2021 Session: Labor Passes Many Pro-Worker Bills

The General Assembly adjourned the 2021 legislative session just before midnight on Wednesday, June 9th. Legislators had 22 weeks to pass a biennium budget and bonding package, allocate billions of dollars in resources provided by the federal American Rescue Plan Act and evaluate new policy proposals. Among the broader issues discussed during the session were measures related to COVID-19 response and relief, legalizing sports and Internet gaming, expanding voting access and improving access to affordable, quality healthcare.

House Speaker Matt Ritter and Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney announced Wednesday afternoon that they would convene a special session before the end of the month to take up legislation that was unfinished during the regular session. Legislators in both chambers passed HJ 378 to convene the special session independently, without having to rely on the Governor to do so.

The decision was made after Republican House members threatened to filibuster SB 1118, legislation legalizing the recreational use and sale of cannabis, until the midnight adjournment deadline. The measure had already passed the Senate. The much-anticipated budget implementer bill, a 1,000+ page omnibus vehicle required to execute budget line items, was also incomplete on Wednesday afternoon. Budget negotiations between legislative leaders and Governor ran long, leaving staff little time to finish the implementer. Both chambers did manage however to adopt a budget (see next article) and bonding package. It is unclear if other proposals may be added to the agenda for the upcoming special session.

Overall, despite the State Capitol remaining closed to lobbyists and members of the public, the Labor movement had a successful session. Union lobbyists were able to pass a number of pro-worker bills, including legislation protecting public sector unions and their members in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME decision, mandating nursing home reforms, updating the unemployment insurance system to make the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund solvent, requiring prevailing wage standards on renewable energy projects, preventing gender wage discrimination and codifying collectively bargained wage rates as prevailing wage standards. Labor also led passage of legislation providing workers’ compensation benefits for treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Injury for dispatchers, EMS workers and Department of Correction employees and for healthcare workers experiencing trauma related to COVID-19.

A full summary of the legislative session highlighting all legislation important to the Labor movement can be found HERE.