Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Appointment as Chair of the legislative Regulations Review Committee.

Rep. Christopher Donovan, Speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives, and Majority Leader Brendan Sharkey just announced today [PDF] that they have named me as the Chair of legislature's Regulations Review Committee.

This committee plays an important role in state government by providing public oversight of the rules and regulations that state departments and agencies issue. These regulations spell out the details of how state services and state laws affect the public and how state government is administered, so it is important to make sure that they are done right.

I am very pleased that Speaker Donovan is recognizing me as having the right abilities to ensure good, effective and efficient administration of state agencies as Chair of the Regulations Review Committee. There will be a lot of work to do in this important role, making sure state department rules and regulations work well for the people of our state, especially as we reorganize the state to provide better services while saving taxpayer money.

I am very humbled and honored by this important assignment, and I will work hard to do a good job. I thank Speaker Donovan and Majority Leader Sharkey for they trust in me.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

New Britain Legislators to Honor Local Veterans at a Ceremony to Award Wartime Service Medal.

It is very important to honor the veterans who sacrificed so much in defense of our country. I thank them for all that they have done for us, and I am proud that our state honors for our wartime veterans with the Connecticut Veterans Wartime Service Medal.

In New Britain, we have a proud tradition of honoring our veterans, and so I want to make sure that the New Britain's wartime veterans receive this important honor. That is why, as the New Britain Herald reported:
Legislators plan to honor local vets at special ceremony
Area legislators are planning to honor local veterans at a special ceremony where they will be awarded with the state wartime service medal.
State Reps. Tim O’Brien, John Geragosian, Peter Tercyak, Elizabeth “Betty” Boukus, and state Sen. Donald DeFronzo, all New Britain-area Democrats, are collaborating on the ceremony and hoping to assist qualifying veterans in applying for the award.
All local veterans with qualifying wartime service are eligible to receive the Connecticut Veterans Wartime Service Medal.
The date of the ceremony is to be determined. Veterans or family members of deceased veterans will receive the medal recognizing their service.
Veterans or a relative of an eligible veteran with qualifying wartime military service can obtain the Connecticut Veterans Wartime Service Medal Application by calling O’Brien’s office at (860) 240-8532.

I am proud to work with the other members of the New Britain legislative delegation on this special event.

As Rep. Geragosian says, "It is important to come together and recognize those who serve our country, both past and present. We are especially proud of those Connecticut men and women who have fought to keep us safe. We are grateful for their service."

Rep. Tercyak adds that, “New Britain’s men and women have a long honored tradition of answering the call to duty. These brave servicemen and women deserve our thanks and recognition that this service medal offers.”

And Rep. Boukus has said, “I would like to express my deepest appreciation to our veterans. The Connecticut Wartime Veterans Service Medal is an important way for the State of Connecticut to honor the service and sacrifice of local veterans.”

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Road work planned on I-84 in New Britain.

To keep you informed, I want to let you know that I just received the following information from the state Department of Transportation:
NEWINGTON, CT – State Transportation Commissioner Jeffrey A. Parker announced today that the Connecticut Department of Transportation’s Office of Engineering is developing plans to improve a section of I-84 in the City of New Britain and the Town of Farmington.
“It is the Department’s policy to keep the public informed and involved when such projects are undertaken,” said Parker. “It is important that the community share its concerns with us to assist in the project’s development.” It is not anticipated that an informational meeting or a formal public hearing will be held for this project due to the limited nature of the proposed work.
The project involves the milling and placement of a 3-inch Hot Mix Asphalt overlay on I-84, from approximately 0.3 mile north of the Route 72 interchange in the City of New Britain northerly to the Route 6 interchange in the Town of Farmington, to extend the service life of the existing pavement.
The present schedule indicates that the design will be completed in January 2011, with construction anticipated to start in summer 2011. This project will be undertaken with 40% Federal and 60% State funds.
Anyone interested in receiving information on this project may do so by contacting Mr. Scott A. Hill, Manager of State Design, at (860) 594-3272, or by e-mail at Please make reference to State Project No. 88-180.
I assume that this is meant to say that it will be completed in January of 2012, not 2011, since it is starting work in the summer of 2011.

Friday, September 10, 2010

City bioscience corridor made possible by state law.

The City of New Britain is taking economic development steps made possible by state legislation I voted to approve this year. As reported in the Herald:
The Common Council moved Wednesday to create a bioscience corridor within the city as a way of attracting new businesses.

The resolution follows Connecticut Public Act 10-104, which allows the zoning changes, based on census data, that the city hopes will bring high paying, long-term jobs, development of under-utilized properties and the chance for major infrastructure investment by interested businesses.
I would point out Sen. DeFronzo's strong leadership on this issue. And, at a time when some Republicans are throwing partisan darts at New Britain's state legislators, it was nice to see the words of one Republican City Council member, pointing out the work of the state legislators in approving this very pro-business and pro-jobs legislation (also from the Herald):
Alderman Mark Bernacki made a resolution to adopt, which was seconded by Alderman Louis Salvio.

“I want to commend the legislature, including Sen. DeFronzo, for including these properties in our hospitals that will allow businesses to come in,” Bernacki said. Bernacki called the use of properties for these kinds of purposes a “plus for the city.”
This legislation, as I pointed out in a previous post, is an investment in a high-tech future for New Britain and our region:
The legislation recently approved to enhance the UConn Health Center will ensure good paying jobs for New Britain and Newington residents who work at that facility. But this legislation does much more than this for New Britain:
  • It requires $5 million investment in the creation of a cutting-edge cancer treatment facility in the City of New Britain.
  • It creates a new Enterprise Zone in the New Britain to encourage the growth of biotech and other high-technology manufacturing in the city.
I would add that I would still like to see enhancements to the biotech Enterprise Zone in New Britain to provide additional advantages for New Britain over locations in the direct vicinity of the Health Center in Farmington. But the legislation still provides real opportunities for our city to grow economically and create new, high tech manufacturing and jobs.

This legislation shows the kind of leadership we have in New Britain's state legislative delegation to build our economy and create jobs. At a time when we need a new direction to create new jobs, I am happy to have approved this important legislation.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Aquinas School blight action - finally.

New Britain City Hall has finally done the right thing by acquiring control of the Saint Thomas Aquinas School building at the corner of East and Kelsey Street. Taking control of the building from the absentee owners who have left it in a deteriorating condition should have been done long ago, but it is good that action is finally being taken.

This school building has been in a blighted condition for quite some time. Its deteriorating state has not just been harmful to the quality of life of East Side residents - it has been a painful sight for many people who attended Aquinas. Many people, including me, have been urging action on the part of the city for a long time, now. I pressed for action, as well, during my campaign for Mayor last year. So I am happy that this pressure has finally yielded some movement, by City Hall, in the right direction.

While it is always best for the city to work with property owners to assist, urge and pressure them to do the right thing by putting the buildings in our community to good, and properly maintained use, it is important for the city to be able to take strong action against absentee property owners who simply do not. And, when an absentee owner refuses or simply does not address blighted conditions, the city must aggressively apply fines and fees until they add up to more than the value of the property. Then the city is in a position to take the property in order to allow for a new use of the building and/or a new  owner who will properly maintain it.

While it is a good thing that the most recent absentee owner of the Aquinas School building has voluntarily relinquished control of this building, it is not a good thing that it took so long - long years - for City Hall to accomplish this. Our City Hall has, unfortunately, not been using all the legal tools it has to address chronic blighted buildings. Mayor Stewart argued against using foreclosure as a means for the city to take control of this building. But state law, for example, also allows the city to take blighted buildings by eminent domain. If the city used a strong anti-blight ordinance to aggressively levy fines and fees for all of the many, many blighted conditions on a chronic blighted property, it would not take long for these fines and fees to add up to more than the value of the property. The city would then be owed more by the property owner than the city would be required to pay in taking the property by eminent domain. So the city would then, very quickly, have control of the property and be in a position make it a part of positive change for its neighborhood and the city as a whole.

Something like this should have been done, years ago, with the Aquinas building. It may be water under the bridge, now, with this particular building, but there are a good number more such buildings in New Britain for which strong action of the kind I am urging is certainly in order - including a good number that have also been in blighted and deteriorating condition for years. Like the Aquinas building, those buildings bring down the quality of life in neighborhoods - needlessly.

This is problem that our City Hall has a lot of power to deal with. I and other state legislators have been and will continue to approve even more powers for municipalities to address blighted and abandoned buildings. But our efforts will not help unless the city, itself, uses those powers as it should for the benefit of our community.

In the meantime, I sincerely hope that the city listens to the concerns of the residents in the East Side and the city as a whole when considering the future use of the Aquinas building, and that it is open to creative solutions that can truly benefit our community for the future.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Thanks to Democrats for helping New Britain schools.

I would like to offer my sincere thanks to President Obama, Congressman Murphy and others for their courageous decision to approve what, for New Britain, will mean $4.3 million that will class sizes down by calling back teachers who were to be laid-off.

Their decision to approve the Education Jobs and Medicaid Assistance Act was against the backdrop of very ugly, partisan attacks, so Obama, Murphy and others deserve credit for sticking to their principles and doing what is right for New Britain, Newington and our communities' children.

As I said in my follow-up to my earlier post, the Education Jobs and Medicaid Assistance Act does not allow the state to retain this increased funding in the state budget - something I was advocating against, in any case. However, this law did place in the Governor the sole power to decide how this increased education funding is to be distributed among the state's school districts.

The law gave Gov. Rell two choices: using the same formula as the Education Cost Sharing Grant (ECS) or the federal Title I grant formula. The ECS and Title I grant systems have different missions and, as it turned out, using the Title I formula to distribute the Education Jobs and Medicaid Assistance Act education funding would have been much better for New Britain. If Gov. Rell chose to use this formula, New Britain would be receiving around $5.7 million in increased education funding. While all school districts are struggling, New Britain's is in a desperate position, so using the Title I formula was just the right thing to do.

However, Gov. Rell, instead, chose to use the formula that set the funding for New Britain at $4.3 million, $1.4 million less. Rell's decision also negatively affects New Britain kids by denying the state vocational-technical high schools, which includes Goodwin Tech in New Britain, $2 million, and by denying the Capital Region Education Council (CREC) almost $700,000 that would have been used to operate inter-district magnet schools that New Britain kids attend.

New Britain is not alone in being disadvantaged by Gov. Rell's decision. All of Connecticut's major cities took a hit (rough estimates):

Hartford -$7,897,080.24
New Haven -$3,993,381.15
Waterbury -$3,497,923.42
Bridgeport -$2,861,758.38
Stamford -$1,884,272.46
New Britain -$1,431,451.33
Norwalk -$1,214,856.11

Meanwhile, her action appears to have provided more funding for some of the wealthiest towns in the state.

It is not surprising that Gov. Rell would choose to send less funding to the cities, since she has consistently opposed funding for the PILOT (Payment In-Lieu of Taxes). PILOT provides funding to municipalities, like New Britain (and Newington), that have a lot of hospital, college and state facilities that are exempt from property taxes. Because PILOT funding is important property tax relief for cities like New Britain, I have advocated for increasing it, while Gov. Rell has insisted that it be cut.

That said, the $4.3 million increase won by Congressman Murphy and President Obama will go along way to averting a crisis in New Britain's schools. They and others deserve a lot of credit and thanks.

Of course, there is still a lot more to do to ensure New Britain's kids a quality education.  As I wrote in a previous post, better policies are needed at the state level...
even after having increased state education aid to New Britain by 27% over the years, this year, I have been advocating both for reforms that would increase support for local schools and for using last year's budget surplus to increase state education funding for distressed municipalities like New Britain
...and in New Britain City Hall...
New Britain schools are in an especially bad position - mostly because of years in which City Hall has refused to provide much, if any, over the barest possible minimum and has refused to accept increased state support under the state inter-district magnet school program bring the improvements that are needed. We need to come together as a community to get this done.

In the meantime, much thanks are in order for the leadership of President Obama, Congressman Murphy and others for what the Education Jobs and Medicaid Assistance Act does for our local schools and kids.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The recently approved federal education aid should go to schools, not the state budget.

Like every state budget I ever had to consider approving, I agree with some parts of the current state budget and disagree with others. In the end, I, and all other legislators, have to decide whether the good parts of the final budget compromise outweigh the bad parts enough to support it. While there was enough good in the current state budget for me to approve it, there is a lot in it that I strongly disagree with.

One of those things was the decision, first proposed by Gov. Rell, to use increased federal education aid to keep the state Educational Cost Share (ECS) grants the same, as opposed to finding other money to maintain state education funding and adding new federal education funding to the state ECS funding. Especially since Gov. Rell proposed tens of millions of dollars in cuts to local aid, just protecting state education funding from cuts was a victory. But, while this is better than a cut, I have not been satisfied with the funding level as it is.

That is why, even after having increased state education aid to New Britain by 27% over the years, this year, I have been advocating both for reforms that would increase support for local schools and for using last year's budget surplus to increase state education funding for distressed municipalities like New Britain.

Since I wanted increased federal aid to increase support for local schools in the first place, I am pleased that the new federal legislation that, among other things, is designed to avert teacher layoffs and keep class sizes as low as possible, has rules that appear to require that this funding be distributed directly to local school districts. Apparently, the federal law allocating this funding gives the Governor the sole power to decide how it is to be distributed. So I call on Gov. Rell not to seek to avoid the intent of this legislation to pass this funding on to the local schools.

All school districts are struggling right now, but New Britain schools are in an especially bad position - mostly because of years in which City Hall has refused to provide much, if any, over the barest possible minimum and has refused to accept increased state support under the state inter-district magnet school program.

All of this, and the New Britain Mayor's decision this year to illegally withhold $1.5 million of the school funding that was allocated by the City Council, leaves the New Britain school district facing a loss of 112 teaching positions that will increase class sizes and harm the quality of education. At this time, more than any, it is important that Gov. Rell not seek to stand in the way of the newly approval federal education aid going to our local schools.

If my calculations are incorrect, I project that this new federal funding, if it is distributed by the ECS formula, would increase New Britain schools' funding by over $4.2 million.

And, these same calculations show that Newington's education funding would increase by over $700,000.

The $4.2 million for New Britain schools, plus the $1.5 million currently being withheld by the Mayor, would seem to be enough to reverse all of the teacher layoffs and nearly eliminate the teacher staffing cuts - keeping class sizes down and maintaining education quality.

That would avert a real crisis in New Britain. So I ask Gov. Rell to pass this new federal funding on to our local schools.

Update August 17th: From what I have been hearing, there is wide agreement that this new federal education funding must me passed on by the state to local schools and not retained in the state budget. Unless I hear otherwise, I do not think that there will be an effort to stand in the way of this. So the question now is what formula the Governor will use to distribute this funding among school districts.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

State Election Enforcement Commission FAIL

The staff at the State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) has just told me that they consider the use of this site and other social networking websites, like Facebook, to be campaign expenditures.

For the record, the SEEC staff are completely wrong. They want me to write this, "Paid for by O'Brien for State Representative, Emy Vasquez-Skene, Treasurer. Approved by Tim O'Brien" on this site. However, let's be clear, this site is NOT paid for by O'Brien for State Representative because it costs nothing to use.

On the surface, this might not sound like such a big deal, but the implications of this silly, nit-picky misinterpretation by SEEC could be far reaching.

But first, a bit of background...

Our state's campaign finance law is built around the definitions of two important terms "contribution" and "expenditure". So important are these legal definitions that each of these words is given its own section of the state laws to elaborate on its meaning - section 9-601a for "contribution" and 9-601b for "expenditure". These terms are important because something is only regulated by our state's campaign finance laws if, and only if, that something falls within the definition of either "contribution" or "expenditure" (or both). Some of the campaign finance laws require "paid for by" attributions, some require reporting in legal filings at the SEEC and others tell you what you can and cannot do. But if something does not count as either a "contribution" or a "expenditure", that something is exempt from the campaign finance laws.

There is good reason for this. Campaign finance laws are designed to prevent the corruption or perceived corruption of elected government through large campaign contributions or expenditures. The idea is that elected officials maybe are, but certainly could be perceived to be, in the pockets of someone who donated or spent a lot of money to get them elected. Thus, campaign finance laws regulate money spent in campaigns - and they are not supposed to regulate anything else. So giving money or something of value to a campaign is supporting a campaign financially and it may count as a "contribution", and spending money or using something of value by or on behalf a campaign is also supporting a campaign financially and may count as an "expenditure".

By the way, in the legal justification for campaign finance laws, the word large is important. Small amounts of money do not affect election outcomes and, in any case, the Supreme Court in Buckley vs. Valeo clearly pointed out that it was large amounts of campaign money that justified campaign funding regulations. Plus, campaign finance laws, like all laws, are not meant to apply to small, nit-picky things. That is why there is a general legal precept called de minimis, which means something that is "so small or minimal in difference that it does not matter or the law does not take it into consideration."

Now, let us look at how the new world of free internet services fit into this...

Free internet services have blossomed in recent years. Free internet services are just that, free for anyone to use. The companies that run them offer their various services free for users for their own business reasons, including advertising, but for people who create accounts at and use these services, there is no cost.

This blog exists on such a free internet service, called Blogger. Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube and many other social networking sites are free internet services or offer a free version of their service, like the one I use for my site "Tim O'Brien's Online Community" and my campaign website. Even web mail services such as GMail, Yahoo Mail and Hotmail are free internet sites, as well, because they cost users nothing to send and receive e-mail through them.

Now, let us take the case of someone (even a candidate for office) who uses a free internet service - say, Facebook - to express their opinion about who should be elected. Because this person is not charged any money by Facebook for using their services, this user is not expending any money and therefore their use of Facebook does not count under section 9-601b as an "expenditure". Even though Facebook does spend money maintaining their service, Facebook is only deemed to be making a "contribution" if the amount they charge the user to use their services is less than what they would charge anyone else. Since the amount Facebook charges anyone is $0, the $0 charged to the person expressing their point of view about the elections is no discount, and therefore their use of Facebook also does not count as a "contribution" under section 9-601a.

Since this person's use of Facebook is neither an expenditure nor a contribution, the use of Facebook by anyone, including candidates for office, is not regulated under our state's campaign finance laws.

The SEEC staff counter that the use of free internet services for the expression of political opinions are still regulated under campaign finance laws because, to access these websites, you still have to the use of your home computer  and internet service, which both cost money. But they are still dead wrong on this account, too. The state laws, in subsections 9-601a(b)(5) and 9-601b(b)(6) explicitly exempt "[t]he use of real or personal property ... voluntarily provided by an individual to a candidate or on behalf of a state central or town committee, in rendering voluntary personal services for candidate or party-related activities at the individual's residence...". So, any use of your own computer in your own home is exempt from the campaign finance laws - including accessing Facebook. So again, SEEC is wrong.

Even if the exemptions in subsections 9-601a(b)(5) and 9-601b(b)(6) did not apply, how much, really, of an expense can the use of your home computer to use Facebook really be? Pennies? Fractions of pennies? Plus, you would have had your computer and internet service anyway, so there is no increase in cost to you because you used your home computer to access Facebook. In either case, the precept of de minimis - that these "costs", even if they do exist, are too small to think about - clearly applies, and Elections Enforcement should have the common sense not to apply the entirety of the regulations in our election laws to things that have nothing to do with the kind of large expenditures that are the whole purpose of our campaign finance laws in the first place.

The problems with this mis-interpretation of law are many...

Perhaps the SEEC's goal is simply to require that all websites operated by candidates and their campaigns to have a "Paid for by..." statement. But it is both incorrect and silly to require candidates to say that their campaigns "paid for" something that they did not, in fact, pay for. And the bigger problem is that, if SEEC considers a website with a "paid for by" statement for one candidate to be that one of that candidate's campaign websites, then then it would be illegal to use that website to support any other candidate without that candidate's campaign paying a pro-rated share of the cost.

So, for example, if I put on my Facebook profile, "Paid for by O'Brien for State Representative, Emy Vasquez-Skene, Treasurer. Approved by Tim O'Brien", that Facebook profile might be considered a website for my campaign committee. If I then subsequently write a "wall post" on my profile that asks people to vote for my favorite candidate for governor, SEEC staff actually told me that I would have to put the "paid for by" attribution for that candidate on my Facebook profile. But what about the pro-rated share of the cost? And what cost? $0.0001?

I also asked SEEC staff how this rule would affect people who are not candidates for office - the general public. Their answer is that using free internet services like Facebook to advocate in favor of or against a candidate would count as small "independent expenditures" - meaning that SEEC still was suggesting that private individuals would be making regulated campaign expenditures under the laws just by using their Facebook accounts. They did suggest that these might count as very small "independent expenditures" that would not require attribution and legal reporting, but using this "independent expenditure" exemption places the burden on the private individual using their Facebook (or other social networking) account to prove that they had no connection with the candidate they were speaking in favor of. Otherwise, they would still have to put the "paid for by" statement for the candidate they wrote in favor of on their Facebook profile. SEEC staff did say that they did not think that this attribution rule should apply to campaign volunteers but could not give a good reason why, since they interpreted that the use of social networking sites counted as campaign expenditures and there is nothing in the definition of "expenditure" that treats expenditures by candidates differently from expenditures by anyone else.

Then there is Twitter. Twitter "tweets" can only be 140 characters long, not words, characters. My "paid for by" attribution statement is 96 characters long, even without punctuation. That leaves only 44 characters for me to actually say anything. Here is a little experiment to see how far 44 character goes: "Let's see how much I can write before I use ". And that is it, 44 characters. Is this really what SEEC wants to do? Really?

There is good reason why free internet services, and social networking sites like Facebook, should be exempt from campaign finance law. If the interpretation the SEEC means to apply here stands, unnecessary rules and regulations could make it harder or even impossible for everyday people to use the great promise that the internet offers for democracy. For the past several decades, the high costs of mass media - mainly television - have made expressing political opinions too costly for the average person to afford. But the internet offers the promise of free communication that can, at least in part, replace the expensive communication that can only be afforded by the wealthy and large corporations.

The laws of our state do, in fact, exempt the use of these free internet services from regulation. And that is a good thing that should be defended. If it is not, it is foreseeable that private individuals will have to ply through red tape, file reports and post "paid for by" notices when all they want to do is write their opinions on the internet on a site that does not charge them for doing it.

In conclusion...

The good and orderly application of the laws of the state require that we have a State Elections Enforcement Commission that exercises common sense in applying the laws. The election laws are written to give SEEC a lot of discretion so that they can exercise common sense in making sure that the real purpose of campaign finance law is fulfilled. That purpose, again, being to prevent the adverse impact of large amounts of private money in the political process, NOT to nit-pick infinitesimally small or non-existent amounts of money so that they can get their hooks into regulating people's free speech (the kind that actually is free).

This matter is just one example of how our SEEC has been choosing cumbersome nit-picking beyond their legal charge instead of exercising the common sense that is in their charge. SEEC has had propensity to not think through how their interpretations and mis-interpretations of our state's election laws can make it cumbersome for people to express their opinions and participate in the political process - all too often making our laws harmful rather than helpful to democracy by making it harder for everyday people to participate than for people with a lot of money at their disposal.

It does not have to be this way. The State Elections Enforcement Commission does an admirable job in many ways.  I implore them to take a step back, think about the implications of the way they do things, and bring a little more common sense to the job.

By the way, this message, though I am not legally required to say so, is, in fact, approved by Tim O'Brien. But it is not paid for by O'Brien for State Representative, Emy Vasquez-Skene, Treasurer.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

With new surplus, state should provide additional funding for urban schools.

The budget decisions of the past two years have been very difficult. In order to close the multi-billion-dollar state budget deficit, I and other legislators cut billions of dollars from the budget - difficult cuts that reduced funding for important services I care about in our state. Even with these cuts, we worked hard to ensure that important public services were maintained.

One of the things that was not cut was state aid for local schools. This is one of the largest items in the state budget, so even modest increases in state aid costs a lot in the state budget. Gov. Rell had produced tens of millions in cuts in state aid - which would have meant large education cuts - so preventing these cuts was a victory that has kept the difficulty of local budgeting from being that much worse.

But, even this year, with massive budge cuts going on, I still fought for changes in education funding that would have increased support for local school districts and, especially for cities like New Britain, avoided the difficulties they presently face. Even though other state legislators, this past year, were reluctant to make the significant changes that I was proposing, the ideas I put forward are worth pursuing when our state has a new governor.

After all these massive budget cuts, it was refreshing to read, today, that State Comptroller Nancy Wyman announced that our work to cut the budget and some rebounding in the economy have resulted in a state budget surplus that has risen to $242.9 million. I certainly would agree that this does not change caution and discipline we need to maintain balance in the state budget, since there are still deficits projected for future years.

However, local school budgets are badly hurting right now - and things are especially harsh in New Britain, where years of neglect by City Hall left the local schools under already tenuous conditions even in the good times. This neglect has made a situation that, in these difficult times, is stressful for many communities an absolute disaster in New Britain.

New Britain City Hall has a responsibility, now, to act to ameliorate the larger class sizes that are the result if its years of neglect, and whatever is done on the state level to make things easier does not relieve New Britain City Hall of that responsibility. However, with the growing state surplus for the year just ending, I would like, once again, to open up the question of what the state might be able to do to help.

That is why I am proposing that the state take a small amount of this past year's budget surplus to increase the Priority School District grant that would help schools in communities like New Britain.

I know that some politicians in our state might respond to my call by saying something like, "There goes a Democrat, wanting to spend again as soon as there's a dime of surplus." But, I would challenge anyone inclined to say that to look at the situation in the New Britain schools. Granted, the City of New Britain could have, should have and still can do more, but - as I have always advocated - as much funding as the state can provide helps maintain the quality of education in New Britain schools.

While the real education funding victory these past two years was, indeed, shielding state Educational Cost Sharing grant funding from cuts, I will not give up in advocating for an increase - especially when it can make such a difference here and now.

I hope that my colleagues in the legislature will give strong consideration to returning to special session to take up my proposal.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Why the Wall Street crowd wants to blame you for the recession.

In the midst of the financial meltdown that roiled through 2008, I noticed a message starting to percolate out through the media blaming average, everyday Americans for the problems of the economy. This struck me, because, up until around then, going back generations, the message from these same sources had been very different.

Everyday Americans were told to aspire to the American dream of homeownership - that this was the hallmark of responsible citizenship and within reach for just about everyone. Average Americans were told that they, in the "ownership economy" could expect to "own" a stake in corporate wealth through their 401(k)'s and other investments - and that these were not just a better substitute for a regular pension, but could make for a well-to-do retirement for anyone. And, in general, everyday Americans were told that there was no reason whosoever to question the proposition that every generation in our nation would continue to live better than their parents.

Then, the 2008 meltdown and recession happened. Almost immediately, we started to hear the message change.  Now, average, everyday Americans are being told that the reason for our nation's economic problems are that average, everyday Americans have been living beyond their means.

The message about the American dream of homeownership turned into the new mantra: "Homeownership is not right for everyone," we now hear from Wall Street and media pundits. And those speakers for Wall Street elites have replaced their talk of unending prosperity and lavish retirements with discussions of how American consumers got themselves into trouble by borrowing too much, resulting in the present day of reckoning. Replacing the former exuberance about the limitless growth of our Wall Street-run economy is a now a sober lecture about how we all must learn to make due with less.

But is everyone truly making due with less? The middle class and poor sure are:
The recession has hit middle-income and poor families hardest, widening the economic gap between the richest and poorest Americans as rippling job layoffs ravaged household budgets. (source: MSNBC)
But to the richest, the recession was just a different opportunity to make money:
...last year's wealth wasteland has become a billionaire bonanza. Most of the richest people on the planet have seen their fortunes soar in the past year.
This year the World's Billionaires have an average net worth of $3.5 billion, up $500 million in 12 months. (source: MSNBC)
So while the already hurting middle class and poor are asked to make sacrifices in their own lives, little attention is being paid to the growing wealth of the richest and the growing inequality between them and everyone else.

It is not bad luck that that there is such growing inequality between the wealthy Wall Street elite class, whose wealth has been growing, and most everyone else, whose incomes are hurting and who are now being asked to make all of the sacrifices in a shrinking U.S. economy. This is the result of policies that were intentionally designed to result in this outcome.

You do not have to be an economist to figure out what has been happening. Almost everyone I have spoken to in the city and town I represent about this has wondered how it is that we can have a successful economy in the long term when we are exporting so very much of our manufacturing base.  How long, we have asked, can we have decent jobs for everyone when so much of what we buy at the store is manufactured in low-wage places?

That is why so many of us have been questioning the economic policies of our country - Wall Street behavior and government "free trade" laws that have combined to send jobs to the nations (and states) willing to subject their workers, consumers and environment to worse conditions. We questioned why it would be a good idea to have policies that undercut human living standards for no reason other than corporate profit.

But, when everyday Americans have brought this up over the past few decades, our concerns have been brushed-off. We were told that it does not matter that so much of our manufacturing jobs were being exported to low-wage countries (or, often, low-wage places in our country) because every good-paying manufacturing job lost would inherently be replaced with a better paying job doing something else. The U.S., we were told, was to become the brain center of a new "information age" economy in which everyday people would be able to shed their dirty factory jobs in favor of clean office jobs. It was a vision in which the U.S., and American workers, would "mature" to become the governing elite of the world economy, leaving the hard, grunt work to the developing world.

Another thing we were told is that we were not, in fact, giving up our manufacturing base. It was just that our industry was becoming more efficient - more productive. We had turned a corner, technologically, in which we could genuinely produce more for less. And so, we were told, the lost factory jobs in places like New Britain were not so much attributable to exporting jobs to low-wage places, but rather to their replacement with more efficient forms of production that require fewer workers.

And, we were told, those who questioned the exporting of jobs were just chicken-little Luddites - the evidence being that things were going just fine. The office jobs that we were promised seemed to be appearing, and it looked like we really were at the head of a new economy in which all Americans could be both the brains of the world economy and - through our 401(k)'s, etc. - its owners. Many people were - and many still are - persuaded that the Wall Street elites had us on the right track.

Of course, the assurances we received came undone when the mess of derivatives and the debt of our economy all came crashing down in 2008.

The real truth is that, in fact, you cannot have an economy when too little of your manufacturing is done by middle class workers in your own state and country. The real truth is also that the only reasons it looked, for a while, like what the Wall Street elites were telling us was working was, first, because they created a fictional economy floated on exotic investment instruments that made it appear that what people's 401(k)'s, etc., were invested in were real, even though they were not and, second, by creating a massive system of debt in which our country imported a middle class lifestyle by borrowing from other countries. All of this covered-up the weakness of the economy that existed because so much of our manufacturing employment had been exported.

But this is not something we hear so much, perhaps because saying it betrays an inconvenient truth about our economy.  The truth is that, for the past four decades, the elites on Wall Street - and the politicians in Washington D.C. who have done their bidding - have been trading away our economic strength for their own profit.

Back in the post World War II era, the moment when our nation was at its zenith of economic strength among the world's nations, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, around a full quarter of the value added by our economy was in manufacturing.  This statistic, "value added," is important because it shows how much of what is produced by our economy (the Gross Domestic Product) is accounted for by value created by the different sectors of our economy. And so it is important that to know that, when we were truly strong economically, a full quarter of the value added of our economy - and the largest share of it - was in manufacturing. In 1953, 28.3% of our nation's value-added was in manufacturing.

But, that number started to shrink in the late 1960's and, by 2008, it has dropped to 11.5% of our economy.

Taking its place as the leading portion of the value-added of our economy was the sector lead by financial services.  That sector went from 10.4% of our economic value added in 1947 to 20% in 2008.  In other words, moving money and ownership around became a bigger part of the size of our economy than actually making things.

In addition to outright disproving any notion that the newer, high-tech manufacturing produces the same value to our economy as the "old" manufacturing did, the change from a real economy to a paper one shows us why it is that the recession we are now in is the recession that changes everything.  It is the recession that finally exposed the fraud Wall Street has been perpetrating on the American people.

That is why it is troubling that we have not heard much talk about this truth. Instead, what we mainly hear is that the recession is mostly the fault of everyday Americans - everyday Americans who dreamed the American dream of homeownership, everyday Americans who worked hard for paychecks that could lift their families into the middle class, everyday Americans who wanted health care for their families and college for their children, everyday Americans who wanted security in retirement and to pass on to their adult children and grandchildren a better life than they had. It is everyday Americans who seem to be taking the bulk of the blame - and are therefore told it is fair that they be asked to tighten their belts.

And, while you, everyday Americans, tighten your own family budgets, you are told that you should also expect to receive fewer public services, with cutbacks such as in education, higher tuition at college, fewer services for seniors and less help while unemployed during the recession. You also are asked to blame your neighbors whose jobs are to provide these services because they, too, strive to lift their families into the middle class.

All of this conveniently diverts attention from the real cause of our economic woes - a system in which wealthy elites have been profiting by undercutting the middle class incomes of everyday Americans. It is a system that has been going on for four decades and finally came to its ugly fruition in 2008. Now you, everyday Americans, who did what you were told was the way to a respectable middle-class life, are being asked to accept the blame - and bear the burden - in place of the elites who are actually at fault.

There is a lot of work that has to be done to rebuild a strong and prosperous economy for ourselves and younger generations. But getting there requires that we confront the real causes of our present troubles and extricate ourselves from the bad systems that got us into this situation in the first place.

I am an optimist enough to believe that we can.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lower electric rates, new jobs & renewable energy blocked by Rell veto.

Electric deregulation in Connecticut was a major mistake that drove up the cost of both electricity and natural gas. The deregulated electric market makes power plant owners and Wall Street elites wealthy at electric customers' expense.

I have been fighting, since I was elected to the legislature, to reform this costly system. Industry special interests have continued to block reform of the deregulation system, but I am continuing my work - pressing for a clean energy economy that saves money for electric customers and builds new jobs for the future instead of making Wall Street richer.

This year, I am proud to have won approval in the legislature of major reform that, if it was not vetoed by Gov. Rell, would have helped our state with:

Lower electric rates:

Connecticut's failed experiment with "electric deregulation" forces us to pay the highest electric rates in the nation. This not only hurts household budgets, it also costs jobs because our high electric rates make Connecticut a high-cost place for businesses to be. Change to this failed system is important. After years of fighting to reform this failed system, I am very pleased that the legislature voted to approve legislation that would lower electric rates. This legislation:
  • Requires the Department of Public Utility Control to follow a new process that could result in cutting electric rates by as much as 15%
  • Requires the Department to create a new discount in electric rates for households of modest income by 2011.
  • Creates new consumer protections for people against abusive marketing practices by competitive electric suppliers, such as allowing time for customers to see their contract for service and cancel the contract after they have read it.
Green Jobs & Clean Energy:

And this legislation advances another important priority I have been strongly advocating for: growing our economy by investing in clean energy. This legislation:
  • Creates greatly expanded solar and clean energy investments in the state - creating new opportunities for economic development and jobs installing solar and other clean energy equipment.
  • To encourage new high-tech manufacturing in New Britain, the legislation includes a provision that I proposed that creates an extra incentive for solar equipment manufactured or assembled in distressed municipalities.
  • Allows municipalities to set-up their own programs to assist homeowners in converting to renewable energy and making their homes more energy efficient.
Important progress being blocked:

This important legislation would represent a major victory for the people of our state. Unfortunately, its benefits - lower electric rates, renewable energy and good-paying jobs - are being blocked because Gov. Rell vetoed this important legislation.

Gov. Rell's decision to veto this important legislation is harmful to the environment, hurts job creation and forces Connecticut residents and businesses to pay the highest electric rates in the nation. Her veto was shortsighted and unfortunate decision.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Creating Jobs: Bold Action for the Future.

Our state economy is suffering from decades of policies that sent good paying industrial jobs overseas to enrich millionaires and billionaires on Wall Street. We need to turn things around.

That's why I have been pressing for legislation to build our state's economy for the future - create new industrial jobs in Connecticut by investing in a clean energy economy, public transportation and the manufacturing to supply these new investments. Of course, I also pressed for legislation to help people through the recession. While there is more that I will keep working to get done done, I am pleased to have approved sweeping jobs and economic development legislation:

Creating jobs by helping local businesses grow:

I pushed for legislation to create jobs for people now. That is why I am pleased to have approved legislation to:
  • Provide business tax credits for small businesses (fewer than 50 employees in Connecticut) creating new full-time jobs - three-year credits, maximum credit is $ 200 per month for new employee, for small businesses that create new, full-time jobs filled by new employees who reside in Connecticut.
  • Provide the similar business tax credits for businesses hiring Connecticut residents with disabilities.
One of the big things that I pressed for, in this time of tight credit, is action to make credit and capital available for businesses to grow in our state. That is why I was pleased to enact legislation to:
  • Establish a $15 million revolving loan program for small businesses and nonprofit organizations to provide up to $500,000 loans and lines of credit to businesses and nonprofit organizations employing fewer than 50 people.
  • Provide capital and support services to local businesses developing new concepts - authorizing $5 million in bonds available for businesses principally located in Connecticut and at least 75% of its employees work here.
  • Create personal income tax credits for "angel investors" - people who invest at least $ 100,000 in Connecticut start-up businesses in certain sectors.
  • Replace the Insurance Reinvestment Tax Credit Program to better ensure that the investments go to growing our state economy.
  • Authorize $500,000 in bonds for a pilot program to help manufacturers convert their facilities into green operations or implement energy efficiency measures by using lean manufacturing strategies.
Here are some other important ways that the legislation helps businesses to create jobs:
  • Requiring the Department of Economic and Community Development to take more steps to promote exports and manufacturing by assigning enough available staff to (1) provide technical assistance to businesses regarding exporting and manufacturing, (2) help groups of businesses in the same industry implement policies designed to improve their overall competitiveness.
  • Allowing the use of Manufacturing Assistance Act funds to promote exporting, including sponsoring export support programs, helping companies access U. S. Department of Commerce export assistance services, and providing export-related marketing materials and website improvements.
  • Exempting from the sales and use tax items sold, stored, used or consumed in the renewable and clean energy technology industries.
  • Establishing a 12-member task force to determine how state agencies and departments can reduce or eliminate duplicative procedures and paper usage.The task force must determine how technology can help agencies and departments achieve these goals.
Helping workers and working families:

At the same time as we work to help businesses to create new jobs, it is important to help working people and their families weather the recession and prepare for the future. That is why I was pleased to approve legislation that:

  • Allows certain laid off workers an extension in the state COBRA health coverage from 18 to 30 months.
  • Requires the Community-Technical Colleges to develop programs providing job-related skills and workforce credentials for the training needs of unemployed Connecticut residents.
  • Reimburses people for student loans and training grants for Connecticut residents with educational backgrounds and jobs related to green technology, life science, or health information technology and holding jobs related to these fields.
  • Allows qualified E-1 and E-2 electricians to be paid for work under the solar photovoltaic rebate program.
  • Creates a new mortgage crisis job training program providing job training and job placement assistance to borrowers who are unemployed, underemployed, or in need of a second job.

Plus, I was especially pleased to have approved legislation to require the state to invest in the budget and facility needs of the Vocational-Technical high schools. For far too long, these important schools have been left behind by state bureaucrats.

Investment in a high-tech future:

The legislation recently approved to enhance the UConn Health Center will ensure good paying jobs for New Britain and Newington residents who work at that facility. But this legislation does much more than this for New Britain:
  • It requires $5 million investment in the creation of a cutting-edge cancer treatment facility in the City of New Britain.
  • It creates a new Enterprise Zone in the New Britain to encourage the growth of biotech and other high-technology manufacturing in the city.
In addition, I approved legislation that creates a Chemical Innovations Institute at the UConn Health Center to help make our area a center for high-tech research and development and encourage business growth in our new Enterprise Zone.

More work to do:

Even with this important legislation, there is still much to do to build our state economy for the future and ensure the kind of good paying jobs the people of our state need. I will continue to advocate for ever bolder job-creating policies.

Monday, May 03, 2010

The State House should not have voted to legalize unlimited corporate campaign spending.

The State House of Representatives should not have voted to legalize, under the laws of our state, unlimited, direct corporate spending to influence elections.

Unfortunately that is exactly what it did on Saturday evening.

At issue was state legislation designed to be the state's response a recent decision of the U.S. Supreme Court.  In a previous post, I described why this Supreme Court decision was so wrong...
...the U.S. Supreme Court made a decision that grants large corporations - including corporations from foreign countries - a nearly unlimited ability to use massive amounts of money to directly control our election process - handing massive power to the very corporate special interests that caused the economic meltdown that we are struggling to lift our nation out of today.
Most of the bill approved by the State House was sound - requiring disclosure in corporate and union independent campaign expenditures of what corporation or union did the spending and requiring CEOs to openly approve the ads for which their corporations pay. These requirements are not very strong, in that it will be easy for corporate attorneys to find ways to use shell corporations and clever accounting to hide what corporations are really doing the spending on political ads.  However, these rules are better than nothing.

The part of the legislation that is the real problem is in sections 7 and 8 of the bill.  For example, section 7 says:
Sec. 7. Section 9-613 of the general statutes is amended by adding subsection (g) as follows (Effective from passage):
(NEW) (g) Notwithstanding the provisions of this section, a corporation, cooperative association, limited partnership, professional association, limited liability company or limited liability partnership, whether formed in this state or any other, acting alone, may make independent expenditures.
This overtly makes the laws of the State of Connecticut agree with the Supreme Court's decision to legalize unlimited corporate spending to buy control of elections.  Doing this is just, plain wrong.

In the face of such an affront to democracy as this Supreme Court decision, I strongly believe that our state must do whatever is possible to expose this decision as wrong and press for its immediate reversal.  Keeping the ban on direct corporate and union spending on election campaigns in the laws of our state is essential to maintaining that stand against the Supreme Court's decision.

It is not possible to underestimate just how bad this Supreme Court decision is - not just the decision, itself, but the fact that it sets forth the policy of the Supreme Court to strike down laws that protect democracy and free speech for average, everyday Americans in favor of a distorted alternative that corrupts our democracy by letting powerful interests literally buy control of government.

I had hoped to persuade for changes in this legislation before it was brought before the full House of Representatives.  When that did not happen, I attempted to offer an amendment to the bill to remove sections 7 and 8.  This would have made the legislation stronger - requiring minimal disclosure of corporate political spending, but maintaining our state's statutory ban on this corporate control of elections.  Unfortunately, I was barred from bringing my amendment to the floor of the House of Representatives.

While this is truly disappointing, I am heartened that most Americans - Democrats, independents and Republicans - agree that this Supreme Court decision is wrong for our nation (from the Washington Post):
Eight in 10 poll respondents say they oppose the high court's Jan. 21 decision to allow unfettered corporate political spending, with 65 percent "strongly" opposed. Nearly as many backed congressional action to curb the ruling, with 72 percent in favor of reinstating limits.
The poll reveals relatively little difference of opinion on the issue among Democrats (85 percent opposed to the ruling), Republicans (76 percent) and independents (81 percent).
Hopefully, the people of our great nation will press for the change needed to turn back the terrible affront to democracy that this Supreme Court decision is, and restore the value that democracy belongs to the people.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Free TV Polonia coverage for President Kaczynski's funeral on Comast.

I wanted to take a moment to share a message I just received from Comcast announcing temporary free access to TV Polonia from April 16-18.  Here is the information from the message:
As the world mourns the deaths of Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife Maria and all 96 passengers aboard the Polish government jet that crashed last Saturday, Comcast is attempting to recognize the special connection the state's Polish community has to this resounding tragedy by offering some free Polish news coverage to our digital customers.
Specifically, to ensure that members of Connecticut's Polish community are able to see Polish news coverage and watch the funeral of the late President, Comcast will be making TV Polonia, the international television channel of Poland's public broadcaster Telewizja, available to a majority of its digital cable customers across Connecticut.*  TV Polonia will be available free on Comcast Digital Channel 653 throughout this weekend starting on Friday morning, April 16th and ending Sunday evening, April 18th.  Although we can not provide it to all of our digital customers, we are trying to offer it to as many as possible.
New Britain is one of the communities in which Comcast tells me they are making this service available.

I hope this information is helpful.  If you have any questions, please contact me at or 225-1575 and I will try to find the answer.

Of course, since this great tragedy is deeply felt in New Britain, let me say that I appreciate this service from Comcast.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Deepest condolences to the people of Poland.

My deepest condolences go out to the people of Poland for tragic death of President Lech Kaczynski, his wife Maria Kaczynska and members of the Polish delegation on their journey for the 70th commemoration of the Katyn Massacre.

New Britain's ties to Poland are strong, and a tragedy for the Polish people is felt here deeply.  My thoughts, and those of my family, go out to the families of those who were lost and to the people of Poland in this difficult time.

As the official website of the Polish President's office says, "Wieczny odpoczynek racz Im dać Panie." ("Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.")

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Democracy must count more than special interest money.

As you probably have heard, the U.S. Supreme Court made a decision that grants large corporations - including corporations from foreign countries - a nearly unlimited ability to use massive amounts of money to directly control our election process - handing massive power to the very corporate special interests that caused the economic meltdown that we are struggling to lift our nation out of today.

This decision is hugely damaging to our democracy.  The founders of our country recognized that the free-flow of news, opinions and information among the people is vital to a fully functioning democracy.  That is why they specifically wrote, right into our Constitution, protection of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and other rights for all people in our country.  They knew that you can only have government by, of and for the people when average, everyday people can freely share and receive news, opinions and information from other average, everyday people.  On the other hand, when powerful interests hold all the rights to control the flow of news, opinions and information, they control society.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court has, over the years, been distorting the first of our basic Constitutional rights - freedom of speech - to grant interests with large amounts of money at their disposal the unfettered ability to use this wealth to control public discussion about elections and the decisions our elected officials are making - undermining the very protection for average, everyday people that freedom of speech is supposed to ensure.  They did this by saying that the money that someone might spend communicating their opinion has the same constitutional protection as the opinion itself.  In other words, they essentially declared that money is speech and that spending money to influence elections and government decisions has the same constitutional protection as words coming from your mouth or words that you write in an e-mail.

The Supreme Court roundly ignored the fact that they took freedom of speech, which is supposed to be a right held equally by all, and distorted it into a privilege that you get more of the more money you have and less of the less money you have.  And with the ability to buy more "speech", those who control large amounts of money can and do exercise so much control over the flow of news, opinions and information that they are able to effective squeeze out the news, opinions and information coming from average, everyday people.  And this makes the fears of the founders of our nation come true.

The worst aspect of the fact that the Supreme Court is has extended, to moneyed interests, a constitutional right to control the control the flow of news, opinions and information is that, even if average, everyday people can get their elected officials to approve laws limiting the influence of money in politics, the Supreme Court will strike those laws down as "unconstitutional".

What the Supreme Court did in the most recent decision is to strip away one of the last, great protections for everyday people in our national campaign financing laws - the one that said that corporations are not allowed to directly spend to influence elections.  Even with this protection, big money special interests were still very powerful.  But this decision will open the floodgates to special interest money and increase their dominance over the elections that are supposed to belong to we, the people.

There are solutions to this, and Connecticut is already in the lead in finding them.  Our Citizen Election System allows people to run for state office free of special interest money.  It is a good solution, and Congress and every state should approve similar legislation.  It, too, has been under challenge in the courts, but I am working right now to adjust it enough so that it will continue maintaining our democracy.

I am also proposing legislation to directly deal with challenges created by the "Citizens United" decision.  This legislation, the Saving Democracy Act, would:
  • Ban foreign corporations from using their money to influence elections in Connecticut (local, state or federal) - presuming that a corporation is a foreign corporation unless it can certify that at least 80% of its shares are owned by natural persons who reside in the United States (in the case of stock corporations) or that at least 80% of its voting members are natural persons who reside in the United States (in the case of nonstock corporations).
  • Ban corporations from using their money to influence elections in Connecticut (local, state or federal) if they - or another corporation that is a part of the same conglomerate - get any benefit from the state - including tax breaks, incentives, public contracts (of the state or municipalities) or recognition in this state as corporations (including as out of state corporations operating in Connecticut).
  • Ban any corporation - or another corporation that is a part of the same conglomerate - that has used its corporate money to influence any election in Connecticut (local, state or federal) in the previous twelve months from getting any benefit from the state or any municipality - including tax breaks, incentives, public contracts or recognition in this state as a corporation (including as an out of state corporation operating in Connecticut).
  • Ban any corporation from using its money to influence elections in Connecticut (local, state or federal) unless doing so is expressly made a purpose of the corporation in its corporate bylaws - enacted by least a two-thirds vote of its shareholders (in the case of stock corporations) or at least two-thirds of its voting members (in the case of nonstock corporations). In the case of a corporation that is a part of a conglomerate, this two-thirds vote refers to the corporate entity in the conglomerate with the greatest number of shareholders.
  • Ban political spending in Connecticut by any corporation - or another corporation that is a part of the same conglomerate - that employs or contracts with any state or federal lobbyists.
  • Require that any corporation using its money to influence elections or public policy in Connecticut (state or federal) disclose it to the State Elections Enforcement Commission.
I am working right now to get the legislature's Government Administrations and Elections Committee to take up this legislation.  I sincerely hope that it will.

If you use Facebook, feel free to visit the online group in support of the Saving Democracy Act.

This is a challenging time in many different ways, and the challenge going on right now against our democracy is one of the most important.  For the good of our country, and its future, I hope democracy will prevail.

Friday, January 22, 2010

New Britain's Francisco Cuin appointed to statewide commission.

I have known Francisco Cuin of New Britain for years, now, and I have always been impressed with his passion for advocating for the things that matter to people's lives.  He is a truly decent and sincere person.  That is why I was very pleased that he was called upon recently to serve on an important statewide commission.

Here is a press statement the New Britain legislative delegation issued recently:
The New Britain Legislative Delegation today welcomed news that New Britain resident and community leader Francisco O. Cuin has been appointed to serve on the state’s Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission (LPRAC) for the next two years.

Mr. Cuin was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and has resided in New Britain since 2002. He is a member of the board of the Spanish Speaking Center and is an elected member of the city’s Board of Assessment. He is also the co-founder of the Parent Network of New Britain, which works to improve quality of life of New Britain Latinos.

Mr. Cuin currently works for the Human Resources Agency of New Britain, Inc. in the Head Start Program and with the New Britain Foundation for Public Giving. He holds multiple degrees, including a juris doctorate from the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico.

“Francisco Cuin is a civic leader in the city of New Britain and is a strong advocate for the Latino community in our city,” said Senator Donald J. DeFronzo (D-6). “He will be a welcome and positive addition to the Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission.”

“Mr. Cuin has a long history of advocacy and will bring an important voice to the Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission,” said Representative Betty Boukus (D-22).

“Francisco is a true leader who genuinely cares for building a better future for people,” Representative Tim O’Brien (D-24) said. “He has the expertise and values to do an excellent job on the commission. Now other state leaders can see the good we in New Britain already know about Francisco.”

“Francisco will make a wonderful addition to the commission,” said Representative John Geragosian (D-25). “He understands the challenges facing the Latino community and the community at-large. He will be a strong advocate for change.”

Mr. Cuin’s term on LPRAC will last through January 8, 2012. He was appointed by Senate President Pro Tempore Donald E. Williams, Jr. (D-Brooklyn) and Speaker of the House Christopher G. Donovan (D-Meriden), jointly.

Created in 1994, LPRAC is a nonpartisan public policy agency within the state’s Legislative Branch. LPRAC consists of 21 appointed volunteers who are mandated to advise the General Assembly and the governor on policies that foster progress in the Latino communities residing in Connecticut. For more information, visit
This commission has an important role, providing the legislature with research and information that legislators would not normally have in our decision-making process.  I know that Mr. Cuin will be a strong voice, directing LPRAC to ask tough questions and provide the kind of incisive information that will make our job, in the legislature, in advocating for all people more successful.