By Scott Dolch, Executive Director, Connecticut Restaurant Association
As we head into the fall, the Connecticut Restaurant Association would like to first thank everyone who supported the annual golf tournament in June. Second, we’d like to recap for you how the legislative session ended and what it means for our industry coming into the new one, now that summer is behind us and September is beginning.
As the 2019 Connecticut General Assembly’s regular session ended on Wednesday, June 5, 2019, the Connecticut Restaurant Association (CRA) tracked more than 175 proposals/bills for the session. Several of these were of major concern to the hospitality industry. Below is a brief summary of some of the priority issues that were monitored and lobbied during the session.
MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE
One of the top priorities of Democratic leadership this session was to increase Connecticut’s minimum wage to $15. The CRA worked hard throughout the session to mitigate the impact on the hospitality industry by negotiating with legislators in both parties, as well as Governor Lamont’s office. While the minimum wage will increase to $15, it will do so over a four-and-a-half-year period beginning on October 1, 2019, compared to the three-year plan that was originally proposed.
TIP CREDIT & EMPLOYEES UNDER THE AGE OF 18
During our minimum wage negotiations, the CRA was also able to secure the decoupling and freezing of tipped wages, meaning the server and bartender wages will remain at $6.38 and $8.23. The law also changes the current training wage to now apply to those employees under the age of 18, allowing employers to pay them 85% of the minimum wage for the first 90 days of employment.
The CRA’s lobbying efforts were successful in defeating this piece of legislation during the session, as it would have required employers to pay employees half of their regular pay rate for any scheduled hours that the employer canceled or reduced after the employee reported to work or with less than 72 hours in advance. The bill also required these employers to pay these employees a time-and-a-half rate for working a shift that begins less than 11 hours after the employee’s previous shift ended.
PAID FAMILY MEDICAL LEAVE
On the Governor’s, and Democrat leaders’, priority list this session was passing Paid Family Medical Leave, which creates a program in Connecticut that will provide wage replacement benefits to certain employees taking leave. The law requires employers to participate in this program, which will be funded by employee contributions (as a 0.5% payroll deduction) beginning on January 1, 2021.
MEALS & BEVERAGE TAX
Included in the budget this year is a 1% increase in the sales tax on meals sold by eating establishments, caterers or grocery stores and liquors, soft drinks, sodas and beverages ordinarily dispensed at bars and soda fountains. The effective date of this tax increase is October 1, 2019. The CRA is currently in discussions with the Department of Revenue Services regarding the logistics of collecting and remitting this additional tax to the state.
ALCOHOLIC LIQUOR EXCISE TAX INCREASE
Included in the budget is an increase on the excise tax on alcoholic beverages, except for beer, by 10%. It requires sellers to pay an additional tax on the alcoholic beverages (except for beer) in their inventories as of the opening of business on October 1, 2019, known as the floor tax.
Senate Bill 647, An Act Streamlining the Liquor Control Act, was signed into law by Governor Lamont at a ceremonial bill signing attended by the CRA. All facets of Connecticut’s liquor industry, including the CRA, came together to create this new legislation, which we hope will help to improve the restaurant industry.
PLASTIC BAGS FEE & BAN
Beginning on August 1, 2019, retailers, including restaurants, will be required to charge a 10-cent fee on plastic bags, which will be remitted to the State of Connecticut. Effective July 1, 2021, plastic bags will be banned altogether.
For questions on these or other legislative issues or for additional details, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.