Earlier this month, senators and representatives from across the state came together to celebrate the start of the 2013 legislative session at the State Capitol. Following the November elections, both new and returning legislators are sworn into office to serve a two-year term. This year, I had the honor of being sworn in for my second term, and I am looking forward to continuing my service on your behalf in Hartford.
On opening day, we heard directly from the governor in the annual “State of the State” address, in which he referenced the Newtown tragedy, the budget deficit, economic growth, education reform, energy issues, storm response and concerns over federal gridlock. In this week’s column, I would like to share some of the issues being discussed and several of the proposals I will be sponsoring this year.
For the next two years, I will be serving as assistant minority leader of the Senate Republican Caucus as well as ranking senator of the legislature’s Aging Committee and Insurance and Real Estate Committee. During this time, I will also serve as a member of the Appropriations Committee and Judiciary Committee. In the coming weeks and months, legislators will have the opportunity to review current laws and better understand the challenges facing our state.
After the tragic events that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the legislature will consider how we can take steps toward preventing future tragedy. A bipartisan task force was created to focus on three core issues of gun violence prevention, school safety and mental health. I am proud to have been appointed to serve on the task force’s mental health working group that will be seeking expert advice and public input to improve our state’s mental health services.
Another major concern is the state budget. Despite the largest tax increase in state history, the state budget recently faced a $365 million deficit that required legislators to make a series of additional cuts. This year, legislators will be developing the next two-year budget, and I will be pushing for a more responsible path because the deficit is already projected to surpass $1 billion in the next fiscal year.
As ranking senator of the Aging Committee, I am looking forward to building upon the good legislation that was passed last year. While budget constraints will be a concern, we can make smart investments in our infrastructure serving Connecticut seniors that will pay dividends in the future. I proposed bills to protect spouses at home when a spouse enters a nursing home, increase funding for elderly nutrition, expand eligibility for the home care and Alzheimer’s respite programs and develop tax incentives for the purchase of private long-term care insurance.
We must also focus on economic growth and jobs. Our state’s business environment is marked by high taxes and burdensome regulations, and legislators must look at how our state can reduce these barriers to job creation. However, there are reasons to be hopeful. Last year, for example, we saw several promising developments in our district, including the remediation and redevelopment of the former U.S. Baird building into the Two Roads Brewing Company. This project is already creating manufacturing jobs which are projected to reach 70 employees.
Between now and June, the General Assembly will have many opportunities to consider proposals aimed at improving our laws and the lives of families throughout our state. It is an honor to represent your voice in the Connecticut General Assembly, and I encourage you to remain involved in the legislative process. Please feel free to contact my office by emailing Kevin.Kelly@cga.ct.gov or calling 1-800-842-1421.
Sen. Kevin Kelly represents the 21st District, which includes all of Shelton, most of Stratford, and parts of Monroe and Seymour.