Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Connecticut General Statutes approved by the House of Representatives.

This may be an incredibly boring thing to write about, but it is a very important part of the process of making sure that the laws of the state make sense (as much as possible).

Today, the state House of Representatives approved House Bill 6392. It is a simple bill. Here is the entire text:
Volumes 1 to 13, inclusive, of the general statutes of Connecticut, revised to 1958, consolidated, codified, arranged and revised to January 1, 2007, by the legislative commissioners under the provisions of subsection (g) of section 2-56 of the general statutes and published under the title "The General Statutes of Connecticut, Revision of 1958, Revised to January 1, 2007", including the consolidation, codification, arrangement and revision of the public acts of the state from 1959 through 2006, inclusive, are adopted, ratified, confirmed and enacted.
Every two years, a nonpartisan office that works for the legislature, called the Office of the Legislative Commissioners takes all of the laws approved by the legislature in the last two years and "codifies" it. Simply put, they rewrite the thirteen volume collection of laws so that it reflects the changes made during the past two-year term of the state legislature.

But, in order for this new Connecticut General Statutes to really be the laws of the state, the legislature must actually approve it. So, while it is a non-controversial item, it is no exaggeration to say that, today, the House of Representatives approved all of the laws of the state.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Education Committee votes increase in education aid and property tax relief

I was happy to vote today in the legislature's Education Committee for legislation to increase education funding to cities and towns by $198 million. In addition to this, the legislature's Appropriation Committee is working on a budget that restores funding for property tax relief grants to cities and towns that Gov. Rell proposed to cut. Together, the total funding for education and property tax relief is expected to be $36 million more than Gov. Rell's budget proposal.

The legislation I voted for today would increase New Britain's state education funding by $7.5 million for the upcoming budget year and increases Newington's funding by $2 million.

This increased funding is set-up to both support our local schools and help keep property taxes down. Of the funding provided to New Britain in the coming budget year, at least $4.4 million will go to the schools and $3.1 million will be made available for property tax relief. The full budget plan is still taking shape, but, since the Appropriations Committee is expected to at least restore the $1.2 million in property tax relief funding for New Britain that Gov. Rell proposed cutting, there could potentially be more than $4.3 million made for property tax relief in the coming budget year. If we win this increase, it could enough to be equivalent to about about 2 mills less in property taxes.

For Newington, the legislation voted today would increase funding for the schools by at least $825,000 and makes almost $1.2 million available for property tax relief.

In addition to this, the Education Committee has approved new special education funding legislation that would increase the amount of money the state provides for kids who need special education services.

The Committee also approved the Safe Schools legislation proposed by Sen. Donald Williams. Especially important for New Britain, the legislation provides higher funding for districts with greater need.

The working in the Education Committee is just a step in the process, but, as opposed to other years, it looks like the bold education funding plans approved in the Committee are likely to make it into the State Budget plan that will be approved in the budget-writing Appropriations Committee. There is a lot of work ahead, but things look good far.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

March 5, 2007 New Britain Legislative Update

The New Britain State legislative delegation recorded our second edition of the New Britain Legislative Update on March 5, 2007. Things are very busy at the Capitol, so Rep. John Geragosian and Rep. Betty Boukus were not able to make it to the recording on March 5th.

In this edition, Sen. Donald DeFronzo, Rep. Peter Tercyak and I discuss a number of important issues at the Capitol. I hope you find it informative:

Online Videos by

This edition of the New Britain Legislative Update is scheduled to be on Nutmeg TV cable Channel 21 this Sunday at 5pm. And, of course, 5pm on Sundays is the regular time for the New Britain Legislative Update on Channel 21.

Many thanks to Marcin Olechowski for his work in taping and editing this show. Marcin is a graduate of CCSU, where he still hosts a weekly radio program.

February 6, 2007 New Britain Legislative Update

Some of you may have seen the first edition of the New Britain Legislative Update on Nutmeg TV Channel 21. The other New Britain legislators and I thought this would be a good way to let people know about what we are working on, and some of the details of the issues under consideration at the State Capitol.

Since this first edition of the New Britain Legislative Update was recorded on February 6th, the information we are talking about in it is a little out-of-date, but, in case you missed it on TV, you can watch it, here:

Online Videos by

The New Britain Legislative Update is normally on Nutmeg TV cable Channel 21 on Sundays at 5pm. Occasionally, it is replaced by another program, but, usually, 5pm on Sunday you can find our update on Channel 21.

This show is only on TV in the New Britain part of my district, since Newington has a different public access TV organization - Newington Community Television. Perhaps a similar update with the Newington State delegation can be started in the future.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Judiciary Committee chair volunteers to be tasered in hearing.

I am in the Judiciary Committee hearing on this snowy day at the Capitol. The Committee is holding a hearing on, among other things, a couple of bills to regulate the use of tasers.

A representative of a company that manufactures tasers was testifying about these devices, when Rep. Micheal Lawlor, House Chair of the Committee, asked if the gentleman would use a taser on Lawlor, himself, to demonstrate their safety. The gentleman agreed.

It certainly did not look or sound like a pleasant experience, but Lawlor went through with it. I do not think I have ever heard of this happening at the Capitol.

Mike Lawlor has a reputation has a very intelligent and fair legislator. This kind of thing earns him a lot of respect. Whatever position he takes on how legal these devices should be, he will not be advocating for it without putting himself on the business end of one of them.

Friday, March 09, 2007

New Britain General Hospital bonding proposal moves to Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee

The legislature's public health committee voted today to move Senate Bill 79, which was introduced by Sen. DeFronzo, to the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee. The legislation would provide $1,500,000 in bond funding "for the purpose of expanding and enhancing emergency room facilities at the Hospital of Central Connecticut, " which is what New Britain General Hospital was re-named when it merged with another hospital.

Here is a link to the text of the bill, as it stands now.

This legislation had a hearing in the Public Health Committee on February 21st. As reported by Scott Whipple in The Herald, Larry Tanner, president of the Hospital, pointed out that "Patient care is being affected by the unavailability of treatment rooms, current floor plans not designed for today's high volume, lack of privacy and security for those who need it."

The Public Health Committee is the committee responsible for the health care systems in our state, but it is really the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee that makes decisions about what is included in the bond act part of the state budget. So the Finance Committee is really the right place for this bill to be.

It is especially the right place, because Sen. DeFronzo is the State chair of the Bonding Subcommitee of the Finance Committee. In addition to being a member of the Public Health Committee, I am also on the Finance Committee. So I will also be working to get this plan approved as part of the state bond act.

It goes without saying how important it is for the people of our whole area that the ER in New Britain General Hospital is for our whole region. It is important that the state can make sure that the hospital can meet these needs.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Panel discussion at the Capitol on electric rates.

I am taking advantage of the State Capitol's new wi-fi internet access (which, by the way, is available to members of the public) to write you an update while I sit in the audience of hearing room 2C listening to the Energy and Technology Committee panel discussion on electric deregulation.

Different speakers have been talking about just how big of a mistake it has been for Connecticut to enter into the strange world of "electric deregulation".

Electric deregulation is taking away the laws that limit electric prices to what it costs companies to generate the electricity and, instead, letting the owners of power plants charge us whatever the open market will bear.

Connecticut has been, for years, now been phasing-into a deregulated electric market, and this deregulation is what is at fault for the huge increases we have been having in electric rates. All indications are that rates will continue to rise, unless the deregulation is undone.

Economists and consumer advocates have discussed the disastrous effects of electric deregulation in California in which Enron and other companies bilked consumers out of huge amounts of money and the harm to consumers deregulation has caused in Texas. Texas electric customers who are subject to deregulation pay dramatically more than customers in neighboring states. This is true, nationwide. Electric consumers in states with electric deregulation pay more than customers in states that never deregulated.

So, why did this happen? It is because the legislators who were in office back in 1998 were told that Connecticut had enormously costly electric rates and that only the "market reform" of electric deregulation would lower that cost.

Well, deregulation did not cut electric rates, as was promised. Instead, electric rates went up. By the time I was elected to the legislature, even the supporters of deregulation were confessing that deregulation would not lower electric rates. In fact, they even said that they wanted electric rates to go up even more, because higher rates would make Connecticut a more attractive market for marketers of electricity and, therefore, would give us a choice of electric companies.

So, in other words, when they were first getting deregulation approved, its supporters said that it would lower electric rates by creating choice of electricity suppliers. Now, they say that we must pay higher prices so that we can have a choice of electric suppliers. If this does not make any sense to you, don't feel bad. It does not make any sense to me, either.

That is why I am working so hard in support of legislation to undo electric deregulation and lower electric rates.

I will try to write, in the future, some more details about what needs to be done to go back to a common-sense system and lower electric rates.