State Capitol Update For Week Of Oct. 7

October 11, 2019

Public Hearing: Tipped Wages and Minimum Wage
Yesterday, my day was filled by a long public hearing regarding the wages of restaurant workers. There has been some confusion concerning when restaurants pay their workers tipped wages, which is set at $6.38 per hour, and when they pay the full minimum wage, which was recently raised to $11. The requirements can also be complicated for restaurant owners, for whom keeping track of exactly what their staff is doing moment to moment can be onerous. This proposed resolution looks to solve this discrepancy. As you may recall, this summer the Governor vetoed a major piece of legislation because it contained language that would have limited restaurant workers’ ability to recover lost wages. The issue is complicated, but it relates to the nature of work that those in the restaurant service industry perform. When enough of their work is not eligible for tips, they are entitled to be paid the full minimum wage. We heard testimony from restaurant owners, tipped workers (both those represented by unions and those non-unionized) and a variety of other advocates. The costs of bringing an action to recover wages due can be high, so their ability to band together in class actions, or to recover attorneys’ fees, can make the difference between whether they have meaningful access to wages due.

Railroad Bed Spraying
Several weeks ago, the Housatonic Railroad sprayed the rail bed in and around the train tracks, affecting Cornwall, Falls Village, and North Canaan (at least). I heard from several of you who witnessed this, and had questions about what was used, how it was done, and whether the proper notice was given. I have since had numerous conversations with those involved, and I met earlier this week with selectmen from the towns affected and representatives from the Department of Transportation (DOT). Together we walked through the damaged area so that DOT clearly understood what had taken place. If you were affected by this, please let me know, as we will soon be having a follow up meeting with the railroad and any contractors who may have performed this work, so that we can ensure that safety concerns are addressed.

This Week in Review

  • Rural Broadband: The National Conference of State Legislatures held a call to unveil a new tool from Pew Charitable Trust that shows what’s happening in other states to make broadband more equitably and widely available. Check it out:
  • Prenatal Screenings: Women In Government sponsored a panel discussion concerning new prenatal screening tests available, that are both more accurate and potentially more cost effective, as demonstrated by the fact that many private insurers now cover them, though Medicaid does not, raising the question of whether we are serving lower income pregnant women with the same care they deserve.
  • Demographics: the NW Connecticut Chamber of Commerce sponsored an excellent event on national and state demographics, “Charting the Course Through
  • Demographic Change” featuring Ken Gronbach. An optimist about our economy, his talk focused on the importance of paying attention to basic demographics, and changing birth rates over time, in order to understand the size of the market for various products and services.
  • Open Farm at Freund’s in East Canaan: A tiny bit of rain did not deter people from turning out to visit Freund’s Farm last Sunday to see how a modern dairy farm does its work and meet some of the beautiful creatures who live there.

Eversource Scam
I wanted to alert you to watch out for a new scam targeting Eversource customers. Scammers are calling to say they need to install a new meter for the customer to avoid being disconnected, but they have to make an immediate payment of $300 first. This is NOT Eversource! If you ever question any phone call or encounter, please contact Eversource immediately at 800-286-2000 and alert your local police department. For more information about how to protect yourself:

Attention Aspiring College Students
I want to share two pieces of news regarding the financial accessibility of college. First, students whose parents make $50,000 per year or less will receive free tuition to UConn beginning Fall 2020 at all campuses in order to provide high quality, affordable education for in-state students. Go Huskies!

Second, if you are a high school student considering college, make sure you’re aware of the financial aid you may be eligible for to pay for college tuition. Any student who is considering attending college between July 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021 should complete the 2020-21 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®), which launched on October 1, as soon as possible. To assist students and parents in the process, the Department’s Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) has been sharing tips @FAFSA, while new Homeroom blogs note “7 Things You Need Before You Fill Out the 2020-21 FAFSA Form” and “11 Common FAFSA Mistakes.”

In its continued efforts to modernize and improve the federal student aid process, the Department announced that it has added new features to the online FAFSA form and myStudentAid mobile application.

Good Economic News for CT

The Comptroller projects a surplus for fiscal year 2020, affirming the strength of the Connecticut economy. I wanted to take this opportunity to clear up a common misconception. Some people will cite a statistic that claims CT has not recovered jobs lost in the recession. In reality, the private sector has now more than recovered the jobs lost, while the number of Government jobs has shrunk.

New Healthcare Tool

The Connecticut Office of Health Strategy has launched Healthscore, a new website created to help consumers easily compare the cost of a procedure and the quality of care. Medicaid and Medicare information will be added to the site soon, and it does not replace talking to your healthcare provider.

Upcoming Events:

  • October 11, 12, and 13: Fall Festival weekend in Salisbury. Come join me for a run on Saturday morning sponsored by Housatonic Youth Services Bureau, or just check out the scarecrow competition!
  • October 17 at 6:00 pm: Vigil held by Women’s Support Services in Kent. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and WSS honors victims at its annual vigil, a powerful and moving event held this year in Kent.

It is my honor to represent our district. I look forward to hearing from you about the issues raised in this newsletter, or any other topics you think I should know about. You can email me at or call me at 860-240-8585. Thanks for reading, and I wish you a safe and happy weekend.