The new year will bring a higher hourly minimum wage in Connecticut, as well as changes to the state's domestic violence laws and new standards for police use of stun guns.
Starting Thursday, the state's minimum wage will climb from $8.70 to $9.15. It is the first of several increases aimed at ultimately boosting the wage to $10.10 an hour by Jan. 1, 2017. Connecticut was the first state in the country to pass legislation committing to a $10.10 an hour wage, which President Barack Obama sought for the federal minimum wage.
Continue Reading Below
"For the 125,000 Connecticut women who earn at or just above the minimum wage, this increase is critical," Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman said. Both Wyman and Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy made the issue of a higher minimum wage a key component of their successful re-election campaign.
Also starting Thursday, judges may order subjects of civil restraining or protective orders to meet certain financial obligations. For example, they could be required to continue making mortgage payments on the family home or prohibited from shutting off the electricity while the order is in place.
Karen Jarmoc, chief executive officer of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said many other states already have similar laws on the books to help victims who feel financially trapped.
"What this does is provide a stronger opportunity for a victim to leave an abusive relationship and have that feeling in place that they're not going to be held hostage financially," Jarmoc said.
The idea for the legislation came from CCADV's annual assessment of domestic violence services in the state. The organization reached out to about 350 advocates working in 18 agencies across Connecticut, in courthouses or the domestic violence abuse hotline who work daily with victims.
"We were really hearing it on the ground," Jarmoc said.
As of Thursday, the Police Officer Standards and Training Council, or POST, must finish developing a model policy on the use of stun guns for state and local police departments.
Thomas Flaherty, the state's police academy administrator, said the policy has already been distributed to every department across Connecticut. They now have until Jan. 31 to implement the POST policy, or the POST policy plus additional language. Two years ago, POST issued advisory guidelines for how police use electronic defense weapons. While those were voluntary, these latest, updated standards are mandatory for departments to implement, Flaherty said.
The new guidelines include language mirroring existing case law about the use of force by police. Also, they address how officers should carry the devices and how officers should be alert to certain people in the community who may be physically sensitive to the shock from stun guns, such as the elderly. Under the law that takes effect Thursday, officers will be required to submit a "use of force report" to their department each time they use the device. Each department will then be required to compile that data and submit it annually to the state Office of Policy and Management.
Also, a new law takes effect prohibiting health insurance policies from imposing a co-payment of more than $20 for breast ultrasound screening under certain conditions. Under current state law, policies must cover such a screening if a mammogram shows dense breast tissue or the woman is considered to be at an increased risk for breast cancer.