- Associated Press - Friday, January 1, 2016

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Uniform standards for police body cameras, a higher minimum wage and new employment standards for domestic workers are set to officially take effect with the new year in Connecticut.

They are among a host of new state laws, many of which were passed during the 2015 regular session of the General Assembly.

The Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection and the Police Officer Standards and Training Council were required to create a list by Jan. 1 of minimal technical specifications for body cameras and related digital storage. The council approved guidelines in November, and some police departments have already raised concerns about the cost of data processing and storage.

Beginning July 1, the Connecticut State Police, public university police departments and municipal police departments that receive some of the $13 million in available state grants to purchase the devices, will be required to wear body cameras when interacting with the public.

“As we have seen across the nation, police body cameras are giving us access to vital information that was heretofore unknown and unseen by the general public regarding the interaction of citizens and law enforcement officers during times of great emotion and stress,” said Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven.

He said the new requirement will provide greater transparency for both the public and police.

Lawmakers already created some basic guidelines for the cameras, including that they must be worn above the midline of the officer’s torso; they cannot be edited, erased or copied; and an officer cannot intentionally record communications with other officers or encounters with informants while on break or in a medical facility, unless recording the subject of a crime.

Also on Jan. 1, law enforcement agencies must have developed and implemented guidelines for recruiting, retaining and promoting minority police officers.

The new year will mean a little more money in the paychecks of some Connecticut workers, due to a law Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed in 2014. The state’s minimum hourly wage will climb from $9.15 to $9.60. It’s the second in a series of three scheduled increases. It is slated to eventually climb to $10.10 an hour on Jan. 1, 2017.

“Nobody who works full-time should live in poverty,” Malloy said. “I am proud that Connecticut has been a leader in promoting a higher hourly wage. It is a modest increase that will give working families a boost while also having stimulative economic effects.”

Other new laws set take effect include the following:

- Certain health insurance policies will be required to cover medical advice, diagnosis, care, or treatment provided through telehealth to the extent the insurer covers those same services through in-person visits.

- Domestic workers who work for employers with at least three employees will be protected under the employment-related anti-discrimination laws administered by the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities. Among other things, they will be protected against sexual harassment and employment-related discrimination based on their race, color, religion, age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, or mental or physical disability. They also will have the right to a reasonable leave of absence for a pregnancy-related disability.

- The Judicial Branch will be required to collect data on the number of armed forces members, veterans, and nonveterans who apply for, and are admitted or denied, entry into the various court-sanctioned community-based treatment programs, such as the accelerated rehabilitation program.

- Hospital billing statements will be required to clearly identify any facility fee charges, and patients must be notified they have a right to request a reduction.

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