The clock is ticking on the 2014 legislative session and there are still some big issues waiting to be debated.
One of those issues is hospital conversions. Lawmakers wanted to modify the process that a nonprofit hospital must undergo in order for it to be purchased by a for-profit company, but there seems to be little agreement about how to move forward.
Rep. Susan Johnson and Sen. Terry Gerratana, the co-chairs of the Public Health Committee, said Friday that they haven’t reached an agreement yet on exactly what should be included in the bill.
“It’s a big decision to have a for-profit come in and take over a community hospital,” Johnson said. “We haven’t come to an agreement.”
SEIU Director Paul Filson, who has been following the discussion closely because many of his members work in hospitals, said he doesn’t know whether there’s enough time.
“Everybody wants a process moving forward for hospital conversions,” Filson said. “There are broad based agreements on everything, but there are still some specific parts that need to be fleshed out.”
Lobbyists for the hospitals are keeping a close eye on closed-door negotiations, but declined to comment.
Meanwhile, Waterbury Hospital, which is having the most financial difficulty of the four Connecticut hospitals being courted by Texas-based Tenet Healthcare Corp., seems to be close to an agreement with the labor unions giving some lawmakers hope that nothing needs to be done. The Office of Health Care Access and Attorney General George Jepsen recently granted the hospital a 120-day extension on its “certificate of need” application.
Lawmakers have also failed to address the issue of juvenile sentencing. The bill died on the Senate calendar last year after passing the House.
This year’s bill cleared the House in early April and has been awaiting action in the Senate since. Republicans have filed more than 20 amendments on the legislation, which is a clear sign they plan to force a lengthy debate if it is ever called on the floor. That often means the end for a bill this late in the session.
“It’s not looking good, but I’m not ruling it out,” Judiciary Committee Co-chairman Eric Coleman said Saturday.
Essentially, the U.S. Supreme Court has three times upheld a position that juvenile criminals are less culpable and therefore less deserving of severe punishment than are their adult counterparts. But Connecticut has failed pass legislation that would eliminate life sentences for offenders under the age of 18.
Trash and Fracking
A bill that restructures Connecticut’s largest regional trash agency and reduces its staffing from 70 to 45 passed the Senate last week and is awaiting action in the House. The state would be required to issue a request for proposals to redevelop the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority’s trash-to-energy facility in Hartford.
There’s also a bill to establish a three-year moratorium on fracking waste. There’s no natural gas mining/fracturing operations in Connecticut, but some lawmakers are concerned other states would look to dispose of their fracking waste in the Nutmeg state. Environmental advocates have pushed for a ban on the waste.
Freedom of Information
The recommendations of a task force charged with balancing the public’s right to know with victim privacy are likely going nowhere. Lawmakers wrote two pieces of legislation based on the panel’s report: one that favored the public’s right to know and the other that favored victims privacy. Although one of those bills could technically still be acted on, an agreement on the divisive issue is unlikely.
The task force was created last year when lawmakers were concerned the victims of the Sandy Hook School shooting may be released to the public.
No piece of legislation, concept, or idea is ever dead until the clock strikes midnight. Essentially, lawmakers will still be able, if their ideas don’t require a fiscal note, to shove it into a budget implementer.
The big bills which implement the budget adopted Saturday by both chambers will be debated in the coming days. Those bills are used to implement policy ideas that wouldn’t be able to pass both chambers in separate smaller bills. This year they’re expected to be extra thick.