By State Senator Will Haskell
2019 was an exhilarating year, and I’m grateful every day for the opportunity to serve our community in Hartford. I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on the steps we took this year to build a better future for Connecticut. Between long drives to Hartford, roughly a dozen town halls and countless community events, I was proud to deliver real progress for our district:
First, we brought Paid Family and Medical Leave to Connecticut, because no one should be forced to go back to work while they are still recovering from an illness or caring for a new baby. Importantly, the program is financed by employee contributions, meaning employers will not be asked to pay out of their own pocket.
Next, Hartford heard my constituents when it comes to gun violence prevention. I sponsored three new laws that will prevent future tragedies. We banned untraceable ghost guns, to help law enforcement officers more easily track firearms and keep them out of the wrong hands. We also passed Ethan’s Law, in honor of Ethan Song, the Connecticut teen who died due to an improperly locked firearm. The law now requires firearms to be stored safely when kept in the home of a child.
Environmental protection also played a central role in legislation this year. Many towns in my district have already taken the important step of phasing out single-use plastic bags, and the state government is now following their lead. We also banned fracking waste and transitioned more of Connecticut’s energy grid to greener, newer technologies.
Despite Hartford’s habit of late budgets, we passed a budget on time that cut income taxes for seniors and set aside a historic amount of savings. The $2.45 billion Rainy Day Fund will ensure that Connecticut is prepared in the event of a recession.
We reduced by state employee workforce by 1,000 positions, and I worked with fellow freshmen in the legislature to protect taxpayer dollars and reduce wasteful spending within the bureaucracy. We also eliminated the business entity tax, signaling to entrepreneurs that Connecticut is open for business.
Since 95% of adult smokers become addicted before the age of 21, we raised the minimum age for smoking and vaping. It’s clear from the experience of other states that raising the minimum age to 21 saves lives, prevents addiction and reduces healthcare expenditures.
Finally, I worked with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to create a brand new tax credit that cuts taxes for businesses that provide student loan relief to their employees. This will address the student debt crisis and provide local businesses with the highly-skilled workforce they need to succeed.
As next year’s legislative agenda begins to take shape, I’ll continue listening to my constituents and bringing their perspective to Hartford. I’m prepared to fight for reforms that will reduce the cost of prescription drugs and continue to advocate for fiscal responsibility. If you have ideas to improve Connecticut’s future, please reach out at 1-800-842-1420 or go to http://www.senatedems.ct.gov/haskell.
State Senator Will Haskell represents Connecticut’s 26th District, comprised of Ridgefield, Bethel, New Canaan, Redding, Weston, Westport, and Wilton. Ridgefield Democratic Town Committee provides this column.