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Connecticut Legislature Advances Bills on Price Gouging, Work Weeks, and Downtown Revitalization

  • Connecticut House of Representatives passes bill prohibiting companies from charging an “unconscionably excessive price” for goods and services during emergency declarations
  • Connecticut Senate narrowly passes “fair work week” measure applying to certain employers
  • House unanimously approves measure to study the renovation of historic mixed-use buildings in Connecticut downtowns

Summary by Dirk Langeveld

The Connecticut General Assembly has advanced bills related to price gouging, establishing a “fair work week” in several industries, and studying issues involving the renovation of downtown mixed-use buildings.

The House passed the price gouging measure by a wide margin and offered unanimous support for the downtown revitalization bill. The work week scheduling bill passed by a far narrower margin in the Senate.

Price gouging

The price gouging bill was approved in a 130-18 vote on Tuesday. The measure:

  • Prohibits companies from charging an “unconscionably excessive price” for goods and services in any area subject to a disaster or emergency declaration filed by the governor or President of the United States
  • Defines this price as a “gross disparity” between the cost before and after the  precipitating event, as long as the increase isn’t attributable to an increase in costs incurred by seller
  • Imposes a fine of up to $99 for violators

Fair work week

The fair work week schedule bill seeks to provide more stable work scheduling arrangements for hourly employees in national retail, restaurant, and hotel chains with at least 500 employees, including franchises. It passed by a 20-16 vote in the Senate, and Connecticut would become the second state in the nation to have such a requirement if the measure passes the House.

The bill requires relevant employers to:

  • Obtain a written statement from employees on the days and number of hours they wish to work
  • Provide an employee with a written estimate of their work schedule, including the number of hours, minimum and maximum hours each week, minimum shift length, and the days, times, and shifts they can expect to work
  • Post a work schedule where all employees can see it
  • Issue prompt notifications of schedule changes and revise the schedule at least 24 hours in advance
  • Pay an employee at half their regular rate for any hours not worked because the employer canceled or reduced scheduled hours

Employees can decline to work any hours not posted in the schedule, request certain adjustments to the schedule, and turn down shifts that begin less than 11 hours after the end of their previous shift. If they take on such a shift, and employer must pay them at 1.5 times their usual rate.

The measure was opposed by the chamber’s Republicans along with four Democrats. Opponents said the measure represents government interference with business management, with some suggesting that it might extend to smaller businesses in the future.

Downtown revitalization

The House unanimously passed a measure requiring the commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development to study economic issues affecting distressed municipalities and opportunity zones. The bill also establishes a 15-member task force to look into the impediments to the renovation of historic mixed-use buildings in the state.

The task force’s work will include studying financing options for such renovations and whether the state should create a program to assist small real estate developers. It will submit a report no later than Jan. 1, 2022.

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