I now have two major jobs in the state legislature – I am honored to serve as House Chairman of the Judiciary Committee and Co-Chairman of the Commission on Economic Competitiveness (Neither job gives me any special privileges at home, however).

In both of these roles, I spent the 2016 session taking on some of the toughest challenges we face.

As the Judiciary Committee Co-Chair, I recently led passage of An Act Protecting Victims of Domestic Violence (Public Act 16-34), which takes guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. In the face of withering opposition by the National Rifle Association (NRA), we passed a landmark bill that will protect women from being shot and murdered when they decide to leave their abusers and seek a restraining order.

At the same time, the Speaker of the House asked me to take a lead role in driving the state’s economic recovery and our strategy for long-term growth. As we know all too well in Stamford and Darien, the financial crisis hit Connecticut’s economy very hard and we are still digging out. That’s why I wrote the law creating the Commission on Economic Competitiveness, which I lead as its Co-Chairman along with Joe McGee of the Business Council of Fairfield County. As a first step, the Commission worked with McKinsey & Company to develop a diagnostic of the state’s economy, based on key data and trends in our economy. Now, we’ve launched The Connecticut 500 Project, a partnership led by senior business leaders and elected officials to grow our economy by 500,000 net new private sector jobs, and 500,000 more residents, over the next 25 years. 

These are just some of the things we are doing to confront the toughest challenges we face as a state. Thank you, always, for the opportunity to do this important work.


Focused on Economic Growth

This past year I wrote the law creating the Commission on Economic Competitiveness. As a first step, the Commission received an extensive report from McKinsey & Company about Connecticut’s economic position. Using this report as a guide, I then wrote the law creating The Connecticut 500 Project. The principal goals of the project are to create a net increase of 500,000 private sector jobs over the next 25 years; increase the state’s population by 500,000 new residents to power our economy; create 500 new startup businesses based on intellectual property developed in Connecticut’s colleges and universities; increase by 500 the annual number of students graduating from state colleges and universities; and maintain Connecticut’s position as a top-5 state for income, productivity and higher education. (Public Act 16-3)


Protecting Schoolchildren

Following disturbing events at Stamford High School involving sexual misconduct between a teacher and her students, I wrote and led passage of a bill to keep kids safe in school. (Last year, I led the passage of another bill Public Act 15-205. This year, I led the enactment of Public Act 16-67). To prevent school districts from continuing the practice of quietly dismissing teachers who have engaged in misconduct involving students, this law requires them to share findings of same with other boards of education. 

This new law: 

  • Requires local and regional boards of education to share findings of certain misconduct with other boards of education. 
  • Ensures that local and regional boards of education have information concerning whether a job applicant has been found to have committed abuse or sexual misconduct.
  • Makes Connecticut the fourth state in the nation – joining Missouri, Oregon and Pennsylvania – in requiring boards of education to share information about sexual abusers.

No Tax Increases, Huge Spending Cuts

As I am sure you know, the state is facing an extremely difficult budget environment and we needed to cut spending to address a $1 billion deficit. The number one concern I’ve heard from my constituents is that the state should NOT raise taxes and that we need to cut spending dramatically, which means difficult decisions and tough cuts. This budget includes billions in spending cuts and no tax increases. There are many extremely difficult cuts across the entire budget, including cuts to vital social services. Thousands of state employees are losing their jobs. This is unfortunate but inevitable given our current budget situation. Even so, Stamford is receiving an increase of close to $3 million in state aid in this budget, which will help keep local property taxes down. 

This budget cuts spending by $843 million, and more than $2.5 billion in cuts have been made over the past couple of years. Almost every line item in this budget is impacted. It cuts spending without borrowing and without new taxes or fee increases.

We made structural changes that reduce long-term obligations and create a more sustainable budget over time:

  • Non–union wage freeze & insurance co-pay increase
  • Pension cap for retiring non-union state employees
  • Reduction in the size of state government

Even big-headline projects face cuts, but we worked hard to protect:

  • Hospital funding
  • School funding 
  • Property tax relief
  • Funding for colleges and universities (Special Session Public Act 16-2)

Protecting Victims of Domestic Abuse from Gun Violence

For several years, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has worked hard to defeat a bill that protects women from being shot or murdered after they leave their abusers. Inspired by the tragic story of Lori Jackson, a Connecticut mother of two who was murdered by her estranged husband after she left him, I was honored to help write and pass legislation that protects women when they make the often risky and dangerous decision to leave their abusive husband or boyfriend.

This law provides that when a person seeks a temporary restraining order, the spouse or boyfriend they are seeking protection from must surrender their guns within 24 hours (until the court can hold a hearing on the restraining order). This law is necessary because:

  • Women in abusive relationships are 5 times more likely to be killed if their abuser has access to a firearm.
  • The days following service of a temporary restraining order and the days leading up to the first court appearance are the most dangerous for a victim of domestic violence.
  • Nationally, domestic assaults involving firearms are 12 times more likely to result in fatal violence than those involving other weapons or bodily harm.
  • Connecticut averaged 14 intimate partner homicides per year from 2000 to 2012 and firearms were used in 39 percent of those 188 homicides, making them the most commonly used weapon to commit intimate partner homicide in Connecticut. (Public Act 16-34)

 

Tackling the 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. This lifesaving law 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. (Public Act 16-43)