Op-Ed: A look back at 2019 — Kelly offers annual legislative update

State Sen. Kevin Kelly.

State Sen. Kevin Kelly.

Joseph Lemieux, Jr. /CT Senate Republicans

As we enter the new year and reflect on 2019, I am reminded of all I am thankful for including the opportunity to serve our community and bring many voices to the state Capitol.

Over the last year I've worked with my colleagues in the state Senate to protect taxpayers on many fronts and pass new laws that will help seniors, veterans, women and children, and that will increase access to mental health care and substance abuse treatment. But we also have seen the governor and Democratic majority pass policies that have hurt working families throughout Connecticut.

Below is a summary of major new laws that were passed this year in Connecticut and harmful legislation I worked hard to stop.

There is much more to do in the new year as we reflect on what has been accomplished, and what we can do better.

New laws to protect, help Connecticut residents

I fought for, supported and passed many new bipartisan laws to help people across our state, including laws that accomplished the following:

* Creating parity for mental health care by passing legislation that seeks to increase access to treatment for mental health issues and substance abuse (Public Act 19-159). Combating opioid abuse by increasing the penalties for the sale of fentanyl (Public Act 19-38) and establishing new requirements when prescribing an opioid for an extended period (Public Act 19-191).

* Improving access to women’s health care by promoting screening for cancers that impact women (Public Act 19-45), allowing for Medicaid reimbursement for donor breast milk when medically necessary (Public Act 19-48), and expanding health insurance coverage for preexisting conditions (Public Act 19-134).

* Protecting seniors by expanding training for Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis and treatment (Public Act 19-115), expanding health insurance coverage for hearing aids (Public Act 19-133), and establishing a Community Ombudsman program to investigate complaints concerning care received by recipients of home and community-based services to help seniors aging in place (Special Act 19-18).

* Helping victims of domestic violence and sexual assault by creating parity between sexual assault in the case of a spousal or cohabitating relationship and other crimes of sexual assault (Public Act 19-189).

* Supporting veterans by establishing a military to machinist job training program for veterans (Public Act 19-129) and by increasing the property tax exemption for disabled vets (Public Act 19-171).

* Expanding workforce development by establishing multiple new initiatives related to apprenticeship training, careers in manufacturing, certificate programs, and computer science instruction in public schools (Public Acts 19-68, 19-58, 19-103, 19-128).

* Preserving the environment by extending residential solar programs and Connecticut’s heating loan program and establishing a “green jobs ladder” (Public Act 19-35).

Opposed harmful policies

As your voice in Hartford, I also strongly opposed many damaging proposals that came before the legislature this year:

* Raising property taxes. Successfully stopped Democratic lawmakers from shifting teacher pension payments onto cities and towns, which would have resulted in higher property taxes and cuts to local education and teacher budgets.

* Stopped the governor’s plan for 50+ toll gantries across the state. After facing public outcry, Gov. Ned Lamont reduced the number of tolls but still hasn't garnered enough support to pass this new tax. I also worked to offer a no-tolls, no-tax-increase Republican alternative to invest in transportation. Read more: ctsenaterepublicans.com/FASTRCT.

* Cutting education dollars. Stood against Gov. Lamont’s proposal to dramatically reduce education funding for some towns. Thankfully, the legislature rejected this idea and was able to preserve the 2017 bipartisan Education Cost Sharing formula to fairly distribute education dollars based on need.

* Opposed and successfully stopped the following new taxes Gov. Lamont was considering: taxes on all groceries, veterinarian services, barber shops and salons, massage therapists, waste collection, residential repair and renovation services, nonprescription drugs, textbooks, newspapers and magazines, bicycle helmets, campground rentals, car seats and vegetable seeds.

* $1.8 billion in new taxes on the middle class. I opposed the state budget approved by the majority in the legislature because it contains $1.8 billion in new taxes that hit the middle class and working families the hardest. I also opposed the budget because it puts new burdens on job creators, pushes off new debt onto our children, shortchanges transportation and remains unbalanced.

If you have questions about these bills or ideas about any other state issue, contact my office at kevin.kelly@cga.ct.gov or call 800-842-1421.