By Michaela Fitzgerald
On February 22, The League of Women Voters hosted their annual Meet Your Legislators event at the Ridgefield Library. State Senator Will Haskell and State Representative Ken Gucker provided thoughtful insight on the happenings of the State Legislature and responded to constituent questions about issues currently facing Connecticut. Topics that dominated the discussion included election reform, the 2020 Census, environmental policy, and vaccine rights.
The event began with discussion on election reforms, including automatic voter registration and replacement of voting equipment. Gucker expressed disappointment in the failure of an early voting bill to pass through the Senate last session. Haskell agreed, pointing out that Connecticut is one of only 10 states that does not allow early voting. Both Haskell and Gucker demonstrated their support for Secretary of State Denise Merrill’s election reform bill. Haskell said the Secretary wants funding to modernize our voting system, so that “what happened in Iowa, is never going to happen in Connecticut.”
Gucker voiced his support for the expansion of the Bottle Bill, going as far as to include it as a top issue for 2020. He emphasized including more glass products and creating a redemption center. Haskell stressed the importance of environmental policy, mentioning how last session progress was made through passage of the Bag Bill and wind energy expansion. but there is still much to do moving forward.
A heavily discussed issue throughout the forum was the 2020 census. Haskell said that it is critical to raise awareness about how citizenship is not required to participate in the census. Gucker said the best way to ensure undocumented people do not fear the census is to raise awareness through hosting events across the state and having well trained census workers. An accurate census is crucial for the state to determine our representation in Congress and the amount of federal funding the state receives to fund schools and other community organizations.
A group of constituents who had attended a public hearing on February 14 for an anti-vaccination bill that would end religious exemptions for vaccines, were present. They advocated for the parent’s right to choose to vaccinate their children and for an expansion of medical exemptions for vaccines. Haskell sympathized with the parents but emphasized the dangers of sending unvaccinated children to public schools, saying that a person’s right to act freely stops when it endangers others.
When asked for the most important issues of the 2020 session, Gucker named expanding the Bottle Bill and ensuring proper federal funding from an accurate census. Haskell said he wants to protect Planned Parenthood and make Connecticut more affordable for millennials, creating a young, tech-savvy workforce. Haskell expressed his disappointment that tolls fell through at the capital, and pointed out that our infrastructure needs repairs, and if the state is not willing to fund infrastructure through tolls, then the only alternatives are taxes or more debt to pass on to the next generation.