The 2019 legislative session was productive for me and the General Assembly. Here’s a quick recap of what I was up to during the legislative session that ended in June.
Our community experienced an unthinkable tragedy last year when Ethan Song lost his life due to an accident with a gun. This year I was truly proud to work with his parents Kristin and Mike Song to write and pass “Ethan’s Law” which requires all firearms in Connecticut to be safely stored in homes with children under age 18 regardless of whether they are loaded or not.
As Chairman of the legislature’s Insurance and Real Estate Committee, I spend most of my time on issues related to insurance and health care. This year I led the effort to protect insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, ensure mental health is covered equally to physical health by insurance companies, and to lower drug prices by allowing for the importation of safe and cheaper drugs from Canada.
At a time when our politics seems divisive beyond repair, I still remain optimistic in our capacity to work together to solve problems and that starts with your feedback. I hope you will take a few minutes to read this update and, more importantly, take a few minutes afterwards to tell me what you think about these issues or an issue you care about. Please call me anytime at 860-240-0516 or email me directly at email@example.com.
Thanks for reading,
Pre-existing Condition Protections
522,000 non-elderly adults – or one in four residents – in Connecticut have what would be considered to be a pre-existing condition. One of the most popular provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, prohibited insurance companies from dropping or denying coverage for someone just because they had a pre-existing condition. This year, I wrote and led the passage of bipartisan legislation putting these protections into state law in the event that the Affordable Care Act is ever repealed so that no one in Connecticut has to worry about losing coverage.
To take Connecticut’s economy to the next level, we need to prepare the next generation of Connecticut workers for the jobs of today and the future. One of the biggest problems we face is that while companies are hiring, our state’s workforce is not adequately prepared to take on 21st- century jobs. So, this year, we took the following actions in order to help our residents succeed in today’s industries:
- Increased funding for the Manufacturing Pipeline Initiative
- Increased funding for the Jobs Funnel Program
- Allocated funding for a new Green Jobs Pipeline
- Passed a law which requires schools to teach computer science and improves opportunities for teacher training in this subject.
In 2018 our community suffered an unspeakable tragedy with the death of 15-year-old Ethan Song.
In the days after his passing, I told Ethan’s parents Kristin and Mike Song that I would be there to help them if and when they ever wanted to do something in Ethan’s name. I wasn’t sure what that “something” would be but, several months later, they knew. To ensure no other family had to go through what they had to, we needed to close a loophole in Connecticut’s existing safe gun storage law.
Current Connecticut law said that only loaded firearms needed to be safely stored in homes with minors. In Ethan’s case, the gun was stored unloaded, but next to the bullets in a cardboard box. To make Connecticut safer, the Song’s wanted to end the distinction between loaded and unloaded to simply require that all firearms be properly stored.
The first person I called was my friend and colleague Rep. Vin Candelora. While we are from different parties and don’t agree on everything, we work closely together and it was important to me and the Song’s that this bill be bipartisan. Vin told me he had never supported a gun safety bill before but he would be willing to work with me and, to his lasting credit, he did.
Together, we got to work crafting the bill and talking to our respective colleagues on both sides of the aisle. Kristin and Mike displayed incredible courage and came up to the Capitol to share their painful story and fight for change. With hard work and after tense negotiations, the bill gained momentum.
In the end, the bill passed the House by a staggering margin of 127-16 and the Senate 34-2 which meant it was the most bipartisan gun bill ever passed in Connecticut history.
Earlier this summer, I was so proud to watch Governor Lamont sign the bill in Guilford as the Song’s looked on and working with them to pass “Ethan’s Law” was one of the greatest honors of not just my time in public life but my life in general.
Mental Health Parity
No one with a disease of the brain should be treated any differently than someone with a disease of the body when it comes to health insurance.
After a December 2017 report showed Connecticut was the worst state in the nation when it came to parity compliance, I introduced this bill with former Senator Ted Kennedy, Jr. in 2018. Following a two year battle, the bill passed unanimously this year and will finally ensure equal treatment for those with mental illness and substance use disorder.
Lowering Drug Prices
I’ve made combating the high cost of prescription drugs one of my biggest focuses in the last two years. In 2018, I wrote and passed Connecticut’s first prescription drug transparency law which requires drug companies to justify large price increases for the first time. This year I sponsored legislation allowing for the importation of safe and cheap drugs from Canada, something AARP estimates would save consumers 35-55% on their drug costs. The bill passed the House but never came up for a vote in the Senate and I plan to re-introduce it next year.
Making Connecticut Better Together
This year we protected a recently-enacted elimination of the tax on Social Security income, phased-in a tax exemption on retirement income and eliminated the Business Entity Tax paid by small businesses. Did you hear about any of these? Probably not.
That’s because we all too often focus on Connecticut’s problems instead of focusing on solutions like the ideas mentioned above and highlighting our many positives. This is still a great state to live, work and raise a family and it can be even better if we work together to make it so. If you have an idea as to how we can, contact me and let’s get to work!