With the 2021 legislative session behind us, I would like to take this opportunity to highlight some of the work we were able to accomplish that I believe will directly benefit Waterbury.
The virtual platform of this year's session, although a learning curve, increased accessibility and participation throughout the legislative process. Many of you spoke or submitted testimony during public hearings, followed the budget from its initial drafts to the House floor, and even increased your communications with me to ensure your voices were heard. Your support and participation in the legislative process through this unprecedented time helped me frame my work this session, ensuring that your priorities and concerns were addressed and included in the measures that came to the House for a vote.
Over the past five months, my colleagues and I led the passage of a fair, balanced budget, as well as over 350 bills and resolutions. Because not all these bills are highly publicized, I wanted to provide you with a list of legislation passed this session which specifically affects cities like ours.
|H.B. 6516 included a tiered PILOT (Payment In Lieu of Taxes) formula that will yield substantially more state funding for cities like ours.
Connecticut towns rely heavily on property taxes, but nontaxable properties, like hospitals and universities, can result in significant revenue losses for cities and towns. The PILOT program ensures state reimbursement for these nontaxable properties and this new tiered formula distributes PILOT dollars based on municipality’s equalized net grand list per capita (a measure of the wealth of a town).
This new formula ensures an equitable distribution of critical PILOT money.
Clean Slate Bill
After years of advocacy, we passed S.B. 1019, the “Clean Slate” bill, which erases an individual’s misdemeanor offenses and minor felonies after a certain period of time if they have not committed another offense. This groundbreaking legislation will help thousands of formerly incarcerated citizens in Connecticut by clearing their records and paving the way for a full re-entry into society with access to good paying jobs, education, and quality housing.
Studies show that a very small percentage of those once-incarcerated become repeat offenders. However, those with prior criminal convictions can carry the burden of their record for the rest of their lives – a burden that falls disproportionately on people of color.
This bill is a game-changer for those in our community who have long since paid their dues to society.
Education Cost Sharing
Our 2-year budget keeps our promises related to local education funding and maintains the current roll-out of the ECS formula providing cities and towns with additional $130 million over the next two years. It also provides additional funding to school systems with higher numbers of low-income students and English Language Learner students.
Zoning and Affordable Housing
H.B. 6107, includes zoning reforms that give our towns and cities the ability to effectively drive the inevitable change our communities are facing. It allows communities to regulate to explicitly protect the state’s historic, tribal, cultural, and environmental resources. It requires regulations address significant disparities in housing needs and access to educational, occupational, and other opportunities. Cities and towns must also affirmatively further the purposes of the federal Fair Housing Act and promote efficient review of proposals and applications.
Finally, H.B. 6107 establishes a Commission on Connecticut's Development and Future to evaluate policies related to land use, conservation, housing affordability, and infrastructure.
This will ensure that our zoning rules and regulations continue to evolve with our ever-changing world.
Focused on Main Street
Historic mixed-use buildings across Connecticut hold huge potential and with some renovation could offer a significant impact for our communities – however, investing in a mixed-use building can be complex and expensive. H.B. 6606 requires the Commissioner of Economic and Community Development (DECD) to conduct a study relating to economic development issues affecting distressed municipalities and develop a task force featuring stakeholders from a variety of professions to examine potential barriers and how to combat them.
Right to Counsel in Eviction Proceedings
Did you know that in Connecticut, less than 7% of tenants have legal representation in eviction cases? In contrast, 80% of landlords do. At a moment when so much is at stake, tenants need support navigating the highly technical and fast-moving pace of eviction cases. H.B. 6531 provides tenants with fairness and equity by guaranteeing they can obtain legal representation in eviction proceedings.
This legislation is critical to keeping families and children safe from eviction.
Program for Families of Open Choice Students
For children in communities with concentrated poverty and under-resourced schools, opportunities can be significantly limited. Open choice programs allow children to attend higher resource schools. H.B. 6436, establishes a pilot program to assist families with moving to that higher opportunity community where their child already attends school and allow the entire family to become a true part of the community.
Expanding Project Longevity
Project Longevity is a proven program for reducing urban gun violence in Hartford, New Haven, and Bridgeport. It offers communities with comprehensive, evidence-based resources to work together with state and local partners to reduce chronic violence. With the passage of H.B. 6034, the state will now work towards expanding this community-based solution to statewide priority.
With recent and proposed changes to the state's waste management, Connecticut's recycling program is ready for reform. Commonly known as the "bottle bill," S.B. 1037 makes changes to increase the redemption and recycling rates for bottles and cans to save our communities money and protect our environment. It will also invest in redemption centers to make recycling more convenient and viable.
In addition, we passed legislation which:
- Gives tenants a guaranteed right to request walk through of apartment before moving in
- Caps late fees for missed rent payments
- Establishes school-based mental health clinics
- Ensures consumer and insurance protections for Peer-to-Peer Car Sharing
- Declares racism a public health crisis
As always, it is a great honor to represent you in Hartford. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions on any of the bills we passed this session. I hope you and your family continue to stay safe and well.