Dear Friends and Neighbors,

We passed significant legislation this session to help protect and improve the quality of life for Connecticut families.

Although this session was dominated by the budget, and there were no easy solutions, we approved a balanced budget that cuts $830 million - without tax or fee increases, without borrowing, and without dipping into the Rainy Day Fund. 

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.  I’m pleased that even with all of the  session’s challenges, we managed to do something for children who suffer from debilitating conditions, like epilepsy, who will benefit from a medical marijuana program. The bill is known as “Cindimae’s Law” in recognition of the incredible advocacy of Cindimae Meehan and her mother. With this legislation, we join 17 other states in providing medical marijuana programs for minors. We narrowly tailored our law to establish necessary safeguards against abuse and provided for additional oversight.  

Keeping Connecticut a great place to live, work, and raise a family is our ongoing responsibility. Though the 2016 legislative session presented one of the toughest budget challenges in decades, we succeeded in helping to move our state forward. 

Sincerely,


Connecticut Retirement Security Board

One of the issues I advocated for this session was 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.

New legislation establishes the Connecticut Retirement Security Authority, which is charged with overseeing the Connecticut Retirement Security Program. The program will help establish Roth Retirement Savings Accounts or Roth IRAs for eligible employees in the state whose employer does not offer a retirement savings plan.

By January 1, 2018, employers will be required to distribute information sent by the Retirement Security Authority describing the program to their employees. Employees participating in the plan will have their savings automatically deducted from their paychecks at a rate of 3 percent if another percentage is not elected. An employee may elect a savings contribution of 0 percent if not interested in participating in the program. Otherwise, the funds will be deposited into a personal Roth IRA savings account and administered through the program or a third-party entity. Participants will also have the opportunity to select from various investment plans.

There is no cost to taxpayers for the program, and the bill was a top priority of AARP.


Improving Services for Young People with Developmental Disabilities

The legislature recognized a need to improve upon the delivery of services to children and young adults with developmental disabilities, as well as address gaps in the delivery of services. This bill creates a new subcommittee within MAPOC (Council on Medical Assistance Program Oversight) tasked with studying and making recommendations for children and young adults with complex health needs. 


Economy, Education And Our Youth

Encouraging Manufacturing Careers
We are working to make Connecticut the area leader in high-tech manufacturing jobs with an educated workforce that will meet the growing demand for the advanced, computer based, and technical positions of the future. To ensure we are prepared for the growing manufacturing demand, we passed several innovative measures that will:

  • Establish an Entrepreneurs Learner’s Permit Program that will allow new businesses, particularly information services, biotechnology and green technology, to be reimbursed for fees associated with state filing, permitting and licenses.
  • Form a committee to inform middle and high school students about careers in manufacturing, provide manufacturing training and study workforce needs to introduce students and their parents to careers in manufacturing.
  • Direct the Department of Labor to update their website to provide information on manufacturing apprenticeship opportunities.

Higher Education Certificate Programs
Sub-baccalaureate and certificate programming is an instrumental part of achieving the state’s goals regarding higher education attainment andworkforce needs. 

In recognition of the importance of certificate programming in preparing students for success,  we passed a bill to provide greater oversight of sub-baccalaureate and certificate programs at institutions of higher education. 

The bill requires the Office of Higher Education to develop and implement various methods to assess program effectiveness.

Ensuring Safe Hires In Schools
The legislature made numerous 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. This includes greater disclosure by past employers and the State Department of Education when there is knowledge of a substantiated incidence of abuse or neglect, or otherwise pending criminal changes. This new law also standardizes the fingerprinting and background check process and sets reasonable standards for hiring districts when screening their employees.


Tackling the Opioid Epidemic

I was able to attend the recent bill signing ceremony for new legislation that will help combat Connecticut’s opioid epidemic. In recent years, Connecticut, like other New England states, has seen a heartbreaking increase in fatal opioid overdoses. Earlier this year we passed groundbreaking legislation to combat this crisis. The legislation will:

  • Require that local emergency medical services carry Narcan, a drug used to treat an opioid overdose, and prohibit insurers from requiring prior authorization for Narcan prescriptions.
  • Limit first-time painkiller prescriptions to a 7-day supply for both minors and adults except in limited circumstances.
  • Strengthen Connecticut’s prescription monitoring program.
  • Release health care professionals and good Samaritans from liability when they administer an opioid antagonist, such as Narcan, to treat an overdose. 
  • Add more on-the-ground experts, including an emergency medical technician and a licensed alcohol and drug counselor, to the Connecticut Alcohol and Drug Policy Council.

I’m proud to have supported this important legislation. I will continue to work with my colleagues to find ways to address opioid addiction.


Supporting Veteran-Owned Businesses

In order to help veterans who own micro-businesses, we passed legislation that will give a price preference of up to 15% to veteran-owned micro-businesses when bidding on certain Department of Administrative Services open market orders or contracts. A micro-business is a business with gross revenue of up to $3 million. Veterans who start a micro-business will be offered partial business tax relief for the first tax year after they’re established.  For a business to be considered veteran-owned, 51% of it must be owned by a veteran. 


Recognizing Blue Water Navy Veterans

Blue Water Navy veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange in the Vietnam War should be provided VA benefits. We passed a joint resolution that urges the President of the United States, Vice President of the United States, and members of Congress to provide these benefits.