As we head into 2018, the memory of the tumultuous 2017 session is still fresh. While we passed many initiatives that will help improve the quality of life in Connecticut, the protracted budget debate appropriately dominated most of our attention.
We successfully avoided making draconian cuts to municipalities -- cuts that would have been felt far more deeply in Mansfield than in many other communities. The Governor's executive order would have reduced Mansfield's allocation of state aid by $14 million, a 70% reduction! Other proposals made unsustainable reductions to higher education, shifted costs to local towns and deferred payments to our unfunded pension debt. These are some of the very actions that caused our financial troubles in the first place. Though the result is far from perfect, we passed the best budget possible in our evenly divided state legislature with broad bipartisan support.
As always, I am honored to have the responsibility to serve you in Hartford at the state Capitol. If you have any questions regarding the budget compromise or the legislative highlights I've listed in this report, please call me at my office.
Protecting Pregnant Women From Discrimination
Women continue to face discrimination in the workplace, especially when pregnant. We expanded the employment protections provided under the state’s anti-discrimination law for pregnant employees and applicants. Employers will be prohibited from refusing or failing to make a reasonable accommodation for a pregnant employee, unless the accommodation would create an undue hardship. (PA 17-118)
Improving Workforce Development
An educated and productive workforce is critical to economic growth, higher wages, and reduced poverty. We established several programs to ensure that future students and workers are prepared to fill the needs of employers in the health care, manufacturing, insurance, green technology and STEM fields. We are developing job training opportunities and improve cooperation between business support services, with a focus on getting people employed in Connecticut. (PA 17-207)
Addressing the High Cost of a College Education
In the Higher Education Committee, we continue to fight the problem of the high cost of college with two pieces of legislation: I authored a new law to promote Connecticut’s rapidly improving system of transferring credits to help students switch colleges. It requires notification to students accepted at a state community college of information about the new transfer and articulation program between our community colleges and our public four-year universities. This will prevent transferring students from having to re-take classes, and use up their financial aid. (PA 17-229)
The second piece of legislation requires the Office of Higher Education to distribute to public service employers informational materials that increase awareness about the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness and Teacher Loan Forgiveness programs. These programs can help qualified residents save thousands of dollars in outstanding student loans. (PA 17-206)
Expanding Access to Primary Care
Connecticut has one of the oldest physician populations in the country and as a result we face a looming shortfall of primary care doctors. To help meet our needs, we expanded the Small Business Express program to allow more physician practices to qualify and help them meet their capital needs to encourage growth. This will help us recruit new physicians to the state. (SA 17-22)
Promoting Universal Pre-School
Studies show that high quality preschool education programs lead to lower rates of grade repetition and higher educational attainment. This year we responded to the widening academic achievement gap in Connecticut by requiring the Office of Early Childhood to plan for universal pre-school. This is a proactive and wise investment in the education, equity, and economy of Connecticut. (SA 17-1)
Supporting Local Businesses
Connecticut will soon have a new logo and a process for promoting goods “Made in Connecticut,” making it easier to purchase locally manufactured goods and bolster local economies. It will be helpful to know at a glance that a product is made in Connecticut so we can support our neighbors. (PA 17-132)
Disposing of Prescription Medications Safely
Many people experience the problem of properly disposing unused prescriptions. The Commissioner of the Department of Consumer Protection, working with the Commission of Pharmacy, will adopt regulations to allow licensed pharmacies to accept, and safely and securely dispose of unused prescriptions. (PA 17-109)
Banning Conversion Therapy
We passed a law to prohibit health care providers from subjecting minors to “conversion therapy” and attempt to change a minor’s sexual orientation or gender identity. If a health care provider engages in such practice, it is considered unprofessional conduct subject to disciplinary action. The law also prohibits the use of public funds for conversion therapy or related actions. (PA 17-5)