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Connecticut Restaurant Association Legislative Update

By Sarah Maloney, Executive Director, Connecticut Restaurant Association

Executive Director Sarah Maloney

Executive Director Sarah Maloney, CRA.

The 2016 Connecticut General Assembly Legislative Session concluded on Wednesday, May 4 at midnight. The Legislature will be back in Special Session in the coming weeks to address the almost billion dollar budget deficit the state faces.

The Connecticut Restaurant Association (CRA) had an extremely active session this year, spending the first months of the session in February and March fighting labor-related bills that would mandate wage increases, eliminate the tip credit and impose a tax on large employers. While we were able to defeat these proposals this year, we expect them to be back again next year. Read on for a quick wrap-up of the good, the bad and the “are they serious?”

The “brunch” bill, which passed both Chambers and heads to the Governor’s desk for his signature, allows restaurants to serve alcohol at 10 a.m. (instead of the current 11 a.m.) on Sundays. This law will be effective as soon as it’s signed by the Governor.

The gift card bill states that retailers/restaurants must give cash back to consumers, upon request, on a gift card with a balance of $3 or less; consumer must present proof of purchase in order to receive cash back. This bill is very watered down from its original version of $10 or less. It’s headed to the Governor’s desk for his signature.

Last minute efforts to increase both the minimum and tipped wages by a small group of Democrat Senators was not called for a vote in the Senate. Great job reaching out by CRA members; hundreds of emails were sent! We expect these bills to be back next year, and will potentially be in the form of wage increases higher than $15/hour.

There was an effort by the Legislative Democrats to expand Connecticut’s bottle bill to include wine/spirits/teas/sports drinks … the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of Connecticut, the Food Association and CRA all opposed this measure. While the budget was not voted on by close of session, we do not expect this proposal to be included in the final budget agreement that will be voted on sometime next week.

Retirement bill: This bill requires employers (with five or more employees) who do not offer a retirement plan, to administer a payroll deduction for employees to participate in a state-run retirement plan. It is an “opt out” plan, meaning employees will automatically be participating unless they select a 0% contribution option on a form to be provided to employers by the State and/or the third party administrator of the plan.

The CRA, CBIA and dozens of other businesses and associations have opposed this measure for years. After a seven-hour debate, the bill passed the house and moved on to the Senate where the Lt. Governor broke a tie vote in favor of the bill. There is now an effort to look for an alternative to this plan where the state is not involved in running the plan, but rather an exchange, similar to the health exchange, is set up for employees.

This plan would still require employers to administer the payroll deduction and would still be an “opt-out” plan. As of press time, we believe it will likely be included in the budget implementing bills, which will be part of next week’s special session.

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