Gov. Ned Lamont signs a bill protecting abortion rights in Connecticut Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

New legal protections designed to expand access to abortion services and a $1 increase in the state’s minimum wage are among the changes to Connecticut law taking effect on Friday with the beginning of the new fiscal year.

On July 1, one week after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a federal decision making abortions legal nationwide, a recently passed state law will go into effect further strengthening the rights of women in Connecticut to access abortion services.

The law, passed by lawmakers who expected the court’s ruling, makes two changes to state abortion law. It shields patients and doctors who elect to conduct the procedure in Connecticut from legal action by states where abortion has been made illegal. It also adds certified APRNs and physician assistants to the providers allowed to perform aspiration abortions, the most common type of in-clinic abortion, in Connecticut.

Another change will result in Connecticut’s minimum wage rising from $13 per hour to $14. The hike was scheduled by a state law passed in 2019 when the minimum wage was $10.10 an hour. The law’s final step increase will occur next June when the hourly rate will increase to $15 per hour. 

In a Monday press release, Gov. Ned Lamont, who signed the increase in 2019, said that the income of workers has remained stagnant for too long as the economy has grown. 

“This is a fair, gradual increase for workers who will invest the money right back into our economy and continue supporting local businesses in their communities,” Lamont said.

Beginning in 2024, Connecticut’s minimum wage will be tied to the U.S. Labor Department’s employment cost index. The recent changes put Connecticut’s minimum wage among the highest in the country. The federal minimum wage has been at $7.25 per hour since 2009.

A separate bill affecting Connecticut employers will also go into effect Friday, preventing them from requiring employees to remain at meetings that include political or religious topics. The policy prohibiting “captive audience” meetings has long been sought by the state’s labor unions, who say the meetings are often used to dissuade workers from unionizing. 

The state’s largest business group, the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, opposed the bill, calling it an “employer gag order,” and unsuccessfully lobbied Lamont to reject the policy. The new law includes exemptions to ensure employers can communicate information that workers need in order to perform their jobs.

American Jobs Center
Lt. Gov. Susan Bysieiwicz and Acting Labor Commissioner Dante Bartolomeo at the American Jobs Center in Hartford. Credit: Christine Stuart / CTNewsJunkie

The state budget that begins Friday includes some new tax rebates for businesses in a handful of industries to apply against insurance premiums if they meet new job creation thresholds. Companies in the bioscience, clean energy, digital media, finance, insurance, manufacturing, and technology industries can apply for JobsCT tax rebates of up to $5,000 per new, full-time equivalent, jobs. Businesses must create at least 25 full-time equivalent positions to qualify. 

Other changes going into effect Friday include new restrictions on the sale of detached catalytic converters. The law attempts to curb a spike in thefts of the auto parts by prohibiting vehicle recyclers from receiving catalytic converters that are not attached to a vehicle and requiring a VIN to be etched into any converter they sell.

Beginning Friday, the Department of Administrative Services will also make available $150 million in grants designed to help local districts make improvements to their schools’ indoor air quality by replacing or upgrading their HVAC systems. The bill, which was passed in part due to air quality concerns brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, also requires local officials to conduct inspections of school HVAC systems every five years.