Legislative Update - Putting the 2nd District FirstAugust 23, 2019
With the 2019 legislative session completed, I want to give you an overview of changes that benefit our district. But first and foremost, I want to thank you for the incredible privilege of being a voice at the table to speak on behalf of our 2nd District families and residents.
I was proud to fight for a balanced budget that does not increase most sales and income tax rates, saves for a Rainy Day, and plans for the future. Since being elected, my priority has been to ensure that the towns I represent – Bethel, Danbury, Redding, and Newtown – get their fair share of the resources they contribute to the state.
The approved budget includes additional funding for Bethel, Danbury, Redding, and Newtown schools and an expenditure increase for the Teacher Retirement Fund, an expense that was previously slated to be absorbed by our towns. I fought to include a $33,000 budget line item for both the Bethel Youth Booster Club, an organization created to support after school programs for Bethel youth, and Danbury Youth Services.
I’m pleased that we were able to secure a $104K grant for the Danbury Police Activities League (PAL) so they can continue to offer youth programs for the next two years. I am grateful for all the work PAL does in keeping our youth safe and Danbury is fortunate to have an organization like PAL that is committed to our youth’s well-being. To learn more, click here.
It has been an honor to stand up for our communities at the Capitol and I look forward to continuing to work hard on the issues that matter to you. I value your input, welcome your opinion and encourage you to contact me if I can be of assistance to you or your family at any time.
Supporting Small Local Business
My proposed legislation to eliminate the $250 Business Entity Tax was included as a provision in the approved state budget.
I co-sponsored legislation that makes changes to existing laws and expands what local breweries and distilleries can sell. Connecticut’s independent, craft beer industry is booming, resulting in a nearly $750 million economic impact annually and more than 4,600 part-time and full-time jobs statewide. Local businesses such as Broken Symmetry in Bethel, Reverie Brewing Company in Newtown, Charter Oak Brewing Company in Danbury and the Redding Beer Company, not only provide jobs but also add flavor and character to our local communities. We must continue to do everything we can to support their success and this legislation is an important step forward.
Advocating for Seniors
I worked hard to secure funding and updates for programs in the budget this year which are beneficial to our seniors. They include:
Medicare Savings Program: This program helps many with prescription purchases, paying for doctors’ visits and other health care costs. We rejected Governor Lamont’s proposed cuts so that the program will continue at current levels.
Renters Rebate: The budget continues to fund the “renters rebate” program which provides financial support for housing to low-income seniors.
Tax Exemption for Social Security, Pensions and Annuity Income: I heard from many senior residents in our towns that the rising cost of living was pushing them out of the homes and neighborhoods they love. I am happy to say that we will increase the income thresholds for the deduction of Social Security income and phase out the pension and annuity tax.
In addition, I co-sponsored legislation to bring down the cost of prescription drugs. Unfortunately, this bill never came up for a vote in the Senate. However, I look forward to working with my colleagues to reintroduce the bill next session and move it forward as a vital step towards making healthcare more affordable.
Energy Efficient Economy
I heard from voters across the 2nd district about the importance of Connecticut taking a leadership role on issues of environment and sustainable energy.
As Vice Chair of the Energy and Technology Committee and Co-chair of the Bipartisan Clean Energy Caucus, I was proud to play a crucial role in passage of HB 7156 a bipartisan bill which authorizes the procurement of energy derived from offshore wind. This will strengthen our state’s economy and help us confront climate change.
I am especially pleased that my efforts to support Connecticut’s solar industry are reflected in one of the top priority house bills passed this session. Specifically, the legislation ensures that Connecticut residents will continue to have solar options in their energy choices and protects more than 2200 solar energy jobs.
These energy policies will help build Connecticut’s green and renewable energy future, create good-paying jobs, lower costs for ratepayers, and promote economic development.
Representation Matters for All Our Residents
Representation matters for Connecticut residents and I'm proud to have supported legislation that ensures equal protection for members of the LGBTQ+ community.
- HB 7359 establishes a health and human services network to help address the unique needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer persons. Funding for the network is included in the approved budget.
Similar networks exist in New York and California, and Connecticut will now be a step closer towards joining these states with groundbreaking initiatives.
During public hearings, advocates who work with LGBTQ+ youth, emphasized the urgent need to prioritize and protect this community that experiences homelessness, food insecurity, and health risks at greater rates that most other Connecticut residents.The well-being of this marginalized group is not a party issue; it is a human rights issue.
- HB 6540 increases access to preventative and prophylactic interventions for minors who are at risk of exposure to the human immunodeficiency virus.
Despite the decline in overall HIV cases, last year, the rate of HIV infections increased in Connecticut and hundreds of our residents still suffer every year. Sadly, the LGBTQ community, people of color, and young people are disproportionately affected. The bill allows young people to access potentially lifesaving preventative care without putting themselves at risk of parental rejection or abuse. PrEP also increases routine testing for HIV and sexually transmitted infections as a prescription requirement, further prioritizing an individual’s well-being.
As a freshman legislator, I am committed to introducing and co-sponsoring bills such as H.B. 6540 that protect our youth. It is our duty to support each member of our community by giving them access to better resources that allow them to live full and healthy lives.
- Banning the “gay and transgender panic” defense is finally law. As a co-introducer of the bill I am proud of our state for implementing this necessary measure to ensure all individuals feel safe.
The bill prohibits defendants from claiming that a violent act was triggered by the revelation of a victim’s actual or perceived gender, gender identity or expression, or sexual orientation.
This defense is a mockery of our judicial system. It’s very existence is based on hatred, discrimination & homophobia. Passage of this legislation is a victory for those of us who recognize the importance of equal protection under the law for everyone.
Fighting the Opioid Epidemic
The scourge of opioid addiction continues to ravage families and communities across Connecticut. Virtually every community across our state is being impacted. I have sponsored legislation to target the epidemic but, equally as important, I brought together community stakeholders, affected families and law enforcement to explore collaborative solutions. Legislation is important, and Hartford must do its part, but only through collaboration and collective efforts will we truly see results.
An Act Concerning Opioid Use Disorder establishes a statewide prescription drug monitoring program designed to reduce the number of overdoses associated with prescription opioids and other controlled narcotics through an electronic monitoring program.
An Act Increasing Criminal Penalties for the Sale of Fentanyl amends the definition of narcotic substances to classify fentanyl and fentanyl derivatives as a narcotic, thus, increasing the penalty for possession and related crimes.
Addressing Mental Health
Diseases of the brain and body need to be treated equally in society and by insurance companies. We unanimously passed the Mental Health Parity Act which gives people with mental health and substance abuse disorders the same access to care as those with cancer and heart disease. One in four Americans have or will be affected by mental health or a substance related disorder. It should be just as easy to receive treatment for depression or addiction as it is for heart disease or diabetes.
This legislation will:
- Ensure all mental health and substance use issues are covered by insurance
- Make mental health treatment more available, accessible and affordable
Banning the Sale of inhumanely Bred Animals
As states around Connecticut make moves to ban the sale of inhumanely bred animals, we sadly lag behind. If we do not act, Connecticut will become one of the last places these disreputable sellers can do business. This session, I introduced legislation to end the puppy-mill-to-pet-store pipeline. Unfortunately, this legislation was not called for a vote on the floor. However, I plan to continue to advocate for this bill in the next session.
These are only some of the legislative spotlights from this session and a lot of work still needs to be done.