June 18th Newsletter: 2021 State Budget, Juneteenth & More

June 18, 2021
Sine Die (aka adjourned)! The 2021 Legislative Session is over and it was a productive one. This is a recap of some of the bills the House voted over the past two weeks, along with other information and highlights.

Below you can find information on the following topics:

  • 2021 State Budget
  • General Assembly Passes Legalization of Recreational Cannabis
  • Bills Passed in the House
  • 2021 Constituent Survey Results
  • Juneteenth 2021
  • Happy Father's Day
  • Latest COVID-19 Statistics

For more information about the state's response efforts visit ct.gov/coronavirus. To receive text message notifications, sign up for CTAlert, the state’s emergency alert system. To subscribe, text "COVIDCT" to 888-777.

2021 State Budget
Last week we passed a $46.4 billion bipartisan budget that heavily invests in Connecticut towns, local nonprofits and families needing vital assistance. But for the first time in our state we also passed a budget with a $2.3 billion surplus built into it, funding all major priorities without tapping into the historic $3.5 billion in Connecticut's Rainy-Day Fund, putting $1 billion towards our pension debt and $155 million towards helping to resolve our unemployment fund debt crisis.

On the spending side, the budget increases funding to cities and towns, as well as to hospitals and local health departments to ensure that they have the tools to combat the next public health emergency. It also invests significantly in community nonprofits to help them keep up with growing costs. The budget also invests in Connecticut’s nursing homes, correctional facilities, and schools to address the systemic vulnerabilities exacerbated by COVID-19. It provides vital funding and tools for state agencies to reopen and serve Connecticut’s residents in a way that is safe and efficient. It also expands healthcare for 40,000 residents and families, expands workforce training so that we can get people back to work, and fully funds debt-free community college.

Perhaps most significant is the fact there are NO tax increases in this budget. In fact, the budget provides real tax relief to individuals and businesses by doing the following:

  • Increasing the state’s earned income tax credit to 30.5% of the federal credit, providing thousands of families across Connecticut additional money in their pockets.
  • Expanding tax exemptions for retirement income
  • Providing tax relief for restaurants and bars to keep a portion of the sales tax they collect on sales of meals and beverages.
  • Restoring the Research and Development tax credit
  • Eliminating the admissions tax on performance venues

Locally, our towns did well this year in the state budget we passed, along with the massive infusion of federal funds coming in from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and Elementary & Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER). On the state side, both Manchester and Glastonbury saw year over year increases in state aid. The funding of Education Cost Sharing grants, originally proposed by the Governor to be altered, was preserved at the scheduled level of funding which particularly helps “Alliance Districts” like Manchester. We also secured additional funding for vital community program run by organizations like the Manchester Youth Services Bureau and MARC, Inc.

Finally, a few new bond authorizations worth highlighting:

  • $5M I proposed for advanced manufacturing education programs in the comprehensive high schools statewide. I hope to eventually help bring some of these funds home to Manchester – stay tuned!
  • $2M I proposed for open space funds in Glastonbury. These funds can be used to reimburse the Town for funds used to purchase the MDC property.
  • Crumbling Foundations program (CFSIC) fully funded
  • The new Community Investment Fund authorizes up to $875 million for projects in Alliance Districts like Manchester.

As we recover emotionally and financially from the pandemic, adopt a balanced state budget, and move forward with a wide variety of accomplishments this session, I am optimistic that Connecticut is coming back stronger than ever before. I am proud of the hard work we put in to create a balanced budget that keeps our state moving forward with support for working- and middle-class families.

General Assembly Passes Legalization of Recreational Cannabis
On Wednesday, the Connecticut House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 1201, which legalizes and regulates cannabis for adult use. I voted in favor of this legislation, which passed 76-62 and which, because of amendments made in the House.

The bill legalizes the use and possession of recreational cannabis for people 21+ beginning July 1, 2021. No more than 1.5 ounces of cannabis on a person and as much as 5 ounces in home or locked in car trunk or glove box. Retail sales are expected to begin around summer 2022. Any individual 21+ will be permitted to grow up to six cannabis plants (three mature, three immature) in their home beginning July 1, 2023.

The bill also establishes a multi-level system to train police officers to recognize impaired driving and keep roads safe. All officers will be trained to the Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement level, and enough will be trained to the Drug Recognition Expert level to recognize impairment. Impaired driving is still impaired driving and those who violate the law will be held accountable.

The bill aims to right the wrongs of our past and help those most disproportionately and illegitimately harmed by the "war on drugs". Specifically, the bill erases convictions related to possession of less than 4 oz. of marijuana, for offenses occurring between 2015 – 2021 and erases convictions related to possession of any amount of marijuana for offenses occurring between 2000-2015. It also gives some preference to “social equity applicants” who seek a license to operate. The language of this provision of the bill was the subject of extensive negotiation, but what we ultimately passed strikes a reasonable balance between the comments and concerns from the Governor and those representing the interest of justice-impacted communities. It is still regarded as one of the most progressive programs in the nation.

To me, this all came down to a simple fact - Connecticut cannot exist as an island of prohibition while neighboring states legalize. I acknowledge and share many of the valid concerns of those who oppose this measure. However, the fact of the matter is that legal and illegal cannabis is already here in Connecticut. The implications of its use are already on our doorstep, in our cities and towns, and on our roads. The choice is whether we want to control our own destiny and responsibly regulate or continue to let it be controlled by the policies of other states and illegal dealers. This is a good bill that is the product of many years of hard work by many people. I look forward to the Governor signing this legislation.

Bills Passed in House
My colleagues and I in the House voted on a flurry of bills last week during the last days of the 2021 legislative session. Here is a summary of just a few of the bills we passed: 

Local businesses are at the heart of every community in Connecticut, but sadly over the past year, they have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. While a number of great loan and grant programs have been established and implemented to provide aid, many small businesses missed out due to the sheer demand for assistance. In an effort to not only aid small businesses, but also bolster our local economies, my colleagues and I made it a priority to expand and incentivize the state's Small Business Express (SBE) Program by passing HB 6467.

This bill implements extensions to SBE to support small businesses, distressed municipalities, and opportunity zones in Connecticut. Funding from this program will help small businesses in our district to create additional jobs, acquire assets, and expand business operations.

CLICK HERE for more information about this bill.
Access to healthcare is a right that should not be defined by immigration status. HB 6687 will expand HUSKY healthcare coverage, regardless of immigration status, to children 8 and under, pregnant women, and women who have just given birth.

CLICK HERE for more information about this bill.

Accessible dental and vision care is an essential component of preventing chronic conditions – but for young adults still just starting their careers and no longer able to retain coverage through a parents' insurance policy, this can be a costly measure. Just passed, SB 1004 will allow children, stepchildren, and other dependent children to retain dental and vision care under their parents' policies until age 26 or until they are able to access their own coverage through an employer.

CLICK HERE for more information about this bill.
The continued use of forever chemicals like PFAS, which is often found in firefighting foam, pose a significant environmental hazard. Most recently, in June 2019, the state saw a spill of PFAS containing foam threatening the aquatic habitats in the Farmington River. To better support and protect our environment, SB 837 will begin take critical steps to reduce our use of PFAS.

CLICK HERE for more information about this bill.

Over this past year, our health care providers served on the frontlines working tirelessly to ensure the health and safety of our communities – often facing the darkest moments of the pandemic and witnessing untold traumas. Many of our first responders are now suffering from anxiety, PTSD, and other lasting mental health and emotional impairments. SB 660 will expand Workers' Compensation to better support first responder's mental and emotional health in the aftermath of the pandemic.

CLICK HERE for more information about this bill.

2021 Constituent Survey Results
Here are the results from our 2021 constituent survey. Some of these bills have already passed, and some did not move forward this session.

We received around 400 responses and I am so grateful for your participation. I do review each and every one of these surveys and your valued feedback truly helps inform the decisions I make when casting my vote in the House chamber.

Juneteenth 2021
On June 19, 1865, General Orders No. 3 was read to enslaved African-Americans in Texas by Gordon Granger proclaiming that they were free in accordance to the Emancipation Proclamation— which had been issued on January 1, 1863— We remember this event with the celebration of Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day.

For a list of Juneteenth celebrations in our area and across the state, click HERE.

Happy Father's Day
I want to extend my warmest wishes to all fathers, grandfathers, and those who are father figures on this Father's Day weekend!
Latest COVID-19 Statistics
Manchester Specific Updates
  • Total Cases (confirmed & probable): 4,939
  • Total Deaths (confirmed & probable): 151

Glastonbury Specific Updates

  • Total Cases (confirmed & probable): 2,233
  • Total Deaths (confirmed & probable): 105