When I moved to Connecticut over 20 years ago after leaving the Air Force, I was looking for a place where I could raise a family and have opportunities for a good career. Connecticut is an amazing place to live and we could have a bright future, but high taxes and fees continue to send people and jobs out of the state, leaving working families to pick up the tab. With the Covid-19 recovery on the horizon, we cannot afford to make the same mistakes as before. Bottom line, more taxes are not the answer to our recovery.
I have a track record of supporting legislation that would make Connecticut more affordable by keeping taxes low and living within our means. I stood up against policies that were purely political and not in the interest of our residents.
Below are some key issues facing our state and my positions on them:Pandemic Recovery
Our most pressing issue is rebuilding our economy, starting with getting people back to work and school safely. We have to ensure our businesses and local restaurants survive the winter and that we help those who are facing hardships, especially those without access to healthcare. With deficits and our failing unemployment fund looming on the horizon, we need to be smart about how we use our resources. There are a few things we should consider right away for small businesses:
– Businesses need clear rules from the state and local governments as soon as it is possible so owners have time to make decisions and prepare for an opening. They need detailed information on restrictions so they can determine whether reopening is even feasible.
– There are immediate challenges for many small businesses of meeting fixed operating costs, such as rent, mortgage payments, utilities, and insurance. These costs need to be paid even when the business is closed. The federal programs are lacking, as a result, we may have to help businesses get access to the working capital they need.
– There are many landlords who have to meet their mortgage obligations and may have a hard time deferring rent. We need to work with banks to create a path that keeps landlords out of foreclosure.
– The state should work with businesses to make sure we recognize specific policies to keep workers safe provide a “safe harbor.” If the practices are followed and documented, an employer can be shielded from legal liability.
– All regulations, especially those that have been suspended temporarily, must be reviewed and we should remove the ones that don’t make sense or are costly to businesses.
– We should also keep an eye out for unfair business practices, such as predatory pricing and other moves that threaten the market share of small and independent retailers.
Making Connecticut Affordable
There is a growing group of legislators in Hartford who are doubling down on the same policies that have held us back from the economic recovery that we deserve. Their solution to our crisis is more taxes disguised as tolls and fees and promises of property tax reform that have not been kept.
I will work for the economic security of the Connecticut residents by supporting policies that prioritize state spending that actually make Connecticut an affordable place to work and live and I will not support passing more expenses down on municipalities. I will also push for income and property tax reform that makes sense and is not based on political agendas. If we work together, we can improve our infrastructure, protect our environment, improve our schools and achieve goals for public health and safety without breaking the bank.
There have been calls to reformed oversight of our electric companies, which we did 8 years ago and since then, the legislature and the regulators have dropped the ball. Part of the reason is that our regulators, the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA), are not truly independent is because they are under the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). It’s difficult to advocate for consumers when regulators are also under pressure from environmental activists within the department to reach the top goal of the administration and DEEP; protecting the environment with clean energy. Reforming oversight is just the beginning.
There is no longer any excuse for us to suffer with the 2nd highest electric rates in the country. We have over regulated the industry,
hidden taxes in our electric bills, imposed mandates, and over relied on green energy projects. We have also over relied on high property taxes and gross earnings taxes. We also have increasing costs for conservation and regional limitations on natural gas pipelines. All this results in the electric rates that make living and doing business in our state less affordable. I think it’s time to look back at the way the state “deregulated” electricity in 1998 and forge a new path by completely revamping the way we provide electricity in Connecticut.
Our energy goal must be to provide energy at a lower cost, while preserving our environment.
While many residents of small towns across the state support the creation of affordable housing and sharing the opportunity for others to join their communities, the hyper-partisan legislature and special interest groups are actively working against communities to remove any local decision making on zoning issues by creating regional zoning authority. This will put local zoning decisions in the hands of people who are not accountable to the local voters.
The tactics being used against our towns are harsh. There are organizations who are suing towns, elected officials advocating punitive taxes on towns, and efforts in Hartford to push sweeping legislation next year. Just last year a bill supported driven by the Progressive Democratic Caucus in Hartford almost made it to a vote that would have withheld discretionary funds from towns who do not meet affordable housing thresholds and remove the requirement that zoning boards consider local character in zoning decisions. The provision to withhold funding was removed and the bill was passed in the House, with the help of my opponent. Fortunately, the bill was not taken up by the Senate.
I will also continue my work for affordable housing opportunities that do not strip away the local character of towns in favor predatory development. There are opportunities to create more affordable housing if we can consider some existing housing affordable. We should also be creating policies that allow more residents to move into our town and create wealth through affordable home ownership.
Forced School Regionalization
In an effort to save money some members of the legislature are pushing for forced school regionalization. The notion that regionalization always equals cost savings is not proven, so why take a cookie cutter approach to regionalization when in some instances the impact on communities will be negative?
The bottom line is the best schools are the schools with a high level of community involvement. Parents, teachers, and local leaders know best how to educate our kids. Regionalization takes the decision making out of the hands of the local community.
I will advocate for policies to support towns that want to voluntarily work together and share resources, if the communities decide it’s in their best interests. I will also work to improve education and I will oppose attempts by the majority in Hartford to hold municipalities hostage by holding vital funding back for not complying with legislative mandates.
In July the Connecticut State Legislature and my opponent voted for House Bill 6004 An Act Concerning Police Accountability. While there was a lot of talk that the need for the bill was to get rid of the “bad apples” and “bad actors” in law enforcement, the truth is the legislation is based on the assumption that all police are bad actors and all communities had the same problems.
Most of the media attention surrounding the legislation was focused on the issue of qualified immunity. The truth is police can already be sued if a court determines they acted in a “willful, wanton or reckless manner.” This new law purposely opens police officers and municipalities up to more frivolous lawsuits by deliberately removing the ability to have frivolous lawsuits dismissed early. Now good officers are personally at risk and taxpayers are financially at risk for legal fees, forced settlements, and baseless claims. Eliminating qualified immunity didn’t make it easier to hold officers criminally accountable, because qualified immunity didn’t protect officers when they commit a crime.
The new laws threaten proactive policing. In addition to the increased liability, the new deadly force standards unfairly limit officers’ ability to save the public and themselves, in complete conflict with the long-established rules by the U.S. Supreme Court. These new standards will chill police officers’ ability to save lives and will put their lives at risk.
Retaining and recruiting good officers has already become a problem, at a time where we were already facing recruitment issues. We are gearing many stories of veteran officers choosing to retire, and younger officers leaving the career before they are too committed. On the recruiting front, this year New Haven saw fewer than 300 new police applicants. Waterbury, which saw 1,000 applicants last year, had only 400 this year after extending their deadline.
The new law has made the situation worse.
There has been a lot of talk about how the supporters of the law worked with police. This not true. As the New Haven Police Chief Otoniel Reyes explains: “The passing of this bill was done in haste. … The elected officials that were a driving force behind this bill, particularly those that represent the New Haven community, crafted this bill without input from me as the chief of police in New Haven. They were in such a rush to pass legislation, that they gave little to no consideration to the negative impact it could have on good police officers.”
My opponent also claimed to have worked with our local departments. According to my endorsement by the Bethel Police Union, “members reached out to State Representative Rhagib Allie-Brennan having several conversations with him that have been ignored. Our members acknowledged the concerns raised in support of the bill, and requested to work with Representative Allie-Brennan and his colleagues to construct meaningful legislation that would address concerns raised without coming at the expense of the victims and public we serve. Despite these emphatic pleas to work together, Representative Allie-Brennan showed his allegiance to “party leadership” and identity politics, rather than to the people that elected him to office and the public he has a duty to serve.”
The question voters should ask, is why did he back New Haven legislators over local law enforcement and our safety?
Next session I will propose legislation to repeal the harmful parts of the new law and work with police and community leaders to improve police accountability where needed, without sacrificing the safety of our families.
One of the most pressing issues facing Connecticut is the epidemic use of addictive pain medications and illegal narcotics. More people die in Connecticut every year from drug overdoses than car accidents. While we have improved our emergency response through access to the anti-overdose medication Narcan and we are improving treatment and recovery options, the opioid epidemic continues to grow. A large part of our effort in the last few years has also been focused on limiting prescriptions of opioids, yet prescription rates were actually declining from 2012 to 2017 as opioid use and overdoses were increasing. While limiting the number of pills that can be prescribed is reasonable, we should balance that approach with the need for pain relief for legitimate patients.
Of great concern is the recent “police accountability bill” that my opponent supported, against the advice of local law enforcement. At issue is the removal of the ability of officers to search vehicles when the owner consents to the search. This has remained an effective tool for getting drugs off our streets. I will work with law enforcement and local community members to restore the ability for police to search cars in a manner that preserves individual rights.
I will also continue working for opportunities to stem the tide of opioid deaths, like supporting the use of new medications as alternatives to traditional opioids, vigorous prosecution of those who traffic opioids, and protecting the prescription drug monitoring program, a valuable tool for pharmacists to identify overprescribing.
I have learned from my time in Hartford that the Republicans need to have a greater role in the budget and a role in solving the more controversial issues that face our state. Most of the time Republicans and Democrats agree that we need a solution to a problem, but we are miles apart on how to get there. The divide in how we accomplish our goals has grown even wider with the extremes in both political parties gaining power. I think a better collaboration between Republicans and Democrats could help solve major issues, which is why I will be starting a new caucus in Hartford.
There are various caucuses in Hartford, but none are dedicated to taking on issues with the sole priority of finding common ground. While there are a few legislative caucuses in Hartford that are created to support industries or issues, most are based on their members’ sex, race, age, or political ideology. Using the Problem Solver’s Caucus in Washington as a model, the goal would be to address key issues facing the state and appeal to a broad group of Connecticut residents and find common sense solutions. Having served on six of the committees in Hartford and two caucuses, I’ve learned when we work closely and form relationships, we tend to find better ideas. The caucus will be chaired by a Republican and a Democrat and have equal members of both parties. I think this would be a good step in bringing back bipartisanship to Hartford.