2024 CRCOG Connecticut Legislative Session Overview

On May 8, the Connecticut General Assembly adjourned the 2024 legislative session sine die. As an even-numbered year, 2024 was considered a budget revision or “short” session, in which individual legislators can only propose legislation that is budgetary in nature. Policy-oriented bills must be introduced by one of the General Assembly’s joint committees. Despite its characterization, however, much can be proposed and debated in a short session. 2024 was no exception.

American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Allocation Plan & State Bonding/School Construction Bill

During normal budget revision sessions, the legislature typically negotiates a budget adjustment to the second year of the biennium budget, opting to take into consideration Governor Ned Lamont’s recommended budget adjustment. This session was somewhat different as the legislature did not pass a traditional budget adjustment and chose to keep the original $26 billion biennium budget passed in 2023 intact. Instead of the traditional budget adjustment, the legislature negotiated with the Governor and passed an American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) allocation plan and a bond package.

Highlighted ARPA Investments:

  • $80 million for the Connecticut State Colleges & Universities (CSCU)system
  • $50 million for various nonprofit agencies that primarily provide human and social services
  • $27 million for Early Childcare
  • $26.2 million to expand behavioral health services for children and similar programs/services

Highlighted Bonding:

  • Overall package increased to $4.4 billion
  • Up to $122 million for the University of Connecticut
  • $15 million grant program for nonprofit agencies serving unhoused individuals
  • $100 million increase for Urban Action grants to municipalities
  • $15 increase for Micro grid and resilience grant and loan pilot program

CRCOG’s Legislative Priorities

This legislative session, the General Assembly considered many proposals with legislators introducing over 1400 bills and eventually adopting 340 bills for the Governor’s consideration. A handful of those bills aligned to items in CRCOG's 2024 Legislative Agendaor CRCOG’s other strategic priorities. Here’s a synopsis of those bills.

Service sharing.Removing statutory barriers or impediments to shared services between municipalities, school districts, and regional councils of governments has long been a priority of CRCOG. This year we championed the Governor’s shared services bill (H.B. 5056) and hosted a press conference at Wethersfield Town Hall. After much discussion and some revision, this bill was eventually incorporated within the state’s bond bill (Sec. 127, HB 5524, ). The language, as adopted, is designed to eliminate barriers to service sharing created by state statute, local charters, or other provisions. It specifically authorizes councils of governments (COGs) or groups of two or more municipalities to make appointments on behalf of municipalities for municipal functions subject to a shared services or regional services agreement. In addition, the bill supersedes any provision of the general statutes or any special act, charter, special act charter, home rule ordinance, or local law that would prohibit or limit the ability of a municipality or a COG to make a joint appointment, including, but not limited to, any provision that (1) prohibits a municipality from entering into an agreement for shared services, (2) requires an appointee to fulfill such appointee's duties to the exclusion of other employment, (3) requires an appointee to reside within a particular municipality, or (4) requires a municipality to make an individual appointment. From CRCOG’s perspective, this bill represents progress, and we look forward to seeing more shared services develop within our region to benefit our residents and taxpayers.

Medicaid Reimbursement Rates for Ambulance Service. Increasing the Medicare reimbursement rate, at least to the Federal level, is a priority for CRCOG towns. Under Sec. 74 of the ARPA allocation bill (HB 5523, OLR Bill Analysis), beginning in FY25 the state will increase (1) the Medicaid ambulance mileage rate for all emergency and nonemergency transports by $1.18, and (2) all other emergency and nonemergency ambulance services rates. The state Department of Social Services (DSS), within available appropriations, will provide mileage reimbursement for in-town trips for the fiscal year. The DSS may, if necessary, seek federal approval of an amendment to the Medicaid state plan to carry out this section's provisions. CRCOG staff will monitor the implementation of this provision to determine the impact on our member towns.

Waste Management. Sec. 76 of HB 5523 (OLR Bill Analysis) extends until July 1, 2025, the deadline for OPM to give recommendations to the General Assembly’s Environment and Energy and Technology committees regarding the feasibility and advisability of creating a new solid waste-related quasi-public state agency, waste authority, or other entity for developing new solid waste infrastructure, operating and maintaining new or existing solid waste infrastructure, and for other purposes. CRCOG will track this effort as part of our work to expand the services provided by the Central Connecticut Solid Waste Authority (CCSWA), our regional waste management authority.

Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP). Sec. 77 of HB 5523 (OLR Bill Analysis) increases, from $500,000 to $1 million, the maximum STEAP grant amount municipalities can receive in any fiscal year. By law, STEAP grants provide funding to municipalities that are ineligible for Urban Action grants and must be used for economic development, community conservation, and quality-of-life capital projects. This is good news for many CRCOG communities as STEAP has proven a valuable grant program over the years.

Housing reform. HB 5474 (OLR Bill Analysis) is another multi-faceted bill that incorporates various recommendations of the Majority Leader’s Affordable Housing Roundtable to promote the development of affordable housing. Among other provisions, the legislation requires municipalities to allow developers to convert vacant nursing homes into multifamily housing. The bill also permits cities and towns to regulate short-term rentals and requires landlords to provide their tenants with a minimum of 45 days’ notice of planned rent increases. In addition, the legislation awards a municipality points towards a moratorium under the 8-30g appeals procedure for each middle housing dwelling unit built in that community following the adoption of zoning regulations allowing as-of-right middle housing developments. CRCOG will incorporate various provisions of this bill in its upcoming regional housing strategy.

Solar projects. HB 5232 (OLR Bill Analysis) is a comprehensive bill that addresses the taxation, procurement, and development of solar and renewable energy projects in Connecticut. As amended by the bond bill (HB 5524), the legislation requires the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to study the feasibility of a uniform capacity tax for solar photovoltaic systems and to report its findings by January 1, 2025. It also mandates the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) to study renewable energy tariff programs and report its findings by January 15, 2026. As amended by the bond bill (HB 5524), the legislation introduces a definition for "solar canopy" and allows municipalities to amend their local zoning regulations to establish a simplified approval process for such applications, and to approve or deny land use applications to build solar canopies within six months after an application is filed. Amendments to the existing statutes allow the Connecticut Green Bank to establish a commercial sustainable energy program, and outline PURA's responsibility to establish a procurement plan for electric distribution companies. The bill sets caps on the purchase price for energy and renewable energy certificates, outlines program requirements for shared clean energy facilities, and mandates that at least 20% of the capacity of each facility must be allocated to low-income customers. While the bill does not directly increase the municipal role in the siting process as CRCOG had hoped, the bill has potential revenue gains for municipalities.

Notice of revaluation to homeowners with defective concrete foundations. SB 224 (OLR Bill Analysis) requires municipal assessors to notify owners of residential buildings that have been reassessed due to defective concrete foundations of upcoming revaluation cycles and makes other technical changes. At CRCOG, we will make sure to update our crumbling foundations webpage accordingly.

OPM recommendations. HB 5273 (OLR Bill Analysis) implements the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Policy and Planning Division within the Office of Policy and Management concerning various changes related to assessment, tax collection, revaluation, discretionary funding, the renters' rebate program, and the elimination of obsolete sections. Importantly for CRCOG, the bill also revises the regional performance incentive program (RPIP), allowing various regional entities to submit proposals for regional services or initiatives, with updated criteria and a requirement for participating municipalities to fund the proposals fully after the grant period.

Sealed bid requirement. SB 226 (OLR Bill Analysis) permits municipalities to increase the threshold for sealed bidding for the award of any contract or the purchase of any real or personal property by the municipality from $25,000 to $50,000. There are potential savings to municipalities associated with reduced administrative and advertising costs resulting from fewer contracts and purchases requiring sealed bidding. The savings depend upon the contracting process of a municipality. For example, municipalities that advertise formal sealed bids would realize reduced marketing costs. Our thanks to the Town of Glastonbury for championing this initiative.

In closing, this was an interesting session, with a few twists and turns. These bills (and many more!) will now move on to the Governor for his review. On behalf of our team, I would like to thank the members of the General Assembly and CRCOG’s Legislative Committee for their support and advocacy before and throughout the session. We’re optimistic about the potential of many of these bills to assist our work at CRCOG and to benefit the region.