Legislature to convene for job growth vote

Hartford - Members of the General Assembly will return to the Capitol Tuesday for expected votes on a jobs growth package, new taxes for "roll-your-own" smoke shops and cigarettes and adjustments to the minimum staffing law for State Police troopers.

The main purpose of the one-day special session is to finish implementing parts of the $20.5 billion budget for the new July 1 fiscal year that didn't get done at the regular three-month "short" session that ended May 9.

But Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, said the lawmakers' agenda will also include some new, non-technical initiatives.

Beleaguered House Speaker Christopher Donovan, D-Meriden, is expected to attend and vote at the rump session but will not be presiding. Instead, House Majority Leader Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, will take over leadership duties.

Donovan relinquished his role for the session after an FBI sting led to the arrest late last month of the finance director for his 5th Congressional District campaign. Robert Braddock Jr. is accused of conspiring with others to hide the source of $20,000 in campaign contributions.

Donovan has denied any wrongdoing or knowledge of the alleged conspiracy and continues his run for Congress.

One item on Tuesday's agenda is at the center of the investigation into the Donovan campaign. Federal authorities contend that Braddock used straw donors to conceal contributions from someone he believed was an investor in "roll-your-own" smoke shops.

The supposed investor - possibly an FBI agent - sought the death of a bill that would have imposed taxes on these smoke shops and their low-cost cigarettes. The bill passed a committee but never came to a vote in either chamber.

Williams said Friday that he is planning on the "roll-your-own" legislation to be a part of the bill or bills that lawmakers vote on Tuesday. The measure would subject the cigarettes made by rolling machines to state tobacco taxes and require the machines' owners to pay an annual $5,250 licensing fee.

The jobs growth proposal, formerly known as Senate Bill 1, would, among other things, expand eligibility for the state's Small Business Express Program to businesses with up to 100 employees (up from 50). It also creates new promotional campaigns for state-made products and tourism attractions and adds incentives for hiring unemployed veterans.

The bill died in the House last month without a vote despite bipartisan support. Democrats and Republicans alike blamed Donovan, who was upset over Senate Democrats' failure to round up enough votes to pass his favored bill: a 50-cent increase to the state's $8.25 hourly minimum wage over two years.

Another likely proposal would adjust the staffing requirement for 1,248 state troopers.

"The idea there is to have a new process to set that number," Williams said.

The Malloy administration has sought to eliminate the staffing mandate, which officials contend is not necessary for public safety. A bill that would have ended the requirement cleared several committees this spring but never came to a formal vote. There are currently about 1,080 state troopers.



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