Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Thank you for giving me the honor of representing you in the General Assembly this year. This past spring, I worked with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass significant legislation to help protect and improve the quality of life for Connecticut families.

This session, the legislature took major steps to tackle the opioid epidemic, support our veterans, and begin establishing financial security for families lacking good retirement options.

Keeping Connecticut a great place to live, work, start a business and raise a family is our responsibility. Though the 2016 legislative session presented the toughest budget challenge I have ever seen, we succeeded in helping move the state forward.

Despite budget challenges, working with my West Hartford colleagues, I was able to secure an additional reimbursement of $3 million for the construction of science classrooms at Hall High School. Our efforts saved the town $3 million and will allow West Hartford children to continue getting the best public education in Connecticut.

I hope you find the information that follows to be of use. Please do not hesitate to call my office if you have any questions.

Sincerely,


Connecticut Jobs: My Number One Priority

This year economic growth and support for small business were top priorities for me. Major 2016 initiatives included:

Innovation Places – Concentrate nodes of entrepreneurs, tech talent, support organizations and research institutions in walkable, transit-connected, mixed-use neighborhoods.

Entrepreneurial Support Program – Provides $5 million a year to support a range of needs for entrepreneurs, such as residencies, co-working spaces and mentoring.

Tech Talent Development Fund – This fund’s 10-year goal is to at least double Connecticut’s stock of software developers and other tech talent we’re short on. Strategies will include: recruitment of out-of-state, high-skilled tech workers; retraining current workers from other fields; and bolstering our state’s information technology education programs.

Added Support for Growing Small Businesses – $1 million a year for the next 5 years to support firms that have made it past the startup phase, and mature companies with 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 – so that we see more high-tech start-ups across the state.

Connecticut 500 Project – Its main goals are to create a net increase of 500,000 private sector jobs over the next 25 years; to increase the state’s population by 500,000 new residents; to create 500 new startup businesses; to increase by 500 the annual number of students graduating from state colleges and universities; and to maintain CT’s top five ranking with respect to productivity, higher education and per capita income.

Finally, to ensure job growth continues and improve Connecticut’s business climate, we also passed laws to allow first-time business owners to receive reimbursement for the initial costs associated with starting up a business; address the teacher shortage in the Connecticut Technical High School System; develop programs to introduce students and their parents to careers in manufacturing; and offer companies a greater level of legal consistency around the formation and dissolution of Limited Liability Companies (LLC’s) – the most common corporate structure for start-ups and new ventures.


Protecting Our Children

This session, Connecticut enacted the nation’s strongest student data privacy law, one that will protect the sensitive information of our schoolchildren. I am proud to be the co-author and co-sponsor of this groundbreaking measure that will:

  • Ensure the privacy of student data used by web-based companies and consultants that do business with our schools.
  • Require notification of parents in case of a data breach.
  • Prohibit companies from using student data for targeted advertising.
  • Ensure every contract between Connecticut school districts and e-vendors contains basic safeguards for sensitive student data.

In addition, the legislature passed numerous laws promoting children’s health and safety, and ensuring they receive a high-quality educational experience. Specifically:

  • A new law I supported made changes to the hiring process for school employees to ensure that applicants with a proven history of sexual misconduct or abuse involving children are identified, and for those who were subject to unsubstantiated claims, to protect them from unfair discrimination. There will now be greater disclosure by past employers and the State Department of Education when there is knowledge of substantiated incidents of abuse or neglect, or pending criminal changes. This new law also standardizes the fingerprinting and background check processes, and sets fair, consistent standards for all hiring districts to vet their employees.
  • To help ensure children receive top-quality childcare, we made improvements to the state’s Office of Early Childhood, an agency dedicated to seeing that all young children are safe, healthy, learning and thriving. These changes include streamlining the licensing process for childcare facilities, improving notification to parents when certain programs are not licensed and strengthening enforcement efforts.

Tackling the Budget – Lean Spending in a Lean Year

After a lot of hard work and shared sacrifice, the legislature approved a budget with no tax or fee increases, no borrowing for operating expenses and no reliance upon the Rainy Day Fund.

Overall, cutting $830 million from the budget was difficult – especially because programs and jobs for some of our most vulnerable were affected. These long-term structural changes, however, will help put Connecticut’s budget onto a sustainable path.

We reduced the state’s long-term obligations and created a more sustainable budget with the following changes:

  • Non–union wage freeze & an increase in insurance co-pays.
  • A salary pension cap for retiring non-union state employees.
  • Reductions in the size of state government.

All projects and programs – large and small – faced cuts. We delayed parts of the Governor’s transportation initiative to protect priorities like:

  • State support for hospitals and critical care.
  • Funding for elementary, middle and high schools. 
  • Property tax relief.
  • Funding for colleges and universities.

Please note that protecting these priorities didn’t mean there were no reductions in these areas. In fact, there were difficult cuts to all the items above.  Such reductions, however, were far smaller than they would have been were it not for our success in finding savings elsewhere in the budget.