Legislation affecting motor fuels members

With a week remaining in the legislative session, CEMA continues to work on a couple of regulatory issues that affect our motor fuels members' business and a host of legislative bills.

The state budget crisis and the infighting between the governor and Democrats has significantly cut down on legislative activity. While a budget battle looms, we have commitments from both of the Finance Committee chairs to include bonding authorization for UST Program funding. If the entire budget does not blow up (and that is very likely), we have a good shot at securing additional dollars to pay claims. There is willingness to authorize approximately $7 million for mid-size UST owners, but nothing is written in stone as of yet.

It is widely believed that the legislature will not increase any existing taxes this year. That means no gasoline or diesel tax increases. With it being an election year, this may actually stick. The General Assembly still needs to find nearly $1 billion for next fiscal year to balance the budget. They will find a way to push off tax increases until next year so that they all get reelected. 2017 will be frightening!

CEMA has been working on the 30-year UST issue for most of the session and we are getting very close to a victory. Attached is a letter that was sent to DEEP outlining what CEMA has agreed to with the department. DEEP estimates that it will take approximately two weeks before they will issue guidance on how tank owners will be able to obtain extensions.

Below is a summary of some of the bill that we are working on and their status.
  • HB 5296, Debit/Credit Card Holds — This bill prohibits gas stations that accept credit or debit card payments for the retail sale of gasoline from placing, or allowing a third party to place, a hold on any such card for an amount larger than the actual gasoline purchase without providing notice to the customer. Notice consists of disclosing to the customer at the point of purchase that a hold may be placed on credit and debit transactions. This is a simple as a decal on your pump. The bill has been significantly modified and watered down since we first testified on it in February, but unfortunately has passed the House and is waiting to be taken up by the Senate. The Chair of the Banking Committee is insistent on getting something passed and we have done a good job of stripping the bill down to a mere decal, but it is disappointing that we need to spend any time on this non-issue.

  • HB 5624, E-cigarette Registration — As I am sure you recall, in January we were able to get the Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) to reinterpret the $400 per employee registration fee so that only the location where e-cigarettes are being sold had to pay the fee. This bill adopts a per location registration — not a registration per every person selling e-cigarettes. The bill has passed out of committee and is awaiting action by the House. There is wide support to get this done this year. DCP and a coalition of stakeholders are pushing to get this passed into law and behind us.

  • HB 5564 Gift Card Balances — This bill requires a gift card with a balance under $10 to be redeemed for cash at the cardholder's request. The bill does not apply to a linked prepaid card or a card, code or device that is: 1) used solely for telephone services; 2) reloadable and not marketed or labeled as a gift card or certificate; 3) a loyalty, award or promotional gift card; 4) not marketed to the general public; 5) issued only on paper; or 6) redeemable solely for admission to events or venues at a particular location or group of affiliated locations, or to obtain goods or services related to admission at the events or venues. The bill has passed out of committee and awaits action in the House. There is an amendment to reduce the $10 threshold to $1. Time is running out in the session to get the bill passed, but it could gain momentum as the final days approach.

  • SB 301 Mandatory Spill Reporting — In the past CEMA, along with other trade groups, have killed DEEP's attempts to adopt spill-reporting regulations that were onerous and had no benefit to the environment. This bill, being pushed by CBIA, would require DEEP to adopt regulations specifying numerical thresholds for reporting to DEEP discharges, spills, or other releases of specified substances, materials, and waste. A person responsible for a release must report it under the bill if it exceeds the applicable threshold and poses a potential threat to human health or the environment. The bill has been voted out of committee and awaits action in the Senate. It is unclear if this will make it through both chamber by the time the legislature adjourns, but we remain actively engaged on this issue.

  • SB 391 Low Wage — This bill would affect any business or franchisor (and its franchisees) employ 500 or more employees in the state on or after Jan. 1, 2016 who earn $15 or less per hour. A fee will be assessed on affected employers and calculated by the Department of Labor by multiplying the fee rate by number of hours during the quarter that such employees worked. The bill requires the labor commissioner to calculate the number of hours worked by employees whose wages during the quarter were on average less than $15 per hour. He then must multiply that number of hours by the fee rate. Under the bill, the fee rate varies depending on the total number of employees in the state (regardless of their wages) employed by the covered employer and, if applicable, its franchisees in aggregate as follows: Number of Employees: 500 to 525, fee rate = $0.10. Number of Employees 526 to 749, fee rate = (Number of employees 500) X 0.004. Number of Employees: 750 or greater, fee rate = $1.00. The fee shall be assessed quarterly based on employee hours worked during the first calendar quarter of 2017 and thereafter. This bill has passed out of committee and is awaiting action in the Senate. We anticipate that this will be a fight to the end — it is unclear if it has enough support to become law.

  • SB 226 Single Use Carry Out Bags — If passed, starting on July 1, 2018, 50 percent of the single-use carryout bags provided by stores to customers at the point of sale shall be 100 percent recyclable, consist of not less than 25 percent postconsumer or postindustrial recycled materials, have a handle and be designed and manufactured for multiple reuses. Then on July 1, 2020, 100% of the single-use carryout bags shall be 100 percent recyclable, consist of not less than 25 percent postconsumer or postindustrial recycled materials, have a handle and be designed and manufactured for multiple reuses. This bill has passed out of the Senate and is awaiting action in the House.

  • SB 312 Bottle Refund — This bill establishes a task force for Connecticut's recycling and beverage container redemption programs. The task force shall: 1) Examine, review and analyze the state's existing beverage container redemption laws to assess their efficacy in achieving the state's recycling goals and in promoting the use and reuse of materials in an economically and environmentally sustainable manner. Such analysis shall include, but need not be limited to, the relative burdens, costs and benefits of the state's recycling and beverage container redemption programs to the environment, consumers, retailers, deposit initiators, handling fee recipients, the state and municipalities; 2) evaluate the state of current recycling programs as they pertain to beverage containers in Connecticut and opportunities for improving their performance through the implementation of alternative programs, including an analysis of the incremental costs and benefits of such programs for the environment, consumers, recycling industries, the state and municipalities; and 3) assess the transition costs of instituting alternative systems that would achieve similar or better recycling and reuse of containers and provide for enhanced litter prevention and control efforts in the state. This bill has been approved by the Senate and awaits House action.
The following bill are dead for this year:
  • SB 358, AN ACT CONCERNING THE PURCHASE OF LOTTERY TICKETS — the bill would have allowed a third party to purchase lottery tickets on behalf of another person. In other words, the customer could go to this third party seller to purchase tickets opposed to going to your stores to buy tickets. Lottery agents would be permitted to enter into agreements with these third party sellers (ie. lottery management service company) to sell tickets on their behalf. It could have potentially benefited some and hurt the sales for others.

  • HB, 5114 AN ACT IMPOSING A TAX ON SUGARY SOFT DRINKS and HB 5124 — AN ACT IMPOSING AN EXCISE TAX ON SUGAR SWEETENED BEVERAGES — our only concern is that the state will need more revenue to balance the budget and these bills may pop up in a last second budget bill at the end of session. We will keep our ears open.
CEMA will remain engaged at the legislature until they adjourn on May 4.