions, on the retail sales of tangible personal property purchased (1) in Connecticut (i.e., sales tax) or (2) outside Connecticut for use here (i.e., use tax). These taxes apply to any item of tangible personal property, unless the law expressly exempts it.


The state similarly imposes a 6.35% tax, with some exceptions, on services provided by companies doing business in the state, regardless of whether they are located here. Unlike the statutes imposing the sales and use tax on tangible personal property, those imposing the tax on services specify the types of services subject to the tax and, within each type, the ones exempted from it.


To find out more about these tax exemptions, click here to read the full report.

Sheep, Wool & Fiber Festival Reminder of Connecticut’s Agricultural Heritage

. April 24, 2015


For Connecticut sheep farmers, with spring comes lambing, shearing, skirting (the process of removing dirty, coarse or contaminated sections of the fleece), and preparing the wool for spinning, weaving, knitting, and crocheting. The Connecticut Sheep Breeders Association, Inc. (CSBA), formed 122 years ago, is the organization that provides expertise and resources to help farmers with breeding, maintaining a healthy and productive flock, and marketing their products. On Saturday, April 25, it will be hosting the 106th Annual Sheep, Wool & Fiber Festival to showcase all the products and programs available to members and the general public. 




   
    Click here for more information about the festival.


Image Source: http://bit.ly/1JyHnIn

New Study Questions “Cycle of Violence”

. April 23, 2015

As noted in a recent Science Magazine article, the theory that child abuse victims are more likely to perpetrate abuse as adults is commonly referred to as the “cycle of violence.” The article describes a recently completed longitudinal study that found little evidence to substantiate this theory when it comes to physical abuse, but it did find that neglect or sexual abuse victimization may be passed from one generation to the next.


Researchers began the study in 1986, and over nearly two decades, they tracked down over 900 adults who were victimized as children in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Based on interviews and child support services court documents, the researchers found little correlation between the adults who were physically abused as children and the likelihood, compared to the study’s control group, that they would physically abuse their own children. However, the researchers also found that the adults who were sexually abused, or neglected, as children were twice as likely to have done so with their offspring, compared to the control group.


In another article about the study in U.S. News and World Report, the study’s lead researcher, John Jay School of Criminology professor Cathy Spatz Widom, noted that the results were surprising and suggested that previous studies examining the cycle often looked at the childhood histories of parents accused of abuse and neglect. She explained, “The problem there is, you miss the parents who were abused but did not go on to have these issues.”


Widom’s findings are not conclusive, however, and some experts, such as Duke University psychology professor Kenneth Dodge, question the findings related to physical abuse. In the Science article, Dodge notes that physical abuse is often difficult to document, and child protective services may instead just document neglect when they suspect physical abuse.
Click here to read the full study (subscription required).

New Report: Federally Required Customer Identification Program (CIP) for Banks

. April 22, 2015

OLR Report 2015-R-0120 summarizes the major components of the customer identification program, which federal law requires banks to develop and implement.

The 2001 USA Patriot Act (P. L. 107-56) requires  banks to verify, through a CIP, the identity of people wishing to open accounts with them. The CIP requirement was implemented by federal regulations in 2003. Under the regulations, banks must develop and implement a written CIP appropriate for its size and type of business that, at a minimum, includes procedures for:

  1. performing risk-based identity verification using specified customer information,
  2. keeping records and notifying customers, and
  3. conducting comparisons with certain terrorist lists kept by the federal government.
The CIP must be a part of a bank’s anti-money laundering compliance program (31 CFR §§ 1020.220, et. seq.). 


To learn more about CIPs, click here to read the full report.
 

Habit-Forming Public Policy

. April 21, 2015

When Paul O’Neill took over the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa) in 1987, he immediately confused and shocked investors and shareholders by announcing that he was out to change specific workplace habits. Investors and shareholders were expecting the new CEO to tell them how he was going to use “alignment to achieve a win-win synergistic market advantage,” stated Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business (2012).


Charles Duhigg Habit Loop
Image Source: http://bit.ly/1IdPt94
The habits O’Neill wanted to change were those that lead to serious, catastrophic workplace accidents and, by the way, simultaneously drove up costs and decreased profits. But there was a method to his apparent madness. O’Neill wanted to transform Alcoa, yet he knew he could do so only if he instilled a set of habits that “would spread through the entire company.” 


O’Neill gained that insight years earlier when he worked as a middle manager in the Veterans Administration. During that time, he recorded why certain projects succeeded while others failed and figured out that government programs weren’t driven by logical rules and priorities, but “bizarre institutional processes that, in many ways, operated like habits,” Duhigg wrote. “Bureaucrats and politicians, rather than making decisions, were responding to cues within automatic routines in order to get rewards such promotions or reelection.  It was a habit loop—spread across thousands of people and billions of dollars.” 


O’Neill’s insight and Duhigg’s analysis add up to a model for developing effective public policies, the kind that stick. As the graphic suggests, habits are routines triggered by cues and sustained by rewards. An economic development policy maker for example, might use the cue-routine-reward model to identify desirable business actions, such as hiring workers or expanding facilities; the cues that trigger these actions, such as getting a government contract or increased demand for a product or service; and the rewards that sustain the action, such as higher profits. Knowing how the cues, routines, and rewards align could help policy makers design tax credits and other incentives that affect the cues that trigger desired routines. 

New Report: Nonmedical Exemptions from Childhood Vaccinations

. April 20, 2015

OLR Report 2015-R-0088 provides an overview of laws on nonmedical exemptions to childhood immunization requirements.


According to the National Conference on State Legislatures, while all states require children, all states’ school immunization laws grant exemptions for medical reasons. All states, except Mississippi and West Virginia, allow religious exemptions. Twenty states allow philosophical exemptions, including two New England states (Maine and Vermont). One of those 20 states (Missouri) allows philosophical exemptions for children in day care but not in K-12 school.


Connecticut allows nonmedical exemptions for religious reasons. Specifically, Connecticut law allows parents or guardians to opt out of vaccinating their children if they present a statement that immunization “would be contrary to the religious beliefs of such child” (CGS § 10-204a). The Department of Public Health has prepared a standard form for parents or guardians seeking an exemption.


Click here to read the full report.

Hidden Consequences of Falling Behind on Student Loan Payments in Some States

. April 16, 2015

Bloomburg Business reports that at least 22 states have laws on the books allowing authorities to revoke drivers’ or professional licenses when people fall behind on their student loan payments significantly.  Some states have had such laws since the 1990s.  In 2014, the National Consumer Law Center compiled a list of states with such laws that can be found here.  Connecticut is not one of these states, but Massachusetts and New Jersey have such a punishment for borrowers who default on their loans.


In support of these laws, debt collectors assert that they have been valuable tools in collecting loan payments that were well past their due dates.  They feel the laws work as a deterrent, explaining that guaranty agencies often issue license revocations only as a last resort and prefer to encourage borrowers to enroll in income-based repayment plans instead.


Opponents of such laws say that revoking someone’s driving or professional license takes away his or her ability to earn money to pay the loan back.  They argue that the loss of a driver’s license is particularly crippling in states that lack public transportation options, leaving borrowers with no way to get to work.

New Report: Municipal Affordable Housing Stock

. April 15, 2015

OLR Report 2015-R-0069 describes the Affordable Housing Land Use Appeals Procedure and lists the percent of each municipality’s housing stock that was affordable, as defined by CGS § 8-30g, in 2003, 2008, and 2013.


CGS § 8-30g creates the Affordable Housing Land Use Appeals Procedure, a set of rules that allows developers to appeal to Superior Court, local zoning and planning commission decisions denying affordable housing developments or approving them with costly conditions. In traditional zoning appeals, the developer must convince the court that the commission (i.e, municipality) acted illegally, arbitrarily, or abused its discretion by rejecting the proposed development. The procedure instead places the burden of proof on the municipality. A municipality must meet certain criteria for a court to uphold the local commission's decision. (For more information, see OLR Report 2013-R-0002.)


A developer can use the procedure only in those municipalities that the Department of Housing (DOH) determines do not have enough affordable housing stock to qualify for exemption from the procedure. A municipality is exempt from the procedure if at least 10% of its housing stock:

  1. is assisted housing,
  2. is currently financed by Connecticut Housing Finance Authority mortgages,
  3. is subject to deeds and conditions restricting the sale or rental to low-and moderate-income people, or
  4. consists of mobile homes or accessory apartments subject to similar deed restrictions.
Click here to read the full report

Updated Federal Guidelines for Opioid Treatment Programs

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recently updated its Federal Guidelines for Opioid Treatment Programs.


The revised guidelines contain updated information on topics such as treatment of pregnant patients and patient withdrawal from medication assisted treatment.  The revised guidelines also include new information on topics such as telemedicine, electronic health records, and prescription drug monitoring programs.


According to SAMHSA, the guidelines describe the agency’s expectation of how opioid treatment programs must meet requirements in federal regulations. SAMHSA first published the guidelines in 2001, and last updated them in 2007. In 2012, the agency convened a stakeholder panel to consider updates to the guidelines.

The “Brontosaurus” May Be Back!

. April 14, 2015

A recent New York Times (NYT) article describes a study of about 80 fossils of long-necked dinosaurs, called Diplodocidae, from museums all over the world, finding that there is evidence to bring back the name “Brontosaurus” (meaning “thunder lizard”) for one of these large plant-eating dinosaurs.


Decades ago, “Brontosaurus” was reclassified as Apatosaurus (meaning “deceptive lizard”) because people believed them to be the same and the latter was named first. According to the NYT article, the study’s authors conclude that the “Brontosaurus” and Apatosaurus are actually two different species and a specimen at the Yale Peabody Museum is a “Brontosaurus,” not an Apatosaurus as it is currently listed on the museum’s website


In other recent dinosaur news, there is new evidence indicating that tyrannosaurs, the group of meat-eating dinosaurs that includes the Tyrannosaurus rex, may have been cannibals.  It appears they used their teeth in intra-species combat and feeding. 

New OLR Report: Tolls in Connecticut

. April 13, 2015

OLR report 2015-R-0048 answers several questions about tolling in Connecticut and the federal Value Pricing Pilot Program:
  1. What is the Value Pricing Pilot Program (VPPP)?
  2. Connecticut’s VPPP slot is “conditional.” What does that mean?
  3. What changes in state law must be made to implement tolls?
  4. Must Connecticut repay the federal government if it puts tolls back on I-95?
  5. How can the state use toll revenue?
Although the federal government generally bans tolling of interstate highways, the VPPP is one of several federal programs allowing states to toll in specific circumstances.  Read more about Connecticut and federal law in the full report.

OLR Report Highlights New Transportation Financing Method

. April 10, 2015

http://bit.ly/1Fz5aqN
As the cost of developing and maintaining highways, bridges, rail lines, ports, and other transportation infrastructure mounts, municipalities, counties, and states are looking for new ways to finance this infrastructure without busting their budgets. Traditionally, government financed transportation and other public infrastructure by issuing bonds and other debt. But the cost of meeting other pressing needs, like education and health, reduce government’s capacity to incur long-term debt.

This fiscal strait partially explains why governments are looking for other financing methods, such as public-private partnerships and land value recapture (LVC), which is highlighted in a recent OLR report (2015-R-0101).  As the report explains, LVC captures some of the increase in value that accrues to property near a transit facility by converting it into contributions, taxes, or fees. The report goes on to explain how LVC methods capture value and the challenges they face. 

Are Teachers Biased against Girls When It Comes to Math?

. April 9, 2015

An article on the Australian-based academic news website The Conversation recently summarized a study that found that some elementary school teachers graded boys’ math tests more favorably than girls’ math tests, affecting future grades and students’ decisions about whether to pursue science and math education.

The study measured teacher bias by tracking the test scores of nearly 3,000 students from sixth grade until high school graduation. The authors compared the scores given to students by teachers who knew the students’ sex against the scores given to the same students when no identifying information was revealed.  According to the article, the study “identified that a worrying number of teachers gave boys higher math test results than girls of the same ability.”

The study also examined the pattern’s long-term effects, finding that “teachers’ biases favoring boys have an asymmetric effect by gender—positive effect on boys’ achievements and negative effect on girls’.” The study suggests that “teachers’ biased behavior at early stage of schooling have long run implications for occupational choices and earnings at adulthood, because enrollment in advanced courses in math and science in high school is a prerequisite for post-secondary schooling in engineering, computer science, and so on.” 

New OLR Report Explains State Payments in Lieu of Taxes

. April 8, 2015

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fa/Osborn_Memorial_Laboratories_-_Yale_University.jpg
Source: Wikicommons
Making payments in lieu of taxes is how the state helps municipalities recoup some of the revenue they would have collected from tax-exempt property. A new OLR report (2015-R-0091) describes the formula used to calculate those payments and how the state makes them.


As the report explains, the formula reimburses municipalities for a portion of the revenue loss. The portion depends on the type of organization that owns or operates the property. “With certain exceptions, the[reimbursement] rates are 45% for state-owned property and 77% for college and hospital property.” But the state budget controls the actual reimbursement amounts. “...PILOTs are proportionately reduced if the state’s annual appropriation is not enough to fully fund them,” the report explains.

Maine's New Crowdfunding Law Gives Small Businesses Access to Larger Investment Pools

. April 7, 2015

According to Maine’s Securities Office, "crowdfunding is an online money-raising strategy that began as a way for the public to donate small amounts of money, often through social networking websites, to help artists, musicians, filmmakers, and other creative people finance their projects."  Maine Securities Corp. president Brad McCurtain recently told the Portland Press Herald that in 2014 crowdfunding websites raised more than $5 billion globally, 10 times the amount raised in 2009.


Many see crowdfunding as a way to give fledgling businesses access to larger investment pools. Maine took a step in that direction when the Securities Office adopted a rule implementing a 2014 law authorizing crowdfunding for business investments (Rule 523, implementing 2014 PL Chapter 452, effective January 1, 2015). According to the article, proponents hope the rule will stimulate the growth of small businesses by allowing them to acquire capital from a larger pool of investors.  The article highlights the rule’s investment limits:

  1. $5,000 maximum per individual investor.
  2. $1 million maximum raised capital for each company in any rolling 12-month period.
  3. Convicted felons are prohibited from selling equity in their companies.  
Citing research conducted by the North American Securities Administrators Association, the article noted that 14 other states have laws allowing entrepreneurs to sell shares to investors in their states. Maine, though, is the first that allows entrepreneurs to sell shares to investors regardless of their residence. For more information on crowdfunding initiatives in other states, see the 2014 Bloomberg Law article, States Pilot Crowdfunding Initiatives to Increase Funding for Small Business.


For more information on crowdfunding in Maine, read the full Press Herald article.

Is Genetically Altered Food Coming to Your Dinner Table?

. April 6, 2015

A recent New York Times article discusses the controversy regarding genetically altered food.  The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated that commercially planted non-browning apples and bruise-resistant potatoes were as safe and nutritious as their conventional counterparts, and the Agriculture Department approved these genetically altered fruits and vegetables for commercial planting after finding they did not harm other crops.

Nevertheless, consumer and environmental groups that opposed planting genetically modified crops are urging restaurants and food companies to not use them.  Moreover, some farmers and suppliers of natural apples fear that the approval of “biotech” apples will spoil the wholesome image of the fruit.  Finally, some opponents criticized the FDA’s review of the genetically engineered crops, arguing that the FDA did not thoroughly examine the data on genetically altered crops.  The FDA, however, countered that its evaluations were thorough.

A related debate concerns whether genetically altered food must be labeled as such.  Congress has not decided whether to require labels indicating that the food was genetically engineered or that the effects of such alterations are unknown. However, Connecticut law requires labeling, contingent on neighboring states adopting similar requirements.

New Report: Mandatory Regulations Not Adopted

. April 3, 2015

OLR Report 2015-R-0078 identifies regulations required by law (i.e., “mandatory regulations”) that agencies have not promulgated to date. This report partially updates OLR Report 2009-R-0218.


By law, state agencies may be authorized or required to adopt regulations, and the Uniform Administrative Procedure Act (UAPA) governs, among other things, the regulation-adoption process (CGS § 4-166 et seq.). By December 1 annually, the UAPA requires each state agency to give the Regulation Review Committee a list of mandated regulations that, as of that date, it failed to either (1) submit to the committee for approval or (2) resubmit after the committee rejected them without
prejudice. By February 15 of the following year, the committee chairpersons must submit to the legislature a compiled list, by agency, of the outstanding mandated regulations (CGS § 4-171).


The Regulation Review Committee reports that, in connection with the December 2014 deadline, it received letters from five agencies. The letters indicated that the agencies have mandatory regulations covering seven subjects that they had not submitted to the committee for approval. It is unclear whether agencies that did not report to the committee may also have outstanding mandatory regulations.


Click here to read the full report.

Proposals for Free Community College

. April 2, 2015

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), nearly 70% of all jobs will require some type of post-secondary training, certificate, or degree by 2020. With this in mind, President Obama and several states have proposed programs to provide low and no-cost tuition for community colleges.


Earlier this year, President Obama proposed making two years of community college free, which could save students an average of $3,800 in tuition. His proposal would create a federal-state partnership that increases federal funding to pay 75% of the average community college tuition and require states to cover the remaining 25%. President Obama’s proposal has been modeled after recent state legislation. Tennessee created a free community college program in 2014 and Oregon’s legislature recently passed a bill to study the viability and costs of providing free community college to its residents.


State legislators continue to focus on providing opportunities and access of all citizens to post-secondary opportunities. Almost every state offers and supports programs that help students earn college credits while in high school. These programs are offered at almost no cost and reduce the cost and encourage completion of earning a post-secondary credential. 


For more information, see NCSL

New Report: Factors Behind Connecticut's High Electric Rates

. April 1, 2015

OLR Report 2015-R-0108 (1) updates OLR Report 2008-R-0452 describing why Connecticut’s electric rates are higher than those in most other states and (2) describes measures taken by the legislature since 2008 to reduce electric costs in the short and long term.


Based on the latest available data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, as of November 2014, Connecticut had the second highest average residential retail electric rates in the country. High rates are a regional phenomenon, and all six of the New England states plus New York are among the 10 states with the highest rates.


We are aware of no empirical analysis as to why Connecticut’s rates are so high. However, it appears that several factors that apply across New England and interact with each other are the primary causes.


Click here to learn more about these factors and read the full report.

New Report: Statute of Limitations for Prosecutions

. March 31, 2015

A recent OLR Report describes state statutes of limitations.

A statute of limitation is a law that limits the time period within which a state’s attorney can begin a prosecution against someone for committing a crime.  In Connecticut, there is no time limit on prosecuting someone for certain serious crimes, such as murder and other class A felonies.  For other felonies, prosecutors must begin a prosecution within five years of the date the crime was committed.  They must begin a prosecution for a misdemeanor within one year.  But the law provides longer periods under certain circumstances, such as when the victim of sexual abuse is a minor or DNA evidence establishes the identity of someone who committed certain sexual assault crimes.


For more information, read the full report.

Study Finds Children Consuming More Fruit and Wasting Less Food Under New School Meal Guidelines

. March 30, 2015

In a study recently published in Childhood Obesity, researchers found that children are consuming more fruit and wasting less vegetable and entrée portions under the new school meal nutrition guidelines.

The 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act required the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to update guidelines for meals served through the federally subsidized National School Lunch Program. Among the changes, the new guidelines, which were implemented at the start of the 2012-2013 school year, require children to take at least one fruit or vegetable serving at lunch. (Under the previous guidelines, fruit and vegetable servings were optional.)

Researchers at UConn’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity monitored consumption and food waste of middle school students at twelve New Haven public schools both before and after the new guidelines took effect (i.e., from Spring 2012 through Spring 2014).  They found:

  • Fruit selection increased from 53.7% in 2012 to 66% in 2014 and consumption of selected fruit also increased slightly during that time (from 72.3% to 74.3%).
  • Vegetable selection decreased from 68.4% to 51.9%, but consumption of selected vegetables increased significantly (from 45.6% to 63.6%).
  • Milk selection and consumption remained steady.
  • Entrée (i.e., grain and meat or meat alternative) selection and consumption increased significantly (7.3% and 12.7% increase respectively).
Marlene B. Schwartz, the study’s lead author, recently told the New York Times,  “This research adds to evidence that the updated nutrition standards for the National School Lunch Program can succeed in helping students eat healthier.”

Several High-Achieving States in Education Tackle Their Academic Achievement Gaps

. March 27, 2015

Education Week recently spotlighted a report featuring the efforts of Connecticut and three other states in closing their achievement gap between economically disadvantaged and minority students and their peers.  Massachusetts, Washington, and Wisconsin, along with Connecticut, have created task forces to study the gap or implement gap reduction efforts.


The report, by the Education Commission of the States, found several common themes among the states’ efforts, including:

  • offering teachers and administrators professional development on topics tailored to low-performing schools,
  • providing special programs and extra teacher training to assist English language learners and their teachers,
  • creating initiatives to address housing and food insecurity, and
  • exploring disciplinary measures other than suspensions or expulsions, which disproportionately affect students of color.
The full report can be read here.

New Report: Homebuyer Financial Assistance Programs

. March 26, 2015

OLR Report 2015-R-0054 describes the state’s homebuyer  financial assistance programs.

The state, through the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA), administers 13 financial assistance programs for homebuyers. These programs offer mortgages at below-market interest rates to homebuyers; interest rates vary among programs and with market changes. Some programs, such as the HFA Preferred Loan Program and Downpayment Assistance Program, also provide reduced mortgage insurance premiums or downpayment assistance. Eligible buyers can use the programs to finance the purchase of one-to-four family residences and units in certain condominium complexes and planned unit developments. Generally, to participate in CHFA homebuyer programs, an individual must meet certain income and sales price limits and (1) be a first-time buyer or (2) purchase a house in an area targeted for revitalization. Some of the programs are open only to certain populations, for example people with disabilities, public housing tenants, or veterans.

Click here to read the full report.

The Move From Suburban to “New Urban”

. March 25, 2015

The American suburb, the pride of the post-WWII housing boom, is falling on hard times.  According to New Geography, a website dedicated to analyzing and discussing the built environment, many older suburbs are in decline, falling into poverty and suffering the blight and rising crime rates that young suburbanites once sought to leave behind in America’s cities. 


The article focuses on Carmel, Indiana, a near north suburb of Indianapolis, which has, for the past twenty years, invested in a long-term building and renewal project.  The project’s aim is to build a town that remains essentially suburban but incorporates the best of urban life—like a high “walk score” to shopping, restaurants, and work, and “high quality aesthetics.”  The planners have the long view in mind and are envisioning Carmel as an attractive and productive center of life and commerce for the next one hundred years.  No one knows what life in America will look like in 2115, but recent trends suggest that young people do not want it to resemble the suburban model in which many of them grew up.  A driver’s license—once an essential rite of passage in America and, if only temporarily, the ticket out of suburban sprawl—is apparently no longer the first thing 16-year-olds think about.   Some suggest that our love affair with the automobile is over; according to Business Insider, the average number of miles driven in the U.S. began to decline in 2006 after sixty years of steady growth. The preference for cars over public conveyances made the suburbs possible in the first place.


The trend toward the “new urbanism” that has been discussed for the past two decades has implications for fiscal and public policy and city plans being made now.  If driving is on the decline, how much of our transportation budget do we want to spend on new roads and highways?  Do we want to invest in public transportation with the potential to link together the new urban areas like Carmel that may well emerge to replace the suburbs? Do social services for the poor—traditionally more available in cities—need to be made available in the suburbs?  As a 2013 Time magazine article pointed out, questions like these may have more urgency in the Midwest than in the more densely settled Northeast, where, “city-suburbs like Stamford, Greenwich, West Hartford and others exist in relatively close proximity.” 


More (and more rapid) change in American life is a certainty; how we and the towns and cities we have built will be shaped by that change is yet to be seen.

New Report: Crimes with Mandatory Minimum Sentences

. March 24, 2015

OLR Report 2015-R-0055 lists  Connecticut criminal offenses that have mandatory prison sentences. The report updates a 2013 report to reflect changes from the 2013 and 2014 legislative sessions.


It identifies 74 crimes that carry a mandatory minimum prison sentence of a specific duration. The mandatory minimum sentences range from a low of 48 hours, for a first offense of driving or boating under the influence if the offender is not sentenced to community service, to a high of life without possibility of release for murder with special circumstances.


The report also notes several changes to mandatory minimum sentencing laws since the 2013 report. These changes relate to gun offenses and kidnapping crimes.


Click here to read the full report.

U.S. Supreme Court Hears Affordable Care Act Case

. March 23, 2015

On March 4, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in King v. Burwell, a case about the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA). At issue is whether the federal government can provide premium subsidies to people who purchase health insurance in states that did not establish their own insurance exchanges. Thirty-four states rely on the federal government to run an exchange for their residents. (Connecticut runs its own exchange and likely will not be affected by the outcome of this case.)


The ACA requires states to create health insurance exchanges, which are online marketplaces where people can shop for insurance. If a state fails to create an exchange, the ACA allows the federal government to establish an exchange within the state. People meeting certain income criteria are eligible for premium subsidies in the form of tax credits to help them afford the insurance.


The ACA states that subsidies are available to people who enroll in an exchange “established by the state.” The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) adopted implementing regulations that allow subsidies in states that use a federally run exchange as well as in states that established their own exchanges.


Plaintiffs in King v. Burwell argue that a federally run exchange is not an exchange established by the state and therefore the IRS exceeded the authority Congress gave it when adopting the implementing regulations.


The Court is expected to issue a ruling in June.


For background on the case, including a look at the legal arguments and the legal test the Court may apply in the case, see this Kaiser Family Foundation Issue Brief.





New Report: Connecticut’s Penal Code

. March 20, 2015

OLR Report 2015-R-0046 lists all of the crimes in Connecticut’s Penal Code.  It organizes them by classification and lists their prison penalties.  The report updates prior reports to include changes from last year’s legislative session. 


Statutes with criminal penalties exist throughout the statute and not just in the Penal Code.  This report does not include all crimes, just those in the Penal Code.


Click here to read the full report.

DECD Accepting Applications for Additional $7.5 Million in Brownfield Funding

. March 19, 2015

The Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) is currently accepting applications for a new round of up to $7.5 million in funding for the Brownfield Remediation Program. The program provides grants of up to $2 million to eligible grantees, which include municipalities and economic development agencies, to use for a range of brownfield assessment, remediation, and redevelopment activities. Of the total funding, $6.5 million is earmarked for remediation and $1 million for assessment projects.


DECD will prioritize applications according to a rating and ranking sheet, which can be found here. Applications are due by April 14, 2015.


DECD will host a series of informational sessions around the state for potential applicants between March 16 and March 24. The schedule is available here.

New Report: Board of Firearms Permit Examiners

. March 18, 2015

OLR Report 2015-R-0041 describes the statutes governing the Board of Firearms Permit Examiners.  It describes the board’s membership, statutory hearing requirements, and right to appeal a board decision.


For more information, read the full report.

Credit Usage and Delinquency Data for Late 2014

. March 17, 2015

According to a new report from the New York Federal Reserve, overall consumer credit balances increased by 1% in the 4th quarter of 2014.  The report, based on a representative sample of credit data, found an increase in all types of credit during the quarter, except for home equity lines of credit (HELOC).


The report also examines delinquency rates.

  • “The delinquency rates for mortgages, HELOCs, auto loans, and credit cards peaked noticeably in the years following the recession, and have since fallen.”
  • For mortgages, 3.1% are at least 90 days delinquent, which is well above the 1% to 1.5% rate before the recession.
  • Credit card delinquency rates continue to improve and are near the lowest rates since data collection began in 1999.
  • Student loans that are at least 90 days delinquent continue to increase.
Click here to read more.