Dear Friends and Neighbors,
House Democrats led the way in passing significant legislation during the 2016 session of the General Assembly to help protect and improve the quality of life for Connecticut families.
This was a session dominated by the budget. Although there were no easy solutions, we approved a balanced budget that cuts $830 million – without tax increases, without borrowing, and without dipping into the Rainy Day Fund.
Improving public health, increasing public safety, and encouraging financial security for everyone were featured elements of some of the major bills approved by the legislature this year.
Keeping Connecticut a great place to live, work, and raise a family is our ongoing responsibility. Though the 2016 legislative session presented one of the toughest budget challenges in decades, we succeeded to help move our state forward.
Tackling CT’s Opioid Epidemic
In recent years, Connecticut, like other New England states, has seen a heartbreaking increase in fatal opioid overdoses. Earlier this year we passed groundbreaking legislation to combat this crisis. This lifesaving law will:
Increase access to Narcan, a drug that reverses opioid abuse. It:
- Allows any licensed healthcare professional to administer Narcan
- Requires municipalities to equip their first responders with Narcan
- Allows pharmacists to prescribe Narcan
Limit opioid prescriptions and reduce the risk of addiction. It will:
- Cap first-time adult prescriptions at 7 days
- Cap all prescriptions for minors at 7 days
- Contain exceptions for certain medical conditions
The law will also add more on-the-ground experts to the Connecticut Alcohol and Drug Policy Council, such as:
- An emergency medical technician
- A licensed drug and alcohol counselor
While there is still more work to be done, this legislation is a historic step forward in both combatting opioid overdose and preventing new cases of opioid addiction.
We passed legislation to ensure that all Connecticut college and university students have the same level of protection against sexual assault. The legislation will requires all public and private universities to adopt policies establishing ‘affirmative consent’ as the standard definition of consent in their investigations of sexual assault. Affirmative consent is defined as an active, clear, and voluntary agreement by a person to engage in sexual activity with another person.
Connecticut Jobs: Our Number 1 Priority
This year we made economic growth and support for small business our number one priority. Through Connecticut Innovations, an organization we developed 25 years ago to help boost our tech companies, we are investing millions of dollars where they will do the most good: supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses by providing them with the concrete support they need to take them to the next level, and continuing to invest in education so that Connecticut workers are trained in the 21st century skills our companies need. For more on our many specific initiatives, go to this link: www.housedems.ct.gov/ctjobs
Innovation Places – concentrates nodes of entrepreneurs, tech talent, support organizations and research institutions in walkable, transit-connected, mixed-use neighborhoods.
Entrepreneur Support Programs – provides $5 million a year to support a range of needs for entrepreneurs, such as residencies, co-working space and mentoring.
Tech Talent Development Fund – 10 year goal to at least double Connecticut’s stock of software developers and other tech talent we’re short on. Tactics will include: recruitment from out of state, upskilling or reskilling current workers in other fields, and bolstering education programs in this field.
Added Support for Growing Small Businesses – $1 million a year for 5 years to support firms that have made it past the startup phase, and mature companies that have plateaued but have the potential to grow.
University Innovation Ecosystems – $10 million of seed funding to strengthen the innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystems at all of Connecticut’s colleges and universities, public and private.
Connecticut 500 Project – main goals are to create a net increase of 500,000 private sector jobs over the next 25 years; increase the state’s population by 5,000 new residents; create 500 new startup businesses; increase by 500 the annual number of students graduating from state colleges and universities; maintain CT’s top five ranking with respect to productivity, higher ed and per capita income.
Supporting Connecticut’s Growing Manufacturing Sector
The manufacturing industry is making a comeback and we are working to ensure a strong and educated workforce for the increasingly competitive high-tech jobs of the future. In order to meet the growing demand of manufacturers, we established a committee that will educate middle and high school students about careers in manufacturing, provide manufacturing training, and study workforce needs to introduce students and their parents to careers in manufacturing.
Supporting Individuals with Disabilities
Some of our state’s most vulnerable families are those struggling to support individuals with disabilities. This year, we worked to improve the communication between families and the Department of Developmental Services regarding the waiting list for funding and services. We also clarified who has access to a client’s file when it comes to guardianship cases and those involved in their cases.
Supporting Our Seniors
This year, we passed the following legislation which covers many areas of concern for seniors:
- Notice of nursing home closings or bed reductions for residents – When nursing homes or long-term care facilities plan to close or cut back on beds, the Department of Aging’s ombudsman must submit a letter to each patient detailing the rights and services available to the patient.
- Utilization of patient-designated caregivers – Nursing homes now will be required to allow a resident being discharged to designate a caregiver who will work with the nursing home on a plan for post-discharge tasks.
- Installers of residential stair lifts – This legislation creates a residential stair lift technician’s license, making it easier for homeowners to have stair lifts installed in their homes by allowing more contractors to be licensed to perform these installations.
- Security deposits for age-restricted public housing – The elderly or disabled who want to live in state-assisted public housing now will be able to pay their security deposits in installments instead of the usual lump sum before being allowed to move in.
Standing Up for our Veterans
I am proud to report that we approved new laws that enhance areas of job attainment, entrepreneurship, and quality of life issues for veterans, and approved a resolution that urges the nation’s leaders to provide VA benefits for Blue Water Navy Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange in the Vietnam War.
New legislation will:
- Give a price preference of up to 15% for veteran-owned businesses bidding on state contracts.
- Broaden the scope of the law that bars discriminatory practices in our state’s armed forces.
- Require the Labor Commissioner to establish a clearinghouse to help highly-trained veterans and armed forces members find jobs that match their unique skill sets; a database will be created to match them with available jobs.