Hours after being sworn in as a state rep, Monroe's Tony Scott votes on controversial vaccine bill

MONROE — Tony Scott had quite a busy first day on the job Monday.

The Monroe Republican, elected to represent the 112th House district last week in a special election, went from the pomp and circumstance of his swearing in right into the House chamber to join the debate and vote on eliminating the religious exemption from mandatory school vaccinations.

“My first vote … talk about being put right into the hot seat,” Scott said.

Scott filled the House seat vacated in February by JP Sredzinski. He earned 2,248 votes — 53 percent of ballots cast — in defeating Democrat Nick Kapoor, who had 1,948 votes, and independent Bill Furrier, with 31 votes. The 112th District includes Monroe and a portion of Newtown.

“I am excited about getting right into the bills,” Scott, who had been a member of the Monroe Town Council, said. “And I am realistic … I am going to Hartford as part of the minority, but my goal is to forge relationships on both sides of the aisle. I want to make a big difference here.”

The first step, he said, was tackling the issue of eliminating the religious vaccine exemption for students in public and private schools in the state of Connecticut.

"I received four calls right on Election Day, from people who had not voted yet, asking me where I stood on this very issue,” Scott said.

Scott said these callers were not “anti-vaxxers,” but individuals who simply need more information on vaccines prior to having their children receive them.

“I’m in their corner,” Scott said. “I want people to have the ability to use the religious exemption if needed.”

The House ultimately voted 90-53 early Tuesday to eliminate the exemption. The bill now goes to the Senate.

Scott, who voted against eliminating the exemption, said, “I've heard from countless parents in Monroe and Newtown over the past few weeks about their concerns with this bill. I share their concerns, which have very little to do with the efficacy of vaccines and more to do with state government legislating away their right to make decisions regarding their own children's health. As a father of two daughters — both of whom are vaccinated — I can relate to other parents who are frustrated and feel that their voices aren't being heard on this issue.”

While the legislature is entertaining proposals to implement a new gas tax, place tolls on commercial shipping and double the existing deposit on bottles and cans, Scott said Connecticut workers are already seeing less take-home pay in their wages due to a new payroll tax used to fund the state’s new Paid Family Medical Leave Program.

“Our House Republican caucus has been vocal in speaking out against policies and new proposals at the state level that raise the cost of living for our residents, instead putting forward an alternative vision that promotes fiscal responsibility and will position Connecticut for future growth,” Scott said.

While a popular selling point for every new tax is that they may sound small on paper, Scott said, the reality is that they all add up quickly and make it vastly more expensive to live and do business here.

“The cost of government should not be a burden on those it serves,” Scott said.

Scott said what prompted his House run was a desire to make the state more affordable for people — whether young people coming out of college or senior citizens who have retired from the workforce — to remain and thrive.

To achieve this affordability, Scott said he will scrutinize tax increases — such as the “mansion tax” — and unfunded mandates, which are requirements passed from the state to the municipalities that then bare all the costs.

Scott pointed to the police accountability bill, which he says contains two requirements — the drug testing annually and the mental health check every three years — the costs of which, while not astronomical, are still passed on to the municipality, which then passes it on to the taxpayers.

“Some bills are great, others not great, but that is not the point. We need to look at not passing these costs on to the taxpayers,” Scott said, adding there are hundreds of unfunded mandates in bills before the state legislature this session alone.

One area of untapped revenue, Scott says, is sports gambling. The state recently sealed a sports betting and online gambling deal with the two tribes that own the casinos, paving the way for legislation to make sports betting a reality in the state.

“Sports gambling would be a revenue generator, not a tax,” said Scott, adding that any legislation legalizing sports betting should come with appropriate steps to aid those who struggle with gambling addictions.

“This is the logical next step,” Scott said about legalizing sports gambling. “All the states around us are doing this. I’d be happy to get this done this session.”