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Here are the laws that went into effect this month

With the new year comes new laws.

In most cases, it was specific provisions — including policies addressing paid family and medical leave, housing, the religious exemption to vaccinations, policing, criminal justice and LGBTQ rights — of larger laws passed either in last year’s legislative session or earlier, that went into effect on Jan. 1.

Paid Family and Medical Leave

Connecticut’s new paid leave law, passed in 2019, went into effect on Jan. 1, 2022. With the COVID-19 pandemic once again surging, employers finding it difficult to fill open positions and workers in different fields striking for better work conditions, the new law, which will allow qualifying workers to receive paid leave for up to 12 weeks, comes at a critical time.

A payroll deduction from worker paychecks will pay for the program — one of the most comprehensive in the country. Benefits began being paid to approved applicants starting Jan. 1. The income replacement paid through the program cannot surpass 60 times the state's minimum wage, which is currently $13 an hour.

People can apply for the program and access resources through the Connecticut Paid Leave Authority's website, ctpaidleave.org, or by calling (877) 499-8606.

Policing

A broad public safety bill passed last session addresses law enforcement use of force, police body cameras and juvenile criminal recidivism — these parts of the bill went into effect on Jan. 1.

The law limits “the circumstances under which an officer’s use of deadly physical force is justified” and establishes “factors to consider when evaluating whether the officer’s action was objectively reasonable,” according to the General Assembly. To “use deadly force,” officers are required to determine "that no reasonable alternatives exist” and to establish “that the escaping person poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to others.”

Another provision that took effect this month allows judges or juries, in use-of-force cases regarding police officers, to make determinations during trial based on the failure of police to turn on body cameras.

Finally, the law requires the Judicial Branch to conduct a study on juvenile recidivism — the likelihood that an offender will commit another crime — and examine the feasibility of “decreasing the time between a child’s arrest and initial court appearance in order to increase the likelihood the child will attend the appearance, and establishing a diversionary program for arrested children where the participants must report to a judge, juvenile probation officer or licensed clinical social workers on a weekly basis from arrest until the matter’s adjudication,” according to the General Assembly.

Department of Correction practices

A new law gives inmates debit cards upon their release “for any compensation they earned performing certain jobs,” according to the General Assembly. Before the law went into effect, the state Department of Correction gave checks to inmates.

“By law, various obligations (e.g., taxes or court-ordered victim restitution) may be paid from an inmate’s account before the inmate receives this compensation upon release,” the General Assembly summary reads.

Religious exemption

With the exception of a few Republicans, southeastern Connecticut legislators mostly supported legislation to end the religious exemption to vaccinations for children in public and private K-12th grade schools this past legislative session. Debate on the bill ran long and occasionally became animated and impassioned due to the controversial subject matter. It ultimately was passed and went into effect on Jan. 1.

Those who submitted vaccination exemptions for students in kindergarten and higher and for reasons other than health before April 28, 2021, will still have such exemptions honored. The rule applies to immunizations required to be allowed to go to school, including measles, mumps and tetanus, for example. It does not apply to COVID-19 vaccines, which have not been mandated for children to attend schools.

LGBTQ rights

One law legislators said is meant to ensure equal treatment for same-sex parents, the Connecticut Parentage Act, took effect Jan. 1.

According to GLAD — GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders — and Yale Law School, the act “ensures greater protections and equal treatment for children of LGBTQ parents. The law allows many LGBTQ parents to establish parentage through a simple form, an Acknowledgment of Parentage." The process ensures adoptive or same-sex parents can establish parental rights, such as inheritance rights or making medical decisions for the child, right away after the child is born. The legislation does away with a bureaucratic process for nonbiological parents in same-sex couples to establish such rights.

"The CPA also extends an accessible path to parentage for children born through assisted reproduction and strengthens protections for children born through surrogacy,” according to GLAD.

Housing

A new law makes accessory apartments, such as garage apartments or “mother-in-law suites,” legal to construct and rent out.

According to Desegregate CT, an advocacy coalition comprising nonprofit groups, accessory apartments are “small, independent living units that cater to seniors, young adults and multigenerational families.”

Before the law was passed, a majority of towns in the state allowed such apartments but many had what some proponents of the bill said were excessive restrictions.

“Some towns said only a blood relative can live in an accessory apartment. Others required costly applications and a full public hearing,” Desegregate CT wrote on its website. “HB 6107 ensures these requirements are more reasonable and carry across different towns, making it easier for everyone to understand how to create this housing.”

Proponents say accessory apartments increase property values as well as towns’ property tax base.

s.spinella@theday.com

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