This week Governor Ned Lamont and Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz announced a series of legislative proposals they are introducing during the 2021 regular session that were developed by the Governor’s Council on Women and Girls.
The proposals aim to uplift women and families across Connecticut and create opportunities for women and girls in school and the workplace.
The Governor’s Council on Women and Girls, which is chaired by Lt. Governor Bysiewicz and vice chaired by Office of Policy and Management Secretary Melissa McCaw, was created by Lamont immediately after he took office in January 2019.
It has the mission of providing the state with a coordinated response to issues that impact the lives of women, girls, their families, and Connecticut. The council has focused its work on four areas of impact:
Education and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics)
Economic opportunity and workforce equity
Health and safety
“The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted women and communities of color across our state,” Governor Lamont said. “As we work to recover and build a state that is more equitable, it’s critical that we create and implement policies in government and our workplace that reflect and amplify the voices of women and girls.”
Lamong said that by launching the council and putting forth policies that create meaningful change in education and access to economic opportunity for all women, furthered the commitment to gender equality.
“From proposals that increase access to workforce training to breaking down barriers for running for office, the council has championed the mission they were formed to pursue,” he added.
“We know that this COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare inequities in every aspect of our society – access to education, access to learn and develop a new skill-set, and access to new opportunities,” Lt. Governor Bysiewicz said in the release. “We must do everything we can to ensure that our young girls, women, and families have access to the resources needed to unlock their full potential.”
The council is supporting the adoption and implementation of the following bills, which have been filed by the Lamont-Bysiewicz administration:
- Senate Bill 883, An Act Concerning Recommendations of the Governor’s Council on Women and Girls: Women are underrepresented in Connecticut state government. Although a record-breaking 138 Connecticut women ran for state and federal office in 2018, women account for only 35 percent of the 392 candidates on that year’s ballot and 34 percent of those sworn into the state legislature. Childcare continues to be a barrier that prevents too many mothers, especially low-income mothers who cannot afford outside help, from running for office. To combat this, Governor Lamont and Lt. Governor Bysiewicz propose allowing candidates participating in the Citizens Election Program to use program funds for childcare expenses attributable to their campaign. This would make it easier for women to run for and win elected office. The Lamont-Bysiewicz Administration also proposes promoting gender and racial diversity on state boards and commissions by codifying the administration’s new online portal that makes it easier for residents without experience in state government to learn about and apply for positions and by directing appointing authorities to seek out diverse candidates and to consider candidates recommended by organizations representing the interests of gender and racial diversity.
- Senate Bill 881, An Act Concerning Workforce Development: Affordable transportation to workforce training and educational programs continues to be one of the most significant impediments for lower-income individuals in the state. Under this legislation a “bulk ride transit pass” program would be created and open to training institutions, higher education institutions, private occupational schools, employers, local or state agencies, and public or non-profit social service providers in the state of Connecticut. Usage of the program will be tracked, and contract renewals will account for actual usage.
- House Bill 6445, An Act Expanding Economic Opportunity in Occupations Licensed by the Department of Consumer Protection; and House Bill 6449, An Act Expanding Economic Opportunity in Occupations Licensed by the Department of Public Health: A quarter of the jobs in Connecticut’s economy are in licensed occupations, up from five percent in the 1950s and significantly more than any other New England or Mid-Atlantic state. People who choose to pursue these occupations must first obtain the permission of the state government. At times, unnecessarily high barriers to entry prevent low-income and other disadvantaged workers from embarking on promising fields and discourage skilled workers from moving to Connecticut. In many instances, the state will only recognize that license if you move from a state that reciprocates Connecticut’s out-of-state licensure process and has licensing requirements similar to or higher than our own – no matter how many years you’ve spent mastering your skills on the job. Those requirements are especially onerous for military spouses, 90 percent of whom are women. A third of those spouses work in occupations that require a state license, and they are ten times more likely to move across state lines than their civilian counterparts. Barriers to licensure create severe employment challenges and contribute to an unemployment rate among military spouses four times the national average. To fix this, the Lamont-Bysiewicz administration proposes establishing a system that recognizes licenses from other states. Under this proposal if those new residents and military spouses move to Connecticut and have practiced in good standing under another jurisdictional license for at least a year, they will be eligible to apply for a license from the Connecticut Department of Public Health or the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection.
The council is also supporting the following legislation:
- Senate Bill 56, An Act Deterring Age Discrimination in Employment Applications: Women are particularly affected by age discrimination. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2024, women over the age of 65 will make up roughly the same percentage of the female workforce as older men do of the male workforce, countering earlier trends of older women not participating in the workforce. Following the Great Recession, many older women rejoined – or sought to rejoin – the workforce in order to help their families make up for income lost during the economic downturn. The baby boomer generation has also faced skyrocketing college tuition costs for their children and are living longer – necessitating larger retirement funds. Under this bill, employers would be prohibited from asking the age, date of birth or graduation dates of job applicants, unless a particular age is a legitimate occupational qualification or required to comply with any provision of state or federal law.
- Senate Bill 87, An Act Concerning Certain Protections for Group and Family Child Care Homes: Home-based childcare programs are critically important to Connecticut’s economy and the economic wellbeing of many women and families. This legislation aims to clarify, enforce, and expand housing and zoning protections for licensed group childcare and family childcare homes in order to provide women and families desperately needed licensed affordable in-home options. These programs may afford greater opportunity for parents to participate in the workforce and financially support their families.