Dear Neighbor,

House Democrats led the way in passing 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, and we spent much of our time examining all areas. In the end we were able to pass a budget that actually gives Norwalk more funding.

In 2017, Norwalk will receive an estimated $2 million more in state grants than it received in 2016. This increase includes $1.4 million for general improvements to Norwalk’s public school buildings. The improvement projects include windows, doors, boilers, heating and ventilation systems, communications/technology systems, lockers, floors, ceilings, restrooms, lighting, energy efficiency, entryways, driveways, parking areas, play areas, athletic fields, various equipment, roof repairs and of security equipment.

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.

Sincerely,


Balancing The State Budget

Although there were no easy solutions, we managed to cut $830 million in spending across the board and pass a budget that is now balanced. Without increasing taxes or fees, borrowing or dipping into the Rainy Day Fund, we approved a budget that makes structural changes in how we do business. At the same time we were able to increase state funding to Norwalk, which will receive $2 million more in 2017.


Seniors

Taking care of our older citizens was a priority. We passed legislation to make sure patients are notified of their rights and available services when nursing homes or long-term care facilities close or reduce the number of beds. We also required nursing homes to allow residents being discharged to pick a caregiver to help them with their discharge plan. Additional legislation allows for elderly or disabled tenants of state-assisted housing to pay security deposits in installments.


Veterans

We stand by our veterans. The legislature passed measures that will facilitate veteran employment with a resource network for specialized skills in the Department of Labor and preferences in state contract bidding for veteran-owned small businesses. We also broadened the scope of the law that bars discriminatory practices in our state’s armed forces, and approved a resolution to our nation’s leaders to recognize Blue Water Navy Veterans’ exposure to Agent Orange.


Ban The Box

An Act Concerning Fair Chance Employment was created to prevent employers from requiring people to disclose a criminal record when first applying for a job. On job applications, people are frequently asked to “check the box” for any arrests or convictions. Under this legislation, the box would be banned and employers would be prohibited from inquiring about a criminal record during the initial application process – but would still have the ability to inquire about criminal history during the interview process. Some employers, such as law enforcement and school districts, which are required to verify an applicant’s criminal history, would be exempt.


Domestic Violence

Women in abusive relationships are 5 times more likely to be killed if their abuser has access to a firearm. Connecticut is taking great strides in protecting women and children from domestic violence by requiring a person to surrender their firearms after being served with a temporary restraining order. Another law was created to help prevent sexual exploitation and human trafficking.

Connecticut is not alone in enacting this type of legislation. At least twenty other states, including Massachusetts and Texas – the bastion of gun rights – passed a similar law.

This legislation also strengthens laws against sexual exploitation and human trafficking. It adds membership to the Trafficking in Persons Council and strengthens its charges.


Protecting Our Children

This year, numerous bills were passed to promote the wellbeing of children in Connecticut.

The House passed legislation to combat childhood obesity and ban toxic chemicals from kid’s products. While this legislation didn’t make it to a vote in the Senate, I will continue to support these measures in the next legislative session.

We’re also ensuring children receive a high-quality educational experience by safeguarding student data used by schools and making improvements to the Office of Early Childhood, such as improving notification to parents when a childcare facility is unlicensed.


Protective Services For Seniors

We recognize that abusing vulnerable seniors is a particularly heinous crime. The legislature approved a new law that protects seniors in several ways:

  • Develops a strategic plan to improve guidelines for seniors needing protective services
  • Creates an educational training program to promote and encourage the accurate and prompt identification and reporting of abuse, neglect, exploitation and abandonment of elderly persons
  • Ensures the state will investigate reports of elder abuse determine the condition of the senior and what action and services are required.

Creating Jobs, Growing Our Economy

We passed bills that will allow first-time business owners to receive reimbursement for the initial costs associated with starting up a business, address the teacher shortage issue in the Connecticut Technical High Schools System (CTHSS), develop programs to introduce students and their parents to careers in manufacturing, and adopt the Connecticut Uniform Limited Liability Company Act to offer companies a greater level of consistency to regulate the formation and dissolution of LLC’s.


Small Minority Business Revolving Loan Fund

We passed legislation that establishes revolving loan funds to be made available to small minority-owned businesses. The Department of Economic and Community Development’s Small Business Express Program will allocate $25 million, over the next five years, to support the growth of small minority-owned businesses by providing them with loans. For more information, click here.


Retirement Security

With over 600,000 private sector Connecticut workers lacking an employer-based retirement plan, we created a voluntary program to help encourage and assist people to save for retirement. There is no cost to taxpayers for the program, and the bill was a top priority of AARP.


Recruiting Minority Teachers

As in most states across the country, teachers of color are underrepresented in Connecticut schools. To recruit more minority teachers, we passed legislation that will improve the size and scope of the Minority Teacher Recruitment Task Force and encourage minority students to pursue a college degree in education by establishing a pilot program in certain towns. The program will allow minority students to earn college credits while in high school and take an introductory course in education.