New laws impacting Connecticut go into effect Thursday

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HARTFORD — The new year brings new laws, and now those new rules are officially in effect.

One of the state’s most hotly debated measures from 2014 is what precipitated one of the law changes: an increase in the minimum wage.

Connecticut is heading towards a $10.10 per hour minimum wage, which is slated to take effect in 2017, but in the meantime and starting on Jan. 1 minimum wage workers will make $9.15 an hour. On January 1, 2016, the minimum wage will increase to $9.60 before jumping up to $10.10 a year later. Connecticut was the first state in the nation to pass the $10.10 legislation.

“The more money they make, the more money they’re gonna spend out in the community,” said Frank Aquilante as he was eating breakfast at the East Haven Village Family Restaurant Thursday morning. “More money to be able to go out to breakfast, which puts a cook to work. They’ll be able to go to a clothing store.”

But a better solution, one New Haven resident says, is to reduce government regulations on businesses. “Competition between the businesses will drive up wages, without causing the cost of products to have to go up with it,” says Thomas Collins.

Another law, which takes effect Friday, allows undocumented residents to obtain driver’s licenses. The campaign to pass that measure was born three years ago, at St. Rose of Lima Church in New Haven, when parishioners expressed a need to church leaders.

“Our biggest need is employment, but how do we keep employment,” asked Angel Fernandez-Chavero, a parishioner and advocate for immigrants. “We can keep a steady job when we can get there. And we can’t get there right now. We don’t want, none of us want to drive illegally.”

Nearly 28,000 undocumented folks have registered to take the Department of Motor Vehicles written drivers test. St. Rose of Lima, according to Fernandez-Chavero, has registered at least 1,000 of them.

Meanwhile, New Year’s Day also marks the start of new increases in Metro-North fares in Connecticut. The fares are being raised by an average of 1 percent. This measure is part of a seven-year plan to get riders to pay for a share of the new Kawasaki M-8 cars that are replacing the badly worn fleet on the New Haven line.

Passengers have seen ticket prices climb by more than 5 percent each year since 2012, and “the 1 percent fare increase each Jan. 1 for the few years to come seems reasonable,” Jim Cameron, founder of the Commuter Action Group, said last month.

Other legislation that takes effect with the New Year includes laws dealing with the pay of domestic and home care workers and expanded authority for the courts to issue criminal restraining orders in cases involving sexual assault and other felonies. Also effective Jan. 1, hunting and fishing guides will also be required to pay a $100 fee and register annually with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. In addition, fishing, hunting, and trapping licenses for 16- and 17-year-olds have been reduced to 50 percent of the regular fee.

Lastly, police departments will have to comply with new policies about use of Taser stun guns. That’s been a controversial issue, and according to the ACLU, since 2005 there have been 14 deaths in the state after a Taser was deployed. The new rules are regulate when officers can deploy them.