Michael Nicastro, president and CEO of the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce, wanted to know why every year he has to concern himself with legislative bills like the one that gives parents 20 hours of leave from their employer to participate in “parental engagement.”
“This is the stuff that continues to pick away at the fabric of the small business community,” Nicastro told a panel of three legislative leaders at the Connecticut Business and Industry Association lobby day event.
House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, a small business owner himself, told Nicastro he shouldn’t get too excited about these “ideas” until they’re actually getting to the floor of one of the chambers.
“Particularly in the long session, any legislator can introduce any, any bill on any subject he or she wants,” Sharkey said. Without commenting on any particular piece of legislation, Sharkey said there are some “hair-brained” ideas out there and “they tend to make headlines.”
He said it was the first time he was hearing about the legislation, but said “it probably does not have any legs.”
The bill, which received a public hearing Tuesday, would allow parents to use their existing personal, compensation, and vacation time with their employers to attend events at their children’s school. The Connecticut Education Association testified in favor of the bill and said there are 12 other states that provide parental leave for school-related activities.
The Connecticut Business and Industry Association testified against it and argued that it provides employees with children and grandchildren an additional benefit not offered to childless employees. It also pointed out the “vagueness” of the definition for “qualified school-related activity.” Would athletic events or PTA meetings count?
“It may have gotten a hearing, but things that get hearings don’t necessarily lead to anything,” Sharkey said. “So I guess what I’m saying is, don’t necessarily get excited or get your membership worked up over stuff that probably is not really going to happen.”
House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero offered some different advice to Nicastro: “Be worried about it.”
Here’s why: “I’ve been here 20 years and I remember when this crazy idea of forcing private companies to give sick days came out,” Cafero said.
Cafero said he was initially told not to worry about it, that it would die in committee. However, year after year the bill came up and made it further and further through the legislative process.
“It’s now the law,” Cafero said, referring to the paid sick day legislation passed in 2011.
“And those headlines about ‘guess what wacky bill so-and-so did’ go outside the state,” Cafero said.
He said people outside the state don’t know “how wacky it is” and people outside the state don’t know “it will never pass.”
He said sometimes perception becomes reality and that makes a difference when companies are considering relocating to the state.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy told the group earlier that the state has create 18,000 jobs since he’s taken office, but if you don’t have one of those jobs, then that doesn’t mean much.
He said his administration is working hard to attract more companies to the state through a variety of programs and incentive packages.