Legislative & Local Updates - January 22, 2024

January 22, 2024

Dear Neighbor, 

I hope you're staying warm. It was so cold over the last few days that Governor Lamont activated the Severe Cold Weather Protocol for the first time this winter. It expires at noon today. 

In addition, if you're having trouble affording your utilities and staying warm, remember that Connecticut offers assistance programs that can help. For more information about the Connecticut Energy Assistance Program (CEAP), please click here.  

I have a lot to share with you in this update, including:

  • A Successful "Moving Beyond" Conference!
  • Looking for Your Feedback Regarding Local Hospitals
  • Update on CT Baby Bonds Program
  • Eight Ellington Girl Scouts Receive Bronze or Silver Awards
  • Take Your Child to the Library Day is February 3
  • Internet Safety Training for Parents, Teachers, and Others

I hope you had a happy and safe weekend!


Dr. Kerri Raissian and I submitted an op-ed to CT Viewpoints in the Connecticut Mirror, following the January 9 "Moving Beyond" Conference at the Legislative Office Building. One of the biggest takeaways of the day is that we need more days like that one - and to get lawmakers and academics in the same room more often. To read the op-ed, click HERE or click the graphic above. 

It started with a text while folding laundry on a Sunday afternoon. It turned into the first-of-its-kind "Moving Beyond Implications: Research into Policy" conference in Hartford. Dr. Kerri Raissian and I, at our prospective houses, were folding laundry and texting one another, when the idea came about: How great would it be if there was a way to bridge the divide between legislators creating policy and academics who had access to the research and data that would help create and evaluate better policies?

And "Moving Beyond" was born.

The half-day event on January 9 at the Legislative Office included 15 research presentations from academics and students from UConn, UConn School of Medicine, Trinity, and Yale, to eight standing committees of the Connecticut General Assembly, including Judiciary, Public Health, Education, and Environment. It also involved state agencies such as the Department of Public Health, Office of Policy and Management, Department of Energy and Environment, Department of Social Services, Department of Developmental Services, Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Labor.

Often research and possible policy implications by the state's academics are tucked behind a paywall, and most legislators don't have access to it. As the only research scientist in the legislature, I'm often asked to seek out research papers on specific topics by committee chairs. And often that information needs to be decoded to fully understand it.

We know the conference is already working - State Rep. Jeff Currey, Chair of the Education Committee, and Rep. Kathleen McCarty, the Education Committee's ranking member, both look forward to considering policy on do-it-yourself indoor air purifiers - Corsi-Rosenthal or "C-R Boxes." These air purifiers cost about $4 per student per academic year to make. C-R Boxes are both an accessible STEM project for Connecticut students, and they improve indoor air quality in a way that is both statistically and substantively significant. In fact, Rep. Currey already has plans to meet with the academics on this presentation and work on it this session.

We had such a great turnout and great connections made between legislators and academics, which is what our goal was. But we won't stop with this one conference. We'd love to make this a yearly event and we already have our eyes on December 2024, ahead of the 2025 session.  

Dr. Kerri Raissian of the UConn Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy (InCHIP) and the Scholar Strategy Network (CT SSN) said, "The relationships you're building today, you don't know where they're going to go. You don't know when a state representative is going to text you while you're folding laundry and say, 'In eight weeks, would you like to do a conference with me' and you're going to say yes, and it will be one of the best laundry-folding adventures you've ever had."

Hey Ellington, East Windsor, and Vernon residents - with a lot of decisions like the headline above impacting our community, I am soliciting feedback to help inform a bill proposal I've been drafting.

Pulse check:
CT Mirror - State denies request to halt birthing services at Johnson Memorial Hospital
CT Mirror - Prospect Medical bought Rockville Hospital. It's now a shell of itself

Please tell me:
 What you're thinking about the state of our local hospitals?
 What do you view as the state's role?
 What law changes would help protect care quality?
 What law changes would protect the essential labor force working at these hospitals?

You can email me at jaime.foster@cga.ct.gov and let me know your thoughts. 

Last Wednesday, Governor Lamont and Treasurer Erick Russell announced that 7,810 children across Connecticut have been born automatically eligible for the Connecticut Baby Bonds program since it launched on July 1, 2023.

Connecticut is the first state in the nation to fund and implement a baby bonds program aimed at building a brighter future for children born into poverty. Children whose birth is covered by HUSKY, the state’s Medicaid program, are automatically enrolled in the program and will have $3,200 invested on their behalf. Those investments, which are managed by the Office of the Treasurer, will grow over time and can be used when the participant is between the ages of 18 and 30 for specific purposes intended to help build individual wealth. These include purchasing a home in Connecticut, starting or investing in a Connecticut business, paying for education or job training, and saving for retirement.

Since its launch, children eligible for Connecticut Baby Bonds have been born in 165 of the state’s 169 towns and cities. Over a full year, it is anticipated that eligible participants will be born in every municipality.

The Connecticut Department of Labor (CTDOL) is overwhelmed with claims for Unemployment Insurance. CTDOL’s Consumer Contact Center unemployment claims representatives have more than 13,000 appointments scheduled in just the next two weeks. If you need assistance, the CTDOL is offering some tips to avoid having to schedule an appointment.
The top two reasons filers need assistance:
1.      Forgotten username or password
  • Filers should write down their username/password combination and store it in a safe location or a digital password keeper. Passwords must be reset in accordance with federal rules for unemployment benefits.

Filers do not need to make an appointment to talk to a claims agent. They can reset their passwords by submitting the lockout form online. That is faster than scheduling an appointment.

2.      10-day processing period 

  • Unemployment claims must go through a verification process that includes employer notification as well as identity and fraud prevention checks. This verification period takes a minimum of 10 days. Claims will not be paid out until they are processed in accordance with state and federal law. 

The Connecticut Department of Labor encourages filers to submit a case online rather than calling to make an appointment as it often results in a timelier response and resolution.

I was honored to attend the Ellington Girl Scouts Awards Ceremony last Monday, along with Senator John Kissel. We were pleased to present the Girl Scouts with official state citations. 

Congratulations to the following award recipients:

Bronze Award
Troop 10745
Shireen Koul
Hadley Wilch
Tessa Cloukey
Riley Wilson

Silver Award
Troop 10737
Kashish Koul
Paige Ellis
Josie Bernard
Emma Banks

Rockville Public Library has a request - the staff wants your old greeting cards! This is a great opportunity to declutter, too. The cards can even be used already (they'll just use the fronts of the cards). Drop off at the RPL Children's Department desk.
Take Your Child to the Library Day is February 3! On the first Saturday in February*, libraries across Connecticut celebrate Take Your Child to the Library Day by offering free, fun, fabulous activities for families. Your local library is an ideal place for children to play, discover, make friends, and have fun. Take Your Child to the Library Day is the perfect time to discover some library magic. From magicians to craft programs, and ice cream socials to story times, each library offers something unique and delightful. (*Some libraries may choose to celebrate on a different day.)

Warehouse Point Library, East Windsor - There will be a special story time at 10:30 a.m. and additional activities will be announced. 

Hall Memorial Library, Ellington - Meet Hall's new Children's Librarian and enjoy some of Miss Trish's favorite things. Join in the fun with a scavenger hunt and a craft all day long, a Lego Family Build Time drop-in event from 10-12 and enjoy popcorn from 10-2. Register for Stories & Songs happening 1:30-2 p.m. and Xen's Critters from 2:30-3:30 p.m.

Rockville Public Library, Vernon-Rockville - Events to be announced

To learn more about Take Your Child to the Library Day, click HERE

Tweens and teens spend many hours per day online chatting and interacting with friends and people who they may not know well and who may put them at risk. To educate parents, teachers, and others, the US Attorney’s Office, District of Connecticut, in collaboration with the Department of Children and Families, is offering - FREE OF CHARGE - online Internet Safety Training.  
This training will introduce parents, teachers, and others to Internet and cell phone applications and video game systems being used by tweens/teens that could potentially put them at risk. Training will take place on Thursday, January 25th, from 6 – 7:30 p.m., via Zoom.  

The Zoom link can be accessed HERE