Dear Neighbor,

As many of you have pointed out, this year was a unique one for the Legislature. This is not the first time in my sixteen years serving as your Representative in Hartford that the dynamics have shifted. I have learned to embrace change in the Capitol while navigating the challenges. As the House Chair of the Committee on Children, I have made it my priority to improve the support available for our children and their families.

This newsletter outlines some advances we were able to make and discusses the status of some of this Session’s most debated issues. I am pleased to report that we continue to focus on creating a fair playing field for economic development, improving services and support for victims of child maltreatment, and limiting exposure to toxic chemicals. Unfortunately at the time of this writing there still is no State budget. I continue to stress the need for collaboration between the caucuses to develop an evidenced based budget.

I continue to push state agencies to provide program level data to the Connecticut Children’s Report Card to inform our budget cuts. When we concentrate our efforts on protecting programs that work to help children in school, in foster care or in their communities, we protect their health and well-being. By using data to make cuts to programs that are not as effective we can be sure our communities get top services despite financial difficulties.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions you might have on the budget, state programs, or for assistance with any issue.

Sincerely,



Casinos

Originally I was not in favor of another casino, but many of you reached out to me with your concerns. We do know if steps were not taken to ensure Connecticut stays competitive our jobs and businesses would be affected. Once assured that both tribes have committed to not using taxpayer funds and to increasing their programs for problem gambling, I agreed to support the plan that passed the House.


Tolls

This session’s bill on Electronic Highway Tolls, HB 6058, was tabled after extensive debate on the floor of the House of Representatives. If passed this bill would have authorized the Department of Transportation (DOT) to build and operate electronic tolls, or contract with a private entity to do so. It also required a reduction in the state motor vehicle fuel tax, by one-half cent per year, for five years, beginning in the second year that the tolls were in operation.

Electronic tolling systems do not have traditional toll booths or toll plazas; cars are scanned while passing under overhead detectors and drivers are billed on a monthly basis. Federal laws would allow the construction of new tolls on Interstate and non-Interstate Highways, such as 9 and 66.

There are passionate arguments on both sides of this issue. Although it did not come up for a vote in the House this session, given our current economic climate, I fully expect the topic to come up again soon.



The students of Ms. Hitte’s 4th grade class join me for a photo during my visit to St. Michael School.


Playground Safety

Once again I fought to protect our children from exposure to cancer causing chemicals by enacting a moratorium on the use of crumb rubber infill on playgrounds until the EPA can return a verdict on their safety. While both the Committee on Children and the Planning & Development Committee voted favorably on the bill sadly, it was never brought for a vote in the House.


Connor Garrett, age 9, explains his position on crumb rubber playgrounds.


Davis-Standard

I am very excited that my work with the Town of Stonington to support Davis-Standard in their expansion of operations in our area is coming to fruition this summer. Davis-Standard has a long-standing history of employment and profitability that is both unique and valuable to our local economy. The ribbon cutting for the expansion was held July 17th at their facility in Pawcatuck.


Support For Victims

It is a terrible thing when our children become victims of maltreatment and we aren’t able to prevent it. This year, as Chair of the Committee on Children, I was able to pass a number of pieces of legislation to help improve the support and services our children receive. HB 6741 provides attorneys representing children in abuse and neglect cases the right to access records pertaining to the child’s medical history, education, and general wellbeing without parental consent in cases in which the parents are the accused. This will expedite processing for these cases and get children into a stable environment faster.

Another bill, HB 7112, put into statute a definition of child advocacy centers. The bill also requires these centers, which serve child maltreatment victims and non-offending family members, to meet national accreditation standards. Requiring uniform standards ensures that all our children across the state are receiving the gold standard of care.


Millstone

An enormous number of you reached out to me regarding Senate Bill 106. Some expressed concern that Millstone would leave if the bill did not pass and you would lose your jobs. Others worried about the potential effects on our environment and electric rates. A careful review of the language led me to believe rates would increase if enacted. The bill did not make it out of the House during regular session, but I am sure Millstone and Connecticut’s high electric rates will remain a topic of discussion.



CT Kid Governor, Jessica Brocksom, joins me for Animal Therapy Day!

Animal Therapy

As many of my constituents know I have been working diligently for years to increase awareness of the link between animal cruelty and concurrent or future child maltreatment and domestic violence. Through this work I became aware of the benefits that can be provided by appropriately trained therapy animals to victims of child abuse or other traumatic events. A recent decision by the Connecticut Supreme Court dictated that judges may allow therapy animals to support witnesses during their testimony. One of the bills I worked to pass this year requires the Judicial Branch to provide notice on their website that this accommodation may be authorized by a Judge. It also requires them to post a link to a searchable website where families can find reputable, volunteer organizations who can provide this supportive service to child victims of abuse, free of charge.


Therapy dog handlers, members of Desmond’s Army, and animal advocates gather for a press conference.


Capitol Update 2017 (pdf)