HARTFORD, CT — Democratic female lawmakers and their advocates are putting pressure on legislative leadership to get a number of bills that impact women and families over the finish line.
But the clock is ticking and a handful of the bills will need to be moved by the state Senate, which won’t meet again until Tuesday.
“I get so worried when we’re not going into session,” Sen. Bye Bye, D-West Hartford, said. “And when we’re not staying late.”
The Senate passed six bills on Tuesday and 11 on Wednesday. They didn’t meet Thursday and they won’t meet Friday or Monday.
“We know these bills take a lot of time because of the opposition,” Bye said.
She said they’re asking leadership to bring them in for the debate, even if it will be long.
But with a split Senate and a power sharing agreement, it’s more difficult for one party to get everything they want.
Bye said it’s time to stand up for the average citizen of Connecticut and “stop protecting corporate interests.”
Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said they are working hard on getting the legislation over the finish line and if a bill gets stuck in the House they plan to find a bill in the Senate they can rewrite.
“Our situation is unique being 18-18,” Looney said.
He said Republicans have given the Democratic caucus a list of bills they want to debate and the Democratic caucus has given them a list of bills they want to debate.
He said some of the bills Republicans had on their list were “highly objectionable” to the Democratic caucus “so we have to negotiate these on a one-for-one basis and that’s going to take some time.”
The women who gathered Thursday to hold a press conference and put pressure on lawmakers to get moving on about a dozen bills they know time is not on their side.
“Increasing the minimum wage doesn’t just affect women, it effects families,” AFL-CIO President Lori Pelletier said. “It’s part of this overall package that the Women’s March was all about.”
She said there are an estimated 80,000 people in Connecticut who earn the minimum wage and if they all had more money in their pocket they would spend it and economic activity would improve.
“There’s always a fiscal note when we raise the minimum wage,” Pelletier said. But she said the fiscal note doesn’t take into account the economic impact that increase would have on the economy.
There’s evidence that those making the minimum wage qualify for government subsidies such as food stamps and Medicaid. Legislation in previous years which sought to fine large employers who paid low wages estimated there were about 146,710 low-wage employees in the state who qualify for public assistance.
“We are intent on having a vote on the minimum wage and pay equity … and the Family Medical Leave Act,” Looney said Thursday evening after a caucus meeting.
Looney said they will need to negotiate with the House to figure out whether they plan to take up the minimum wage or the Paid Family Medical Leave bill because the House version of those bills is still alive. The Senate versions of those bills were defeated in committee.
Looney said they tried to make sure there were Senate and House bills with the same content for any controversial topic.
However, an increase in the minimum wage, one of the priorities of the women and their advocates, will be a heavy lift in either chamber.
Sources say the Democrats don’t have the votes in either chamber at the moment to pass an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
“I am going to vote for this coming out of committee, but I am not going to vote for this on the floor,” Sen. Joan Hartley, D-Waterbury, said on April 17 when the bill passed the Appropriations Committee.
However, Hartley seemed to leave the door open for discussions of something lower than $15 an hour.
In 2016 , the Senate attempted and failed to increase the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020.
The House bill this year would raise the state minimum hourly wage from $10.10 to $12 on Jan. 1, 2019; from $12 to $13.50 on Jan. 1, 2020; and from $13.50 to $15 on Jan. 1, 2021. Once the minimum wage reaches $15 in 2022, the bill indexes any future increases to annual increases in the consumer price index.
The minimum wage is a women’s issue because more than 60 percent of Connecticut minimum wage earners are women.
Sen. Mae Flexer, D-Killingly, said for the first time they are looking comprehensively at a number of bills and how they impact women.
“It’s because of how engaged women from every corner of our state have been this year and last year,” Flexer said pointing to the Women’s March in January.
Flexer said she’s optimistic business will start moving faster in the Senate.
“We’re just saying this today to amp up the pressure for everyone to get together and sit down at the table and figure out where we have common ground,” Flexer said.
Bye said one of the tactics of the opposition is the filibuster and the prospects of that grow as more time passes.
“The Senate needs to be willing to say talk,” Bye said. “Go all night.”
Lindsay Farrell, executive director of Connecticut Working Families, said when politicians say they cannot afford these things they are telling women they can’t be full participants in the economy and the workforce.
“We are not the problem, we are part of the solution, and the policies we need will help this state grow,” Farrell said.
The women who attended Thursday’s press conference are pushing for a number of bills.
The other bills highlighted at the press conference include the following (click below to read the bills and also to vote in support or opposition):