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A Whole New Set of Rules Starts Friday

Recently passed state laws -- including a bevy of new taxes -- are set to take effect on the first day of July.

They were a busy bunch in Hartford this year.

During the 5-month-long 2011 legislative session, the General Assembly passed a wide range of bills changing the rules on everything from finance and taxation to social policy. With the first Democratic governor in 20 years and a Democratic majority in the statehouse, it proved to be one of the busiest sessions in recent years.

It also proved to be one of the most expensive for state residents: Lawmakers enacted the largest tax increase in the state’s history.

Some of the headline-grabbing laws won’t actually go into effect until Oct. 1 at the earliest. Here, Patch takes a look at the interesting, consequential and polarizing acts slated to go into effect on July 1.

BIGGEST IMPACT

The Budget. The General Assembly passed a $40.1 billion budget. It contains $1.4 billion in tax increases, about $800 million in spending cuts, and $1.6 billion in union concessions. But last week, the union membership failed to ratify the concessions deal and the governor called a special session of the legislature for Thursday so the state can approve a budget by start of fiscal year on July 1.

Sales and Use Taxes. People will soon face a myriad of new and increased taxes. Here they are in no particular order:

  • The general sales and use tax rate increases from 6 to 6.35 percent;
  • The room occupancy tax increases from 12 to 15 percent;
  • Tax on renting or leasing a car for 30 days or less increases to 9.35 percent;
  • Luxury tax of 7 percent for cars purchased for more than $50,000, boats more than $100,000, jewelry more than $5,000, clothing or footwear, handbag, luggage, umbrella, wallet or watch more than $1,000;
  • Valet parking provided at any airport will now be taxed;
  • Yoga instruction provided at a yoga studio will now be taxed;
  • Motor vehicle storage services will now be taxed;
  • Packing and crating services will now be taxed;
  • Motor vehicle towing and road services; livery services will now be taxed;
  • Pet grooming, pet boarding services, and pet obedience services will now be taxed;
  • Services in connection with a cosmetic medical procedure will now be taxed;
  • Manicure services, pedicure services and all other nail and spa services  will now be taxed;
  • Clothing and footwear under $50 will now be taxed;
  • Nonprescription drugs and medicines, and smoking-cessation products will now be taxed; and
  • Cloth or fabric for noncommercial sewing, and yarn for noncommercial use,  will now be taxed.

Diesel Tax. At 46 cents, Connecticut now has the highest diesel tax in the nation. Some worry truckers will fill up at the border, zoom through and leave Connecticut diesel users to foot the bill.

Sin Taxes. Cigarette taxes are rising 40 cents a pack and the alcoholic beverage tax increases by 20 percent.

INTERESTING

Bosnian Affairs Commission. The commission shall consist of 21 members. To focus on ensuring the Bosnian American population of the state are healthy, safe, achieve educational success, are economically self-sufficient, and free from discrimination.

Divesting from Iran. The state treasurer will look at the state’s holdings in companies doing business with Iran and the Sudan and encourage those businesses to divest.

Dairy-Aid. Legislators made permanent the agricultural sustainability account established in 2009, which supports a grant program for dairy farmers. The same law also makes permanent a $10 increase (from $30 to $40) in the fee people pay when filing documents with town clerks and credits $10 of each fee to the agricultural sustainability account.

Thermal Receipt Ban. A ban on Bisphenol-A, or BPA, an ingredient used in thermal receipt paper. So when you're paying more taxes at the pump, know that the receipt coming out of the machine is free of cancer-causing substances.

Paint Stewardship. Connecticut is the third state in the nation to require paint manufacturers to safely manage leftover latex and oil-based paint from households and painting contractors. There will be more and better recycling opportunities for architectural paint.

POLARIZING

In-State Tuition for Undocumented Immigrants. Undocumented immigrants who are residents of Connecticut and graduated from a Connecticut high school are eligible for in-state tuition status. They must file an affidavit with the college stating they are in the process of legalizing their immigration status or their intention to do so as soon as they can apply.

Good behavior. This law permits the Department of Correction commissioner to reduce an inmate’s maximum prison sentence and make inmates eligible for early release from prison for good behavior. Only inmates convicted of the following crimes are ineligible for the credits: murder, capital felony, felony murder, arson murder, home invasion, and 1st-degree aggravated assault. That means rapists and sex offenders are eligible for the initiative.

Marijuana Possession. This decriminalizes adult possession of up to a half-ounce of marijuana. If caught with less than the said amount, it’s a non-criminal infraction punishable by a fine, no jail, and no criminal record.

No New Hookah Lounges. The state is still moving toward a total ban on hookah lounges, but in the meantime it has banned new hookah lounges, where customers share flavored tobacco smoked from a common pipe.

Paid Sick Leave. Connecticut became the first state in the nation to require paid sick leave to certain private-service workers. Employers with 50 or more employees must provide paid sick leave at a rate of one hour per 40 hours worked.

“Amazon” Tax. Certain remote sellers, including such online retailers as Amazon.com and Overstock.com, who have no physical presence in Connecticut, must now collect sales tax on their taxable sales in the state. The requirement applies to sellers who pay commissions to people located in Connecticut to refer customers to them.

PUBLIC SAFETY

Cell Phone Fine Increase. Using a cell phone or texting while driving just got more expensive. First-time offenders will now be fined $125, up from $100; a second offense means an increase from $150 to $250, and for subsequent offenses from $200 to $400. Anyone caught texting while driving a commercial motor vehicle could be disqualified from operating a commercial motor vehicle. But it allows texting from these vehicles in an emergency.

Boating Under the Influence. Friends don’t let friends boat drunk. Effective July 1, a conviction for reckless boating results in the suspension of a person's boating rights. Police are now allowed to administer a second breathalyzer test within 10 minutes rather than 30 minutes.

School Bullying and Cyberbullying. This bill specifically bans bullying based on a student's actual or perceived “differentiating” characteristics, such as race, gender, sexual orientation or physical appearance. It also prohibits “cyberbullying” -- bullying using electronic communications or devices.

Chet Harris June 28, 2011 at 08:06 PM
The board seeks to uphold that trust with the day to day decisions that do not have a major impact on the community. For something as major as the budget we do not wish to lord it over the people and their trust. We work and fuss over a budget and then we vote on it as a board, and it was a 6/5 vote. Because it makes up the majority of the town budget it is then presented to the townspeople for their approval or disapproval. The burden of this decision rest on all of the people of the district so that there is concensus. People who do not take the time to vote approve the budget by default and as such have to live with the decision of a small minority representation of the district. People then complain about the budget and yet they did not vote, thus the, "let them eat cake" comment. Trust without due diligence is a road to disaster. Just because there are elected representatives does not remove the responsibility of the people to respond when they are asked for their approval or disapproval of our decisions. The budget vote turnout was due to apathy, and maybe rightly earned in light of our state and federal condition, but I would like to see our community come together and get involved rather than just waiting for a few to do for the many. We can accomplish much more if we act as a community, and we can do it without vast ammounts of tax dollars which hurt those who are truly struggling with this economy and cannot afford higher taxes.
Attila June 28, 2011 at 09:21 PM
They are governing like Democrates. What did you expect!
Gene Bartholomew June 28, 2011 at 11:05 PM
What are you kidding??? If anything Malloy is acting like a Repub, giving everthing to Pfizer, Aetna, UTC, while cutting services and raising taxes on us, it is all GW & Cheney did along with No Bid Contracts for their companies and cutting taxes on the wealthy. Fact is and 2000-2008 proves that trickle Down is a failure, it only serves to transfer wealth to the wealthy and it destroyed our economy. Malloy is a tool and a fool, he has a surplus and is adding to the taxes Weicker imposed which should have been reduced 15 years ago, this state has a huge corporate welfare problem while it kills small business, the idea that a state will benefit by giving billions to corporations that do not need it and are moving jobs out of state is retarded. Malloy is going to destroy this state but on paper it will look amazing, and he will use it to go for the White House, he does not seem to have anyones interest in mind but his own.
Sunshine June 29, 2011 at 02:36 AM
Gene you are so wrong about giving money to your already rich friends being a republican thing. Unfortunately it is a political thing, both the republicans and the democrats do it. Obama and Clinton both showing a fine job of enriching their cronies. As far as raising taxes, mostly democratic, but lots of republicans have voted for higher taxes as well. It's the office, and the longer they stay in, the more arrogant they get. And why shouldn't they, they act in their own best interest and we reelect them every time. The problem is not them, it is us for putting them back in.
Gene Bartholomew June 29, 2011 at 11:55 AM
1- they are not my friends 2- atilla made it into a democrat problem 3- the economy has always been better when repubs were not in power, the Clinton era was unique in that he knew that it had to be 50/50, some for the people some for busineses, the Bush crew and others couldn't stand it, and when they got back in (because lets face it, it was just a continuation of what dad started) they went hog wild, all for business, 0 for the people, and it failed, now the repubs want to get back in power and continue the transfer of wealth the dems are failing because they too as you point out, are siding with business instead of the people What I feel should happen, because of 2000-2008 is that repubs are never voted into office again, then the dems have a chance to make it right, if they screw us, they should be out and then we go to the other parties, this going back and forth between 2 parties is the sign of a stupid populace. Lets say you bring your car to Garage Repub, ans they screw it all up, so you bring it to Garage Dem and they screw it all up. Would you then bring your car back to Garage Repub just because of their rhetoric??????? Then for decades go back and forth with a car that is perpetually broken?? Or would you be wiser?? Unfortunatley Americans are more interested in their egos, --they couldn't be wrong about their party--right?

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