Kara Rochelle is a third-term State Representative proudly serving Ansonia and Derby’s 104th House District. Born and raised in the Naugatuck Valley, Kara understands the district's unique needs and the values that drive Valley residents. Her blue-collar upbringing nurtured her compassion, tenacity, and perseverance – attributes every public servant must have – and imprinted upon her the importance of rebuilding the middle class. Since being elected, Kara has been a passionate advocate for Lower Valley residents, from working families and seniors to the youngest learners. Since being elected in 2018, Kara has secured record-breaking increases to education funding for Ansonia and Derby schools. She was a powerhouse for bringing resources back to the community including increased levels of municipal aid as well as grants and bond funding to redevelop key properties across the 104th. She remains deeply connected to her community roots and has continued the fight for affordable health care, small businesses, high-quality public education, the expansion of access to job training opportunities, and economic development to ensure a better quality of life for all residents.
First Term Accomplishments
During Kara's breakout first term, she championed numerous legislative initiatives to support working-class and middle-class families, manufacturing, local economic growth, and affordable health care. She remains committed to fighting for the hardworking people of her community.
In 2019 Kara:
- Wrote, fought for, and passed legislation to create a pilot program to expand the community college Advanced Manufacturing Certificate Program to more high schools across the state so students can access the training necessary to compete for the many good paying manufacturing jobs currently available in Connecticut.
- Secured funding for Ansonia High School students who want to take advantage of the Advanced Manufacturing Certificate Program at Derby High School.
- Increased education funding by over $3 million for Ansonia and Derby public schools, bringing education funding to historic high levels.
- Helped expand the Care4Kids childcare program to 300 families in Ansonia and Derby.
- Backed legislation to cut taxes on social security and pensions for most seniors and fully funded the Medicare Savings Program to reduce the heavy tax burden on seniors with fixed incomes.
- Supported legislation incentivizing investment in federally-designated "Opportunity Zones," like Ansonia, by providing certain tax credits and priority status to businesses.
- Revised the Transfer Act to cut red tape restricting redevelopment of contaminated properties, making it easier for these properties to be cleaned and redeveloped. Locally, this reform creates new opportunities for economic growth at sites like the Ansonia Copper and Brass and SHW- Farrell locations.
- Supported HB 5521, which requires health insurance coverage for pre-existing health conditions regardless of when medical advice, diagnosis, care, or treatment was recommended.
- Required insurance policies to cover mental health services the same as medical care for other parts of the body.
- Expanded insurance coverage for mammograms and hearing aids.
- Supported legislation to provide firefighters, police, and parole officers with workers' compensation benefits for PTSD caused by traumatic experiences on the job.
Although the 2020 legislative session was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kara shifted gears quickly to engage and support her community through the devastating health and economic crisis. She worked to resolve thousands of issues constituents faced with food insecurity, applications for unemployment insurance, rent and mortgage support, health care needs, and much more. She coordinated PPE giveaways of masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer at sites across Ansonia and Derby. Kara dropped off these care packages to residents at their homes. Recognizing that many steadfast volunteers of local food pantries were medically vulnerable, Kara responded quickly by collaboratively with Team, Inc. in Derby. She spearheaded a volunteer recruitment effort to help re-staff food pantries of the Lower Valley. The help allowed those facilities to stay open for countless neighbors who needed a little extra support. To keep residents informed about new executive orders and resources they could access, Kara hosted weekly Facebook LIVE updates and panel discussions for residents. She provided consistency and clear information during a frenetic and trying time for the community.
Later in 2020, the governor called the Connecticut General Assembly into a special session where legislation was passed:
- To cut and cap the cost of insulin and to expand access to telemedicine.
- To address the utility companies' inadequate preparation for and response to Tropical Storm Isaias and to address long-standing concerns regarding the cost of energy, the legislature passed significant reforms to hold those companies accountable. The bill, known as "Take Back Our Grid," enacted the following:
- Establishes Performance Based Ratemaking – where PURA sets standards the utilities must meet, develops metrics for determining progress, and allows the issuance of penalties if the utilities fail to meet the standard;
- Requires the utilities to provide $25 daily bill credits and $250 total claim for food and medicine, as well as reduced charges to residential customers without power lasting more than 96 hours;
- Ties the portion of executive salaries that come from ratepayers to the company's performance;
- Develops minimum staffing levels for lineman, communications personnel and others to make sure the utilities respond to storms quickly and convey timely information to their customers.
Second Term Accomplishments
During the 2021 legislative session, Kara continued to work with focus and care to deliver meaningful improvements for the people of her community. She secured vital funding for education. She also lowered taxes for seniors, working families and businesses. Under Kara's leadership, her communities experiences increased frequency of service on the Waterbury Rail Line, and additional funding for municipal services and nonprofits.
Local Funding Spotlight:
- $150,000 awarded over the next two years to Valley Save Youth for Youth Engagement/Youth Violence Prevention
- $100,000 awarded over the next two years to Team, Inc. for Youth Engagement/Youth Violence Prevention in the Lower Valley
- $50,000 in new funds for Ansonia students to attend Derby’s Community College Level Advanced Manufacturing Program
- $2 million for economic redevelopment of Ansonia Copper & Brass site
- $1 million for environmental clean-up/demolition of the Farrell/SHW building for economic redevelopment
- $1.5 million for improvements to the James J. O'Donnell senior apartments
- $1.2 million for increased frequency of service on the Waterbury Rail Line which will spur economic growth, increase property values, and give cities the opportunity to lower taxes
- Nearly $3 million in new funding for Ansonia and Derby public schools, bringing funding for the 104th's education systems to record highs
- Nearly $840,000 in increased town aid annually to the 104th to enable cities to pursue initiatives to improve local services or lower taxes.
2021 Policy highlights supporting Connecticut businesses and residents:
- Supported a state budget that did not increase taxes, cut taxes for the majority of seniors, increased the Earned Income Tax Credit from 23 percent to 30.5 percent to deliver tax relief to 195,000 working families, created a one-week tax holiday for restaurants to increase their profits.
- The budget also provided $12.8 million for the “Right to Read” Act to help school districts – like Ansonia & Derby – with reading curriculum, literacy interventions and coaching
- Expanded the Small Business Express program to bring in more private capital, better supporting small businesses and start-ups
- Reformed unemployment insurance tax to deliver savings to businesses across the state
- Secured $5 million in the legislature's bond bill to advance manufacturing training across Connecticut, accelerating the implementation of a pilot program she developed and passed in 2019 to expand the community college Advanced Manufacturing Certificate Program to more Connecticut high schools.
- Developed and passed legislation establishing a program to allow the state Department of Economic and Community Development to provide up to $10 million in matching grants to a regional economic development entity, allowing smaller communities like Ansonia and Derby to band together to access resources.
- Kara also backed the creation of the Office of Workforce Strategy and legislation that establishes a taskforce to ensure Connecticut is responsive to modern manufacturers' workforce and technological needs, positioning the state to become a leader in the Industry 4.0 economy
- To build upon her first term successes, Kara expanded workers' compensation benefits for PTSD for EMS workers, corrections officers, 9-1-1 dispatchers, and certain healthcare workers who were on the front lines of the pandemic.
- Secured state funding to pay for Firefighter I training for volunteer firefighters in economically distressed municipalities, like Ansonia and Derby, at a regional fire school.
- Expanded healthcare coverage for all children up to age 9.
- Supported legislation requiring health, vision, and dental plans to cover dependents up to age 26 on their parents’ insurance plans – closing loopholes under federal law to ensure all families get covered.
- Voted for a bill that establishes the “Covered Connecticut” plan to provide affordable, quality insurance to over 40,000 residents who do not currently qualify for assistance.
Committee Assignments & Caucus Membership
In her third term, Kara was appointed by House leadership as Majority Whip-At-Large. She also serves as vice-chair of the Higher Education & Employment Advancement Committee. Kara also serves on the Commerce, Screening, and General Law Committees. Previously, she served as Assistant Majority Leader and as Vice-Chair of the Commerce and Housing Committees.
Kara is a member of the following bipartisan caucuses:
- Manufacturing Caucus, Fire/EMS Caucus, Women's Caucus, Arts & Tourism Caucus, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Caucus, and Future Caucus, which is comprised of legislators under 45.
Awards & Recognition
Kara received ManufactureCT’s 2021 Outstanding Leadership in Government Affairs Award for authoring and advocating for legislation to support Connecticut manufacturers, jobs and the industry.
She also received the Connecticut State Firefighter’s Association 2021 Legislative Award for her work to create a new fund to pay for Firefighter I training for volunteer firefighters in economically-distressed municipalities and her outstanding advocacy in the long effort for the construction of the Valley Fire School.
In 2021, Kara was one of 50 state lawmakers from across the county to be selected to participate in the State Legislative Leaders Foundation's Emerging Leaders Program. The bipartisan program focuses on promoting the attributes and skills that define strong, meaningful leadership. SLLF's mission is centered on educating and inspiring the nation's current and future state legislative leaders, regardless of party affiliation, politics, or ideology.
Community Engagement & Volunteer Service
In her free time, Kara immerses herself in several local community organizations. She is a volunteer for Master's Table Community Meals in Ansonia--serving free, nourishing meals to residents of the Lower Valley. Kara is also a corporator for Griffin Hospital in Derby, and a member of the Elks Club Chapter 571, Derby Centennial Lion's Club, Catholic War Veterans Auxiliary, Valley Regional Lodge Sons and Daughters of Italy, and Women United of the Valley United Way, through which she spearheaded the "Feed the Valley" fundraising effort to spur support for restaurants and fight hunger locally. She was most recently appointed as a corporator for the Valley United Way and to the advisory board of Southern Connecticut State University's School of Graduate and Professional Studies where she serves on the curriculum subcommittee.
Kara brings a passion for her community and for building a strong future for her residents. Kara's professional experience and upbringing have given her a strong commitment to helping people who work hard to pay the bills and raise their children. Her father, Al Rochelle, a retired line worker at Sikorsky Aircraft, has dedicated nearly 50 years to the volunteer fire service and currently serves as the Emergency Response Fire Coordinator for New Haven County. Her late mother, Diane, was a loving parent and small business owner who instilled in her kids, through her daycare, a passion for child development and education.
When Kara is not crafting insightful testimony, developing and analyzing legislation, or advocating for her residents, she enjoys spending time with family and friends. During her down time, Kara can be found listening to records, particularly soul and old blues albums, reading a good book, enjoying live music, or attending local community events. She is a 2005 graduate of Fordham University and currently lives in Ansonia with her two cats--Parmigiano (Gio) and Maximilian (Max).