As many of you already know, the updates that were made to last year’s biennial budget passed both the House and Senate quickly on the last day of session. Having unpredicted income allowed us to restore education funding for towns, maintain the Medicare Savings Program for seniors and the disabled without making changes, and put $750 million aside in our rainy day fund. I am proud of all the work that went into crafting a bipartisan budget plan this year, as it is the second time in nearly eight months that the legislature has done so. With Connecticut facing a variety of issues, it took cooperation from both sides of the aisle to move our state forward and I believe we have done that this year.
As the House chair of the Human Services Committee, I made it my priority to improve the support services available for the people of Connecticut and protect everyone’s well-being. It is a privilege to continue to be a voice for people who need those services.
While we focused primarily on budgetary issues this year, we also passed legislation that would continue the work of the Autism Spectrum Disorder Advisory Council, allowed a pay increase for some providers of human services, and created an avenue for more veterans to receive the benefits they’ve earned.
This year, I heard about the issues that stand out to you- Medicare, marijuana, tolls, voting rights. I have committed to updating you weekly on legislation here in Hartford, events in the district, and ways to get involved via my weekly e-blast which I hope gives you an insight into what is happening here in Hartford. If you ever need to get in touch with me, I am available to you by email, phone, and on social media. My door is always open.
Bringing Awareness to the Capitol
This year, I again hosted Autism Awareness and Acceptance Day here at the Capitol. Every year, this event brings forth families and businesses that have members on the spectrum and it provides an occasion to honor new achievements, discuss new issues and formulate concepts for the upcoming year.
For the past year, the newly formed Water Safety Awareness Task Force has been meeting monthly to discuss initiatives which would bring water safety initiatives into our communities. Within our district, the Meriden YMCA offers water safety classes and has been instrumental in the structure of this task force.
Statistics show that children on the autism spectrum are prone to wandering and are attracted to water at a much higher rate than children who are not on the spectrum- which is another reason this information is so necessary to get into the hands of as many parents as possible.
Opioid Forums in District
It is no secret that in recent years, communities across the nation have been faced with the rising number of deaths associated with opioid use disorders. After seeing the numbers on deaths in our district, I put together a forum geared towards parents which provided education on both traditional opioid uses and symptoms, and opened up the conversation for parents whose children are being prescribed opioids for everyday procedures.
Budget, Meriden and Berlin
Again this year, Connecticut history was made as both chambers supported a bipartisan effort to meet the budgetary needs of our state. Meriden and Berlin will both receive an increase in state aid and several programs that are critical to our population were preserved.
Both towns increased their education funding. Berlin Public Schools rose by $678,900 and Meriden Public Schools by $900,000. Meriden also received $1,000,000 for the predesign study of the Mulcahy complex for replacement of the State Forensic Lab.
Human Services Legislation
As chair of the Human Services Committee, my priorities have always included serving all communities to the best of our abilities. This year brought up many issues that affected the entire legislature. The Medicare Savings Program, which allows many of our elderly and disabled to afford medical care and prescriptions, was held in question for much of the year. My office fielded hundreds of calls from concerned participants throughout the state and I am proud that this program is fully funded in the bipartisan budget that passed through the legislature this year.
We also passed legislation which allows for funds to increase wages of employees who provide services to individuals with intellectual disabilities who receive services through the Department of Social Services. These providers serve our most vulnerable populations and have not received a wage increase in over a decade. This legislation creates an environment where providers can offer a competitive wage and retain quality employees. SA 18-5
Finally, we passed a law which allows for a Money Follows the Person demonstration project, allowing our seniors to use funding otherwise specified for nursing home care to remain in their homes and their communities with that money. PA 18-99
Major Legislation Passed This Year
I was proud to pass health care legislation this year which requires individual and small employer group health insurance policies to cover 10 essential health benefits and prohibits the policies from including annual lifetime limits on their dollar value. The benefits, which most policies must already cover under the federal Affordable Care Act, include ambulatory patient services, emergency services, hospitalization, maternity and newborn health care, mental health and substance use disorder services, prescription drug coverage, rehabilitative services, laboratory services and pediatric services. The new law also requires insurance policies to cover contraceptive drugs, devices and products. PA 18-10
Over the last couple of years, I have worked with behavioral analysts to ensure their ability to obtain licensure by the Department of Public Health. Last year, we made them eligible for this licensing and this year, we passed legislation that added them to the list of statewide mandated reporters. Behavioral analysts, while already mandated reporters, were not currently listed by the Department of Public Health even when working in communities and they felt this would enhance their ability to care for people. PA 18-17