Thank you for taking a few minutes to read my annual newsletter. It was a busy year in Hartford and in our community and, as always, I wanted to update you on what I have been up to as your Representative.
In January, I was chosen by the Speaker of the House to serve as Chairman of the legislature’s Insurance and Real Estate committee for the 2017-2019 term. All bills related to insurance or real estate come to our committee and, after public hearings and debate, the committee decides whether to send them to the full House and Senate. I’m proud to say we passed many bi-partisan bills this year relating to consumer protection when it comes to insurance.
Our biggest challenge this session was dealing with a sizeable budget deficit. After months of intense negotiations and debate, we were able to come to a bipartisan agreement on the budget on October 26th. This budget, which I will provide more detail on inside, is proof that Democrats and Republicans can (and should) work together to solve big problems.
It is an honor to serve as your State Representative and, as always, I hope you will never hesitate to reach out to me with questions, comments and ideas. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 860-240-0514.
A Bipartisan Budget
Earlier this year, Governor Malloy proposed a budget that would have entirely cut education and municipal aid (about $3 million each) to Branford and Guilford. It also would have shifted part of the cost of our teacher pension fund onto the towns.
Along with colleagues in our local delegation, I was proud to work across the aisle to reverse both of those massive cuts. On October 26th, the House passed a two-year, $41 billion budget. Branford’s total cut this year was $157,530 and Guilford’s $182,869.
Outside of municipal aid, here are some of the other highlights of the new budget:
- No new tax increases on sales, income or business taxes
- A spending and bonding cap to control our spending and bonding
- Protects funding for job training and day services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities
- Reverses cuts to UConn contained in the original Republican budget
- Preserves the $200 property tax credit for seniors
- Exempts Social Security from the state income tax starting in 2019 (a bill I co-sponsored in 2016)
- Creates a “Passport to Parks” fund to ensure solvency of the state parks
- Funds the Care4Kids childcare program for working parents for both years of the budget
Passing this budget proves that, even in this difficult and divided political climate, Democrats and Republicans can (and should!) roll up their sleeves, find common ground and tackle big problems together in the best interest of our state.
Standing up for Consumers
As chairman of the Insurance and Real Estate committee this term, I was proud to help pass several pieces of legislation to protect consumers including a bill that required insurance companies to cover fertility preservation, a bill that increases minimum coverage requirements for auto insurance policies to ensure accident victims can be properly compensated and legislation that required insurance companies to maintain accurate provider directories so consumers don’t get the run around when trying to find a doctor. Unfortunately, a bill I worked on with Comptroller Kevin Lembo to regulate skyrocketing prescription drug prices and crackdown on companies who spike the cost of life-saving drugs with no warning did not make it out of committee but it’s my top priority for 2018.
New Funding For Our Community
Even in this difficult budget climate, I was proud to fight for and secure important funding for our local community including:
- $30 million for the Walsh Intermediate School Project
- $713,799 in funding to replace the windows at Baldwin Middle School. The windows, nearly 50 years old, are outdated and not up to today’s security and environmental standards
- $650,000 for Branford for dredging the town dock area, making improvements to the boat launch and repairing the seawall and town beach in Stony Creek
Finding Common Ground
In April, I held a Citizen’s Budget Workshop in Guilford to get feedback on the state budget. Rather than do a typical town hall-style meeting where I talk and people listen, I split people into groups and asked them to work with their neighbors to balance the budget. 9 of 10 groups did and, from then on, I told my colleagues in Hartford that if my constituents could find compromise in two hours, we could too.
I’m proud to have then played a role in the discussions that led to passage of a bipartisan budget and to have used the feedback you gave me that night and in calls and emails as my guide.
Combating The Opioid Epidemic
As in 2015 and 2016, I once again co-sponsored legislation to combat our opioid epidemic. This year’s law includes several measures to address this issue, such as (1) generally reducing, from a seven-day to a five-day supply, the maximum amount of opioid drugs a minor may be prescribed; (2) allowing a prescribing practitioner to issue a standing order (i.e., non-patient specific prescription) to a licensed pharmacist for an opioid antagonist; and (3) requiring certain health insurers to cover inpatient detoxification services.
Keeping Uber Passengers Safe
Two years ago, I proposed a bill to put common sense consumer protection standards in place for popular rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft. We passed it this year and it requires, among other things: (1) insurance coverage standards; (2) background checks on drivers; (3) vehicle inspections; and (4) fare transparency during surge pricing.
Protecting Transportation Funds
The legislature approved a transportation funding “lockbox” resolution that, if approved by voters as a ballot question in the 2018 general election, will amend the state constitution to ensure money that should be spent improving our roads and bridges doesn’t get spent on something else. I’ve supported this concept as a member of the Transportation Committee since taking office and I’m glad it’s finally heading to the voters for approval.