Friday Facts

Friday Facts

Friday Facts - May 20, 2016

Friday, May 20, 2016

The wrap-up for Connecticut retailers from the State Capitol:

  • Legislature gives final approval to state budget.
  • Short session finally over, as Special Session concludes.
  • What to look for during the interim. (And please take our special CRMA survey!)
  • Campaign update – including the unexpected news that the Speaker of the House will not seek re-election.

Legislature gives final approval to state budget.

  • The State Senate gave final approval to a $19 billion state budget that was centered almost entirely on budget cuts.
  • The state budget, along the statutory language to put the budget in place, known as the budget implementer, was approved along party lines as Senate Republican all voted against the budget.
  • The Senate – and later the House - failed to take up one of Governor Malloy’s priorities legislation, called Second Chance Society, which would have made a series of reforms in the criminal justice system.
  • Following the Senate action, the House debated the state budget throughout the afternoon and into the evening last Friday, with the budgetgaining approval narrowly, 74-70.  A switch of just two votes would have resulted in a tie vote. 
  • As usual, we can count on the CT Mirror and Keith Pfanuf, who does a super job of filtering out all the right stuff for us to look for in this budget. You can go here to read more about the session’s final hours and here for key budget decisions made.

Legislature now done for the year.

  • Last Wednesday at midnight the Legislature adjourned its’ business for the regular session and with the final passage of the state budget in the House the special session also adjourned for the year.
  • So, now we can report that the General Assembly is done with its business for the year.  And that is a good thing for the state and for CRMA.
  • We will, of course, continue to keep an eye on any task forces or committees that meet in the coming months that might impact our members during the interim, and we continue to reach out to YOU as we go thru the election season and prepare for another 2-year legislative cycle.
  • While this will be our final Friday Facts for this session, we have plans to continue to update you periodically throughout the interim, as events warrant.
  • We also want to make sure to express our appreciation to our sponsor for this years’ FF, United Bank. United Bank is great Connecticut-based bank that we are proud to have as our sponsor. We strongly encourage you to visit their website and learn more about all of the ways that they can help you with your business needs.

What to look for during the off season.

  • For the most part, legislators scatter after the end of a short session, mostly to prepare for the upcoming elections.
  • There are local nominations that take place by town committees in both political parties this month, and other work that needs to be done before the general election season gets really rolling during the summer and early fall.
  • And CRMA is putting together plans for keeping you up-to-date on some key State House and State Senate races that could determine which party holds the majority after the November elections.
  • So, in order to help us with that we ask that you take a special CRMA survey this week. We want to know from you what you are looking for from your candidate for State House and State Senate.
  • If you could take just a few minutes to complete this online survey, we would really appreciate it - and it will be a great help to us as we prepare for the fall elections.

Campaign update, including a surprise announcement.

  • House Speaker Brenden Sharkey of Hamden surprised the political world announcing at the start of this week that he would not seek re-election to the legislature.  He has served two terms as speaker.  Current Democratic Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz immediately announced that if Democrats retain the majority next year, he will be seeking the post.
  • Yet another veteran legislator has announced she will not be seeking re-election this fall – Rep. Peggy Sayers, who has represented Windsor and Windsor Locks. 
  • Rep. Robert W. Megna of New Haven has also announced he will not be running this fall.  CT Mirror has the latest list of incumbent legislators who will not be candidates for re-election here.

Thanks for your input, and for reading Friday Facts throughout the legislative session!

Remember, CRMA is YOUR Voice at the State Capitol. We lobby full-time for your interests and care ONLY about how legislative issues impact the retail industry.

Friday Facts - April 29, 2016

Friday, April 29, 2016

The latest news from the State Capitol for Connecticut retailers:

  • Budget uncertainty as the Session nears adjournment.
  • BREAKING NEWS: CRMA stops fee increase – for now.
  • More news and updates from the State Capitol.
  • Presidential primary review.

Budget uncertainty as the Session nears adjournment.

  • As the General Assembly moves closer to its constitutionally mandated adjournment date of May 4th, the state of the state’s finances remain unresolved and threaten to force the Legislature back into special session.
  • As we go to print on this week’s FF (which due to the late night sessions this week, arrives in your mailbox on Saturday) the Democratic Majority in both chambers have yet to reach an agreement with Democratic Governor Dan Malloy on how to close the growing current and out-year budget deficits.
  • Meanwhile, House and Senate Republicans remain on the sidelines, waiting for their chance to weigh in.
  • What is at stake here is how to close a current year budget gap that actually has grown (as the CT Mirror explains here) as well as how to close a larger deficit in the so-called out years of 2018-2019. 
  • Democrats in the House and Senate finally offered the details of their budget to the press and public this week, and to Governor. As confident as they may be in this budget, they have said WILL NOT force their members to vote on it until they have met with the governor.
  • But the governor doesn’t seem too impressed with this budget and also is not to confident that a deal will be struck by midnight Wednesday. As the CT Mirror reports here, Malloy says the budget talks have hit the wall.
  • We know that things can change quickly in this business so there remains hope that something gets done by midnight Wednesday – no legislator in an election year wants to spend their summer at the State Capitol fighting over a state budget – but right now things don’t look good for getting a deal done.


CRMA scores victory in Dem’s budget proposal

  • We are happy to report this week that when the Democratic Majority released their budget on Thursday they eliminated a proposed increase in the sales tax permit fee that would have cost all of our members.
  • CRMA strongly lobbied members of the Finance Committee and other members of the House and Senate Caucus, and was successful in stopping that fee increase – for now. (There’s an old saying - nobody can rest until the legislature is done for the year.)
  • Because of the uncertainty of the state budget – the current year deficit has now grown to $256 million – there is always the chance the Legislature can come back to the sales tax permit issue, but all parties involved in these discussion – the Democrats, Republicans and the Governor – have all said they do not want ANY increases in taxes or fees.
  • We will continue to keep a close eye on this.

More news and updates from the State Capitol.

  • The State Senate started debating a bill that would increase the minimum wage to $12 over time, beginning in 2018 and ending in 2012. The amendment would have increased the minimum wage in steps; going form 10.10 in 2017 to $10.70 in 2018, $11.30 in 2019 and $12.00 in 2020.
  • Republican lawmakers in the State Senate objected and launched a filibuster forcing the sponsors of the amendment to withdraw the bill.
  • Congratulations to our friends in the car business who were successful in defeating a bill that would have allowed car maker Tesla to circumvent current law and sells cars without going thru the same basic rules that other car dealers are required to follow.
  • We also know how they won this issue – by using the same great lobbyist that CRMA’s does – Jane Murphy of Murtha Cullina Government affairs, www.govtaffairsgroup.com
  • Senate Majority leader Bob Duff, a supporter of the Tesla bill, decided last night that he would withdraw the bill from consideration. You can go here for more about Duff’s decision to pull the plug on the bill.
  • We are hoping that SB 211 An Act Allowing Employers to Pay Wages Using Payroll Cards, will be considered in the House before Wednesday midnight. It has already passed the Senate and has bi-partisan support.
  • Still no action in the House on SB 226 An Act Concerning Single use Cary out Bags and SB 233 An Act Concerning a Reduction of Consumer–Based Packaging Materials.
  • This time of the year there are always cat-and-mouse games between the House and the Senate. House bills don’t get called in the Senate until Senate bill get called in the House and visa versa.
  • Looks like that tradition is carrying on this year as well.

Presidential primary review…

  • The presidential candidates have moved on from Connecticut.  Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton prevailed in the primary voting on Tuesday, after a busy week of campaigning that brought candidates Clinton, Sanders, Trump and Kasich to our state - repeatedly. 
  • CT Mirror highlights the result with a town-by-town recap of the voting in both primaries here and an historical analysis of the Democratic voting here

Friday Facts - April 22, 2016

Friday, April 22, 2016

In the April 22 edition of Friday Facts, key updates for retailers:

  • Legislature heading for showdown with Governor over budget.
  • ALERT - CRMA lobbyist fighting against bills that would be harmful.
  • Other news and notes from the state capitol.

CRMA is YOUR Voice at the State Capitol, working full-time for your interests - we care ONLY about how legislative issues impact the retail industry.  Here’s what’s happening…

Legislature heading for showdown with Governor over budget.

  • Word is starting to get out that the Democratic Majority in both the House and the Senate are planning to present their version of a budget adjustment as they attempt to close a state budget gap that is close to $900 million.
  • As we go to press today, no details have emerged on what that budget will look like, but we know that the Democrats have done this without any input from the Governor or from the Republican minority.
  • This week the Democrats blew off a meeting with the Governor and the Republicans who wanted to meet to exchange ideas on how to close the gap.
  • In fact, things got a little testy this week between House Speaker Brendan Sharkey and the Governor over comments that the Speaker made regarding the Governor’s proposed budget fix.
  • You can go here to read that. 
  • For CRMA members, we are always on the lookout for the possibility of increases in REVENUE – whether that is a direct sales tax increase or other hidden fees or taxes that will impact our members and our customers.
  • IF, all the Legislative Leaders stick to their words, then we shouldn’t see any new taxes or fees, but we remain skeptical that will happen and continue to stay as close as we can to the process to protect our members.
  • By this time next week, we should know a whole lot more about the state of the state budget -and we will keep you posted.

CRMA fighting against a number of bills that will be harmful to Retailers.

  • Meanwhile, the General Assembly continues to churn as we move closer to the scheduled adjournment date of May 4th.
  • CRMA lobbyist continue to fight against bills that will have a negative impact on our industry.
  • Right now, we are fighting hard against HB 5564, An Act Concerning Card Balances. This bill would allow customers to be given cash back on gift cards. The bill allows for cash to be given to customers that have $10 or below balance.
  • While we might be able to argue giving cash back on a card balance – about 12 other states allow that – CRMA will never agree that ESCHEATING the unredeemed balance of a gift card back to the STATE is a good idea.
  • That is what Rep. Matt Lesser (D- Middletown) is proposing we do, in an amendment that he has filed on the bill…
  • We urge members, especially those in the Middletown area, to contact Rep Lesser TODAY and tell him how wrong he is on this issue of escheating. Without getting into all the legalese, the simple point on escheating of gift card balance is that it will impact ONLY CT BASED RETAILERS.
  • You can reach Rep. Lessor’s office by calling 860 – 240 – 0410. Let him know that you don’t want the escheating portion to be included in any bill and that CT’s gift card law works for all parties involved.
  • Only retailers that have a corporate location in Connecticut would be impacted by escheating. That is unacceptable to us and we will continue to vigorously fight that issue.
  • CRMA continues to argue that CT has the best gift card law in the country. We have NO expiration date on gift cards and in return we have NO ESCHEATING. It is a fair and balanced law and we see NO reason to change it.
  • We also concerned with SB 40 An Act Concerning Employer Inquiries, about an Employee’s or Prospective Employee’s Credit History. This bill would eliminate an employer’s ability to check the credit history for certain jobs.
  • Specifically, this bill eliminates a dollar threshold for any prospective employees who handles merchandise over $2500.  We were successful in having the Senate hold that bill this week as we continue to work on educating members of the Senate about its impact on the our membership.

Other news and notes from the state capitol.

  • This week the Senate passed SB 226 An Act Concerning Single-Use Carryout Bags. The bill requires the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and both the CRMA and the CT Food Association to enter into an agreement to find ways to reduce the use of single use plastic bags.
  • The Senate also approved a bill on consumer packaging.  CRMA was successful in working with other business groups and Sen. Ted Kennedy in forging a compromise on this bill. The final version of the bill, which still awaits House action, would create a task force to look at ways for industry to reduce consumer packaging.
  • SB 211 AAC Payroll Cards passed the Senate this week. We are hopeful that the House will take final action on it next week.

Campaign update…

  • Last week it was Donald Trump, this week it was Hillary Clinton and her daughter Chelsea who visited Connecticut, and John Kasich is due in Glastonbury tonight.
  • With the Connecticut primary just days away (it is on Tuesday, April 26) presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is expected in the state (in New Haven on Sunday and possibly Hartford on Monday) and Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will be back.  Trump will be in Waterbury on Saturday, Clinton in New Haven.  And Clinton may also be campaigning in Bridgeport on Monday.  Details here.  

Friday Facts - April 15, 2016

Friday, April 15, 2016

In this week’s edition of Friday Facts, key updates for retailers:

  • Showdown over the state budget threatens business for the remainder of the legislative Session.
  • Join us! CRMA special virtual town hall meeting conference call.
  • Other news and notes from the State Capitol, with less than 3 weeks remaining in the Session.
  • CT Presidential Primary brings Donald Trump to Hartford tonight.

CRMA is YOUR Voice at the State Capitol, working full-time for your interests - we care ONLY about how legislative issues impact the retail industry.

Showdown over the state budget threatens business for the remainder of the legislative Session.  

  • This so-called short legislative session has had a huge cloud hanging over its head since the start of the session back in February.
  • That cloud is the continued budget crisis that faces Connecticut.
  • The state of the state budget has forced the General Assembly to divert time that usually spent on other issues to deal with both a short-term budget and a longer term considerably larger projected budget deficit.
  • We have talked about the budget deficit that the state faced for the current fiscal year and how, thru a bipartisan effort, the General Assembly closed that deficit.
  • But, as we have also mentioned, there remained a much larger budget deficit that the Malloy Administration and the General Assembly is staring down for fiscal year 2017 – 2018.
  • That budget deficit is close $928 million and there was growing anticipation on both sides on how to close that gap. The Malloy administration has repeatedly said that layoffs were on the table, and in fact the Governor has acted on those statements by beginning the layoff process in the past 2 weeks.
  • The Legislature’s Democratic majority’s Appropriations and Finance committees took action on a budget and revenue plan that fell short of closing the budget gap.
  • In response to that, while getting nowhere with his attempt to get state employee bargaining units to the table, this week Governor Malloy dropped on the desk of the Legislature, his own version of adjustments to the 2 year budget - and it did not go over well at all.
  • In fact, as outlined in this story by our friends at the Hartford Courant, Senate President Martin Looney and other key leaders have big problems with the budget that Malloy delivered on Wednesday.
  • That budget cut spending in number of areas, mostly to municipalities, in both direct town aid and in educational funding they receive.
  • The ongoing budget issues, including response to the Governor’s new budget, has slowed down considerably the business of the General Assembly. In fact, the House did not go into session on Thursday so that they could have an off-site caucus to talk about how to handle the budget crisis.
  • For his part, Governor Malloy is standing firm that the Legislature has to do its job and work with him to fix the budget gap before they adjourn for the year on May 4th.  In fact, he has said that if they don’t adopt a budget by then, he will call them back into a special session.
  • For CRMA of course we too want to see CT’s budget fixed and we too want long term fiscal stability for the state. We need to get CT moving again and the only way to do that is to make some real tough decisions about which programs and how much spending CT can afford.
  • We just have to make sure that the Legislature doesn’t look to the revenue side – specifically increases in the sales tax or business taxes or some new gimmick – to close the gap. The state has already tried that.

Join us on the CRMA virtual town hall conference call next week.

  • We want to extend an invitation to all readers of the weekly FF, to join us on Tuesday, April 19th at 11:00 AM for our virtual town hall conference call to talk about all the legislative issues that CRMA is facing this session. Dial in to 1-800-989-2842, passcode 5271044. 
  • As we head into the final two weeks of the session, we thought this would be a good time to bring everyone up to speed on all the major issues, as well as answer any questions that any member may have about what is happening at the State Capitol. Please join us for this important update, and to share your views.

Other news and notes from the State Capitol.

  • As we mentioned, a House session that was tentatively scheduled for Thursday was called off so that House Democrats could go off-site to figure out what to do next. There was no Senate session schedule for Thursday this week.
  • Both the House and the Senate are off today.
  • Wednesday was Husky Day at the Capitol, with all both the men’s and women’s basketball teams there – no Geno; he called out sick – as well as the football team.
  • Husky Day is one of the most popular days of the session - and it also means that not a lot of business gets done that day.
  • This year, in fact, the UConn coaches that were present made fun of the difficult challenges that CT legislature faces in grappling with the current budget crisis. You can go here to take a look at that story.

Presidential Primaries Brings Candidates to CT

  • Republican front-runner Donald Trump will be speaking at the Connecticut Convention Center tonight (April 15).  John Kasich spoke last week at Fairfield University. 
  • The Connecticut presidential primaries, for registered Democrats and Republicans, are on Tuesday, April 26.

Friday Facts - April 8, 2016

Friday, April 08, 2016

In this week’s edition of Friday Facts, major issues to retailers:

  • Finance Committee passes bill to increase permit fees.
  • Escheating of unused gift cards is back in play.
  • Other news and notes from the State Capitol.


Remember CRMA is YOUR Voice at the State Capitol. We lobby full-time for your interests and care ONLY about how legislative issues impact the retail industry. 

Finance Committee passes bill to increase permit fees.

  • Yesterday, the Finance Committee met for the last time this session and passed a big bill that would have an impact on all retailers in Connecticut.
  • The Committee adopted HB 5046 AAC Revenue Items to Implement the Governor’s Budget. Included in that bill is a provision that wouldINCREASE the sales tax permit fee that retailers have to pay the state for the right to collect and remit sales tax
  • Under the Committee’s bill, retailers who collect more than $4,000 worth of sales tax (monthly remitters) would see their annual permit fee go from $100 to $350. In addition, the fee would now be on a 2 year renewal rather than the 4 year renewal under the current law.
  • The committee expects these changes to increase revenue to the state by $24 million dollars.
  • CRMA is very disappointed in the committee’s actions and will continue to work hard to stop these increases from going into effect.
  • There was one bit of good news in the revenue package for retailers, and that is the Committee added language to the bill that would phase out the luxury tax on watches and clothing over 4 years from its current rate of 7.75% to 6.35%. In addition, it reduces, over five years, the sales tax on boats from 6.35% to 3%.
  • Finally, the bill exempts from sales tax feminine hygiene products, disposable or reusable diapers and coin operated car wash services.
  • There is another provision in the bill that CRMA is very leery about and will keep working on with the committee. That provision involves a new requirement on “payment settlement entities” i.e., banks, credit card processors etc., to submit monthly informational reports to the Department of Revenue Services detailing the credit and debit payments they made to retailers in the prior month.
  • We aren’t sure exactly why the Committee’s wants DRS to have this information, we suspect it has something to do with cracking down on delinquent sales tax remitters, but we are very concerned about privacy issues, given some of the personal information that the bill is asking for.
  • This section of the bill is something we will have to keep a close eye on.

Budget issues remain

  • You might ask why the Finance Committee is even considering raising any revenue after the record tax increases that have already been put in place by the Malloy administration over the past 5 years.
  • Good question. The problem is those tax increases have simply not raised enough money to keep pace with the spending side of the budget - and therefore CT’s budget remains in deficit.
  • The Appropriations Committee didn’t do the Finance Committee any favors in that regard this week when the day before Finance met, Appropriations adopted a budget that was still some $300 million out of balance.
  • You can read more about the Appropriations budget attempt by going to our friends at the CT Mirror (here) and the Finance Committee action (here). Meanwhile Governor Malloy is preparing to present another mid–year budget to the full General Assembly soon.  CT Mirror also has that story.

Gift Card issue heats up.

  • Meanwhile, CRMA faces another threat to our bottom line, as proponents of changing CT’s gift law have raised the issue. Why they want to change it is beyond us. It is the best gift card law in the nation. No expiration fee – no escheating. Consumer’s win and retailers win.
  • But, there are some in the Legislature, most notably State Rep. Pat Miller (D-Stamford) and State Rep. Matthew Lesser (D- Middletown) who upped the ante on the issue this week by filling an amendment that would require CT retailers go back to escheating unredeemed portions of the gift cards back the state.
  • CRMA will fight this proposal, along with the idea that retailers should give cash back on unredeemed portion of the gift card.
  • Escheating to the state is wrong and an intrusion into our business. The gift card was purchased by a consumer – it is their money, not the state of CT’s money, and our members should not be subject to having the Treasurer’s office auditing our business for that purpose.
  • We will need your help in this effort, so please stay on alert for a notice from us on how and when to contact your State Rep. and State Senator to tell them to vote NO on this amendment.

Other news and notes from the State Capitol

  • There is a special committee consisting of members of the legislature, business and industry and Malloy administration officials, who are looking into how to make CT more economically competitive.
  • This Committee, called the Commission on Economic Competitiveness, held an important meeting on Friday to listen to recommendation by the McKenzie Group on where CT ranks in many important business categories, as well as where changes need to be made for CT to improve its competiveness to increase business.
  • We will have more on what the Commission recommend in next week’s FF.
  • Meanwhile, Governor Malloy made a pitch to Nissan to get them to move to CT after Mississippi passed an anti-LGBT bill. And he made a similar pitch to Levi Strauss, and to Bank of America after North Carolina’s recent legislation. No word from Nissan, but BofA said thanks, but no thanks.
  • Our friend Chris Keating from the Hartford Courant has more on that. Go here for the story.
  • Finally, the House and Senate will be back in action next week.  The House has scheduled sessions for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday while the Senate has just announced a Tuesday session.

Tell us what is on your mind

  • We always value your feedback on what is going on at the State Capitol.
  • Send along your thoughts about any of the bills we mentioned this week or any other issues.
  • Just email Cathy in the CRMA office at cathy@crmaononline.com 

Friday Facts - April 1, 2016

Friday, April 01, 2016

Here’s your weekly edition of Friday Facts for April 1:

  • Bi-partisan budget deal closes this year’s gap.
  • Malloy inches closer to layoffs.
  • Finance Committee takes no action on real time sales tax.
  • Other news and notes from the State Capitol.

Remember - CRMA is YOUR Voice at the State Capitol. We lobby full-time for your interests and care ONLY about how legislative issues impact the retail industry.  And we’d like to hear from you!

Bi-partisan budget deal closes this year’s gap.

  • On Tuesday of this week, as expected, the General Assembly took action to close the current year budget deficit of $220 million by taking a bi-partisan approach to the effort.
  • The overwhelmingly supported bi-partisan plan would replace the one that Governor Malloy put into place in mid-March. The legislature’s plan included a number of cuts in the area of social services and higher education, along with a one-time “sweep” of certain agency accounts.
  • While there was a generally a good feeling about both parties working together to get this deficit done, the next and considerably larger one  - close to $900 million – is still looming. Not sure if the parties will be on such good terms on how to close that gap.
  • As usual, Keith Phaneuf of CT Mirror has that issue covered. Including a story about how State Comptroller Kevin Lembo isn’t’ doing summersaults over the current budget gap being closed.  You can go here for Keith’s story.

Malloy closer to layoff notices

  • Meanwhile, Governor Malloy said this week that state employee layoffs could be about 2 weeks away.
  • Our friend Chris Keating of the Hartford Courant (here) lays out the challenges that the Governor has with layoffs and the need to move swiftly to have them make an impact on the budget deficit.
  • In that same article, Speaker Brendan Sharkey had the most interesting quote when he said “There are always going to be individuals who think that a tax increase is the solution. I don’t. And I don’t think that’s the direction we are heading.”
  • Let’s hope his caucus agrees with him and no tax increases take place this session.

Finance Committee takes no action on real time sales tax – for now

  • Yesterday the Finance Committee took up HB 5636 which included a section that would have required that retailers use an unproven costly new system to collect and remit sales tax in “real time”.
  • CRMA testified AGAINST that bill as it would have placed a tremendous burden on all of our members, both large and small. We are happy to report this week that the Finance Committee removed that section from the bill before they reported it out of committee.
  • That means that we have stopped that terrible idea – for now. Because, as we know, nothing is over during the legislative session until they adjourn.

Other news and notes from the State Capitol

  • It was a relatively quiet week at the State Capitol due in large part to the deficit mitigation bill that passed and the fact that most of the committees have finished their work for the year.
  • Over the next 4 weeks however, it will not be nearly so quiet.
  • This week we have been working behind the scenes on dealing with issues including cash back on gift cards, payroll cards, plastic bags and ban the box on job applications.
  • Those issues and others will be front-and-center as we head into the last month of the session and we will be there to provide you with our weekly updates as well as our bi-weekly legislative conference calls.
  • If you have any questions about any of the issues that are pending at the Capitol, please don’t hesitate to email us at cathy@crmaononline.com. We want to hear from your and want your input.

Friday Facts - March 25, 2015

Friday, March 25, 2016

Here’s your weekly edition of Friday Facts for March 25: Finance Committee considering harmful new systems to collect sales tax. Budget deal expected next week. Other news and notes from the State Capitol.

Remember CRMA is YOUR Voice at the State Capitol. We lobby full-time for your interests and care ONLY about how legislative issues impact the retail industry.  And we’d like to hear from you!

Finance Committee considering harmful new systems to collect sales tax.

  • This week the Finance Committee held a public hearing on a bill, HB 5636. CRMA is supportive of some aspects of this bill including the section that helps retailers with bad debt and repeals the luxury tax on clothing, jewelry, and automobiles.
  • But there is also a very troubling section of the bill that would force an unproven, risky and costly system on retailers to change the way sales tax is collected and remitted to the state.
  • The proposed new “real-time” sales tax collection system is a solution looking for a problem -  and its proponents are misleading the General Assembly that they will collect previously uncollected sales tax.
  • CRMA testified before the Committee on Tuesday of this week, stating firmly that this bill would do NOTHING to help collect unreported sales tax and would only ADD COSTS to the thousands of retailers in CT who already collect the sales tax today on time and in full.
  • CRMA urges members to call their legislators today and tell them to DEFEAT this scheme that only benefits the company that has the system – not the state and certainly not retailers.


Budget deal expect next week.

  • As we have mentioned in previous FF, the state of the state finances continue to be a mess. The current year budget is out of balance by some $220 million and the out years are considerably worse.
  • Legislative leaders are targeting next week as the time to vote on the changes to the budget that they have agreed too. As far as we can tell, all of the reduction of $220 million from the budget will come on the spending side.
  • In addition to announcing that they plan to vote of the budget adjustments next week, Legislative leaders also announced that they have extended the deadlines of both the Finance Committee and the Appropriations Committee. This extension is designed to give committee more time to come up with solutions to the huge budget deficits that are already built in to the next 2 year budget.
  • There are lots of good places to go to read more about Ct’s budget issues. We recommend visiting with our friends at the CT Mirror andCTNewsJunkie. Both sources do a great job of keeping up with the latest on state budget news.

Other news and notes from the State Capitol

  • Other than the fireworks at the Finance Committee, it was a relatively quiet week at the Capitol this week – perhaps the lull before the next storm.
  • Most of the Committees have finished their work on the Committee level, with Energy Committee, Government Administration & Elections Committee, Public Health Committee and Human Services Committee all finishing their work this week.
  • Other than the Finance and Appropriations Committee, which have already extended their deadlines, the last major committee to finish their work will be the Judiciary Committee, which has a March 30th deadline.
  • Once those committees are completed, the action moves to the full Senate and House Chambers, and it will be sprint to the finish line with only about 4 weeks left in this short session.
  • Stay tuned to FF or updated information about all the legislative issues we are following for you.

Friday Facts - March 18, 2016

Friday, March 18, 2016

In this week’s edition of Friday Facts: State employee’s layoffs looming. Casino debate heats up.  Other news and notes from the State Capitol.  Friday Facts Survey.

Remember CRMA is YOUR Voice at the State Capitol. We lobby full-time for your interests and care ONLY about how legislative issues impact the retail industry.

State employee’s layoffs looming.

  • Over the course of the past two weeks, Governor Malloy announced in a number of different settings that his approach to closing the $200 million budget deficit is to lay off state employees.
  • Most recently, before a group of state employees, the Governor said that as the state’s budget picture keeps getting worse, his only recourse is to close state facilities and as a result shrink the state workforce.
  • The Governor’s call for layoffs, which may come as soon as June of this year, will certainly mean the opening of the current contract between the state employees bargaining units and the Administration.
  • Just yesterday, the Governor announced other specific cuts to close the budget gap, $79 million worth of cuts, which our friend from the Hartford Courant, Chris Keating, does a good job summarizing here.
  • For their part, legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle have said they would like to help the governor find ways to reduce the current year budget deficit and would like to do that by April 1st.
  • Remember this is just the deficit for the CURRENT year budget. The so-called out years, the 2 year budget that was adopted last year, already is projecting a shortfall of some $900 million dollars.
  • We will have to watch closely how those conversations go, because our concern is that at some point the General Assembly will stop cutting and once again look to raise taxes. As crazy as that sounds, it remains a very real possibility.


Casino debate heats up.

  • Another issue that has been looming over the state for the past year, is the question of whether or not the State should allow for expansion of casino gaming.
  • The current CT casino’s  operators, Mohegans and Mashantucket Pequots, are working together to try and persuade the Legislature to allow them to expand their operations so that they can remain competitive in response to the MGM opening in Springfield.
  • While the Legislature allowed the casinos to look to open another location, the legislature still needs to sign off to build the facilities. The MMCT, which is the company the two operators formed, has narrowed the site locations for the new casino to 3 locations, Hartford, East Hartford and Windsor Locks.
  • Meanwhile, MGM is telling the legislature to slow down before authorizing the construction of a new location. And to further complicate things there is ANOTHER tribe seeking federal recognition and if granted may build a casino in the southwestern part of the state.
  • This is an issue that will have a big impact on the state and we expect that it is an issue that will continue throughout the session.

Other news and notes from the State Capitol.

  • Legislative committees are nearing the end of their business for the year.
  • This week the Banks Committee reported out of its committee, HB 5564 AAC Card Balances.
  • This bill would allow customers to receive cash back on any gift card balance that was $10 or less.
  • CRMA opposes this bill. The $10 threshold is too high. Research has shown that any cash back threshold over $5 leads to fraud. We will keep working against this bill to first defeat it if we can, but if not to get the dollar amount lowered.
  • Speaking of gift cards, please take our Friday Facts Survey this week that asks for your opinion on this issue. Simply click on the picture for Friday Facts Survey link below to get started.
  • We are pleased to report this week that that Public Safety Committee DID NOT take action on a bill that would have allowed pawn shops to go back into the business of cashing checks.
  • CRMA continues to support HB 5507 AAC the Labor Department and the Certification of Employees for Purposes of the Unemployment Compensation System. This bill makes important reforms to the unemployment compensation systems to bring CT more in line with other states and to help reduce the fees that are imposed on retailers who pay into the system.
  • Finally, with all the bad news regarding the state of the state budget, the Finance Committee will play a key role in how the budget gap gets closed. They are beginning to ramp up their work by holding public hearings on bills today and next week.
  • CRMA is very concerned that the Finance committee may once again look to our industry to help solve the revenue problems that are plaguing the state. So, therefore, we ask that you too remain on alert as we may need to ask you to contact your state legislator to let them know that retailers and our customers CANNOT afford any more increases in taxes or fees.
  • We will keep you updated on these issues and more as we continue the long trek to the finish line of this short session in early May.


Gift cards survey

Tell us what is on your mind 

  • We always value your feedback on what is going on at the State Capitol
  • Feel free to send along your thoughts about any of the bills we mentioned this week or any other issues.

Friday Facts - March 4, 2016

Friday, March 04, 2016

FRIDAY, MARCH 4, 2016 - IN THIS ISSUE

Welcome to our weekly legislative update – The Friday Facts.  If you are new to Friday Facts (FF), this the place for all the news you need to know about what is happening at the State Capitol and how it effects the Retail industry.  This week:

  • State budget deficit just keeps getting bigger.
  • UConn contract on the chopping block while all others remain nervous.
  • Labor committee considering payroll cards and ban the box bills.
  • Other news and notes from around the capitol.

Last week the legislature’s Office of Fiscal Analysis (OFA) warned of the lack of revenue coming by downgrading projected income tax receipts by hundreds of millions of dollars for this fiscal year and next.

This week, State Comptroller Kevin Lembo reported from his office that the state will be in a $220 million deficit for the CURRENT fiscal year.

The comptroller’s report also concurred with the OFA report that revenue estimated to come in from income tax will fall far short of what was projected when the Legislature and the Governor enacted the budget.

It just seems that CT’s budget mess will never end.

As usual, our friends at the CTMirror, led by outstanding reporter Keith Phaneuf have the story covered.

What is fallout from the bad budget news?

  • Once the news hit from both OFA and the Comptroller, the reaction was swift and it has left many people and agencies very nervous.
  • First on the list of cuts might be at UConn, where non-teaching professionals contract is up for ratification. That contract includes some raises that the Governor says the State cannot afford. It is up the Legislature to REJECT that contract and as we go to print with this edition of the FF, Legislative leaders are poised to call themselves into session to do just that.
  • The Governor also suspended payments to CT Hospitals and his Agency heads will be forced to cut from there operating budgets as well.
  • Meanwhile, the Senate Democrats announced this week that they have started discussions with the Office of Legislative Management about furloughs and a reversal of a July cost of living increase for legislative staff.
  • The ongoing budget issues in CT will no doubt play itself out as the rest of the Legislative session goes on, but without question it has already cast a dark cloud over the proceedings.

Labor committee active on issues impacting retailers

  • Bad budget news doesn’t seem to stop the General Assembly’s Labor Committee or in fairness, any of the committees.
  • This week the Labor Committee reported out of its committee, SB 211 AAC Payroll Cards. CRMA is actively working this issue as many members use Payroll cards. The CT Department of Labor has questions regarding whether there is proper legislative authority to allow companies to use payroll cards in lieu of paper checks.
  • We are working on that issue to ensure that IF members want to use these cards, they can comply with any of the requirements that will be mandated.
  • CRMA is also supporting HB 5237 – An Act Concerning Fair Chance Employment.
  • This bill would eliminate the practice of having a question on an application related to if the applicant had a previous arrest - so-called “ban the box” legislation.
  • CRMA does not oppose this idea, but there are critical parts of the current legislation that we need to revise to ensure our members are protected, included how far back they can look at applicant’s records and the ability to reject any applicant for committing certain crimes.
  • The Labor Committee is also considering HB 5367 -AAC The Total Unemployment Benefit Rate and An Online Employment Exchange.
  • This bill would make necessary reforms to the unemployment compensation fund that ultimately will give relief to all members. We are working in coalition with other business groups to help pass this bill.
  • As you can see the Labor Committee is active again this session and will keep you posted on the progress of these bills as they move thru the process.


Other news and notes from the State Capitol

  • Despite our objections, the General Law Committee reported out of committee, HB 5326, AA Prohibiting the Capture and Use of Facial Recognition Technology for Commercial Purposes.
  • The Committee did not ban the use, but requires that any retailer that might use this technology, even for LP reasons, must post a sign or have some disclosure informing customers of that.
  • The Environment Committee is scheduled to hold a public hearing today, if the Senate is not is session (see above), to consider a bill dealing with plastic bags.
  • This year’s bill, SB 226, AAC Single Use Carryout Bags, is better than last year’s bill in that it does not force retailers to charge and collect a fee, but still would put some requirements on our members that will have an impact.
  • We will keep a close eye on this bill as it moves along.
  • Finally, yesterday a bill was introduced that would once again require retailers to give cash back to gift card holders who have a balance of $10 or less if the customers asks for it.
  • That bill was sent to the Banks committee.
  • We will continue to keep a close eye on that bill as well.

Tell us what is on your mind

  • We always value your feedback on what is going on at the State Capitol
  • Feel free to send along your thoughts about any of the bills we mentioned this week or any other issues.
  • You can email Cathy in our office at cathy@crmaononline.com with your views on any of these issues.  

Friday Facts - February 19, 2016

Friday, February 19, 2016

FRIDAY, FEB. 19, 2016 – IN THIS ISSUE

  • Legislative Committees pick up the pace.
  • Does the Governor want to block public hearings?
  • NEW - Weekly issue survey
  • CRMA virtual town hall legislative call.


» We would appreciate it if you could please take the following Survey: CLICK HERE to access it.

As we mentioned in last week’s FF, during the short legislative session, things move fast.

  • The first step in the process is that legislative committees begin holding public hearings on bills right away.
  • For instance, on Tuesday of next week, the General Law Committee will hold its first public hearing of the session to hear testimony on a number of bills, including HB 5326, AN ACT PROHIBITING THE CAPTURE AND USE OF FACIAL RECOGNITION TECHNOLOGY FOR COMMERCIAL PURPOSES.
  • And on Thursday, the Labor Committee will hold a public hearing on SB 211 AAC Payroll Cards.
  • Meanwhile, the Appropriations Committee, the Committee that oversees the spending side of the state budget, will continue to hold hearings to listen to testimony from various state agencies.
  • The Finance Committee is meeting today and will soon begin holding public hearings.
  • So, the pace is picking up quickly and CRMA will be keeping a close eye on how things develop.

Governor Malloy and block grants.

  • One issue that Governor Malloy has raised this session that will be hotly debated is his proposal to change the way government funds state agencies.
  • Traditionally, the Governor proposes an overall state budget with specific agency budgets. Each agency is funded for its specific tasks within that agency. The legislature then approves or disapproves of those budgets, making adjustments along the way after public hearings and input from effected parties, when they testify before the Appropriations Committee.
  • This year, the Governor is proposing to change that system by giving state agencies so-called “block grants” and then allowing the agency heads to spend that money in a manner they determine is best for the agency they administer.
  • Not everyone likes this idea. Advocates for some social service nonprofits think they will lose the ability to influence how the dollars are allocated because the Appropriations Committee will no longer hold public hearings on agency budgets.
  • And legislators are not too thrilled about giving away whatever impact they can have on the budget process.
  • Our friends at the CT Mirror do a great job of reviewing this proposal – describing the Governor asking the legislature to give his agency heads the right to cut spending where they see fit.

CRMA issue survey

  • We are adding a new feature to our weekly FF, an issue survey - we are very interested in your participation.
  • Each week we will list a quick survey on our website (www.crmaonline.com) and ask you to take a couple of minutes and fill out the survey.  We will share the results with you in next week’s FF. This information will help guide us thru the legislative session on the direction you would like us to take on various issues that are being considered.
  • This week’s issue is taxes – always a favorite!
  • Thanks for your help.

CRMA Legislative Town Hall in the works

  • Plans are underway for a CRMA Legislative Town Hall meeting – via conference call – to bring members up-to-date on some the issues that are brewing at the State Capitol and to hear from you directly what is on your mind.
  • We will send you the call-in number in advance and promise it will not take up too much of your valuable time.