Weekly News June 11 - 17June 16, 2017
While the legislature's regular session ended on June 7th, there is still plenty of work ahead of us as we'll be going into a special session shortly in order to pass a state budget.
Closing a $2.3 billion deficit for the fiscal year that begins on July 1 will require many tough decisions. While we may not like many of the options before us, it is our responsibility as a legislature to reach a balanced budget.
The labor deal negotiated with the unions is an important step, and if ratified is estimated to save the state $700 million in direct costs in the upcoming fiscal year and more than $800 million in the following year.
If we are unable to pass a budget by June 30th (the end of the fiscal year), the Governor may use his executive authority to ensure essential state government functions continue. Alternatively, the legislature may pass continuing resolutions to fund state government in the absence of a finalized biennial state budget.
We will also be addressing proposals on crumbling foundations during the special session, and I'm committed to passing bipartisan legislation that provides relief to affected homeowners.
While our work is not yet done, I would like to recognize several important pieces of legislation that have passed the House and Senate this session. These bills now await the Governor's signature:
Funding for Small Businesses
HB 5583 passed the House unanimously and will expand the types of small businesses eligible to participate in the Angel Investor Program. The program allows accredited investors who seek to consult and mentor prospective small business owners to contribute to a fund established to support the growth of small businesses.
Transportation "Lock Box"
We passed HJR 100 in hopes of creating a "lock box" for the Special Transportation Fund, preventing the legislature from using the funds for anything except transportation projects. Whether this becomes reality is ultimately decided by you, the voter. There will be a question on the November 2018 elections ballot asking voters if they approve of amending the State Constitution to create the lock box.
Greater Oversight of Economic Investments
HB 7316 will ensure that CT is only investing in economic development programs that show real results. It expands legislative review of economic development programs and requires a yearly audit of the programs. We all want to see businesses grow and create new jobs in Connecticut, but we also need to make sure that the state’s investments and financial assistance programs are meeting our goals.
Protections for Pregnant Women in the Workplace
HB 6668 strengthens Connecticut's existing workplace anti-discrimination laws to prevent unfair treatment of pregnant women in the workplace. It requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees, such as providing a stool to sit on or more frequent breaks. No woman should have to choose between her job and starting a family.
Optimizing Business Support Programs
HB 5590 will establish a working group to review business support services in the state. The group will review business support services offered by CT agencies and consider ways to better coordinate the services to benefit businesses in Connecticut, including the development of a shared database of business support services and shared marketing materials.
Making the Technical High Schools More Independent
HB 7271 transitions the Connecticut technical high school system into an independent executive branch agency over a three-year period. Freeing the system from the Department of Education will allow for a more focused approach to its mission with tighter financial controls
You can view a list of all the bills passed by the House so far this session here.
Monday marked the one-year anniversary of the tragic Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando. 49 lives were lost in this attack which targeted the LGBTQ community. The attack left our nation shocked and shattered. Our community and our allies were heartbroken, and we are still trying to make sense of a truly senseless act of violence.
I attended a memorial service at the First Congregational Church in East Hartford, where I rang the bell in memory of the 49 victims. We are fortunate in CT that we have pastoral leaders, elected leaders, community activists, and so many others who understand the need to show solidarity with our LGBTQ community.
Ringing the church bell at First Congregation Church’s memorial
With Sen. Murphy at the Pride Breakfast
On Monday I attended the "Pride, Politics, and Pancake Breakfast" hosted by US. Sen. Chris Murphy at the Church of the Good Shepherd at Coltsville National Historical Park. I was honored to be recognized by Sen. Murphy for my work this legislative session on CT's conversion therapy ban.
I’d like to thank Senator Murphy for this honor and for his work fighting for LGBTQ rights on the federal level.
2017 Kids Court middle and high school winners
On Tuesday I was honored to judge the 2017 Kids Court Final Competition sponsored by Connecticut’s Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities held at the Capitol. Kid's Court was created in 1993 to educate students about diversity and civil and human rights issues.
Students from 6th to 12th grade entered by writing a short paper on one of a list of pre-selected topics, including "Crossing the Threshold: From Homeless to House" and "Religious Discrimination: Fear and Faith". 10 students were then selected to compete for cash prizes in the Oral Kids Court Competition. Congratulations to this year's winners! Learn more about the competition here.
Last Friday I attended the "Museum of Safety" presentation held by 6th graders at Sunset Ridge Middle School in East Hartford. For their projects, students read the book The House on Mango Street and then put together a creative project related to the themes of the book, including death, sexual assault, and poverty – important and timely topics for students who are coming of age.
One of the projects from 6th grader (and my nephew) Matt Currey, Jr.
Sunset Ridge is currently in the accreditation phase of becoming a "Middle Years Program" International Baccalaureate School. This will bridge the gap between the town's elementary "Primary Years Program" at O'Connell Elementary and the "Diploma Program" at the CT IB Academy, adjacent to East Hartford High School. Click here for more information on this program.
With Eugene Market, CEO of First Choice Health Centers, and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal
This morning I attended the presentation of the "Service Area Competition" award to First Choice Health Centers. First Choice is a federally qualified health center with 14 locations in Hartford and Tolland counties, including in East Hartford and Manchester. In May First Choice Health Centers was approved by the federal Health Resources and Service Administration for a 3-year “Service Area Competition” award of $2,743,897 per year, or over $8 million over 3 years.
The Service Area Competition (SAC) award is a competitive funding opportunity. Every federally qualified health center must re-apply every 3 years for a SAC award in order to retain federal support. The award enables the Center to ensure continued access to comprehensive, culturally competent, quality health care services for the communities it serves.
Congratulations to the Center on this accomplishment! I'm pleased that this funding will continue to allow the Center to provide health care to thousands who might not otherwise be able to afford it.
EH Youth Services is running a Strong Start - Social Emotional Learning Group beginning on Tuesday, June 20th at 5:15 PM. The 4-week program held at the Community Cultural Center (50 Chapman Place) will teach children skills such as how to identify and understand their own and other people's feelings and how to be a good friend. Learn more here.
Click here for the town meetings calendar.
Click here for the community events calendar.
Tomorrow, June 17th, is the Opening Day of the South Windsor Farmers Market, The market will be open from 10 AM to 1 PM at the Community Center (150 Nevers Rd). Click here to learn more.
Click here for the public meetings calendar.
Click here for the community events calendar.
Tomorrow, June 17th, at 10 AM there will be a special Sensory-Friendly Screening of the movie Cars 3 for children with autism and their families at Rave Cinemas, hosted by the Autism Multicultural Program. Click here to learn more.
Click here for the full town calendar.
IN THE NEWS
I’m happy to announce that the Hartford-East Hartford team has won an Innovations Places grant, which helps communities become centers for entrepreneurism and innovation, magnets for talent, and launching points for growth-stage companies. This award is a significant step forward in our vision of East Hartford as a next-generation center of innovation and activity. Learn more here.
The new UTC facility in East Hartford and its construction were supported by the State of Connecticut, thanks largely to the 2014 Connecticut Aerospace Reinvestment Act (CARA). The company will be better equipped to expand its research and use of advanced materials, measurement sciences, sensor technologies, environmental sciences, autonomous systems, and human-collaborative robotics, right here in CT. Read more here.
When we invest state dollars in bioscience, precision medicine, and the microbiome, we need to have a clear idea of what's being returned in terms of talent, jobs, and economic impact. That is why I was proud to support legislation to measure our return on state investment in this industry. If we are spending state dollars we need to do it carefully. Read more here.
Upcoming Meetings and Events
A full calendar of all events happening at the Capitol next week, including public hearings, is available on the General Assembly website.
You can find the agenda for public hearings on the calendar by clicking on the calendar item and following the link to the committee page. For instructions on how to testify at a public hearing, please click here.