Highlights of the 2017 legislative session

June 12, 2017

Last week, the General Assembly’s regular session came to a close, and many bills now await the governor's signature. I'd like to highlight a few of the bills the Bridgeport legislative delegation worked on together that passed that will have a positive impact on the city and its residents:

Refinancing some of Bridgeport’s debt
Bridgeport’s high property taxes are driven in large measure by its debt obligations. This year, we passed legislation allowing the city to restructure a portion of its unfunded pension liabilities, saving Bridgeport taxpayers an estimated $2.8 million per year – the rough equivalent of half a mill in taxes. This savings is achieved by borrowing at a lower interest rate, meaning the payoff schedule is not extended. Through this, taxpayers are estimated to save more than $70 million over the term of the payoff period. This is a small, but important step forward in improving the city’s fiscal health.

Recovering medical benefit payments
The city is also expected to achieve significant savings from legislation I helped write which will allow municipalities, like Bridgeport, with self-insured health plans to recover the cost of certain medical payments made to employees or their dependents in the event of a non-work related personal injury or wrongful death caused by a third-party.

Becoming an entertainment destination
Bridgeport also stands to benefit from legislation that will create a statewide entertainment council that will work to secure more concerts and events at Webster Bank Arena and the Ballpark at Harbor Yard. Related legislation will also make it more attractive for boxing and mixed-martial arts events to come to Connecticut. These large-scale events at the arena and ballpark will not only bring more visitors to Bridgeport and patrons to our shops and restaurants, but it will also help the city’s bottom line. Last year, we passed legislation that allows the city to collect a 5 percent service fee on all tickets sold at each venue.

Leading the renewable energy movement
Bridgeport is poised to become a national leader for the reuse of waste heat under legislation seeking to establish a pilot program in the city to test-drive thermal district heating technology. This pilot program will allow the city to build a Combined Heat and Power Plant that will support the Bridgeport Heating District. This cutting edge technology is the most cost-effective way to heat cities while minimizing environmental impact. Providing cheaper, more reliable heat to downtown buildings allows Bridgeport a competitive advantage it can market in recruiting new development and jobs to our Central Business District.

Fostering transparency in law enforcement
At a time of increased sensitivity surrounding relations between law enforcement and communities, I am proud to have worked to pass legislation that will allow Bridgeport to tap into a $9 million reserve of state funding to purchase body cameras and dashboard cameras for police cruisers. This legislation is intended to improve relations between law enforcement and communities by increasing transparency.

These are just a few of the bills we passed this session that I believe will make Bridgeport an even better place to live, work and raise a family.

But, of course, there is still plenty of work ahead of us – we will be going into a special session shortly in order to pass a budget. As we head into special session, I remain committed to making structural changes to align our spending and revenues, investing in transportation infrastructure, and, most importantly, supporting cities like Bridgeport with education aid and municipal funding to allow them to be centers of economic growth for our state.

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