The “Genius of Connecticut” under the dome of the state Capitol in Hartford. / Photo by Yehyun Kim, CTMirror.org

By Gabby DeBenedictis / CTMirror.org

Many laws passed by the Connecticut General Assembly during the 2023 legislative session are set to take effect Oct. 1.

They range from strengthened gun measures and renters’ rights to the elimination of “transcript withholding.”

Here’s a look at some of the legislation that will take effect this Sunday.

Updates to Connecticut’s gun laws

H.B. 6667, “An Act Addressing Gun Violence,” is the first comprehensive update of Connecticut’s gun laws since the sweeping reforms enacted a decade ago in response to the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The law bans the open carry of firearms and strengthens rules for gun storage and reporting stolen firearms. It also expands a ban on AR-15s and other so-called assault weapons passed in 1993 and updated in 2013.

AR-15s purchased prior to the bans still can be legally owned, if registered with police. But the new law closed what proponents called a loophole that allowed the legal sale of now-banned weapons if manufactured prior to 1994.

The legislation also further tightens restrictions on military-style weapons and high-capacity magazines that were largely banned after the Sandy Hook school shooting. 

Additionally, the bill regulates the sale of body armor to civilians, generally limits the sale of handguns to three in any one month, increases training requirements for gun permit holders, and raises the minimum age to purchase a semiautomatic rifle from 18 to 21, the same threshold as handguns.

The bill also bans the online sale of kits used to assemble “ghost guns,” firearms that have no serial number and are largely untraceable.

Traffic cameras in municipalities

House Bill 5917 allows Connecticut municipalities to use automated cameras to enforce speed limit and red light violations.

The cameras will be limited to school zones, defined pedestrian safety zones and other locations chosen by local officials and approved by the Office of State Traffic Administration.

Automated enforcement zones must be clearly marked, and speeders will have to be going at least 10 miles per hour over the limit to get an automated ticket.

Fines will be capped at $50 for a first offense and $75 for a second offense regardless of a violator’s recorded speed. The revenue will go to municipalities and must be used for traffic-related expenses.

Eliminating “transcript withholding”

Senate Bill 922 will prevent higher education institutions in Connecticut from withholding the transcripts of students who still owe debts to their college or university in certain instances.

In some cases, the debt in question is unpaid tuition. Often, it’s smaller debts such as library fines, unpaid parking fees or an unreturned textbook penalty.

The “bear bill”

Public Act 23-77 allows for the killing of black bears in certain instances. 

It clarifies existing rights of residents to kill a bear that is attacking people or pets, allows farmers suffering from crop or livestock destruction by bears to get a permit from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to kill the bear, bans intentional feeding of bears, and provides for penalties if someone is found to have done that.

Strengthened renters’ rights

Much of Senate Bill 988, a wide-ranging law with new and strengthened renters’ rights, takes effect Oct. 1. The portions taking effect include limits on application and overdue rent fees and stricter security deposit return requirements.

The bill limits the apartment application fees landlords can charge to security deposits, first month’s rent, a key or special equipment deposit and the fee for the tenant screening report, which is capped at $50 plus any inflation costs. All other application fees will be prohibited.

Additionally, the bill requires landlords to return tenants’ security deposits (and interest on them) within 21 days, rather than 30, or else they’re liable for double the original amount.

Landlords will also face new limits on charging fees for overdue rent, and the law gives tenants either a nine-day grace period or four days for week-to-week renters before fees start.

The fees have to be the least of these options: up to $5 per day, for a maximum of $50; 5 percent of the overdue rent; or 5 percent of the tenant’s share of the rent if they are in a nonprofit or government rent aid program such as the housing choice voucher program. 

Landlords also can’t charge more than one late fee for unpaid rent, no matter how long it’s overdue.

The bill also gets rid of an exemption to the law banning housing discrimination against people in the LGBTQ community. Previously, people who are renting out one room in their house or landlords who rent out housing in a building with up to four units and live in one of the units were exempt from the law. Senate Bill 988 removes that exemption.