The following will be published in the Citizen News on Wednesday, March 14.
Although it is still early in the legislative session, my colleagues and I in Hartford have been very busy tackling the issues facing our State and community this year.
One of the most publicized matters this session is the Governor’s “Sunday Sales” bill (House Bill 5021) which, despite its misleading title, is a comprehensive package of reforms to the way that alcohol is purchased and sold in the state.
A public hearing on the subject occurred on February 28 in Hartford, drawing a crowd of nearly 1,000 people to the Capitol as supporters and opponents of the bill testified before the General Law Committee and rallied on the grounds.
Both the Governor and the Connecticut Package Store Association – the leading organization opposing the measure – have compromised on details of the bill, which proponents argue is favorable for consumers and opponents argue will cause small businesses to layoff employees and close.
The General Law Committee is currently considering whether or not to vote the bill out of committee and progress if further in the legislative process.
Another major proposal facing the legislature this session is the Governor’s education bill (Senate Bill 24), which attempts to reform many aspects of the State’s educational system, including teacher tenure, early childhood education, teacher evaluation, school funding and small district regionalization.
The Education Committee hosted two days of public hearings where they took in many hours of testimony on the subject from teachers, administrators, parents, students and educational organizations, who all weighed in with both praise and criticism.
An educated workforce is the backbone of every strong economy and I look forward to a continued dialogue about the degree to which the bill accomplishes our common goal of better preparing out children for the competitive job market.
And finally, the state budget and economy are of the utmost importance during this “short” session, as the State Constitution requires the legislature to focus on budgetary, revenue and financial matters on even-numbered years.
We are currently on track to end the year with a $236 million deficit – putting our state budget in a perilous position. The Treasurer reports that the state’s available cash on hand reached record low this year of $67 million, which is enough to keep the lights on for only a few days.
Additionally, the Governor has proposed to increase spending by over a half billion dollars between this year and next, which places us just $6 million under the spending cap next year.
Clearly there is a lot of work that needs to be done to get our fiscal house in order, and I am continuing my tireless efforts to do that in a responsible way.
As always, I welcome your input on these and all issues coming before the legislature. Please contact me at any time with your thoughts and questions by calling 800-842-1423 or emailing me at Richard.Smith@housegop.ct.gov.