Dear Friends and Neighbors,

House Democrats led the way in passing significant legislation during the 2016 session of the General Assembly to help protect and improve the quality of life for Connecticut families.

This was a difficult session dominated by the budget. Although 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.

As always, feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.

Sincerely,


Consumer Protection

As consumers become more dependent on the internet, online privacy is a top concern.  We strengthened the standards under which cell phone and internet companies disclose their customers’ information to law enforcement in relation to a criminal investigation.  We are also providing protection to debit and credit cardholders with purchases at service stations by requiring businesses to post a notice on each gas pump informing customers if they will place a hold on their credit cards.

We also found a way to encourage cooperation between landlords and tenants in the treatment of bed bug infestations by giving both parties rights and responsibilities in dealing with bed bugs. This law establishes a framework to identify and treat bed bug infestations in residential rental properties, including public housing. Landlords must:

  • Provide reasonable written or oral notice to a tenant before entering a unit for bed bug inspection or control purposes.
  • Pay for the inspection and treatment of a bed bug infestation

Standing Up For Our Veterans

We stand by our veterans. I am proud to report that we passed new laws that enhance areas of job attainment, entrepreneurship, and quality of life issues for veterans, and approved a resolution that urges the nation’s leaders to provide VA benefits for Blue Water Navy Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange in the Vietnam War.

Other laws:

  • Give a price preference of up to 15% for veteran-owned businesses bidding on state contracts.
  • Broaden the scope of the law that bars discriminatory practices in our state’s armed forces.
  • Require the Labor Commissioner to establish a clearinghouse to help highly-trained veterans and armed forces members find jobs that match their unique skill sets; a database will be created to match them with available jobs.

Supporting Our Seniors

During these especially difficult times when we struggle to balance the state budget, protecting our older citizens remains a high priority. If we don’t look out for them, no one else will.  
 
As the House Chair of the Aging Committee, I fought hard for the following legislation that we passed this year:

  • Notice of nursing home closings or bed reductions for residents – When nursing homes or long-term care facilities plan to close or cut back on beds, the Department of Aging’s ombudsman must submit a letter to each patient detailing the rights and services available to the patient.
  • Utilization of patient designated caregivers – Nursing homes now will be required to allow a resident being discharged to designate a caregiver who will work with the nursing home on a plan for post-discharge tasks.
  • Installers of residential stair lifts – This legislation creates a residential stair lift technician’s license, making it easier for homeowners to have stair lifts installed in their homes by allowing more contractors to be licensed to perform these installations.
  • Security deposits for age-restricted public housing – The elderly or disabled who want to live in state-assisted public housing now will be able to pay their security deposits in installments instead of the usual lump sum before being allowed to move in.

Supporting Individuals With Disabilities

Some of our state’s most vulnerable families are those struggling to support individuals with disabilities. This year, we worked to improve communication between families and the Department of Developmental Services while they are on a waiting list for services. We also clarified who has access to clients’ files when it comes to guardianship cases and those involved in their cases.


Gift Cards

The legislature passed a law that will allow customers to receive cash back on gift cards with a remaining balance of less than three dollars.

This consumer-friendly legislation will help people hold onto more of their own money:

  • Consumers often never redeem small remaining balances on gift cards.
  • Almost a billion dollars of gift card sales went unredeemed in 2015.
  • Eleven other states have enacted similar legislation.

The legislation ensures that we’re not putting an undue burden on businesses by:

  • Requiring customers present the gift card receipt to get cash back.
  • Exempting gift cards donated by retailers to charity.
  • Including only businesses with a storefront in Connecticut.

Protecting The Tree Canopy

While town officials and local residents have been concerned over a utility company’s tree trimming policies, there’s legislation seeking to protect the state’s tree canopy from unnecessary pruning and removal.  The law requires utility companies to provide advance notice to towns and tree wardens of their planned tree trimming schedule.


Animal Cruelty

This year, we sent a message that animal cruelty will not be tolerated in Connecticut. We’ve passed legislation that makes malicious and intentional animal cruelty a class C felony, which carries the potential of jail time or a fine of up to $10,000. The legislature also approved a law that aims to increase animal cruelty conviction rates by allowing judges to appoint volunteer legal advocates to assist prosecutors in animal cruelty cases.


Firefighter Cancer Relief Program

It is important that we recognize and take care of firefighters who put their lives on the line for us. This legislation establishes a relief fund for firefighters who are battling work-related cancer. Other legislation allows municipal property tax relief for retired volunteer firefighters, fire police officers and EMTs who volunteered at least 25 years of service.