Special Session: Cannabis & Budget Implementer Pass

The General Assembly convened a special session on Tuesday with the Senate passing SB 1201, legislation legalizing recreational cannabis for adult use and SB 1202, the budget implementer. Both bills were sent to the House, where they were amended on Wednesday and sent back to the Senate.

SB 1201 Cannabis

On Tuesday, the Senate amended the bill to expand the definition of an “equity applicant” for a cannabis business license. Advocates sought to ensure that half of all licenses would be issued to those who had been impacted by the war on drugs. Applicants from areas with high rates of drug convictions or high unemployment and had incomes under 300% of the state median income were deemed equity applicants. The Senate amendment added another group - those who had been arrested or convicted on marijuana charges or had a parent, spouse or child who had been arrested or convicted. That action prompted Governor Lamont to threaten to veto the bill.

When the House convened Wednesday, it removed the Senate amendments before passing the bill, earning the Governor’s support. The amended bill was sent back to the Senate as a disagreeing action. The Senate reconvened Thursday morning to pass it again.

SB 1201 is important to the Labor movement because it requires cannabis business license applicants to negotiate labor peace agreements with a labor union before licenses can be awarded. It also requires licensees to negotiate project labor agreements for construction projects on retail and cultivation facilities valued at more than $5 million.

SB 1202 Budget Implementer & The Connecticut Essential Workers COVID-19 Assistance Program

Among the many provisions contained in the budget implementer is the creation of the Connecticut Essential Workers COVID-19 Assistance Program within the State Comptroller’s Office. It allows essential workers with new or pending COVID-19 workers’ compensation claims to be reimbursed for medical costs, lost wages and, if necessary, $3,000 to supplement the $9,000 burial benefit provided by the Federal Emergency Management Authority. The budget includes $34 million for this fund. The implementer also raises the workers’ compensation burial benefit for all future workers’ compensation claims to $12,000 and indexes it to inflation going forward.

The budget implementer included a number of other pro-worker provisions, including:

  • Requiring employers to disclose information to domestic workers when they are hired, such as their job duties, fees for room and board and how to file complaints. It also establishes a program to inform domestic workers about the laws and regulations related to them.

  • Establishing notice requirements for call centers that relocate out-of-state and making them ineligible to receive state financial support for five years after the relocation. It also requires them to remit the value of any state financial support they received over the previous five years.

  • Establishing a task force to study issues related to managerial and exempt state employees’ retirements and barriers to recruitment.

  • Allowing DOT to establish a pilot program to operate speed cameras at up to three highway work zones for one year beginning January 1, 2022.

Because the House made additional changes to SB 1202, it went back to the Senate as a disagreeing action. The Senate reconvened Thursday morning to pass it again.

Both SB 1201 and SB 1202 now go to Governor Lamont for his signature. The Connecticut AFL-CIO’s end of session summary and budget summary list the actions the General Assembly took that impact working families during the regular and special sessions.