Wins, losses for work­ing fam­i­lies

Connecticut Post (Sunday) - - Opinion - SUSAN CAMP­BELL Susan Camp­bell is a dis­tin­guished lec­turer at the Univer­sity of New Haven. She can be reached at slcamp­bell417@gmail.com. This col­umn was re­ported un­der a part­ner­ship with the Con­necti­cut Health I- Team (www.c- hit.org).

While the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion seeks to dismantle any and all things Oba­macare, Con­necti­cut leg­is­la­tors, in the wan­ing days of this year’s leg­isla­tive ses­sion, passed a bill that pro­tects im­por­tant health ben­e­fits that are part of the 2010 re­form pack­age.

Leg­is­la­tors also passed a law that seeks to re­duce the times po­lice of­fi­cers ar­rest both the vic­tim and the ag­gres­sor on do­mes­tic vi­o­lence calls, or so- called “dual ar­rests.” And they, in an at­tempt to close the gen­der wage gap, passed a bill that pre­vents po­ten­tial em­ploy­ers from ask­ing job ap­pli­cants about salary his­tory.

About that last one, Gov. Dan­nel P. Mal­loy said, “This inequity is per­pet­u­ated by the prac­tice of ask­ing for salary his­tory dur­ing the hir­ing process, which can dis­pro­por­tion­ately en­sure that women who were un­der­paid at their first job con­tinue to be un­der­paid through­out their ca­reers, cre­at­ing a cy­cle of poverty and caus­ing real harm to fam­i­lies.”

But let’s give an hon­est grade for what hap­pened — and what didn’t hap­pen — in the ses­sion that ended at mid­night May 9.

Con­necti­cut leg­is­la­tors’ ef­fort was a solid C for what they could do for fam­i­lies — or, if we’re feel­ing gen­er­ous, maybe a C+. Too many pieces of leg­is­la­tions that could have made a big dif­fer­ence in a small state were left on the ta­ble, died in com­mit­tee, or never got trac­tion.

Per­haps the big­gest dis­ap­point­ment was leg­is­la­tors’ fail­ure to pass a paid fam­ily leave bill. They also couldn’t raise the state’s min­i­mum wage, which stands at $ 10.10.

“There was no in­crease to min­i­mum wage, but we raised the amount be­fore taxes on in­her­i­tances take effect,” said Lori J. Pel­letier, pres­i­dent of the Con­necti­cut AFL- CIO. “So peo­ple mak­ing $ 10,000 a year got left be­hind, and peo­ple who in­herit mil­lions of dol­lars got a break.”

The U. S. is the only in­dus­tri­al­ized na­tion that doesn’t of­fer paid fam­ily leave, though em­ploy­ers can of­fer it at their dis- cre­tion. Some states, such as New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Is­land, have gone ahead with the ini­tia­tive, but not Con­necti­cut. In those states, leaves are ad­min­is­tered through dis­abil­ity in­sur­ance pro­grams, and funded by em­ployee payroll de­duc­tions. While Con­necti­cut is los­ing its mil­len­ni­als, paid fam­ily leave would have been a nice in­cen­tive to stay and work in the state. But no.

“Con­necti­cut Mom­sRis­ing mem­bers were dis­ap­pointed that our leg­is­la­ture failed to pass a crit­i­cal paid fam­ily and med­i­cal leave bill,” said Khadija Gur­nah, Mom­sRis­ing cam­paign di­rec­tor.

“While we’re dis­ap­pointed, we won’t give up,” Gur­nah said. “We’ll keep work­ing to en­sure that all Con­necti­cut fam­i­lies have ac­cess to paid fam­ily and med­i­cal leave.”

Paid fam­ily leave would ease a big bur­den on strapped fam­i­lies try­ing to live in ex­pen­sive Con­necti­cut, said Kate Far­rar, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Con­necti­cut Women’s Ed­u­ca­tion and Le­gal Fund ( CWEALF), which pushed hard for the bill.

“Ev­ery day women are forced to choose be­tween their paycheck and car­ing for a sick child or rel­a­tive or bat­tling their own ill­ness,” Far­rar said. “Ev­ery day women face ha­rass­ment in their work­places. Eco­nomic se­cu­rity for women in our state is crit­i­cal to the well- be­ing of our work­force and pros­per­ity of our state’s econ­omy.”

“I think that this is not a stel­lar grade this ses­sion,” said Karen Jar­moc, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Con­necti­cut Coali­tion Against Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence. “I think that there is ab­so­lutely more work to do.”

Jar­moc’s or­ga­ni­za­tion cel­e­brated the pas­sage of a law that elim­i­nates the state’s 30- year- old “dual ar­rest” pol­icy, where po­lice

Con­necti­cut leg­is­la­tors’ ef­fort was a solid C for what they could do for fam­i­lies — or, if we’re feel­ing gen­er­ous, maybe a C+. Too many pieces of leg­is­la­tions that could have made a big dif­fer­ence in a small state were left on the ta­ble, died in com­mit­tee, or never got trac­tion.

can ar­rest both the vic­tim and the per­pe­tra­tor in do­mes­tic vi­o­lence in­ci­dences. Ac­cord­ing to a 2017 ProPublica re­port, since the pas­sage of the law, Con­necti­cut’s rate of dual ar­rests had risen to about 18 per­cent, com­pared to a na­tional av­er­age of 7.3 per­cent. ( The rate was even higher, ProPublica said, in towns such as Wind­sor, where “dual ar­rests ac­counted for 35 per­cent of in­ti­mate part­ner ar­rests in 2015.” An­so­nia’s rate was even higher at 37 per­cent.)

Jar­moc’s or­ga­ni­za­tion also was able to push through an in­crease in the mar­riage sur­charge. Peo­ple who ap­ply for mar­riage li­censes will pay $ 35 as op­posed to $ 20, said Liza An­drews, the coali­tion’s di­rec­tor of pub­lic pol­icy and com­mu­ni­ca­tions. The ex­tra money will gen­er­ate roughly $ 646,000 for 27 do­mes­tic vi­o­lence agen­cies around the state, An­drews said.

And those Af­ford­able Care Act ben­e­fits the leg­is­la­tors cod­i­fied are vi­tal and in­clude emer­gency ser­vices, ma­ter­nity and new­born health care, mental health and sub­stance use ser­vices, pre­scrip­tion drugs, pre­ven­tive and well­ness ser­vices, chronic dis­ease man­age­ment, con­tra­cep­tives, and pe­di­atric ser­vices, in­clud­ing oral and vi­sion care.

“I don’t think they failed,” Pel­letier said. “But I don’t think they achieved what they could have. They could have tried harder.”

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