The state Senate approved a bipartisan jobs bill Friday evening that was designed to expand on a similar bill that was passed last year to kick-start Connecticut’s sluggish economy.
Known as Senate Bill 1, the Democratic-written bill gained Republican support on a measure to help small businesses with up to 100 employees. The previous bill last fall had been targeted at companies with up to 50 employees.
The vote was 32 to 2 with two Republicans voting against the measure. Senators Rob Kane of Watertown and Joseph Markley of Southington were against the bill, while Senators Kevin Witkos of Canton and Edith Prague of Columbia were absent.
The move to expand the number of employees would extend the Small Business Express Program to an additional 3,600 companies, which senators hailed as a sharp expansion of the program. Those companies would now be eligible for loans when they were not eligible in the past.
“It is a good bill worth celebrating by all of us,” said Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, a New Haven Democrat.
Senate Republican leader John McKinney of Fairfield mentioned a small business in Fairfield where he talked to the owner recently while he was getting his tire repaired.
“He asked me how things were going in Hartford,” McKinney recalled Friday on the Senate floor. “He said, ‘You know what bothers me about what you do? What really bothers me is you guys never get along. … You’re always fighting.’ I’ve heard that many times. We came together last fall on a jobs package. If we had a Republican package, it would have looked different than the one we passed. … We all brought ideas to the table.”
McKinney added, “At the end of the day, we passed a good package. The Small Business Express Program is working. … This doesn’t change the First Five. … This is making progress on something that is important to all people in Connecticut.”
Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams, the highest-ranking senator, said, “I will say something that I don’t often get to say. I agree with everything Senator McKinney just said. … Here we are, coming together, two parties. … The effect of this legislation will live well past this session.”