A sweeping economic development package that aims to create more jobs in the state was overwhelmingly approved in both the House of Representatives and the Senate on Saturday.
Gov. M. Jodi Rell says she will sign the measure, which cleared the House 140-4 and the Senate, 32-0.
The House also voted unanimously early this morning to pass a bill that reduces the penalty for the increasingly common practice of "sexting" between two consenting minors.
The economic development legislation would create a loan-forgiveness program for Connecticut residents who graduate from state schools with bachelor's degrees or associate's degrees — or who received a certificate — in green technology, life science, or health information technology.
The program, originally proposed by Rell in February, limits how much a student can receive and outlines additional income eligibility requirements. It would be administered by the state Department of Higher Education.
The bill also calls for these measures:
•Requires the board of trustees for community and technical colleges to develop short-term programs of study for unemployed state residents.
•Creates a small-business assistance revolving loan program.
•Establishes a tax credit program for small businesses that hire new employees who live in the state.
•Establishes a credit program for businesses that hire people with disabilities. The disabled workers would have to be receiving vocational rehabilitation services from the Department of Social Services for employers to get credit.
•Redirects $200 million in insurance industry tax credits to a 10-year program investing in technology startups
•Creates an angel investor program that would give private investors tax credits for supporting new business ventures.
•Establishes a task force to study ways state agencies and departments can reduce or eliminate duplicative procedures and the amount of paper used.
•Creates a pilot program through the Department of Economic and Community Development to assist eligible manufacturing companies with not more than 250 employees in converting operations into green manufacturing facilities or in implementing energy efficiency measures by using lean manufacturing strategies.
The bill is a product of the Majority Leaders' Job Growth Roundtable with input from the governor.
"We're going to change how the state of Connecticut operates," said Rep. Jeffrey Berger, D-Waterbury, co-chairman of the commerce committee.
Berger said if the bill is signed into law, it would create both income and jobs, allowing Connecticut to become competitive in the international market.
Among young people, "sexting" involves sending nude or sexual images to another friend via a cellphone. Right now, sending or receiving such messages is a felony. The new bill makes it a Class A misdemeanor — as long as the messages are sent between consenting minors.
"It's a very serious felony — possession of child pornography," said Rep. Michael P. Lawlor, the longtime co-chairman of the legislature's judiciary committee. "This bill would solve the problem."
The bill goes to the Senate next.
The Senate unanimously passed a bill to align the state's drunken boating law with its drunken driving law by eliminating time restrictions on when blood alcohol tests may be done if expert testimony establishes the reliability of the test. There is now a two-hour window for testing someone suspected of boating under the influence.
The bill, which still needs House approval, was prompted by a 2007 incident on the Old Lyme side of the Connecticut River.
Saturday, the House voted to de-authorize a net $422 million in bond authorizations previously approved by the legislature. There were 255 individual cancellations included in the bill, making room for new bonding capacity for other programs.
The Senate voted on the bill Friday, and it now goes to the governor. Rell's office said she wants to review the bill before deciding whether to sign it.
The Senate voted 28-2 to establish a Bradley Airport Development Zone.
The bill, which needs House approval, would provide tax incentives for nearby businesses. The Office of Fiscal Analysis says that doing so would result in a loss to the general fund of about $25,000 beginning in fiscal 2013-14.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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