State Capitol Update For The Week of January 12

January 12, 2024

Subscribe to the newsletter     Forward to a friend
View this email in your browser
Dear Friend,

This is my State Capitol update for the week of January 12.

If you prefer to watch rather than read, click on the play button to hear about the issues contained in this newsletter.

As I write this, the sun is shining, the last of the snow seems to be disappearing from the landscape, and there is little or no wind.  That, apparently, will not last.  Although we are not expected to get the kind of weather extremes playing out in many other parts of the country over the next few days, we will likely get rain, snow, and wind, and given the saturation of the ground, that makes trees and other structures less stable, which means I’m getting emails from all of the utilities about preparations they’re making.  If you have to be out in those winds this weekend, please take care.
In local news, the Region One referendum, regarding capital improvements to Housatonic Valley Regional High School, passed overwhelmingly, with 74% of voters supporting it. 
Governor Lamont came out to Cornwall yesterday for a press conference to announce a new initiative on outdoor recreation.  The event took place at Mohawk Mountain Ski Area, a fourth-generation family owned and operated ski area in Cornwall, which leases its land from the state.  The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) will establish an Office of Outdoor Industry and Experiences, seeking to grow Connecticut’s outdoor recreation economy by creating partnerships with the private sector. (See more information about the new initiative below.) Outdoor recreation is a material piece of economic development in the Northwest Corner, from businesses like Mohawk Mountain which provide outdoor recreation, to the myriad small businesses that support and provide services to those that travel here to hike, kayak, ski, or flyfish.  I’m really excited about this new proposal, and look forward to hearing from and working with businesses who want to engage with the state parks.
The new year continues at a brisk pace for me in Hartford, as I prepare for the legislative session ahead.  I have been scheduling 20-minute meetings with advocates and lobbyists two days a week – both in person and remote.  Those are short meetings, but it’s the only way I can see everyone who wants to meet before we get started, and you’d be amazed how much we can cover in 20 minutes, particularly when we get specific requests and back up materials in advance. 
Next week we expect a slew of new data to analyze, including consensus revenue (the latest projections on revenue and spending), tax expenditures (i.e. a full listing of all of the tax exemptions, deductions, and credits and what each costs in terms of lost revenue); and tax incidence (giving detail on who pays which taxes in CT).  Stay tuned for all that!
It’s a long weekend ahead, with Martin Luther King Day on Monday, and I wish you all a good one.
Here’s a list of today’s topics: 
  • Operation Fuel Application Period Now Open. Click here.
  • FAFSA Updates. Click here.
  • Scholarship Opportunity for Rising College Juniors. Click here
  • DEEP Environmental Justice Office to Hold Office Hours. Click here.
  • Unemployment Insurance FAQ From CTDOL. Click here.  
  • Upcoming Events. Click here
Operation Fuel Application Period Now Open 
If you're struggling to pay utility bills, Operation Fuel may be able to help.

Operation Fuel's energy assistance program opened this week for the Winter/Spring season. Applications will be accepted until March 1 unless available funds run out before that date.

Households with incomes that do not exceed 75% of the State Median Income Guidelines may qualify for assistance. These households include - but are not limited to - the elderly, disabled, working families, or individuals facing a financial crisis.

Eligible clients may apply for energy assistance (gas, electric, oil, or other deliverable fuel) ONCE per year and receive a grant of UP TO $500.

For utility assistance (electric & gas), clients must show they made at least four payments in the past 12 months, must owe a past due amount, and provide at least four weeks of income information.

Operation Fuel is accepting applications for water and energy bill assistance for:

Electric: Eversource, United Illuminating (UI), and Norwalk Public Utilities
Gas: Eversource, UI, Yankee Gas, Southern Connecticut Gas (SCG), and Connecticut Natural Gas (CNG)
Water: CT Water and The Metropolitan District (MDC)

Operation Fuel has been assisting Connecticut residents for 46 years. In that time, Operation Fuel has distributed millions of dollars in assistance to help thousands of Connecticut households.
For more information and to apply for assistance, click HERE.

FAFSA Updates
The U.S. Department of Education launched the 2024-25 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form -- for new and returning students who plan to attend college between July 1, 2024, and June 30, 2025.
The 2024-25 FAFSA form is reduced to just 36 questions -- down from 108!  Some applicants could answer as few as 18 questions, which could take less than 10 minutes.  Thanks to a new partnership with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), users will find it easier to import income data from tax records.  And, the Department updated its formulas, so, among other things, 610,000 new students will receive federal Pell Grants and 1.5 million more students will receive the maximum Pell Grant.
Scholarship Opportunity from Charter Communications
Charter Communications has opened applications for Spectrum Scholars, the company’s annual scholarship program for underrepresented college students with financial need. Each of the rising college juniors selected for the 2024-2025 program will receive a $20,000 scholarship, a Charter mentor and the opportunity for a paid internship with the company. Eligible students can apply for the program here.
DEEP's Environmental Justice Office to Hold Office Hours
Next Wednesday, January 17, DEEP's Environmental Justice office will host next office hours virtually from 12:00pm-1:00pm. This is a great opportunity to connect with DEEP's EJ Office and share your thoughts about environmental justice issues impacting our communities. To join the meeting click here.
Unemployment Insurance FAQ From CTDOL
Winter is peak season for Unemployment Insurance claim filing and I want to share some important reminders with you all regarding the processing of claims at DOL that may help cut back on folks' need to call into the office to request an appointment. The primary reasons that filers call are preventable and the volume of calls causes significant delays for filers who have more complex issues requiring assistance.
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 in a digital password keeper. Passwords must be reset in accordance to 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.
  1. Ten-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. Circumventing this verification period could cause overpayments that the filer is required to repay; costs employers money; and increases the likelihood that Connecticut pays fraudulent claims.

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

Governor Lamont Announces New Initiative to Promote Outdoor Recreation Economy
On Thursday, Governor Lamont announced the establishment of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s (DEEP) Office of Outdoor Industry and Experiences, which seeks to grow Connecticut’s outdoor recreation economy by creating partnerships with the private sector. Coinciding with establishing this new office, DEEP is launching a request for information (RFI) as an initial step to expand services and amenities in state parks through partnerships with businesses, nonprofits, and other private sector entities.
The first task for this new office will be to facilitate the RFI process to establish partnerships with organizations that share our values for both conservation and outdoor recreation, and ultimately result in enhanced outdoor experiences in state parks.
Demand for outdoor recreation has spiked since the COVID-19 pandemic, with state park visitation increasing from just under 10 million in 2019, to an estimated 17 million in 2022. DEEP has embraced these higher visitor levels and the opportunities to connect park visitors with other Connecticut tourist destinations, with the launch of a new, interactive state parks website, Connecticut’s $4.6 billion outdoor recreation economy also has demonstrated robust growth each year since the pandemic, expanding by 20% in 2021 and then by another 11% in 2022. This is the second largest in New England, supporting almost 46,000 jobs.
Thanks to the Passport to the Parks program, DEEP is able to maintain parks services and operations without charging Connecticut residents a fee to park at popular park destinations. The recent increase in public demand for outdoor recreation at state parks coincides with a historic investment in state park facilities and services. Since 2022, the Lamont administration and the legislature have committed $80 million in capital investments as part of the Restore CT State Parks initiative. This initiative is funding repairs and improvements at more than 40 park locations, from renovations of Heublein Tower at Talcott Mountain State Park in Simsbury, to site improvements at Gillette Castle State Park in East Haddam.
Against this backdrop of increased visitation, a growing outdoor economy, and a once-in-a-generation level of capital investment in park facilities, DEEP is launching a RFI to solicit ideas and concepts from strategic partners – businesses, nonprofits, and other interested stakeholders – about new or expanded partnerships DEEP could pursue to elevate the outdoor recreation experience in state parks, create new tourism destinations, and provide equitable access to the outdoors.
This RFI will seek to add to DEEP’s successful partnerships, which includes canoe and kayak rentals through Clarke Outdoors at Burr Pond State Park; the Essex Steam Train, an iconic regional tourism destination in Connecticut Valley Railroad State ParkFarmington River Tubing, which provides a safe, enjoyable experience in Satan’s Kingdom State Park; and the Mohawk Mountain Ski Area.
Businesses, nonprofits, and individuals are invited to apply to the RFI, which can be found on the website for DEEP’s Office of Outdoor Industry and Experiences at
The RFI seeks to:
  • Elevate outdoor recreation and visitor experiences: DEEP is interested in exploring partnerships to provide services that elevate the public’s experience in Connecticut State Parks. Potential services could include boat or bike rentals, events, locally sourced farmers’ markets held in parks, guided experiences, “glamping,” rafting or tubing, skiing, biking, marinas or boat shares, food and beverage, and other outdoor recreation partnerships concepts.
  • Expand tourism destinations: State parks are one of Connecticut’s largest tourism attractions, and DEEP seeks to build on our success through partnerships that expand sustainable tourism opportunities and support local economic development.
  • Provide equitable and sustainable access to the outdoors: DEEP seeks to establish partnerships that provide all visitors with equitable opportunities to participate in outdoor recreation experiences, such as universal, adaptive, and ADA-compliant equipment rental, experiences, and education.

To learn more about the new Office of Outdoor Industry or to submit a proposal through the RFI, visit

CT Awarded $14.6 Million Federal Grant to Expand Electric Vehicle Charging Stations
The U.S. Department of Transportation is awarding the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection with a $14.6 million grant through its Charging and Fueling Infrastructure Grant Program to expand Connecticut’s network of electric vehicle charging stations. The program is funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
Connecticut’s grant, which was applied for by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and the Connecticut Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Team (CTBILT), will be used to increase access to electric vehicle chargers in seven communities with an emphasis on neighborhood revitalization, transit-oriented development, and equitable access via additional on-street charging. The new locations include: Barkhamsted, Bridgeport, East Hartford, Groton, Hartford, New Haven, and Stamford. 
I note that although these new locations are not in the 64th District, as an EV driver myself, I find I’m most interested in locations away from home when I am traversing the state, so I hope they help make your electric-powered journeys more feasible, too
These new locations will join 726 other publicly accessible charging locations across Connecticut.
Increasing the number of electric and hybrid vehicles in Connecticut will greatly reduce air pollution from the transportation sector, which accounts for more than 67% of smog-forming pollution in the state. This pollution impacts public health, especially in overburdened and frontline communities, and contributes to Connecticut having the worst air quality east of the Mississippi. Widespread vehicle electrification will also greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and is one of the most critical mitigating actions the state can take to avoid further climate impacts. Recognizing the need to reduce pollution from cars and trucks, the Connecticut legislature and the Lamont administration have been working together for several years to plan the transition to cleaner electric and hybrid vehicles, including by publishing the Electric Vehicle Roadmap for Connecticut.
Deadline To Enroll in Health Insurance Through Access Health CT is January 15
Access Health CT (AHCT) announced the deadline to enroll in a health insurance plan for 2024 is January 15. Customers who enroll in a plan through AHCT before the Jan. 15 deadline will have coverage beginning Feb. 1. 
A record number of Connecticut residents have enrolled in coverage. A total of 126,229 residents are enrolled in a Qualified Health Plan for this year, compared to 108,142 at the close of Open Enrollment last year. More Connecticut residents are also enrolled in dental coverage through Access Health CT. A total of 14,333 residents are enrolled in dental coverage through AHCT. 
There are several factors driving the increase in enrollment. AHCT has worked to establish new brokers throughout the state to help residents with the application process. A targeted marketing and outreach campaign has also helped increase enrollment, with efforts focused on underserved communities and neighborhoods with high populations of uninsured residents. The Medicaid Unwinding process that began April 1, 2023 is also impacting enrollment this year. Medicaid Unwinding is the process of resuming the review of households for Medicaid/HUSKY Health eligibility after a three-year break during the Public Health Emergency.  Residents no longer eligible for coverage through HUSKY Health may now be eligible for financial help to enroll in a health insurance plan.
The success of AHCT’s Broker Academy has also contributed to increased enrollment. Forty new brokers who were trained and licensed with the State of Connecticut through the free program over the past two years are now working within underserved communities across the state to help residents shop, compare and enroll in health insurance plans.
AHCT offers free in-person help at enrollment locations and Navigator sites that host sessions during regular business hours throughout the week. A list of these locations is available at
Residents may also work with a certified broker or enrollment specialist in their community. To find an expert, visit
For online help, residents may visit Live chat is available by clicking the “Live Chat” icon to connect with a customer service representative. Live chat is available Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. 
Residents may also contact the call center at 1-855-805-4325, Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. 
The call center will be open from 8:00 a.m. to midnight on Jan. 15, 2024. 
Customers who are deaf or hearing impaired may use TTY at 1-855-789-2428 or call with a relay operator.
Northwest Corner Events
Salisbury’s Jumpfest is February 2, 3 and 4.
You may think the rains erased all the snow around here, given all the brown outside our windows now.  But it's white over at Satre Hill in Salisbury thanks to their state-of-the-art snow guns.

If you have never seen ski jumping live, you have never truly witnessed the sport. Standing amidst the ringing cowbells, with crowds cheering on their favorites, hearing skis slapping against the landing hill as these brave jumpers soar up to 200 feet through the air at speeds up to 50 miles an hour, is something you must experience.
And don’t miss the Human Dog Sled Race.  We only know of a half dozen places or so in the country crazy enough to host it- Dartmouth, NH; Lowell, MA; Michigan Tech U.; Lake Okoboji, Iowa; Lake Geneva, Wisconsin….and Salisbury, CT.

Proceeds from Jumpfest fund SWSA youth skiing programs.
Please check for program changes and schedule updates.

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 weekend.

Click here to forward to forward this email to a friend.


Maria Horn
State Representative


Forward to a friend | Unsubscribe from this list | Update subscription preferences