I am proud to have authored legislation that reforms Connecticut’s juvenile justice system with the goal of rehabilitating young people who are still maturing and developing, instead of jailing them. The law implements the recommendations of the Juvenile Justice Policy Oversight Committee, of which I am a member. The law will:
- Instruct the Judicial Department and the Department of Children and Families to address diversion to more community-based services.
- Direct the state Department of Education to develop a truancy intervention model.
- Improve various police trainings that include a model for responding to trauma and the use of Emergency Mobile Psychiatric Services.
- Instruct state officials to develop a plan that promotes school-based diversion efforts and to develop a recidivism reduction plan. (PA 16-147)
Ensuring Access to Legal Services
Everyone must be treated fairly under the law and ensuring reliable access to legal services is the keystone to that fundamental right. That’s why the legislature ensured funding for legal services for the poor. Additionally, a newly established task force will examine the issue of ensuring legal representation for individuals in civil courts and report its findings to the General Assembly later this year. (SA 16-19)
Women in abusive relationships are five times more likely to be killed if their abuser has access to a firearm. Connecticut averaged 14 intimate partner homicides per year from 2000 to 2012. Firearms were used in 39 percent of those 182 homicides, making them the most commonly used weapon to commit intimate partner homicide. Connecticut is taking great strides in protecting women and children from domestic violence by requiring a person to surrender firearms after being served with a temporary restraining order. This legislation also strengthens sexual exploitation and human trafficking prevention laws in the state. (PA 16-71, PA-34)
Tackling the Opioid Epidemic
Connecticut, like other New England states, has seen a heartbreaking increase in fatal opioid overdoses. We will allow any licensed healthcare professional to administer drugs that reverse opioid overdoses, require municipalities to equip their first responders with the opioid reversal drug Narcan, and cap first-time opioid prescriptions at a seven-day supply. (PA 16-43)
Improving Public Housing Access
Many elderly and disabled people have a hard time paying a security deposit up front, so we have passed legislation that requires housing authorities and public housing corporations to allow their tenants to pay their security deposits in installments instead of the usual lump sum. The installments will be based on the tenant’s income and can be paid out over the course of a year. (PA 16-74)
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. (PA 16-83)
Supporting Our Seniors
Taking care of our older citizens is 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. (PA 16-8, PA 16-59)
Protecting the Tree Canopy
We heard from residents and local town officials how utilities cut, prune, and remove trees and shrubs in our communities. The General Assembly passed legislation that requires utilities to provide advance notice to towns and tree wardens of their trimming schedule. It also seeks to protect the state’s tree canopy from unnecessary pruning and removal. In addition, it expands the options for removal of wood generated by tree work, including allowing residents to take wood for their use. (PA 16-86)
Recruiting Minority Teachers
As co-chair of the Minority Teacher Recruitment Task Force, I was proud to work with an outstanding team that made recommendations to increase diversity in our teacher workforce. We passed legislation to help recruit more minority teachers by improving the existing Minority Teacher Recruitment Task Force, requiring a review of existing state-sponsored recruitment efforts, and exploring pathways for existing school employees to gain teaching certification.
We also passed legislation encouraging minority students to pursue a college degree in education by creating a pilot program in towns that are home to state universities and teacher preparation programs, including New Haven. The program will allow minority students to earn college credits while still in high school and take an introductory course in education. (PA 16-41/SA 16-10)
We stand by our veterans. This year, we passed legislation that will encourage veteran employment by creating a resource network through the Department of Labor for veterans with specialized skills. In addition, the state will give a preference to veteran-owned small businesses bidding for state contracts. We also approved a resolution to our federal government to recognize Blue Water Navy Veterans’ exposure to Agent Orange. (PA 16-68, PA 16-184, HJ-25)