Secretary of the State Denise Merrill recently declared the 2011 legislative session a major success for election reform and improvements to business services provided by the Secretary of the State’s office. In total, Secretary Merrill was able to work with Republican and Democratic leaders in the Connecticut General Assembly to pass at least half a dozen legislative proposals that will have positive impacts for voters, taxpayers and those who start or operate businesses in Connecticut. These proposals, such as the Election Integrity bill (SB 942) and the Online Filing bill for business annual reports (HB 6565) all passed the General Assembly with unanimous or near unanimous support – a reflection of Secretary Merrill’s willingness to consult both sides of the political aisle to pass common-sense legislation that improves the way government works and saves taxpayers money.
“The 2011 legislative session was a major success for the proposals championed by the Secretary of the State’s office, which will benefit Connecticut voters, taxpayers and businesses,” said Secretary Merrill. “I have always said that it is important to seek input from both Republicans and Democrats if you want to pass meaningful legislation, and this session we did that successfully in a number of areas. It was hard work, but we passed a bill to shore up the integrity of our elections so no registered voter will ever again be turned away from the polls on Election Day in our state. We also took major steps to modernize the way we operate by establishing an online portal for those registering new businesses and requiring that businesses’ annual reports are filed online – which will save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and mean more convenience for our entrepreneurs. These are very important wins in our economy.”
In addition to various legislative proposals, Secretary Merrill also successfully won $5,000,000 in state bonding to significantly upgrade technological infrastructure used to manage the CONCORD business database as well as the Centralized Voter Registry, and make major improvements to the reporting of election results. Some of the changes in legislation will take effect immediately upon enactment, others, such as the online filing requirement, are effective as of January 1, 2012. The following bills were either proposed or championed by Secretary Merrill and passed in the 2011 legislative session:
Senate Bill 942 “An Act Concerning the Integrity of Elections”
· Requires municipalities to adopt emergency plans for Election Day
· Requires municipalities to report to Secretary of the State’s office the number of ballots ordered for each upcoming election, based on a review of prior turnout and other factors
· Secretary of the State’s Office would be allowed to direct municipalities to order more ballots if in sufficient number purchased for an election.
· Municipalities that fail to report to the Secretary of the State’s Office would be required to order ballots for 100% of registered voters.
· Improved and enhanced training of moderators at the polls.
· Cities/Towns report lists of polling places and moderators to Secretary of the State before each election.
· Secretary of the State authorized to enter polling locations on Election Day, remove a moderator for cause.
House Bill 6565 “An Act Concerning Business Entity Filings”
· Requires businesses who register with the Secretary of the State to file their annual reports online instead of on paper through the mail.
· Estimated savings of at least $250,000 per year in reduced mail costs, reduces paper usage in the Secretary of the State’s office by at least two tons annually
· Makes annual report processing more efficient and convenient for business owners
Senate Bill 939 “An Act Concerning Certain Revisions to Election Related Statutes
· Makes needed technical changes to CT election laws to bring laws up to date with the use of optical scan technology
· Allows for ongoing absentee ballot status for permanently disabled persons
House Bill 6330 “An Act Concerning Technical and Minor Changes to Election Related Statutes”
· Removes all references in Connecticut state laws to lever voting machines, that have not been used since 2006
E-Business Portal (See House Bill 6651 and 6652, budget implementers)
· Requires the Commercial Recording Division in the Secretary of the State’s office to establish an online portal for new businesses linking to various state and federal departments or agencies where additional licenses or permits may be required
· Links will also identify state taxes and other revenue responsibilities and benefits, and provide information on relevant state financial incentives and programs for businesses
· Portal will also serves as a much needed data center regarding Connecticut businesses and the economy
House Bill 6532 “An Act Concerning the Presidential Preference Primary”
· Moves the 2012 Presidential Preference Primary from February 5th to April 24th – creating a potential regional primary with PA, DE, NY and RI
House Bill 6497 “An Act Creating Jobs by Enhancing Connecticut’s Corporate and Security Laws”
· Streamlines corporation laws to conform with the Model Entity Transfer Act (META) being enacted by many states across the country
· Modernizes Connecticut business regulations by making it easier for companies to merge into other legal entities and exchange interest, keeping business continuity.
· Helps more business entities be based in Connecticut through easing merger laws and regulations, could lead to more job growth
· Affords new flexibility to allow commerce to flow more realistically in modern times, where flux is the norm and transformability is valued, making Connecticut’s business organizations law more competitive nationally