The Strange Fate Of Senate Bill One

May 11, 2012

In every legislative session there are winners and losers, but one of the more extraordinary losses this time around was Senate Bill One, a high profile piece of economic legislation with broad bi-partisan support. WNPR’s Harriet Jones reports. 

Fresh from passing the legislation in his own chamber just a couple of weeks ago, this is how Senate President Pro Tem Don Williams spoke about the measure:

“Senate Bill Number One is all about creating jobs and improving our economy.”

The legislation was a grab bag of provisions designed to build upon last year’s successful jobs bill. It provided help to companies looking to hire veterans, it celebrated goods made in Connecticut and it also extended the very popular tax credits and loan packages contained within the jobs act. Currently they’re available to small businesses with fewer than 50 employees. This bill would make them available to companies with between 50 and 100 employees.

To at least three thousand businesses in Connecticut like this one, Adchem Manufacturing Technologies in Manchester, that’s not a theoretical distinction.

“We are now 46 full time employees, and we just hired three new full time people, so we’re now at 49 people.”

That’s Michael Polo, President of Adchem. He currently takes advantage of state help to provide training for his workers.

“Where a person we know needs some training it makes the decision making a lot easier. And we frankly have to do a lot more training internally, because some of our skill sets you can’t learn in a school, so we’ve got to train them.”

As soon as he hires one more person, he’ll be come ineligible for that assistance. Adchem was the original poster child for this legislation, which senate democrats launched on its shop floor in Manchester. But this non-controversial bill failed to pass the House of Representatives before the end of the session Wednesday night.

“The failure of Senate Bill 1 really casts the legislature in a very bad light. It is the legislature at its worst, at its most juvenile, in a way.”

The Connecticut Mirror’s Mark Pazniokas speaking on WNPR’s Where We Live. He says the bill fell victim to internecine squabbling between house and senate democrats. Because the senate could not pass House Speaker Chris Donovan’s signature minimum wage bill, Donovan failed to bring up Senate Bill One.

“There’s a saying at the end of the session that the Democrats in the House have, that the Republicans are the opposition, but the Senate is the enemy. You know there is that chamber to chamber animosity.”

With a special session tentatively scheduled for next month, Senate Bill One has already been mentioned as a piece of legislation democrats may look to rescue. Joe Brennan of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association says he’d like to see the special session remain on point, but this might be a good use of the legislature’s time.

“What you don’t want is to revisit every issue that didn’t pass. Now, Senate Democratic leadership say they would like to see the jobs bill to go forward, and they’re the ones that will be working along with others to draft the call of the session. But if we can do things around economic development that really help everybody in the state, I think that is arguably a good priority.”

The failure of Senate Bill One may prompt debate about how best the state can allocate its limited economic development dollars, or it may just serve to illustrate that even popular ideas can still be held hostage to politics.

For WNPR, I'm Harriet Jones.