Session Highlights on Voter Access & Outdoor Dining

March 18, 2022
Voting is a fundamental right that ought to be fair and accessible, but Connecticut's voting laws are some of the most restrictive in the country, even more than Georgia which just tightened their reins on voting restrictions.

Wednesday, the House passed HB 5262, An Act Revising Certain Absentee Voting Eligibility Statutes, to make it easier for voters to vote absentee if they're feeling unwell, worried about their health, or out of town on Election Day.

To be eligible to cast an absentee ballot, current law requires voters to have a physical disability or illness that prevents them from voting in person or be out of town for at least 14 hours on Election Day.

No voter should ever have to choose between protecting their health and exercising their right to vote. This proposal eases some of the eligibility restrictions for absentee ballots so that more residents can choose this method to cast their ballot.

I encourage you to track this legislation as it moves forward for a vote in the Senate. I will keep you informed with further updates.

Extending Outdoor Dining
During session Wednesday, House Democrats also raised and passed HB 5271, An Act Concerning The Provision Of Outdoor Food And Beverage Services And Outdoor Displays Of Goods, which extends outdoor dining provisions by an additional 13 months.

When this provision was first implemented in 2020, it was a lifeline for restaurants to safely keep their doors open and stay in business. This year, our local restaurants reached out again for assistance, requesting this provision be extended just over a year to allow them to recover as we continue to see a positive trend in returning to normalcy. My colleagues and I listened!

Despite this request and need from our community's restaurants, some members in the State Senate blocked the bill from being heard, delaying the final approval.

Failing to approve this bill - before the March 31st sunset date - will only create more uncertainty for restaurants still trying to recover from the pandemic. Connecticut restaurants supported healthcare workers and first responders by staying open at the height of the pandemic. Now they deserve our support!

Small Business Development
Wednesday, March 16, was Small Business Development Center Day. Small Business Development Center Day celebrates the positive impact that the development centers have had on small and local businesses. Last year, the 28 Connecticut-based centers helped launch 184 businesses.
Small and local businesses are the backbone of our communities. These are the places where many of us have created lifelong memories. They are owned by people we love and respect - our neighbors, friends, and family.
Over the past two years, businesses of all sizes have experienced financial losses, but smaller ones were disproportionately impacted. As we start to turn a corner and return to normal, we need to ensure that local businesses have the resources and support necessary to thrive. During the 2021 session, my colleagues and I worked tirelessly to craft legislation that would benefit small businesses:
  • Allowed certain businesses that serve meals, such as hotels, restaurants, and bars to keep 100% of the sales tax they collect on meal sales during a set time period (PA 21-2)
  • Updated the Small Business Express Program to allow for increased participation by private lenders (PA 21-1)
  • Created a Regional Economic Development Pilot Program through the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) that will provide matching grants to regional economic development corporations implementing economic development programs (PA 21-77)
  • Authorized up to $875 million in bonds for a five-year bonding program to fund qualifying projects and grants in eligible municipalities that are designated as public investment communities or alliance districts (PA-21-2)

Click here to read a complete list of all of the business related bills that were passed in 2021. We hope to build on the progress made last year and continue to push for further reform during this session.

If you are a small business owner and are looking for assistance, please check out the CT SBDC website for more information.

In the News
I was thrilled to join Melissa in the Morning host Melissa Sheketoff for the final installment of "Say Something Week" showcasing the programs created by Sandy Hook Promise. I have been involved with SHP since almost the beginning of the organization and was grateful to share important information about these violence prevention programs. Thank you to Melissa for having me and for the great discussion!

You can learn more about these programs and resources here.

Utility Tree Trimming
After significant and sustained advocacy by many of you, the CT Public Utility Regulatory Authority (PURA) has required United Illuminating and Eversource to establish direct toll free phone numbers for residents to call to ask questions about vegetation management/tree trimming and pruning.

This is an important step in making sure that you have a say in how tree management is done in your neighborhoods, and will help insure that the utility companies do not perform unnecessary pruning or removal, or do so without permission. The numbers are below.  Please use them!

Upcoming Roadwork in Woodbridge & Orange

The Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) announced three new roadwork projects in Woodbridge and one in Orange.

Project 1:

Installation of rapid rectangular flashing beacons (RRFB) at high risk, uncontrolled, midblock crosswalk locations, upgrade existing RRFBs to meet the latest American Disability Act (ADA) Standard and the installation and revision of curb ramps and associated sidewalk and pavement marking on Route 114 at Woodbridge Fire Department.

Lane Closure Info:

  • Expect lane closures Monday - Friday from 9AM - 3PM and between 6PM - 6AM, and Saturday - Sunday from 10AM - 6PM.

Project 2:

Nighttime bridge maintenance will be performed on Route 15 Southbound in Woodbridge. The project consists of concrete repair on Bridge# 770 and will run until Friday, March 25.

Lane Closure Info:

  • Expect right lane closure on Route 15 Southbound in Hamden, Woodbridge and New Haven between Exit 60 (Rt.10 Dixwell Ave.) and Exit 58 (Route 34, Derby Turnpike).

Project 3:

A tree removal operation will require the closure of the right lane on Route 15 northbound and southbound in the towns of Orange and Woodbridge. The night work is scheduled through Monday April 11, between 7PM - 5PM.

Lane Closure Info:

  • Expect right lane closure to occur on Route 15 northbound in Orange and Woodbridge between Exit 58 (Route 34, Derby Turnpike) and Exit 60 (Route 10, Dixwell Ave.) and Route 15 southbound in Woodbridge and Orange between Exit 60 (Route 10, Dixwell Ave.) and Exit 58 (Route 34, Derby Turnpike).
Scam Spotlight
Are you all caught up on Scam Spotlights? Visit my webpage, or click the buttons below, to make sure.
Introduction to Scam Spotlight
Scam Spotlight: Small Businesses
Scam Spotlight: Seniors
Scam Spotlight: Phishing
Scam Spotlight: Telemarketers
Scam Spotlight: Charity