Dear Friends and Neighbors,
This has been a very difficult legislative session. There were no easy solutions, and after a lot of hard work we approved a budget that is balanced, without tax or fee increases, without borrowing, and without dipping into the Rainy Day Fund. Cutting $830 million is painful, but these long-term structural changes will help put Connecticut’s budget on a sustainable path, not just this year, but into the future.
Although the session was dominated by the budget, we led the way in passing significant legislation to help protect and improve the quality of life for Connecticut families.
Improving public health, increasing public safety, and encouraging financial security for everyone were featured elements of some of the major bills approved by the legislature this year. I fought hard for Farmington and my constituents. I supported legislative initiatives that strengthened education programs and attempted to ensure that our public land is not lost to developers. I’m pleased that we restored hospital funding and that I was able to protect municipal aid while many communities are dealing with severe cuts.
Keeping Connecticut a great place to live, work, and raise a family is our ongoing responsibility. Though the 2016 legislative session presented one of the toughest budget challenges in decades, I believe we succeeded in helping to move our state forward.
Standing Up for Veterans
We stand by our veterans. I am proud to report that we passed new laws that enhance areas of job attainment, entrepreneurship, and quality of life issues for veterans. We also passed a resolution urging the nation’s leaders to provide VA benefits to Blue Water Navy Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange in the Vietnam War.
The legislation will:
- Give a price preference of up to 15% for veteran-owned businesses bidding on state contracts
- Broaden the scope of the law that bars discriminatory practices in our state’s armed forces
- Require the Labor Commissioner to establish a clearinghouse to help highly-trained veterans and armed forces members find jobs that match their unique skill sets; a database will be created to match them with available jobs
Connecticut Jobs: Our Number One Priority
This year we made economic growth and support for small businesses our number one priority. Through Connecticut Innovations, an organization we developed 25 years ago to help boost our tech companies, we are investing millions of dollars where they will do the most good: providing entrepreneurs and small businesses with the concrete support they need to take them to the next level, and continuing to invest in education so that Connecticut workers are trained in the 21st century skills our companies need.
Supporting Our Seniors
Taking care of our older citizens is always a priority. We passed legislation to make sure patients are notified of their rights and available services when nursing homes or long-term care facilities close or reduce the number of beds. We also required nursing homes to allow residents being discharged to pick a caregiver to help them with their discharge plan. Other legislation allows for elderly or disabled tenants of state-assisted housing to pay security deposits in installments.
Services for Individuals with Intellectual Disability
We strengthened existing practices by requiring the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) to improve communications with families. The new legislation requires DDS to provide, upon a client’s request, information on an individual’s position on the waitlist for residential services, documentation of an individual’s need for residential services, copies of an individual’s plan or assessment, as well as copies of any requests for funding or services along with any decisions made regarding those requests.
Accessibility of Medical Diagnostic Equipment
The House passed a common sense bill that would have ensured that Connecticut medical facilities have up-to-date medical equipment for people with disabilities. The legislation required the Public Health Committee to hold a public hearing within 60 days of new federal guidelines on medical diagnostic equipment accessibility being published. This review process would help guarantee high quality medical care for all. I was proud to support this legislation which arose from concerns raised by my constituents, and I will raise it again in the next legislative session.
Tackling The Opioid Epidemic
In recent years, Connecticut, like other New England states, has seen a heartbreaking increase in fatal opioid use in small communities like ours. I’m relieved that we were able to pass ground-breaking legislation to help combat this crisis. This lifesaving law will increase access to Narcan, a drug that reverses an opioid overdose, by:
- Allowing any licensed healthcare professional to administer Narcan
- Requiring municipalities to equip their first responders with Narcan
- Allowing pharmacists to prescribe Narcan
We passed legislation to ensure that all Connecticut college and university students have increased protection against sexual assault. The legislation requires all public and private colleges and universities adopt policies establishing ‘affirmative consent’ as the standard definition of consent in their investigations of sexual assault. Affirmative consent is defined as an active, clear and voluntary agreement by a person to engage in sexual activity with another person.
Public Safety Support
Firefighters place themselves in harm’s way every day – and sometimes lose their lives – to protect us and our property. Studies have shown that firefighters are exposed to numerous carcinogens and toxins that can lead to serious illness and sometimes death. We passed legislation that establishes a relief fund for firefighters who are battling work-related cancer.
- Allows municipal property tax relief for retired volunteer firefighters, fire police officers and EMTs who volunteered at least 25 years of service
- Allows for municipalities to authorize inter-local agreements so that even if the retired volunteer no longer lives in the town in which they volunteered, they can still remain eligible for property tax relief
- Provides a wage replacement fund for current and former uniformed members of a paid or volunteer fire department who suffer from certain diseases as a result of performing their jobs
Women in abusive relationships are 5 times more likely to be killed if their abuser has access to a firearm. Connecticut is taking great strides in protecting women and children from domestic violence by requiring a person to surrender firearms after being served with a temporary restraining order.
The days following service of a temporary restraining order and the days leading up to the first court appearance are the most dangerous for a victim of domestic violence. Nationally, domestic assaults involving firearms are 12 times more likely to result in fatal violence than those involving other weapons.
Palliative Use of Marijuana
Research shows that a number of Connecticut’s children who suffer from debilitating conditions, such as epilepsy, would greatly benefit from a medical marijuana program. With new legislation, we join 17 other states in providing a medical marijuana program for minors. Our narrowly tailored law establishes necessary safeguards against abuse and provides for additional oversight.
With over 600,000 private sector Connecticut workers lacking an employer-based retirement plan, we created a voluntary program to help encourage and assist people to save for retirement. There is no cost to taxpayers for the program, and the bill was a top priority of AARP.