Capital briefs

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House, Senate pass bills to aid vets

HARTFORD — The House and Senate recently passed bills aimed at helping veterans.

“The Connecticut General Assembly stands with veterans,” state Rep. Theresa Conroy (D-105) said in a press release. “The legislation we recently approved will have a positive impact on women vets and veterans heading back to school.”

SB 904, An Act Establishing the Connecticut Women Veterans’ Program, will establish a program within the state Department of Veterans’ Affairs to provide information and services to women veterans.

The program will reach out to women veterans to improve awareness of federal and state veterans’ benefits and services eligibility; assess women veterans’ needs for benefits and services; and incorporate women veterans’ issues in strategic planning on benefits and services, the release stated.

SB 694, An Act Concerning Services Available to Veterans On State College and University Campuses, seeks to provide adequate support for veterans at the state’s two and four-year colleges and universities, the release stated.

The bills were sent to Gov. Dannel Malloy for action.

GOP legislators hold hearing on tax increases

HARTFORD — Republican members of the legislature’s Finance Revenue and Bonding Committee held a public hearing May 11 on proposed tax increases included in the Democrat’s proposed state budget.

“[The] public hearing gave a voice to many disenfranchised citizens and business owners who deserve to be heard on legislation that will increase their personal and professional financial burden,” said state Rep. Rosa Rebimbas (R-70) in a press release. “They understand that tough decisions need to be made to balance the state’s budget, but the people of our state deserve to have a say on legislation that will increase their out-of-pocket costs on dozens of services they depend on. The Majority Party’s proposed budget would significantly increase spending and taxes at a time when Connecticut is lagging behind our regional neighbors and the rest of the country.”

The proposed budget at the center of the hearing, S.B. 946, includes a net tax increase of $1.131 billion in fiscal year 2016 and $709.3 million in fiscal year 2017, the release stated.

House and Senate Republicans previously offered their own budget proposal that they say doesn’t increase spending, is under the Constitutional spending cap and preserves vital social services.

Veterans-to-agriculture bill passes the House

HARTFORD — The House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill last week aimed at improving veterans’ transition into civilian life by establishing a new agricultural program and encouraging entrepreneurship in a difficult business climate.

“It is important that our military veterans know that we support them 100 percent as they complete their service to our country and transition back into civilian life,” said state Rep. Lezlye Zupkus (R-89), a co-sponsor of the bill, in a press release. “This is an opportunity for us to put our words into action and show our gratitude for their service through the implementation of programs which will give our veterans a helping hand.”

The legislation, H.B. 6375, would create a veterans agriculture program that would provide numerous tax incentives for participants, the release stated. It would also require the Department of Agriculture to work with the departments of Veterans’ Affairs and Labor to provide guidance as well as education and training programs on farming and agricultural operations.

The bill also requires the departments of agriculture, labor, and veterans’ affairs to collaborate to encourage and the expansion of veterans’ agricultural businesses, the release stated.

The program, if approved by the Senate and signed by the governor, will be open to veterans who have never engaged in agricultural production or to those who have been involved in agricultural production for less than two years, the release stated.

Legislation requires stricter cybersecurity measures

HARTFORD — Legislators have approved a bill designed to beef up cybersecurity protection in the wake of the Anthem data breach in February.

“This bill has far-reaching ramifications for consumer privacy in Connecticut,” said state Sen. Joseph Crisco, Jr. (D-17), chair of the Insurance and Real Estate Committee, in a press release. “This is what the General Assembly is all about — protecting the safety and security of Connecticut citizens and doing so in a responsible manner. This is a major victory for consumer protection in Connecticut.”

The bill requires health insurance companies to set up protocols to ensure that customers’ most private data is kept secure.

Companies must develop a comprehensive information security program to safeguard the personal information of their enrollees, the release stated. This program will require that only personnel who need access to personal information should have it, that companies monitor their security systems for breaches, that they offer employee education and training on the proper use of the company’s information technology systems, and that they encrypt all data in transit — whether over the internet, on a laptop or a flash drive.

Bills aim to help assault victims, trafficking laws

HARTFORD — Bills intended to expedite evidence collection in cases of sexual assault and strengthen laws against human trafficking were approved in the legislature.

Under H.B. 6498 police departments will have 10 days to gather the sexual assault evidence collection kit from a health care facility and transfer it to the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, which oversees sexual assault evidence collection kits. The kits will still be permitted in court, even if the authorities fail to meet the new time requirements.

“This bill, which passed the House unanimously, helps victims of sexual assault by setting a deadline for certain evidence to be collected allowing police and prosecutors to conduct their investigations in a timely manner,” said state Rep. Rosa Rebimbas (R-70), in a press release. “The sooner the police get access to such vital information the better chance there is to catch those who perpetrate such heinous crimes.”

“Victims of sexual assault can experience trauma when going through the investigation by having to relive the events, especially if that process is long and cumbersome,” said state Rep. Lezlye Zupkus (R-89) in a press release. “It is my hope that this bill will help authorities to be more responsive to the victims of sexual assault by establishing a timeline and eliminating issues that result from delayed investigations.”

H.B. 6849 makes numerous changes to Connecticut’s human trafficking laws, the release stated. This bill also expands the crime of human trafficking by broadening the conditions under which the crime is committed when the victim is a minor.

The changes required under the bill include the state Department of Public Health must provide victims of human trafficking the same services it must provide certain sexual assault victims under existing law and allows the Office of Victims Services, under certain circumstances, and waives the time limitation on crime victim compensation applications for a minor who is a victim of human trafficking, the release stated.

“Sadly, human trafficking is rarely discussed but is a proven problem that affects every state, including Connecticut,” Rebimbas said in the release. “This legislation will improve Connecticut’s already strong victim protections while also adding stiffer penalties for criminals who traffic in women and men for the sex trade.”