I do support amending our state constitution to allow for early voting in Connecticut. Early voting removes barriers that prevents citizens from participating in the democratic process. It gives electors the flexibility of voting at their convenience resulting in greater access. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Connecticut is one of six states that do not allow early voting. Unfortunately, we lost the chance to make a change in the 2014 election when the constitutional amendment referendum to remove restrictions concerning absentee ballots and voting in person was defeated. We will have another opportunity in the 2021 legislative session to have the amendment appear on the 2022 election ballot providing it passes by a majority in each chamber. The changes that the legislature had to make during the July Special Session to our absentee ballot system during this COVID 19 pandemic public health emergency has proven the importance of making our election process less restrictive while also bringing it into the 21st century.
The outages resulting from Tropical Storm Isais amplified the fact that utility companies in our state need to be held accountable. With that being said, the House and Senate recently passed H.B. 7006 which has been signed into law by the Governor. The bill makes certain changes to the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) role when regulating electric distribution companies, as well as gas and water companies. PURA must adopt a performance-based framework establishing guidelines and measurements to determine if the companies are acting in the best interest of the rate payer. The framework must address emergency response, customer satisfaction, reliability, affordability and other factors. The bill also requires utility companies as of July 2021 to credit residential companies $25 each day and compensation of $250 for food and medicine loss if the customer is without service for 96 consecutive hours after an emergency. This bill is a great start to addressing the concerns of ratepayers in this state.
I have always aggressively lobbied for Stamford to receive its fair share of state funding for our schools. Although Stamford’s ECS funding is lower than other municipalities who have similar student needs, we do receive additional funding as a Priority School and Alliance District. Under the new ECS formula, as an Alliance District, Stamford is scheduled for an additional 10.66% annually until 2027. The amount of the increase is dependent on whether there are changes in certain variables like student enrollment. The barrier I see is the budget deficit that our state will probably face as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is more important than ever to have a leader in Hartford next session who will fight to make sure Stamford is held harmless during budgetary cuts.
Yes, I do support making live online access to legislative sessions a permanent addition to our process. The distance between Stamford and Hartford has limited Stamford residents access to our legislative process to only submitting written testimonies. Depending on the issue, one can wait for hours to testify in a committee which is time some citizens cannot afford. The long day waiting to testify coupled with the long drive back to Stamford can be a deterrent to participate in the public hearing process which is important in drafting legislation. Live online access is a resource that can be used to engage more of the public in the legislative process. As a committee member, I find oral testimonies more effective and engaging because it allows me to relate better with the presenter and their issue. My other COVID-related priorities are healthcare, childcare and education. There needs to be policies in place that addresses infection control among nursing home and congregate housing residents as well as staff being adequately compensated for their work and given the proper protective equipment that they need to be safe; expanding the eligibility for state funded childcare so parents, like frontline and essential workers, can work and, in some cases, find better jobs; and lessen what is likely going to be a significant negative impact on our already dramatic educational gap while keeping students and staff safe.