Rep. Lavielle Reports Legislature’s Passage of Bill Extending Wilton’s Revaluation Deadline

Posted on May 14, 2018 by rjoslyn


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HARTFORD – State Representative Gail Lavielle (R-143) today announced the passage of a bill she proposed at the request of Wilton’s Board of Selectmen to extend the municipal revaluation deadline for the Town of Wilton by one year.  The bill, HB 5181, was introduced by the Government Administration and Elections (GAE) Committee and passed overwhelmingly through both the House and the Senate during the legislative session that ended on May 9.

The Town of Wilton has been seeking an extension of its revaluation process due to the unexpected retirement of its former tax assessor.

“I am pleased to have been able to help Wilton with this important administrative matter,” said Rep. Lavielle. “Although the bill is straightforward, administrative matters like this can be overlooked during a busy legislative session, and it required a team effort by to make sure HB 5181 stayed on the radar in both chambers. First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice, Rep. Tom O’Dea, and Sen. Toni Boucher all helped to get it over the finish line. I also thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in the GAE Committee and in both chambers of the General Assembly for understanding the pressing nature of this legislation and expediting its passage. Extending the deadline should help Wilton avoid penalties and accurately complete the revaluation process.”

HB 5181 now awaits the governor’s signature in order to become law.

Rep. Lavielle Invites Constituents to Upcoming Post-Session Meetings in Norwalk

Posted on May 10, 2018 by rjoslyn


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Following the end on May 9 of the 2018 “short session,” I invite you to join my area colleagues and me for two events to discuss developments.

Rep. Fred Wilms & I are holding an informal coffee hour at the Norwalk Inn on Wednesday, May 16th, from 7am until 8:30am.

On Tuesday, May 29th, Rep. Wilms, Rep. Terrie Wood and I will hold a town hall forum at the South Norwalk Library from 6:30pm until 8pm.

Both events are opportunities for interested residents to meet with us and discuss developments following the 2018 legislative session, including updates to the state budget, legislation that became law, and other issues attendees would like to hear addressed.

I look forward to hearing your ideas and suggestions for how to improve our state and our community.  If you are unable to attend, you can always contact me by email at gail.lavielle@cga.ct.gov or by calling 800-842-1423.

Reps. Lavielle, Wilms, and Wood Acclaim Legislature’s Passage of Bill Authorizing School Building Projects in Norwalk

Posted on May 10, 2018 by rjoslyn


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HARTFORD Norwalk’s GOP delegation of State Representatives Gail Lavielle (R-143), Fred Wilms (R-142) and Terrie Wood (R-141) welcomed the passage of a bill to authorize state grant commitments for school building projects.  The bill, SB 184, specifically allocates state funding to reimburse the City of Norwalk for projects included in the Norwalk Board of Education’s School Facilities plan.

The legislation appropriates $14,395,981 for expansions at Ponus Ridge Middle School. It also includes language for an unspecified grant for a new South Norwalk school at the site of the former Nathaniel Ely School site to be authorized when all land acquisitions for the site have been completed.  Additional funding is reserved for various improvements at West Rocks Middle School and Norwalk High School.

Rep. Lavielle, in her capacity as Ranking Member of the General Assembly’s Education Committee, is a member of the School Construction Project Priority List Committee and advocated for the inclusion of the Norwalk projects.

“Working in concert with Norwalk’s Board of Education, we were able to demonstrate to our colleagues in the legislature that Norwalk’s aging facilities and growing student population constitute a clear need for making these school projects a priority for the state,” said Rep. Lavielle.  “The BOE’s School Facilities Plan outlines an exciting future for public school in Norwalk by addressing enrollment and enhancing academic options for students.  I am pleased to have played a role in facilitating these school projects and securing funding from the state.”

Rep. Wilms has also collaborated with Norwalk officials to advance the strategic components of the School Facilities Plan at the state level, praising the “forward-looking” approach to education.”

“Working together with both the city and the Board of Education, I am delighted that state funding for these key school construction projects is moving forward,” said Rep. Wilms.

Along with her colleagues in the Norwalk delegation, Rep. Wood has also been a proponent of Norwalk’s receiving its fair share of Education Cost Sharing funding and noted the emphasis the school projects will have on science and technology education.

“These school projects represent such an exciting opportunity for the BOE to improve its school system and make Norwalk a destination for families who want their children to attain a first-class, 21st century education with an emphasis on science, math, and technology,” said Rep. Wood.  “I will continue to push the state to support Norwalk in their educational endeavors and I look forward to seeing the results.”

Having passed both chambers of the General Assembly, the legislation now awaits signature by the governor.

Rep. Lavielle Applauds House Passage of Bill Protecting Local Education Funding from Gubernatorial Cuts

Posted on May 8, 2018 by rjoslyn


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HARTFORD – State Representative Gail Lavielle (R-143) hailed the House passage of a bill to prevent the executive branch from reducing Education Cost Sharing grants in the middle of a fiscal year.

HB 5171, which originated in the Education Committee, passed the House on a bipartisan 117-32 vote and would prohibit the governor from cutting ECS funding that has already been promised in the state budget to individual municipalities.  Although if it is to become law, HB 5171 still needs to pass the State Senate and to be signed by the governor, Rep. Lavielle called its support in the House “an encouraging sign” for municipalities that there is bipartisan opposition to midyear education cuts by the governor.

“The fact that the state determines its municipal allocations each year after most towns have finalized their own budgets is already difficult for local governments and school districts,” said Rep. Lavielle, who is Ranking Member of the legislature’s Education Committee and participated in structuring the bill. “But surprise midyear cuts like those made last year by the governor can wreak havoc in local school districts, where many spending decisions must be made in the summer before the academic year begins. The unpredictability caused by the threat of midyear cuts is unfair to local leaders, to property taxpayers who are on the hook to make up the difference, and to families who depend on their towns’ public school systems.

“The strong bipartisan support for this bill that protects towns from midyear cuts is encouraging. I was pleased to work closely on this initiative with my Democratic colleagues in Education Committee leadership, and to see that we all shared the same enthusiasm for protecting towns and school districts from surprise funding decisions that prevent them from providing essential services their residents expect to receive,” said Rep. Lavielle. “I urge the state Senate to pass HB 5171 as soon as possible, so we can begin efforts to prepare an override of a potential gubernatorial veto. Passing this bill sends a strong message that we will stand up for our local leaders.”

HB 5171 now awaits action in the State Senate.

Rep. Lavielle Details Plan to Balance the Budget & Make Connecticut Fiscally Sustainable

Posted on April 20, 2018 by rjoslyn


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Budget Adjustments Prioritize Transportation, Education, Paying Off Liabilities

HARTFORD Norwalk’s GOP delegation of State Representatives Gail Lavielle (R-143), Fred Wilms (R-142) and Terrie Wood (R-141) joined their Republican colleagues in rolling out a budget adjustment proposal for Fiscal Year 2019 ahead of the deadline for the Appropriations Committee to approve bills.

The proposal aims to eliminate Connecticut’s $200 million budget deficit without raising taxes while maintaining funding for transportation, Education Cost Sharing grants, core social services, and tax breaks for seniors, retirees, and working families.  More dollars are also dedicated to repaying the state’s unfunded liabilities, including the State Employees’ Retirement Fund, the Teachers’ Retirement Fund, and the Teachers’ Healthcare Fund.

 The representatives will continue to advocate for further structural changes to state government and reduce funds that had been allocated to bailing out the city of Hartford.

 “It is not appropriate ever for the state to make promises it can’t keep by undertaking things it can’t afford and neglecting the debts it owes and the services essential to its residents,” said Rep. Lavielle. “Our budget does not use one-time funds to close operating deficits for this year or next. It does not include new programs that we cannot afford. By simply revising our existing biennial budget, it makes the necessary adjustments to preserve funding for essential social programs, mass transit, education, and municipal aid, and then uses the one-time revenues in the budget reserve only to reduce the unfunded liabilities that are keeping the state from moving forward. This is the way to enhance predictability and stability, the keys to ensuring that the state keeps its promises now and for the long term.”

 “Unfortunately, our state is running out of options to control costs and pay down unfunded liabilities without drastically cutting services,” said Rep. Wood.  “Income tax receipts were better than expected, but my concern is that the good news could encourage some of my colleagues in the legislature to go on a spending spree.  We cannot let this happen.  Any additional revenue has to be used to ensure Connecticut’s fiscal sustainability for the long-term while protecting local education and making necessary investments in transportation.”

 “Once again, we have produced a budget that is balanced, without tax increases, contains no financial gimmicks plus protects our social safety net,” said Rep. Wilms.  “Furthermore, the one time revenues from overseas tax repatriations are being placed into our unfunded retirement plans.”

 Reps. Lavielle, Wilms, and Wood emphasized the prioritization of transportation funding in the budget adjustment proposal by fully funding the Special Transportation Fund (STF) and preventing rail fare increases not already in statute from being implemented in 2018 or 2019.   It protects funding for local transit districts for the entirety of the budget cycle without calling for any new taxes or tolls.  In the proposal, funding is eliminated from the planned expansion of CT FastTrak to UConn and used to enhance existing infrastructure.

 Lawmakers have until the 2018 legislative session adjourns on May 9 to complete and pass a budget plan. 

Rep. Lavielle Editorial: State Must Seek Less Costly Transit Upgrades

Posted on April 10, 2018 by rjoslyn


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4/11/2018

Amid the deepening of Connecticut’s already profound fiscal crisis, the state Department of Transportation has announced this year that it cannot meet its obligations to the public without a substantial influx of new revenue into the Special Transportation Fund. Without that revenue, the DOT commissioner — who must do what he can with whatever funds he receives from the state —  has said that rail and bus fares must be raised substantially while service must be reduced and a long list of projects costing $4.3 billion must be postponed or abandoned.

The question of where the revenue would come from has dominated most legislative discussion of the problem. Even though any source would work, the focus has been on transportation-related revenues: gas tax increases, a new tire tax, tolls, and accelerating a planned transfer from the general fund of the sales tax on new cars.

But what about spending?

If the circumstances are so dire — and they are, in every area of the state budget — the need to ask a lot of questions about the DOT’s currently scheduled infrastructure capital projects is clear. In particular, could they be more cost effective while still meeting optimal safety and operational standards? The question seems obvious, but it’s not always being asked, or answered.

As an example, one project that could benefit from this type of analysis is the Walk Bridge in Norwalk. This critical link in the Metro-North commuter rail system was built in 1896 with a complex swing mechanism that has a recent history of getting stuck.

There is no question that the Walk Bridge urgently needs to be renovated or replaced. That said, given Connecticut’s financial situation, it’s disconcerting that the state is moving ahead on a plan to rebuild the bridge with an entirely new lift mechanism at a cost of $1.1 billion, plus years of great inconvenience to Norwalk because of serious business and traffic disruption. Furthermore, the administration has not made available a full evaluation of alternative plans, despite repeated requests by Norwalkers.

Many in Norwalk believe that much cheaper and better plans may be workable, including securing the swing mechanism in a fixed position, or building a new fixed bridge at the same track height. A number of residents and business owners have even formed a non-profit neighborhood and business group called Norwalk Harbor Keeper, which is suing the state and the federal government in federal court on the grounds of incomplete analysis. The purpose is not to stop the project outright, but rather to require the state to follow the law and fully evaluate all alternatives to see if less costly and less disruptive plans could do the job.

A financial crisis as longstanding and severe as Connecticut’s requires flexible, creative thinking and a willingness to face fiscal realities. Norwalk Harbor Keeper, in urging the state at least to consider alternative plans for the Walk Bridge seriously, is setting an excellent example.

But the urging shouldn’t be necessary, and nor should lawsuits. The state is in severe financial trouble. Turning exclusively to collecting revenue from a shrinking tax base is neither good policy nor effective. As legislators, instead of listening only to the set of revenue choices put before us, we must, as a priority, require thorough scrutiny of every transportation project, to ensure that all viable alternatives have been given due consideration. Exercising this kind of oversight should cause no controversy. It is simply the responsible thing to do.

 

Rep. Lavielle Tours ASML Facility in Wilton

Posted on April 4, 2018 by rjoslyn


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Rep. Lavielle tours the particle-free “clean room” at ASML’s Wilton facility with Bill Amalfitano and Vic Crudo

WILTON –State Representative Gail Lavielle (R-143) recently visited the manufacturing facility operated by ASML in Wilton.  ASML, which styles itself “your favorite tech company’s favorite tech company,” operates the 296,604 square-foot facility at 77 Danbury Rd.

The factory designs and manufactures high-value modules and optical components for ASML, which is a company based in the Netherlands that delivers hardware, software and services used by all the world’s top chipmakers to mass produce patterns on silicon.  At the Wilton facility that employs 1,300 people, engineers manufacture and devote significant research and development to extreme ultraviolet lithography, which is ASML’s patterning technology that enables the creation of thinner circuits on microchips, allowing for smaller chips that hold more data.  These microchips are used by companies worldwide to make common electronic devices like smartphones, computers, and vehicle controls.

Rep. Lavielle toured the facility with Bill Amalfitano, General Manager and Vice President of the Wilton Factory, and Vic Crudo, Director of the Wilton Factory, Assembly, and Test.  She learned about how ASML uses lithography – a critical manufacturing step in defining the structures that form the electrical circuits on a chip – to shrink transistors on microchips. She also toured the tightly-controlled “cleanroom” of the facility, where engineers work on critical sub-systems and components shipped to the Netherlands for integration into ASML’s immersion and EUV lithography systems, and metrology tools.

“While many Connecticut businesses have struggled in the past decade, ASML’s steady and consistent growth in Wilton and continuing ability to create so many jobs is a fascinating success story that intrigued me,” said Rep. Lavielle.  “At the same time, ASML actually has difficulty finding enough qualified engineers, advanced machinists, and other technological professionals to fill its employment needs. It is a perfect example of the type of company that our technical schools, community colleges, and universities should be actively working with to develop curricula and programs that prepare students for available jobs with excellent long-term career prospects.”

ASML maintains relationships with several local colleges including UConn, Fairfield University and Norwalk Community College, engaging in joint university research projects and student intern programs. It also partners with the Connecticut Pre-Engineering Program (CPEP) to promote STEM education to middle school students.

“The state Departments of Labor, Education, and Higher Education need to work more closely together to ensure that our educational system is meeting the recruitment needs of businesses in Connecticut and thus helping our students build careers here,” said Rep. Lavielle, who is Ranking Member of the legislature’s Education Committee. “We have just passed a fully bipartisan bill, HB 5448, in the Education Committee that requires tighter, better documented collaboration on this front, and I hope that it will move these efforts forward faster. Aligning educational programs and workforce needs should be a key element in any plan to attract and retain businesses and restore Connecticut’s economy.

“ASML is unique in its field and a force in our local community and in our state. I look forward to working with the company to help strengthen its relationships with our educational institutions and to ensure that our state makes available to ASML the best possible human resources and a climate where it can continue to thrive for years to come,” added Rep. Lavielle.

Rep. Lavielle Celebrates Read Across America Day with Students at Wolfpit

Posted on March 27, 2018 by rjoslyn


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NORWALK – State Representative Gail Lavielle (R-143) visited Wolfpit Elementary School in Norwalk to read to students in celebration of Read Across America Day. 

Read Across America Day is a nationwide reading celebration that takes place annually on March 2nd, which is Dr. Seuss’ birthday, with the goal of sharing the joy of reading with elementary schoolers.  Rep. Lavielle had a committee obligation in Hartford last Friday and scheduled her visit for Tuesday.  Rep. Lavielle, who is also Ranking Member of the Joint Committee on Education, read a Dr. Seuss book to a first-grade class at Wolfpit.

 

Rep. Lavielle Votes No on Toll-Related Bills in Transportation Committee

Posted on March 22, 2018 by rjoslyn


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HARTFORD – State Representative Gail Lavielle (R-143) on Thursday voted against four proposals related to the implementation of electronic tolling in Connecticut that were ultimately approved by the Transportation Committee.

The four bills that were approved by the committee are:

SB 389:
An Act Establishing the Connecticut Transportation Authority

HB 5393:
An Act Establishing the Connecticut Transportation Finance Authority to
Maintain Major State Highways

HB 5046
(governor’s bill): An Act Concerning the Sustainability of Transportation
Projects

HB 5391:
An Act Concerning Transportation Infrastructure

 

After the committee vote, Rep. Lavielle made the following statement:

“While all four bills we voted on today generally favor tolls as a concept, they contain no details. None of them tells us how much tolls would cost to implement, how many tolls there would be, how much revenue they would bring in, or how much they would cost drivers every day. Two of the bills are not even proposals to implement tolls, but proposals requiring the legislature to vote to make itself vote at a future date. And all four bills assign full responsibility for making future decisions on number, location, and pricing of tolls to unelected bodies of political appointees.

“Tolls are not an abstract concept. They are a tool for raising revenue that naturally comes at a cost to all Connecticut residents. I believe we cannot make an informed decision on behalf of Connecticut residents unless we have a clear picture of both the benefits and the costs. I believe that it would have been disrespectful to my constituents to support any proposal that would affect most of them, yet provides no particulars of what the costs or the benefits for them would be.”

Each proposal related to authorizing tolls now heads to the appropriate legislative chamber for consideration later this spring.

Rep. Lavielle & Norwalk Delegation to Host Transportation Forum with DOT Commissioner

Posted on March 22, 2018 by rjoslyn


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If you are a commuter or if you are interested in learning more about state transportation issues, I would like to invite you to a transportation forum in Norwalk on March 28 with DOT Commissioner James Redeker.

I am co-hosting the forum along with my Norwalk delegation colleagues, Rep. Fred Wilms & Rep. Terrie Wood.  We have scheduled it to give all of you an opportunity to discuss your thoughts and concerns about state and local transportation needs with Commissioner Redeker and local legislators.

The forum will be held on Wednesday, March 28, from 7:00-9:00 PM at Norwalk City Hall in the Common Council Chambers, 125 East Ave. Norwalk.

The DOT has proposed raising rail and bus fares 21.28 percent over the next 3 years, significantly reducing rail service on the Danbury and Waterbury Lines. Additionally, the governor has cancelled more than $4 billion in transportation projects statewide and introduced a proposal to bring tolls back to the state, raise the gas tax 7 cents over 4 years and implement a new tax on tires.

The purpose of the forum is for us to give area residents an opportunity to present their suggestions and voice their concerns about transportation needs for the region and state.

If you are unable to attend the event, please get in touch by emailing me at Gail.Lavielle@cga.ct.gov or by calling 1.800.842.1423. I am always happy to discuss any concerns you have with transportation issues.

Rep. Lavielle: Tolls: Every Possible Proposal, Except a Clear One

Posted on March 13, 2018 by rjoslyn


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The Transportation Committee has raised four bills about tolls in Connecticut, and all are scheduled for a public hearing on Wednesday, March 14. This year, the tolls debate is taking place against the backdrop of statements by the governor and the DOT that the state’s fund designated for transportation (STF) is running dry, and that services and projects must be cut and mass transit fares increased if there is no legislative action to increase revenue.

Whether you are among those who do not want tolls in Connecticut under any circumstances, whether you believe they are necessary, or if you’re still making up your mind, you deserve to have complete information on the proposals before you in bill form, and more generally.

To that end, I’d like to accomplish two things in this email. First, I’ll provide a reminder of a few background facts important to the current discussion of tolls in Connecticut. Second, I will provide you with an overview of the bills currently before the General Assembly.

 

Background information

* Federal regulations prohibit Connecticut from placing tolls just at the state’s borders.

* With a few limited exceptions, the only kind of tolls that Connecticut is presently has federal authorization to approve and implement are congestion pricing tolls, which must be demonstrably designed to manage traffic flow.

* Only electronic tolls are on the table for discussion.

* Tolls cannot be an immediate source of revenue, as they would take between 4 and 7 years (according to the DOT Commissioner) to implement. They also entail substantial up-front capital expenditures.

* No complete proposal for implementing tolls has been presented for legislative approval. One proposal that has been widely circulated was presented to the DOT by DCM Smith, a firm it consulted on the subject. This document includes maps that show 11 tolls between Danbury and Hartford on I-84 and 10 and 12 tolls respectively on the Merritt Parkway and I-95 between Greenwich and New Haven. It is not presently clear, however, whether this or any other proposal will be promoted by the administration, the DOT, or any legislators.

Bills now before the Transportation Committee

The bills now under consideration and scheduled for hearing all deal with the broad principle of authorizing tolls in Connecticut, but do not provide any particulars in terms of number of tolls, location of tolls, rates and how they would vary, construction plans, penalties for non-payment, or detailed construction and administration costs. These are the bills:

SB 389: An Act Establishing the Connecticut Transportation Authority

HB 5393: An Act Establishing the Connecticut Transportation Finance Authority to Maintain Major State Highways

HB 5046 (governor’s bill): An Act Concerning the Sustainability of Transportation Projects

HB 5391: An Act Concerning Transportation Infrastructure

* SB 389 and HB 5393 are very similar. They both propose the creation of a quasi-public agency, or transportation authority, governed by a board of political appointees who would hire an executive director and any staff. The agency’s purpose would be to construct, maintain, and operate highways and electronic tolling systems, and it would be charged with using toll revenues to pay for the costs of operation, maintenance, improvement, and administration. The agency would keep funds for these purposes in its own account, be able to employ people, issue bonds, and buy or lease property, and would be responsible for establishing toll rates, user classifications, and penalties for non-payment.

* HB 5393 stipulates that the quasi-public agency will not be created “until the General Assembly authorizes the implementation of electronic tolling systems”. This provision is not in SB 389.

* HB 5046 and HB 5391 both authorize the DOT to implement an electronic tolling system and gives it all the responsibilities assigned by the other bills to a quasi-public transportation authority. They both require toll revenues to be deposited into the STF, rather than a separate agency account.

* HB 5046 authorizes the DOT to implement tolls immediately without any other legislative action, and gives DOT absolute authority going forward in most matters related to tolls.

* HB 5391 allows the DOT to implement tolls only after the DOT has completed studies and submitted a complete tolling proposal to the legislature, and the legislature has approved it.

* HB 5391 also includes a provision decreasing the gas tax by one cent per year for five years. But this would take effect only after the implementation of tolls and only if and when the resources of the STF exceed two and one-half times the estimated debt service payments on the state’s transportation-related debt – a day likely very far away.

* HB 5391, shifting to another subject, accelerates a planned transfer of motor vehicle sales and use taxes into the STF.

 

What is wrong with this picture?

All of the bills under consideration share a few features. They all move the state forward in varying degrees toward approving tolls, as a general concept. They all give responsibility for determining number, location, and pricing of tolls to unelected bodies, and remove the legislature from the process once the concept is approved, placing the decisions on these matters in the hands of political appointees.

But none of these bills tells us what implementing tolls would cost, or what revenue they would provide. And none of them tells commuters, taxpayers, and motorists what this would cost them every day. In fact, they impose no limits on what that cost might be.

I don’t think it’s fair to expect you to make informed decisions when you don’t have complete information. Tolls are not an abstract concept. They are a tool for raising revenue that comes at a cost to residents. I believe you should have a clear picture of both the costs and the benefits. Because that picture is not clear, even partially, I cannot support these proposals on your behalf.

If you would like to submit written testimony on any of these bills in the next few days, you can send an email to tratestimony@cga.ct.gov, and copy me if you like at gail.lavielle@cga.ct.gov. You should reference the bill numbers in your subject line, and include your name and town in the body of your testimony.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like to discuss tolls, transportation funding, or any other issue further. I am always happy to hear from you.

Rep. Lavielle’s Bill Strengthening Bear Hunting Penalties Introduced by Judiciary Committee

Posted on March 12, 2018 by rjoslyn


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HARTFORD – Following recent events in Wilton, State Representative Gail Lavielle (R-143) requested the Judiciary Committee raise a bill strengthening penalties for bear hunting, which is illegal in Connecticut.  The bill, HB 5469, has been raised by the Judiciary Committee and is scheduled for a public hearing on March 14.

Provisions in the bill include increasing fines for bear hunting from a maximum of $500 to a range of $500-$750 for first time offenses; from a maximum of $750 to a range of $750-$1,000 for second-time offenses; and from a maximum of $1,000 to a range of $1,000-$2,000 for third-time offenses.  Maximum jail time would be doubled for second- and third-time offenses, with third-time offenders receiving up to one year in jail. The bill also mandates permanent revocation of an offender’s hunting license after the second offense, rather than the third.

Last year, many residents in Wilton and surrounding towns were extremely upset when two individuals were arrested in relation to the killing of two black bears on private property in Wilton, and it was reported that they were taking parts of the bears home as trophies. Many were further outraged when the individual charged with killing the bears received accelerated rehabilitation, a program that, if he completes it successfully, will allow him to expunge the charge from his record.

Rep. Lavielle submitted the bill request to the Judiciary Committee in response to residents who contacted her to urge increasing the penalties for bear hunting.

“Many constituents have told me that they don’t feel the current penalties are adequate punishment for the inhumane, illegal killing of these wild animals,” said Rep. Lavielle. “Certainly, in this case, our current laws were not sufficient to act as a deterrent. This bill aims to be more effective in preventing people from breaking the law, and to impose penalties that are commensurate with the offense.”

Rep. Lavielle encouraged concerned residents to submit testimony for the scheduled public hearing on HB 5469, and to include their opinions on whether the proposed penalties are too strong or not strong enough. For those who want to testify in person, the public hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, March 14, at 10:30 am in Room 2D of the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.  Those who prefer to submit written testimony may send an email to judtestimony@cga.ct.gov, and copy Rep. Lavielle at Gail.Lavielle@cga.ct.gov.  Emails should refer to the bill, “HB 5469,” in the subject line and include the resident’s name and town.  There is no word limit on how short or lengthy written testimony can be.

In short sessions of the Connecticut General Assembly, which are held in even-numbered years, individual legislators may not introduce bills on non-financial subjects. Instead, they must submit formal requests to ask committees to raise bills on non-financial concepts. Rep. Lavielle used that procedure in this instance.

Rep. Lavielle and Rt. 7 Corridor Legislators Applaud DOT Commissioner, Commuters for Productive, Multi-Town Community Forum

Posted on March 8, 2018 by rjoslyn


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DANBURY–On Tuesday night, State Representative Gail Lavielle (R-143) and other legislators were joined by area drivers, bus and train commuters, who all had an opportunity to voice their frustrations with the conditions of Connecticut’s transportation system, proposed fare hikes and to offer ideas for improvements at a forum with the Commissioner of the Department of Transportation (DOT) James Redeker.

The forum was organized by a bipartisan group of legislators from the Route 7 corridor who are concerned that in the last few months, the state DOT has proposed raising rail and bus fares 21.28 percent over the next 3 years, significantly reducing rail service on the Danbury and Waterbury Lines. Additionally, the governor has cancelled over $4 billion in transportation projects state-wide and introduced a proposal to bring tolls back to the state, raise the gas tax 7 cents over 4 years and implement a new ‘tire tax’.

The forum was held in the Council Chambers at Danbury City Hall.

“Meetings with the public are critical, because the voices of the people who are most affected by service cuts and fare hikes are the most important voices for us to listen to,” said Rep. Lavielle.  “I thank everyone who came out to the meeting in Danbury.”

Rep. Lavielle Update: Do You Think More New Taxes Are Going to Fix Connecticut’s Financial Problems?

Posted on March 1, 2018 by rjoslyn


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3/1/2018

Every two years, early in Connecticut’s short legislative session, the governor issues a proposal for revising the two-year budget currently in effect. In the proposal he released in February, Governor Malloy, faced with a $245 million current deficit, proposed a series of new taxes and fees as the solution for closing it.

All of these new taxes and fees were submitted to the General Assembly in SB 10, a bill that is now before the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee.

Within SB 10, the governor is proposing the following:

1.     A new tax on nonprescription drugs and medicines

2.     A new sales tax on tires, at $3 each

3.     Eliminating the $200 property tax credit, which will affect low-income families and elderly individuals particularly hard

4.     A gas tax hike of 7 cents per gallon

5.     A 25-cent deposit on bottles for wine and liquor, as well as fruit, tea, sports, and energy drinks

6.     Imposing a penalty on businesses by maintaining a temporary surcharge on the corporation tax that was due to expire on June 30

7.     An increase in the hotel tax

8.     An increase in the tax on real estate sales

9.     The elimination of the $500 income tax credit for recent college graduates who earn a degree in a science, technology, engineering, or math field

 

If approved, all of these taxes would follow in the wake of the two historic tax increases Governor Malloy and the legislative majority approved in 2011 and 2015.

You may see certain items on this list that you feel more strongly about than others. But I think the more important question is whether you think obtaining more revenue from a shrinking tax base is the answer to Connecticut’s fiscal problems.

Increasing the tax pressure on people and businesses has not improved Connecticut’s budgetary or economic situation over the past several years, and has led many to relocate. There are other, more promising avenues: reducing spending and spending tax dollars more wisely, prohibiting borrowing for operating expenses, reducing the state’s skyrocketing fringe benefits and post-retirement costs, and attracting new businesses by creating a more business-friendly environment.

SB 10 cannot become law unless the legislature approves it following a public hearing before the Finance Committee.  The public hearing is your opportunity to voice your opinion — either in writing or in person — about this proposal to tax Connecticut out of its financial stalemate.

Here’s how you can make sure your opinion on SB 10 counts:

– Submit your written testimony at FINtestimony@cga.ct.gov, and copy me if you like at gail.lavielle@cga.ct.gov. Please include SB 10 in the subject line, and include your name and town in the testimony.

– Or, if you would like to testify in person at the Finance Committee’s public hearing, it begins this Friday, March 2, at 12:00 pm. It takes place in Room 2E of the Legislative Office Building.

Please don’t hesitate to call or email me if you’d like to discuss this or any other issue further. I always appreciate hearing from you.

Reps. Lavielle & O’Dea Join First Selectwoman Vanderslice to Testify Before Planning & Development Committee

Posted on February 27, 2018 by rjoslyn


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HARTFORD — State Representatives Gail Lavielle (R- 143) and Tom O’Dea (R- 125) joined First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice (R-Wilton) as they each testified before the General Assembly’s joint Planning and Development Committee on Monday, February 26, 2018 in support of H.B. 5181, An Act Extending the Municipal Revaluation Deadline for the Town of Wilton by One Year.  Rep. Lavielle proposed to the committee that it raise the bill, which she is co-sponsoring.

Rep. Lavielle: CTDOT Announces Public Hearings on Proposed Fare Increases and Service Reductions

Posted on February 26, 2018 by rjoslyn


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Below is a press release from the CT Department of Transportation, regarding a series of public information hearings being held by the DOT on proposed fare increases to rail and bus fares. The meeting closest to our part of Connecticut is on Feb. 27 in Stamford from 5p until 8p. Please read on for further details if this affects your commute.

As you may have read, the proposed increases are significant, and particularly so, as they are coupled with proposed reductions in service. Opinions on the necessity of these measures and the alternatives to them vary widely in the legislature, and these questions are among many issues regarding transportation funding that need to be urgently resolved.

I’ll be writing you more about these issues, as they are a primary focus of the legislative session in progress. Meanwhile, I will be submitting testimony, as I think there are better alternatives to increasing fares and reducing service, and I will share my remarks with you.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like to discuss transportation or any other issue further.

 

CTDOT Announces Public Hearings on Proposed Fare Increases and Service Reductions

 

The Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) today announced a series of seven public hearings to gather input on proposed bus and rail fare increases and service reductions.  If approved, a rail fare increase would take effect in three phases – 10 percent on July 1, 2018, 5 percent on July 1, 2020, and 5 percent on July 1, 2021, for a cumulative total of 21.28 percent.  A 14.3 percent, or 25-cent, bus fare increase would take effect on July 1, 2018.  Rail service reductions would also take effect on or about July 1, 2018; no bus service changes are proposed at this time. A $1 increase in the car fare for the Rocky Hill-Glastonbury and Chester-Hadlyme ferries is also proposed, for which public information meetings will be held.

 

The rail service proposals include significant reductions to rail services on the New Canaan, Danbury and Waterbury branch lines on the New Haven Line, and on Shore Line East.  The main line New Haven Line service would largely remain unchanged.

 

These actions are necessary due to an estimated $60 million budget shortfall for transit and rail accounts.  The implementation of any service and fare changes are subject to public input and contingent on action by the General Assembly to ensure the long-term solvency of the Special Transportation Fund which is supported by the gasoline tax and other revenues, and pays for CTDOT operations.

 

At these hearings, CTDOT will provide information and accept public comments about the fare and service proposals and the Service and Fare Equity Analysis (SAFE).  The SAFE process evaluates the proposed changes to determine if they will cause a disparate impact on minority populations or a disproportionate burden to low income populations. The SAFE analysis and additional details on the fares and service cuts will be published at www.ct.gov/dot/farecomments as they become available.

 

The following is the schedule of public hearings. 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018 – 5 pm to 8 pm

WATERBURY

Waterbury City Hall

235 Grand Street

Waterbury, CT 06702

(Snow date: Thursday, March 8, 2018 – 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm)

 

Thursday, February 22, 2018 – 4 pm to 7 pm

HARTFORD

Capital Community College

950 Main Street

Hartford, CT 06103

(Snow dates:

Monday, February 26, 2018 – 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm, or

Wednesday, March. 7, 2018- 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm

Hartford Public Library, Center for Contemporary Culture

500 Main Street, Hartford, CT 06103)

 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018 – 5 pm to 8 pm 

STAMFORD

UCONN Stamford Campus Auditorium

One University Place

Stamford, CT 06904

(Snow date: Tuesday, March 6, 2018 – 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm)

 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018 – 5 pm to 8 pm

NEW LONDON

New London City Hall

Council Chambers

181 State Street

New London, CT 06320

(Snow date: Wednesday, March 7, 2018 – 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm)

 

Thursday, March 1, 2018 – 4 pm to 7 pm

SPRINGFIELD

Pioneer Valley Planning Commission

60 Congress Street

Springfield MA 01104

(Snow date: Monday, March 5, 2018 – 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm)

 

Monday, March 5, 2018 – 4 pm to 7 pm

NEW BRITAIN

New Britain Police Department Community Room

10 Chestnut Street

New Britain, CT 06051

(Snow date: Tuesday, March 6, 2018 – 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm

Rep. Lavielle Critical of Governor’s Budget Proposals that Lead with Taxes on Seniors and the Middle Class

Posted on February 9, 2018 by rjoslyn


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HARTFORD –State Representative Gail Lavielle (R-143) voiced sharp criticism of the series of tax increases and new fees proposed by Governor Dannel Malloy in his guidelines for revisions to the 2018-2019 budget.  The governor detailed his budget proposal early this week before delivering his final State of the State address on Wednesday to a joint session of the legislature.

Rep. Lavielle noted the conspicuous absence in the governor’s speech of any reference to Connecticut’s struggling economy or its $245 million budget deficit for the current year, as he called for new spending programs such as free community college.

“Floating budget proposals that fly in the face of bipartisan legislation that the General Assembly overwhelmingly passed after a solid year of uncertainty and debate is disrespectful to Connecticut residents,” said Rep. Lavielle. “It has become clear to people across the state that steadily raising taxes has not led to steadily higher revenue and that Connecticut’s tax base is actually shrinking. Constant reliance on new revenue to balance the budget is hurting the state’s economy, and this week’s proposals are particularly harmful to seniors and the middle class.”

Among the governor’s proposals are:

  • Eliminating the property tax credit for seniors and taxpayers with dependents
  • Eliminating new tax breaks on Social Security and pension income
  • Cutting funding to the Medicare savings program that was just restored by the legislature over his veto
  • Imposing a sales tax on non-prescription drugs
  • Increasing the gasoline tax
  • A new tax on tires
  • Installing tolls on Connecticut’s highways
  • Increasing the real estate conveyance tax
  • Cuts to municipal aid
  • Rejecting the new education cost sharing (ECS) formula and eliminating all ECS funding for 33 towns

“Connecticut residents are not fooled by the governor’s lack of acknowledgment that the state’s levels of spending are unsustainable,” said Rep. Lavielle. “I hope that my colleagues in the legislature will all remember that the number one issue affecting Connecticut right now is the state’s financial condition and restoring our economy. We must stay focused on our job as the advocates of taxpayers and all residents.”

Referring to the 2017 session when Governor Malloy’s most controversial proposals – like shifting the cost of teacher pensions onto municipalities – were rejected by the legislature, Rep. Lavielle expressed her hope that legislators would work together to produce bipartisan alternatives to the governor’s proposal that do not rely on tax and fee increases and that protect local education funding over the course of this year’s “short session”, which ends on May 9.

Rep Lavielle: Reviving Connecticut’s Economy: Legislature Enlists Top Private Sector Expertise

Posted on February 2, 2018 by rjoslyn


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The 2018 legislative session will open on February 7. While the legislature’s priority is dealing with the current $245 million deficit, it is a symptom, not a cause, of the long list of serious financial problems that are sustaining Connecticut’s persistent fiscal crisis: ballooning retirement-related liabilities, growing debt service, high overhead costs, punitive taxes, and a shrinking tax base, among others. Funding for programs and services for the needy, transportation, schools, and towns is constantly in jeopardy. So although the legislature’s primary focus during the session will clearly be on the current budget, I hope that it will be on addressing the serious underlying structural issues as well.

Before the session gets underway, I want to share with you a document that will likely be part of the backdrop for debate. If you are interested in the state’s many financial and economic issues, it may provide helpful context for you.

The document is a presentation entitled “Remarks on Economic Growth”. Prepared by Jim Loree, President and CEO of Stanley Black & Decker, it is a product of the work currently being done by the state Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth, which was created by a provision in the budget bill passed last year. Unlike many commissions formed by the legislature, it does not include any elected officials currently in office. Instead, most of its members are top executives of major corporations, professional firms, and nonprofits. It has been meeting since December, and must deliver to the legislature by March 1 a report including recommendations on what the state should do to resolve its fiscal crisis and restore its economy.

Prepared by people who bring the objectivity of working outside state government, the presentation leaves no room for doubt about the gravity of Connecticut’s financial problems. At the same time, it recognizes that restoring the state’s economy requires not only rationalizing and reduction of spending, but also growth of the tax base, and it proposes a number of avenues for action.

I will wait to form a point of view on the courses of actions that this preliminary presentation begins to suggest until we receive the final report. But meanwhile, I wanted to share it with you, to give you a clear idea of many of the issues the legislature may be discussing. Even more important, I am very interested in hearing any thoughts, concerns, or questions you may want to share with me in return.

Click here to read Jim Loree’s presentation, “Remarks on Economic Growth”.

During the upcoming session, I will be actively involved in the discussions surrounding tax policy, education, transportation, and economic growth, so it is very important to me to know what matters to you in these areas. Please call or send me an email if you would like to discuss any of these issues. I always appreciate hearing from you.

Reps. Lavielle and O’Dea, Sen. Boucher, Discuss State Issues with Constituents at a Town Hall Forum in Wilton

Posted on January 30, 2018 by rjoslyn


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 WILTON  State Representatives Gail Lavielle (R-143) and Tom O’Dea (R-125) listened to the questions and concerns of constituents in Wilton at a town hall meeting they hosted on Monday night alongside their Senate colleague, Sen. Toni Boucher (R-26).

The legislators engaged in a productive discussion at the Wilton Library with area residents seeking to hear from their elected officials before the legislative “short session” begins on February 7th, amidst persisting budget issues and concerns about transportation funding.

The representatives answered dozens of questions over the course of the hour and a half event about a range of topics.

Connecticut’s economy and volatile fiscal situation were of particular concern for Wilton residents, with attendees worried about how Connecticut’s unfunded liabilities and budget deficits will affect their property taxes.  Other questions covered education funding, the SEBAC union contract, health insurance, and how to make Connecticut more attractive to businesses.

“People, towns, and businesses are clearly feeling the full force of the uncertainties about taxes, services, transportation, and the local economy that are caused by the state’s persistent fiscal crisis,” said Rep. Lavielle. “It is clear that the legislature must act urgently to address Connecticut’s unsustainable pension and benefits liabilities and eliminate wasteful spending, while finding ways to expand the state’s tax base. Doing both at the same time is challenging, but necessary to restore Connecticut’s economy and to protect its quality of life. I am glad that we had a strong turnout at the Monday town hall, because it’s important for people to understand the state’s fiscal realities. I hope that my constituents will continue to use my office as a resource for answers to any questions they have about state government.”

 

Anyone who was unable to attend the event but would like to speak with Reps. Lavielle and O’Dea can reach them any time at their email addresses, respectively, gail.lavielle@cga.ct.gov and tom.odea@housegop.ct.gov or by calling 800-842-1423. Sen. Boucher can be reached by email at toni.boucher@cga.ct.gov or by calling 800-842-1421.

Reps. Lavielle and O’Dea, Sen. Boucher Holding Town Hall in Wilton on January 29th

Posted on January 23, 2018 by rjoslyn


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WILTON State Reps. Gail Lavielle (R-143) and Tom O’Dea (R-125) along with State Sen. Toni Boucher (R-26) invite their constituents to attend a town hall event at the Wilton Library in the Brubeck Room. The forum will be held on Monday, January 29th, from 6pm until 7:30pm.

The legislators will offer Wilton residents an update on legislative activity in Hartford, answer their questions on state issues, and listen to their concerns about the community.

 

Anyone who is unable to attend but would still like to speak with them may contact Rep. Lavielle at Gail.Lavielle@cga.ct.gov, Rep. O’Dea at Tom.Odea@housegop.ct.gov, and Sen. Boucher at Toni.Boucher@cga.ct.gov.

Reps. Lavielle, Wilms and Wood Hosting Coffee and Conversation in Norwalk on Friday, January 26th

Posted on January 11, 2018 by rjoslyn


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NORWALK – Norwalk’s Republican State House delegation of Representatives Gail Lavielle (R-143), Fred Wilms (R-142), and Terrie Wood (R-141) are inviting their constituents to attend office hours with them on the morning of Friday, January 26th at the Norwalk Inn on East Ave. They will meet with any interested constituents for coffee and conversation from 7:30 a.m. until 9:00 a.m.

This is an opportunity for constituents to meet with their state representatives and speak with them about the upcoming legislative session, the recently-adopted state budget, upcoming legislation, and other issues they would like to hear addressed.

 

Anyone who is unable to attend but would still like to speak to Reps. Lavielle, Wilms, or Wood may contact them by calling 800-842-1423 or by email at Gail.Lavielle@housegop.ct.gov, Fred.Wilms@housegop.ct.gov, and Terrie.Wood@housegop.ct.gov .

Rep. Lavielle Holding Office Hours in Wilton on January 23rd

Posted on January 9, 2018 by rjoslyn


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WILTON State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) invites her constituents to attend office hours with her on the morning of Tuesday, January 23rd at Orem’s Diner in Wilton. She will meet with any interested constituent for coffee and conversation on from 7:30 a.m. until 9:00 a.m.

This is an opportunity to meet with Rep. Lavielle and speak with her about the upcoming legislative session, the recently-adopted state budget, pending legislation, and other issues they would like to hear addressed by their state representative.

Anyone who is unable to attend but would still like to speak to Rep. Lavielle may contact her at Gail.Lavielle@housegop.ct.gov.

Rep. Lavielle Votes to Restore Funding for Medicare Savings Program as Legislature Approves Plan

Posted on January 9, 2018 by rjoslyn


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HARTFORD –State Representative Gail Lavielle (R-143) on Monday voted for a bipartisan plan that would provide funding for the Medicare Savings Program (MSP) through the end of the current fiscal year. 

 MSP is a Medicaid program that helps seniors and the disabled pay for Medicare co-insurance, deductibles and premiums. Before the state budget passed, Connecticut was one of five states whose income eligibly limits exceeded the federal minimum level. In adopting the budget in October, the legislature, carrying over a provision included in Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s budget proposal, reduced the eligibility to the federal minimum, consequently reducing or eliminating coverage for many of the program’s thousands of participants. The state’s Department of Social Services then announced in December that it would delay implementation of the eligibility reduction by two months, giving concerned program participants a reprieve from an unexpected jump in their healthcare costs as lawmakers worked to find $53 million to fund the program through June.  

 In December, Rep. Lavielle said the legislature had a “moral responsibility” to reconvene and restore funding for this program in order to stop the harm that this provision of the budget would cause for seniors and disabled populations.

 “It is an encouraging sign that the legislature was able to respond swiftly and decisively to the outcry over these unexpected cuts to the MSP, and that the plan to restore its funding was drafted and approved on a bipartisan basis,” said Rep. Lavielle.  “During our short session that begins in February, we must make it a priority to ensure that health coverage for seniors, people with disabilities, and other vulnerable populations remains secure as the budget deficit persists. To avoid similar issues in the future, it will be imperative to make major structural changes to the state’s finances, including measures to halt the precipitous growth of the state’s employment benefits costs.”

 The MSP plan was approved in the House on a 130 to 3 vote. Among the methods used to restore program funding is a requirement that Gov. Malloy reduce the number of managers and consultants—a provision included in the adopted budget ignored by the governor. Other components include moving human resources-related functions of some state agencies into the state’s Department of Administrative Services, and requiring the governor to find savings in Executive Branch functions while limiting his ability to cut more than 10 percent from any one program.

 The State Senate approved the plan 32-1 in a vote later in the day.

 The 2018 legislative session — a “short session” — starts Feb. 7 and will see lawmakers focus primarily on issues tied to the state budget.

Reps. Lavielle, Wilms, & Wood Volunteer to Raise Money for the Salvation Army in Norwalk

Posted on December 13, 2017 by rjoslyn


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NORWALK State Representatives Gail Lavielle (R-143), Fred Wilms (R-142), and Terrie Wood (R-141 teamed up with the Salvation Army on Tuesday to ring the bell outside Stop & Shop on Main Ave. in Norwalk and raise money for local residents in need this holiday season as a part of their Red Kettle Campaign. They stood outside the store and asked shoppers to contribute money to the kettle. All proceeds went to the Salvation Army.

“I’m grateful that the money we collected will go directly towards helping struggling families have a happy holiday season,” said Rep. Lavielle. “We would all like to thank the Salvation Army for the work they do on behalf of local residents by helping with heating costs, putting food on the table, and providing winter clothing. I’m happy we could help with those important efforts.”

“During this time of year it is important to remember those less fortunate, and to extend help to our neighbors in need,” said Rep. Wilms. “Participating in the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign has been humbling. As the holidays approach, I can’t think of a better way to give back to the community than by volunteering my time for this great cause. I encourage my constituents to reach out to those less fortunate during this season of giving, if possible, and thank those who have already donated. I am proud to represent a district that displays so much generosity not only during the holidays, but year round.”

“Every little bit really does help, and this campaign really shows how your donations impact the lives of people who may be struggling during this time of year,” said Rep. Wood. “I was proud to be a part of this holiday tradition in volunteering for the Salvation Army. I encourage all of my constituents to do what they can to look out for others in their community as well.”

The legislators wanted to note that anyone unable to make it to Stop & Shop on Tuesday could still help them raise money for the Salvation Army by texting “CTREP” to 71777 and donating directly to the House and Senate Republicans’ Red Kettle. Donors may also visit the Salvation Army’s website at www.salvationarmyusa.org to learn of other ways to do good this holiday season; for example, by donating cars, clothing, household goods, airline miles, bonds and stocks, or volunteering for the community.

The Salvation Army responds to natural disasters such as wildfires and tornadoes, provides meals and toys to families in need, and conducts research and analyses regarding human needs around the country. They also provide adult rehabilitation, veteran services, elderly services, missing person searches, housing assistance, youth recreation, sponsorship, and support in the fight to end human trafficking.

Rep. Lavielle Calls on Legislature to Reconvene Immediately and Fix Medicare Savings Program Reductions

Posted on December 7, 2017 by rjoslyn


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HARTFORD –State Representative Gail Lavielle (R-143) called on the legislature on Thursday to reconvene “as soon as possible” and commit to restoring funding for approximately 113,000 elderly and disabled people who would lose all or part of their health coverage as a result of cuts to the Medicare Savings Program (MSP) in the recently-adopted state budget. The two-year budget adopted by the General Assembly reduces the income eligibility limits for all categories of participants in the program, in many cases by as much as 50%.

“Both chambers of the legislature have a moral responsibly to take action immediately and stand up for the seniors who were harmed by this provision in the budget,” said Rep. Lavielle.  “If we do not, seniors and the disabled who currently benefit from the MSP will see an instant and drastic increase in their healthcare costs next year.  We have heard from countless constituents and Connecticut seniors who will simply be unable to afford the care they rely on.  It is unconscionable to allow this to happen and we need to reconvene sooner rather than later to fix this, preferably before the end of the year.”

The Department of Social Services (DSS) announced on Wednesday that it would delay implementation of eligibility reductions to the state’s MSP program until March 1, 2018, while it conducts a review of coverage alternatives, a development Rep. Lavielle called “helpful in the short term, but absolutely not a solution or a source of reassurance for the 86,000 low-income seniors who would be disqualified from the program and the 27,000 who would have their coverage reduced.”  She also noted that many of these seniors might not qualify for alternative coverage.

The reduction of income eligibility for the MSP, which is paid for with Medicaid funding, was carried over from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget proposal. The changes would save the state $53.9 million in 2018 and $130 million in 2019. Rep. Lavielle pointed to the devastating impact on the budget of the SEBAC union contract approved in July that locked in expensive state union benefits for ten years.

“The appalling truth is that because of the SEBAC public-sector union agreement negotiated by Governor Malloy and approved on a party-line vote exclusively by majority legislators, unionized state employees will continue to receive guaranteed access to retirement healthcare benefits for life and it is being paid for by indigent seniors in Connecticut who are losing theirs,” said Rep. Lavielle.  “Majority legislators refused even to vote for a budget before an agreement with state employee unions was approved.  They made it clear that the state unions are a much higher priority for them than Connecticut’s vulnerable elderly and disabled.  This sends an ugly message to Connecticut residents and the rest of the country.  It is urgent to address the problem.  These people are desperately worried about their health and about their lives.  They shouldn’t have to wait for an answer.”

House and Senate leadership are currently discussing the MSP situation and are considering whether to convene before the beginning of the regular session in February.

2017 End of Year Legislative Review

Posted on November 30, 2017 by rjoslyn


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Below is a link to the 2017 Legislative Review that my office has recently sent to residents of the 143rd district. The report summarizes major developments during this year’s legislative session. For any of you who may have moved within the district or have just recently arrived, I wanted to share it with you electronically as well.

To see my Legislative Review in an easy-to-read format, just click on the image below.

 

Please don’t hesitate to call or email me if you’d like to discuss the issues outlined in the Review, or any other questions or concerns you may have.

Rep. Lavielle Achieves Perfect Voting Record for 2017

Posted on November 28, 2017 by rjoslyn


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HARTFORD –State Representative Gail Lavielle (R-143) achieved a 100% voting record for all roll call votes taken on the floor of the State House of Representatives during both the 2017 Regular Session and the Special Session, which did not end until November 15. According to the data released by the House Clerk’s office, she cast every one of the 417 roll call votes called this year in the House.

 “There are always many long hours during a legislative session, but it is essential to me that the residents of the 143rd district are represented at the Capitol at all times,” said Rep. Lavielle.  “This year, although the unpredictability and length of the special session made scheduling difficult, it was my priority to be always present in Hartford for my constituents in Norwalk, Westport, and Wilton.”

 Perfect attendance and voting is very difficult to achieve, and only one third of Rep. Lavielle’s legislative colleagues were able to attain it this year.

 The next regular session of the General Assembly will convene in February of 2016.

Reps. Lavielle, Wilms and Wood Hosting Coffee and Conversation in Norwalk on Friday, November 17th

Posted on November 14, 2017 by rjoslyn


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NORWALK – Norwalk’s Republican State House delegation of Representatives Gail Lavielle (R-143), Fred Wilms (R-142), and Terrie Wood (R-141) are inviting their constituents to attend office hours with them on the morning of November 17th at the Norwalk Inn on East Ave. They will meet with any interested constituents for coffee and conversation from 7:30 a.m. until 9:00 a.m.

This is an opportunity for constituents to meet with their state representative following the passage of a new state budget for the State of Connecticut that passed last month and the conclusion of the 2017 session in June. Attendees should come prepared with questions about the contents of the state budget and how it will affect Norwalk residents, as well as any other question related to state government.

Anyone who is unable to attend but would still like to speak to Reps. Lavielle, Wilms, or Wood may contact them by calling 800-842-1423 or by email at Gail.Lavielle@housegop.ct.gov, Fred.Wilms@housegop.ct.gov, and Terrie.Wood@housegop.ct.gov .

State Representative Gail Lavielle represents the 143rd district, which includes parts of Norwalk, Westport, and Wilton. She is Ranking Member of the General Assembly’s Education Committee and a member of the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee and the Transportation Committee.

State Representative Fred Wilms represents the 142nd General Assembly district communities of Norwalk and New Canaan. He is a member of the Appropriations Committee, the Planning and Development Committee, and the Transportation Committee.

State Rep. Terrie Wood represents the 141st General Assembly district which includes Darien and Rowayton.  She is Ranking Member on the legislature’s Executive and Legislative Nominations Committee, and serves on the Human Services and Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committees. 

Rep. Lavielle Votes for Compromise Budget that Restores Education Funding

Posted on October 31, 2017 by rjoslyn


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HARTFORD – State Representative Gail Lavielle (R-143) voted to approve a bipartisan budget on Thursday as it passed the House of Representatives with a 126-23 veto-proof margin.  Following the Senate’s 33-3 passage of the budget bill, it now awaits action by Governor Dannel Malloy.

The legislature’s budget was a compromise between House and Senate leadership from both parties that contrasts sharply with the governor’s executive order, currently in effect, which includes dramatic funding cuts for town aid, education, and core social services – facts that have had local leaders and residents worried about teacher layoffs and supplemental tax bills.

“This budget was the best alternative to both the governor’s executive order – which decimated local education funding – and a compromise budget between the governor and majority Democrats – which would likely have contained several major tax increases and still shifted teacher pension costs onto towns,” said Rep. Lavielle.  “The delay in the budget process was unacceptable, and towns across the state were suffering from the cuts in the governor’s executive order, which exposed many of them to downgrades in their bond ratings. Taking decisive action was the responsible thing to do.  While the compromise budget contains serious shortcomings that fall short of our goals, it also provides important structural reforms and does not force property taxpayers to bear the cost of years of irresponsible fiscal policies.”

When majority legislators in the General Assembly approved the governor’s SEBAC union contract in July, it limited the ability of the state to close its $5 billion budget deficit by trimming its bureaucracy and controlling pension costs.  However, Rep. Lavielle pointed to numerous structural reforms within the compromise budget that were retained from a Republican budget bill that passed last month.  These include a bonding cap, a rigorous spending cap, a mandatory vote on all union contracts, and municipal mandate relief reforms that will allow towns to save on construction and labor costs.  It also rejects several tax increases proposed by majority Democrats and the governor in previous budget proposals.

“Given how dire our situation seemed over the summer as the state languished without a budget and the majority party’s approval of the union agreement which dramatically limited our budget options, a more harmful state budget filled with tax increases seemed to be the most likely outcome,” said Rep. Lavielle.  “Instead, House Republicans were able to stop most of the tax increases and achieve many structural reforms that we have advocated for decades, like implementing the constitutional spending cap, mandatory votes on union contracts, mandate relief, and tax relief for retirees. Significantly, this budget does all of that while maintaining funding for local school districts and core government services.”

Rep. Lavielle concluded by calling the passage of the compromise budget “the best option we had,” saying, “Majority Democrats put the state in an unfortunate fiscal bind by passing the SEBAC union agreement.  As legislators, however, we have a responsibility to get to work and be a part of the solution rather than stand back and watch the state decline.  We still have a lot of work to do, but this budget will begin the process of setting the state on a more responsible fiscal path when it becomes law.”

While the governor must make his decision this week on whether to sign or veto the budget bill, the vote count in both chambers indicates a high likelihood that the legislature would override a veto.

Rep. Lavielle Update: The Legislature Has Approved a Budget

Posted on October 27, 2017 by rjoslyn


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The Legislature Has Approved a Budget

Yesterday, after the longest delay in modern memory, the state House and Senate finally approved a bipartisan budget bill. It now goes to the governor. While he could still veto the bill, the vote count in both chambers – 126-23 in the House and 33-3 in the Senate – indicates that there would likely be more than enough votes for an override.

In the nearly four months that Connecticut has been without a budget, the governor has been running the state by executive order, an order that eliminated or severely reduced education funding for more than half the state’s districts, cut municipal aid allotments, and dramatically cut funding to essential social services, leaving many towns unable to manage their budgets with any certainty. The enactment of the budget will put a stop to the executive order, as well as to fears of a massive shift to towns of part of the state’s teachers’ pension costs – a proposal still being promoted by the governor and, until recently, some majority legislators.

The budget represents a compromise agreement by leadership of both parties. It is not perfect, but it includes many important reforms that will begin the process of turning Connecticut’s finances around and restoring the confidence of the bond markets and the business community. I voted in favor.

Highlights of the budget include:

  • Implementation of the constitutional spending cap that was first approved by voters in 1992
  • A $1.9 billion annual cap on bonding, $500 million less than what was bonded last year
  • Providing current year funding to school districts at levels similar to those of last year
  • Introduction in 2019 of a new education cost sharing (ECS) formula that will provide predictability to every school district
  • Phasing out taxes on social security, pensions, and estates
  • Restoration of millions in state aid to towns
  • Requiring the General Assembly to vote on every contract with state employee unions
  • Reform of prevailing wage laws and municipal binding arbitration procedures, allowing municipalities to reduce their costs substantially
  • Restoration of funding for essential services, including day and employment services for people with intellectual disabilities, the Care4Kids program, and Meals on Wheels
  • A state employee hiring freeze

Agreement on the budget also stopped proposals introduced by the governor and/or majority leadership that would have raised taxes and the cost of living for Connecticut residents. These included new taxes on sales, cell phone usage, restaurants, second homes, hotels, and income; tolls; and shifting the state’s teachers’ pension costs to municipalities, which would have meant massive property tax increases and cuts to local school budgets.

I believe that substantial reforms to state government’s labor costs – including pensions, benefits, and overtime – are still necessary for a real turnaround in Connecticut’s economy and financial condition, and I am disappointed that the state employee union contract approved in late July by majority legislators prevented any of these from being included in the final budget. But the structural changes we did achieve – spending and bonding caps, municipal mandate relief, and union contract votes — are substantial, and represent the culmination of reform efforts that legislative Republicans had sustained for several decades.

Yesterday, House Republican Leader Themis Klarides said, “This budget itself isn’t necessarily something to celebrate, but it does provide me and the citizens of this state with hope.” I agree. Hope because it is a significant first step toward fiscal soundness for Connecticut. Hope because majority legislators have shown their willingness to change policies that have set the state on a downward fiscal trajectory and kept it there. Hope that our colleagues will continue to work with us to put aside special interests and politics to do what is best for the people of Connecticut.

Click here if you’d like to read more about the budget.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like to discuss the state budget or any other issue further. I always appreciate hearing from you.

Rep. Lavielle Named Environmental Champion for Sixth Straight Year

Posted on October 16, 2017 by rjoslyn


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HARTFORD – State Representative Gail Lavielle (R-143) has been named an Environmental Champion by the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters (CTLCV) for the sixth consecutive year.  Of the 16 legislators to receive the recognition this year, she was commended for her leadership on issues related to electric vehicles and bottle recycling during the 2017 legislative session.

The Connecticut League of Conservation Voters is a bipartisan, statewide, nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting Connecticut’s environment by making it a priority for elected officials.  CTLCV works with the state’s environmental advocacy groups to identify, highlight, and track important bills that affect Connecticut’s natural resources, including air, water, wildlife, open space, and health. Following each legislative session, it recognizes a number of lawmakers for their leadership on environmental issues by naming them Environmental Champions.

“Because our state’s historic fiscal crisis and the failure to pass a state budget into law have dominated the conversation this year in the General Assembly, many critical environmental issues did not receive the attention they deserved, which is why I am especially honored to maintain the distinction of Environmental Champion this year,” said Rep. Lavielle.  “Although passing a responsible state budget is the most urgent matter we have, environmental stewardship is essential not only to preserving Connecticut’s unique character and landscape, but also to its quality of life and economic viability.  Because I firmly believe that conservation of natural resources goes hand in hand with conservation of financial resources, I consider environmental stewardship an important component of fiscal responsibility, an objective that should underpin everything we do in the General Assembly.  It must not be ignored and I thank the CTLCV for keeping legislators focused on these issues.”

During the 2017 legislative session, Rep. Lavielle supported legislation aimed at securing dealer licenses for electric vehicle manufacturers in Connecticut. She also helped defeat an effort to dismantle the state’s landmark recycling law, succeeding in retaining Connecticut’s bottle deposit refund program. In addition to her efforts in these areas, Rep. Lavielle was a vocal supporter and co-sponsor of a constitutional amendment resolution protecting state conservation lands. She also supported legislation designed to improve the DOT’s management of tree removal on state highways, as well as successful efforts to ban the disposal of fracking waste in Connecticut and to improve access to water planning data.

“Facilitating the sale of electric vehicles in our state and encouraging bottle recycling are two good examples of issues that have the dual effect of both protecting our environment and saving our state money in the midst of a financial crisis, and can even potentially spur more economic growth here,” said Rep. Lavielle.  “Instead of repealing our state’s bottle bill, we can modernize and expand the program to make it more cost-efficient.  Electric vehicles, in addition to helping to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, provide consumers with access to a choice that they have been asking for. Conserving our natural resources and encouraging business development do not need to be competing issues and I will continue to work for a harmonious implementation of these two priorities.”

According to CTLCV Executive Diretor, Lori Brown,  “Gail Lavielle has an in-depth understanding of complex environmental issues.  She is a strong voice in the State House of Representatives that we can count on to push for legislation that protects our land, air and water. More of our elected leaders should be working as hard as Gail in fighting for our environmental future.”

The complete 2017 CTLCV scorecard can be viewed at: http://www.ctlcv.org/uploads/6/2/0/1/6201942/2017_scorecard_web_pdf.pdf

Rep. Lavielle: Governor’s Veto Leaves State Staring at Budget Void

Posted on September 28, 2017 by rjoslyn


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HARTFORD –State Representative Gail Lavielle (R-143) said today that Governor Dannel Malloy’s veto of the Republican budget that was passed by a bipartisan majority has exposed the state, its municipalities, and its essential services to “severe funding cuts and significant uncertainty and risk”.  The veto means that a state budget will not be in effect by the October ECS payment deadline, and a majority of Connecticut towns will see across the board cuts in municipal aid and education funding, as well as elimination of core government services.

“Although the governor had announced that he would veto the budget even before its passage in the House, my colleagues and I were still hoping he would set aside partisan politics and do what is best for Connecticut. Unfortunately, he did not, and now many towns will suffer dramatic funding cuts, becoming casualties of his executive order,” said Rep. Lavielle, who had advocated all year for a budget that protected current levels of funding for every school district and municipality.  “It is also a disappointment that the governor would not even use this bipartisan budget as a basis for future negotiations on a consensus budget.  To reject the only budget plan that passed the legislature is irresponsible and puts Connecticut indefinitely at risk of not being able to fulfill its obligations to its residents. With the veto, he has left the state staring at a budget void, as there is no other budget on the table that has the support of the legislature.”

Legislators have the option of overriding the governor’s veto if House and Senate majority leadership decides to take it up in a veto session later in October.

Rep. Lavielle on the Bipartisan Passage of a State Budget

Posted on September 18, 2017 by rjoslyn


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“On Friday afternoon in the Senate and before dawn on Saturday morning in the House, members of both parties in the Connecticut General Assembly joined together to pass a state budget introduced by legislative Republicans. It passed 21 – 15 in the Senate, with all Republicans and three Democrats voting in favor, and 77 – 73, with all Republicans and five Democrats voting in favor.

This budget closes the state’s $3.5 billion deficit without raising taxes, does not transfer the cost of teachers’ pensions from the state to towns, preserves funding for school districts and municipalities, invests in transportation, and protects critical services like those for the intellectually disabled and the elderly. It also contains many structural changes, including consolidating government departments, reducing state employee overtime, restricting state borrowing, and implementing the constitutional spending cap.

The now bipartisan budget offered a sharp contrast to the Democratic proposal, which increased spending by $1 billion, raised taxes by about $1.3 billion — including new taxes on consumer cell phone bills and non-prescription drugs and a new statewide property tax on second homes — shifted teachers’ pension costs to towns, and gave a non-elected body the power to authorize and set pricing for tolls.

I have long believed strongly that our state government cannot continue to increase taxes and spending and still expect to stop Connecticut’s persistent deficit cycle, foster a thriving economy, and provide both advancement and retirement opportunities, as well as needed services, for its residents. The passage of this budget was a clear signal that a majority of legislators representing both sides of the aisle are ready to change the direction of our state by supporting fiscally responsible policies that will require Connecticut to live within its means.

Governor Malloy has stated his intention to veto the bipartisan budget, even though a majority of legislators support it. If he does this, the massive cuts to school districts and essential services that are scheduled early next month under his Executive Order will take effect. He has also said that he doesn’t want to see this happen, so I hope that he will act responsibly and allow the budget to go through.

Participating in the work on this budget and watching it pass with bipartisan support was a remarkable experience. I want to acknowledge and thank our Democratic colleagues who put politics aside to do what they thought was right for Connecticut. Despite the threat of a veto, their actions augur well for policy changes that will restore our state’s economy and fiscal health. Whatever happens next, I look forward to continuing to work together with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure that Connecticut has a responsible state budget, and to set it on a path to a sustainable and prosperous future.

If you would like to urge Governor Malloy not to veto the budget, you can call his office at 800 406 1527, or click here to send an email.

To read more about the budget, click here.

As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like to discuss the state budget, or any other issue, further. I always appreciate hearing from you.”

The State Budget Breakdown: Latest Update

Posted on September 15, 2017 by rjoslyn


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As many of you know, the state has been without a budget since July 1, the beginning of the current biennium. The legislature was called into special session yesterday, September 14, to vote on a budget, but nothing happened.

The situation is critical for everyone in Connecticut. So although things are changing from minute to minute, I think it is important to give you a thorough update on what has happened to date and how things stand this afternoon, Friday, September 15.

  • Since July 1, the governor has been running the state by Executive Order. So far, this has been severely affecting community nonprofits and other social services programs. If no budget is passed by October 1, massive cuts to municipalities and school districts will kick in. Knowing that this possibility exists has created enormous uncertainty in every community.
  • During the regular legislative session, which ended on June 7, the governor issued and revised a budget proposal. Majority legislative Democrats did not release a full budget, and still had not done so as of last night. Minority legislative Republicans, however, issued a balanced, line-by-line, no-tax-increase budget in April, and we have continued to update it for the past 140 days, releasing our latest update on September 12. Read it here. We cannot call our budget for a vote ourselves, as only majority leadership can call bills. We have repeatedly requested that our budget be called, but majority leadership has refused.
  • The House and Senate were called into special session yesterday morning to vote on a budget. When we arrived, no budget document was available to read.
  • Around noon, the Finance Committee met to vote on revenue projections based on tax and fee proposals to be included in the still unpublished budget being prepared by legislative Democrats. The only document we were given was a list of more than $1.5 billion in new taxes and fees – no text or explanation. The projections were approved along party lines, by a vote of 26-25. Among the most noteworthy new revenue items:

o    $282 million from shifting responsibility for teachers’ pension contributions from the state to towns

o    $27 million from a new monthly 49-cent tax on consumer cell phone bills

o    $64 million from a new statewide property tax on “seasonal and recreational” homes

  • Throughout the day yesterday, House and Senate members waited for majority legislative Democrats to release their budget document. The Republican budget was public and ready to be called for a vote, but majority leadership refused to call it.
  • At midnight, with no budget documents published, majority Democratic leadership announced that there would be no vote on their budget. There was, apparently, no certainty among their members of enough votes for passage. Majority leaders indicated that no future date was set for a vote. Republican leadership again requested a vote on the Republican budget, to no avail. You can read more about what happened here.
  • At 2:15 am this morning, we were notified that majority leadership was calling the Senate in for a vote today at 2:00 pm, and the House at 5:00 pm. We do not know yet for certain whether either chamber will proceed to a vote. Again, as the minority, we cannot call the Republican budget. But if a bill is called, we will call the Republican budget as an amendment to it, and there will be a vote.
  • At around 8:00 am, we learned that Senate Democrats had posted a 914-page budget bill online. Along with all my colleagues, I will read and absorb as much of it as I can in the little time allotted.

I will end with a couple of comments.

  • Majority Democrats have told their members and the public that legislators have only two choices: vote for the budget they did not publish until early this morning, or allow the governor’s Executive Order to take effect. This is not true: the Republican budget provides a solid alternative.
  • The Republican budget includes no new taxes, protects education funding, and restores and preserves funding for essential services like those for people with intellectual disabilities, the elderly, and the mentally ill. It also includes structural changes to state government that will restore fiscal stability and put the state’s economy on a sustainable path for the long term.
  • The entire budget process has been conducted in a way that is disrespectful to every resident of Connecticut.

My House and Senate Republican colleagues and I have listened and are listening to our constituents, and we will continue to press for a budget that will serve the people of Connecticut well.

This is a critical juncture for our state, and what happens now will affect everyone in Connecticut. Please don’t hesitate to call or write me anytime if you’d like to discuss the state budget, or any other issue, further.

Rep. Lavielle and Legislative Republicans Release Revised No-Tax Increase Budget

Posted on September 12, 2017 by rjoslyn


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HartfordToday, State Representative Gail Lavielle (R-143) and her Legislative Republican colleagues joined together to release a revised two-year state budget proposal with no new taxes that would put a stop to the governor’s executive order, restore funding for education and core social services, and provide stability for towns and cities.

The revised budget proposal offered by Senate and House Republicans includes no tax increases and rejects the governor’s proposal to shift teacher pension costs onto towns and cities that would further burden municipalities and lead to increased property taxes. The Republican budget proposal combines elements of the Senate and House Republicans’ multiple prior budget proposals released earlier this year, feedback from Democrat lawmakers and the governor, and factors in the legislature’s passage of the state employee labor concessions deal that is now law.

“This is a detailed, balanced budget that is ready to be debated and approved by the legislature at any time, and it proves that raising taxes on Connecticut families is not the only answer to resolving our fiscal crisis,” said Rep. Lavielle.  “After the devastating effects of two record-high tax increases in the past six years, it is necessary to take a new approach to the state budget that does not lead to massive property tax increases by passing costs along to towns. Because my colleagues and I have listened to our constituents, we will not support any budget that increases their tax burden either directly through a sales tax, or indirectly by eliminating municipal aid from town budgets and billing towns for teacher pension costs. Our constituents want a budget that does not increase taxes, that preserves education funding, that makes transportation a priority, and that protects social services for the truly needy. That is why we felt it was our responsibility to provide a proposal that achieves all these things, to release it on time, in April, and to continue to update it ever since. Our budget sets a new direction for the state, one that will create sustainability and predictability for families, businesses and towns, and will go a long way towards restoring the economy.”

No New Taxes

The revised Republican budget contains no new taxes. It does not increase or expand the sales tax, hospital tax or income tax. It also rejects the governor’s proposal to shift teacher pension costs onto municipalities as such a policy change would likely result in property tax increases.

Reduces Taxes

The Republican budget enacts two policies that will reduce taxes for retirees by phasing in a tax exemption for Social Security and pension income for middle income families. In addition, the Republican budget also restores the entire $200 property tax credit for all qualifying families and individuals. Under Governor Malloy’s tenure this tax credit has been reduced from $500 and we believe that property owners deserve a break on their taxes.

Increases Education Funding

The Republican budget rejects the governor’s devastating education cuts contained in his budget proposal and executive order entirely. It instead includes a fully revised Education Cost Sharing Formula that takes into account factors regarding recent court decisions, enrollment, poverty, wealth and number of English Language Learners, among other factors. This budget dedicates $33.6 million more to education in FY 2018 and $136.6 million more in FY 2019 and phases in a new formula over 10 years. It also establishes a council to analyze and make any necessary changes to the new formula within the next year if deemed necessary. In 2018 all towns and cities’ base ECS grant will either be held harmless or gain more funding.

Municipal Support and Mandate Relief

This budget provides predictable municipal aid so that towns and cities know what they can count on from the state. This plan does not ask towns and cities to pay for teacher retirement costs as the governor’s proposal does. It also implements significant mandate relief for cities and towns to help municipalities achieve efficiencies and pass savings on to taxpayers.

Funds Core Social Services

This revised budget maintains Republican proposals to restore funding for core social services and programs that benefit people most in need. It fully funds day and employment services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, reopens Care4Kids, protects funding for SAGA that supports disabled residents who are unable to work, funds school based health clinics and family resource centers, restores funding for mental health services among many other programs.

Prioritizes Transportation

The Republican budget recognizes the importance of a safe, modern transportation system to public safety and economic growth throughout our state. Therefore, this budget prioritizes the state’s transportation needs and stabilizes funding without tolls or new taxes. It implements the Republican “Prioritize Progress” transportation funding plan and stabilizes the state’s Special Transportation Plan by dedicating transportation-related revenues to fund transportation needs and protects monies in the state’s Special Transportation Fund from being diverted for other uses.

Supports Seniors

The Republican budget lowers taxes for retirees by immediately eliminating the tax on social security and phasing in an elimination of taxation of pension income for single filers with an AGI below $75,000 and joint filers below $100,000. It also helps seniors age in place by restoring funding for core programs such as Meals on Wheels, the personal needs allowance, non ADA dial a ride, and the CT Home Care Program.

Employment and Day Opportunities for the Intellectually Disabled

The Republican budget fully funds employment and day opportunities for new high school graduates over the biennium, and it does not carry forward reductions imposed by Governor Malloy to employment and day opportunities services for the intellectually disabled.

Funds State Parks & Tourism

Acknowledging the multiplier effect that tourism has on our economy, the Republican budget proposes to transfer 1.5% of the current hotel occupancy tax to a new Marketing, Culture and Tourism account. This is not a new tax as Democrats have proposed. Rather, it dedicates a portion of the current tax for its intended purpose to boost tourism funding. This budget also implements the Passports to Parks program that has garnered bipartisan support in the legislature.

Reduces Size of Government

The Republican budget proposal includes overtime savings of 10 percent, a hiring freeze on non-24-hour non-union positions, and makes cuts to the legislature such as reducing the number of legislative committees. The budget also makes targeted spending cuts, 10 percent reductions to certain agency accounts, and rolls forward lapses made last year except for cuts to core services such as grants for mental health and substance abuse and youth service bureau funding.

Includes Structural Changes

In addition to balancing the budget over the next two years, this budget includes policy changes that roll out into future years to achieve significant savings. Changes include items such as a spending cap, bonding cap, municipal mandate relief, and other policy changes for long term savings. The budget also implements pension reform beginning after the SEBAC deal ends in 2027 that will result in some immediate savings as calculated in an actuarial analysis.

Rep. Lavielle Urges Unity Against Racism at Interfaith Event in Wilton

Posted on August 24, 2017 by rjoslyn


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WILTON – State Representative Gail Lavielle (R-143) issued a strong condemnation of groups expressing hateful and racist beliefs which led to violence in Virginia, including Neo-Nazis and any organization advocating white supremacy or racially-motivated violence during remarks at an interfaith event hosted by the Wilton Clergy Association at Our Lady of Fatima church on Wednesday.

The event, “Wilton Clergy Association’s Standing Together, Standing Strong: An Interfaith Gathering,” was organized as an opportunity for the community to gather and address the events in Charlottesville “in a positive way.”

Rep. Lavielle spoke on the need for the local community to stand solidly in support of those targeted by racist rhetoric and be “unequivocal” in denouncing Neo-Nazis and white supremacist groups, firmly rejecting the idea that those beliefs should be tolerated in Connecticut or anywhere in the country.

The following are Rep. Lavielle’s remarks at the Wednesday night event:

When members of our community are not only horrified, but frightened by events, whether they be close to home or far away, it is important for them to know that their community is behind them and with them. So I’d like to thank the Wilton Interfaith Clergy for inviting our community to gather following the alarming and revolting events in Charlottesville.

When I was growing up, we were taught that Nazism was the name of a brutal and terrible force that my father and others of his generation fought in the Second World War. We were also taught that it must never be condoned or tolerated in this country. It was very clear that it was our responsibility as Americans to ensure that it never arose in our midst.

Yet there it was, as Nazis and white supremacists marched in Charlottesville. And even worse, they brought violence with them, through both words and deeds. There is only one way to feel about it: it was alarming, and revolting.

As an elected representative, but more important, as a human being, I abhor that violence. And I condemn those acts of hate that have hurt and frightened innocent people. There are absolutely no circumstances when it is acceptable to tolerate or lend any credence to Nazis, white supremacists, or any other racist or bigoted group. Any equivocation or ambiguity on this score is unacceptable, and my stance is firm and clear against all that they represent.

There is no place for Nazis or white supremacists anywhere, in our country, in Connecticut, or in Wilton. We must stand together as a community in making clear that racism and bigotry are not accepted here. Our gathering this evening is a reminder that Wilton is a town that warmly welcomes and respects all people, accepts and values differences, which enrich our community, and does not tolerate racism, terror, or violence directed at anyone at any time.

This is an issue that transcends political, religious, and philosophical views. It is a question of basic humanity. No one in our community must live in fear or apprehension of bigotry or racism, and we must stand together in that purpose. In this, there is nothing to divide us. On the contrary, I hope that this common purpose will bring us all together in ever stronger and steadfast unity.

Rep. Lavielle and Alison Jacobson Discuss Funding Cuts to Programs Providing Services for Families of those with IDDs.

Posted on August 23, 2017 by rjoslyn


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HARTFORD – On Wednesday, agencies providing services for people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) that were closed for a furlough day because of a lack of state funding held a rally at the State Capitol to raise support for the needs of people with IDD.

Following the Furlough Day Rally in Hartford, Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-Wilton) spoke with Wilton mom and STAR Board Member, Alison Jacobson, about what needs to happen in order for funding to be restored to critical programs for people with IDD.

 

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Rep. Lavielle: Budget Vacuum and Serial Executive Orders Create Uncertainty for Towns

Posted on August 18, 2017 by rjoslyn


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HARTFORD – State Representative Gail Lavielle (R-143) expressed concern for municipalities and school districts as more municipal funding cuts were announced by the governor via executive order and majority Democrats indicated they were aiming to vote in mid-September on a budget that would include an “inevitable” sales tax hike.

In the absence of a state budget, Governor Dannel Malloy has been running the state since July 1 by executive order, according to a Resource Allocation Plan that he issued nearly two months ago. Today he released a revised version of the plan that redistributes education funding to the lowest-performing school districts by either significantly reducing or entirely eliminating funding from more than 130 other districts.  Rep. Lavielle remarked on the ongoing confusion created by the budget crisis and its effect on the three towns in the House district she represents.

“While the revised executive order clarifies the governor’s view of municipal and school district funding, it’s important to remember that it is not a budget,” said Rep. Lavielle. “It will cease to have any effect if and when a budget is passed. Although majority legislators have said they want to hold a budget vote in mid-September, they have still not released a budget they are willing to vote on, and apart from statements they have made about increasing the sales tax, we know nothing about what will be included in the budget they produce. So while the new executive order is likely an indicator of the governor’s positions in budget negotiations, municipal and school district officials would do well to be cautious about drawing too many conclusions before a full budget is passed. In short, the climate of uncertainty persists.”

Changes in the New Executive Order Specific to Norwalk, Westport, and Wilton

Norwalk received $11.2 million in Education Cost Sharing (ECS) funds in 2017. The original executive order would have reduced this amount by $4.4 million. The new executive order restores it to the 2017 figure. This removes substantial pressure from the Board of Education, at least for the moment, and may indicate that ECS cuts to the district will not be forthcoming. Norwalk’s priority district funding may, however, still be an issue. The first executive order also reduced Norwalk’s 2017 municipal aid by $5.2 million, and the new order would further reduce it by another $500,000.

Westport’s ECS funding is completely eliminated in both executive orders. The original order had also eliminated most of the town’s approximately $1.3 million in municipal aid, reducing it to $377,000. That amount would in turn be eliminated by the new executive order.

Wilton’s ECS funding is also entirely eliminated in both executive orders. The original order had reduced the town’s municipal aid from the 2017 figure of $854,000 to $547,000, and the new order would in turn eliminate that amount entirely.

Although no date has been set majority legislative leadership has indicated a preference to vote on a budget during the week of September 11. No budget document has yet been circulated, but majority leaders have strongly suggested that a sales tax hike would likely be one of their primary tools for closing the approximately $3.7 billion deficit that remains for the next two years following last month’s approval of an agreement with the state employee unions. At the same time, Governor Malloy is still supporting his proposal to shift to municipalities the responsibility for one-third of the cost of the state’s annual contributions to the teachers’ pension fund.

Rep. Lavielle and fellow House Republicans have been on record since January stating their adamant opposition to any kind of tax increase for Connecticut residents. She and her colleagues have also continued to stand firmly against the governor’s proposal to shift responsibility for the teachers’ pension contributions to the towns, because it would lead to dramatic property tax increases.

“By waiting until at least mid-September to vote on a budget, our state legislature is about to make history, and not in a good way,” said Rep. Lavielle. “Every day that passes without a budget, the uncertainty for towns and school districts increases, and their ability to make informed local budget decisions diminishes.

“Furthermore, the majority party’s repeated assertion that tax increases and draconian service cuts are our only options as a state is simply not true,” added Rep. Lavielle. “None of this chaos with the budget vacuum and serial executive orders had to happen.  Starting in April, legislative Republicans presented multiple detailed versions of a no-tax increase budget that maintained current levels of municipal aid and education funding by scaling back the costs of the state bureaucracy through reasonable reforms. Yet majority leadership refused even to discuss these ideas on the House floor, let alone call our proposal for a vote. If, as seems almost certain, yet another tax increase comes to pass, it’s important to realize that it could have been avoided if all legislators had done their job of advocating for the interests of all Connecticut taxpayers.”

The Biggest Concessions in the State Union Agreement Came from Taxpayers

Posted on August 7, 2017 by rjoslyn


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By Rep. Gail Lavielle

Connecticut families and businesses need to understand the state union agreement the legislature has just approved and what it means for them. While one union leader called it “the best and longest public-sector pension and healthcare contract in the country”, its far-reaching budgetary consequences will likely not draw such enthusiasm from Connecticut taxpayers.

The governor, to his credit, negotiated the agreement with state employee union leaders in an effort to achieve savings in the face of the looming $5.1 billion deficit and the state’s perennial budget crisis. Although the deal, estimated to save about $1.5 billion in 2018-19, takes steps toward labor cost reforms that my colleagues and I have long advocated, it doesn’t go far enough in making the structural changes necessary to eliminate Connecticut’s massive unfunded liabilities and persistent deficits. And it includes significant, long-term concessions by the state and the taxpayers who fund it.

Yes, that’s right. It’s not just union members who make concessions in a contract like this.

Among the union concessions: a two-year wage freeze, increased contributions to pensions and healthcare plans, and three furlough days, and for new hires, introduction of a hybrid defined benefit/defined contribution pension plan. The taxpayer concessions: no layoffs for four years until July 2021; a one-time bonus payment in 2020 for each employee; guaranteed 3.5% raises and step increases in both 2021 and 2022; and an extension of the current pension and healthcare benefits contract from 2022 until 2027, locking in for ten years benefits that are still among the most, if not the most, expensive in the country.

What do these benefits include? A defined-benefit pension plan, something most private sector employees have not seen in decades. Inclusion of overtime in annual salary for calculating pensions. Longevity bonuses. Employee contributions to pension plans that have until now ranged from 0% to 2%, and will still be well below those required for Connecticut teachers and municipal workers. Health insurance contributions and co-pays lower even than those paid by federal employees. Higher education tuition for family members. Paid time on the clock for union officials to spend doing union work.

State employees work hard and deserve fair compensation, and their interests are paramount in negotiating any contract. But still, in fairness, these must be balanced with those of taxpayers, who fund their wages and benefits. Taxpayers should understand the concessions that the administration negotiated and majority legislators approved on their behalf:

  • The contract extension prevents future legislators and governors from reducing the costs of public sector benefits, which remain among the highest in the country, for 10 years.
  • The no-layoff provision and related conditions limit the state’s ability to cut government costs by consolidating departments or shifting services to the private sector.
  • The $1.5 billion in near-term savings, most of which are one-shot, leaves a $3.6 billion deficit on the table, to be closed by tax increases and service reductions.

It’s now certain that new taxes and service cuts are among the concessions to be borne by taxpayers – including state employees themselves. Although we are well into the new biennium, and the majority party has still not issued a budget proposal, Governor Malloy and legislative Democrats have made it clear that they will rely on three tools to close the deficit: 1) deep service cuts, 2) outright tax increases, and 3) indirect property tax increases stemming from municipal aid reductions and pushing state costs onto towns. As long as state labor costs remain frozen, taxpayers will be exposed to these measures, year after year.

Supporters of this deal insisted that it was the only possible option for the state. This is simply not true.  Legislative Republicans offered a balanced budget in April that we have continually updated to reflect new developments. It includes no new taxes, preserves services for the neediest, increases education funding for all districts, and saves $600 million more in labor costs than the recent agreement. It respected all legal constraints, did not seek to amend existing state employee contracts, and would not have required union negotiations. Unfortunately, the majority party blocked our many efforts to bring our proposal, which aimed to balance the interests of all Connecticut residents, to a vote.

Connecticut taxpayers need advocates just like unions do. It’s our job as legislators to advocate for the taxpayers we represent. Clearly, those who voted to approve the union agreement either didn’t understand or didn’t care about the extent of the concessions it required from taxpayers, now and for years to come.

Rep. Lavielle Denounces “A Bad Deal for Connecticut” as SEBAC Labor Agreement Passes the House

Posted on July 25, 2017 by rjoslyn


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Extends Current State Employees’ Union Contract Until 2027

HARTFORD  State Representative Gail Lavielle (R-143) voiced her dismay at Monday’s House approval of the state employees’ union concession package due to its insufficient savings and structural changes and its extension of the current union contract until 2027.

The concession package, negotiated by Governor Malloy and union leaders, was ratified by state employees earlier this month and now is tentatively scheduled to go before the Senate on July 31.  Analysts have predicted the plan could save approximately $1.5 billion over the next two years by increasing pension contributions, creating a hybrid/defined contribution plan for future state employees, increasing healthcare co-payments, and realizing other labor savings.  The deal also restricts the state’s ability to lay off workers until 2021.

House Republicans, including Rep. Lavielle, highlighted some of the structural change in the concession package as “steps in the right direction” that they supported, but denied the notion that the deal solved Connecticut’s fiscal crisis and indicated it could lead to funding cuts and tax increases in the future.

“Connecticut taxpayers have now seen where the priorities of the legislative majority truly lie: we are facing a $5.1 billion deficit over the next two years, one month into the fiscal year we still don’t have a budget, people are suffering due to deep service cuts, and yet we spent an entire day discussing a contract with state employee unions,” said Rep. Lavielle.  “The labor contract the House approved does not go far enough in achieving the savings our state desperately needs, and while it includes a few small steps on reforms that I’ve advocated for, the job is only half-done.  I fear that this deal clears the way for continued future tax increases and cuts to essential services.  Because it locks in the current, unaffordable union contract, every legislator who votes in favor of this deal bears responsibility for every single tax increase and service cut Connecticut residents may have to bear for the ten years until the contract expires.”

No action was taken Monday on passing a two-year budget for Connecticut.  House Republicans’ attempts to call their fully-vetted, no tax-increase budget proposal for a vote were rebuffed by majority Democrats.  Their first attempt took place in the form of a proposed rules change, the second in the form of an amendment to the union agreement.

“All day we were told by majority leadership that this labor agreement was the only option for the state, despite the fact that House Republicans have been asking for a vote on our balanced, no tax-increase budget since April,” said Rep. Lavielle.  “This is not fair to the people of Connecticut, who deserve fair and open consideration of every viable budget option. It is unconscionable for the state to go this long without a two-year budget in place, and not voting on one is unacceptable.  I will continue to advocate for taxpayers and to push for a vote on our budget regardless of what the majority party may do to block it.”

Lavielle’s State Budget Update for July 14th

Posted on July 14, 2017 by rjoslyn


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Connecticut has reached the cusp of mid-July without a budget for the current biennium, and the governor is managing the state’s finances by executive order.

Enacting a budget is the legislature’s job. This requires a vote of the full General Assembly in both the House and the Senate. Only the leaders of the majority party in each chamber may call a vote on proposed legislation, and that call is what legislators, and the whole state, are awaiting now.

For the first time in modern memory, majority Democrats did not offer a budget proposal before the regular legislative session ended on June 7. Nor did they bring one before the entire General Assembly for a vote before the June 30 end of the fiscal year, although House Democrats did release some elements of their own proposed budget on June 29, including a sales tax hike of more than $800 million. Many details of that budget, like municipal aid and education funding numbers by town, are still not available.

Republicans first released a complete balanced budget, ready for a vote, in early April, and House Republicans have since offered several revisions to take account of changes in the state’s revenue projections, as well as feedback from the public. Republican leadership has repeatedly asked majority leaders to call a vote — as yet to no avail.

This past Tuesday, I joined my House Republican colleagues in Hartford for an open budget presentation providing a comprehensive review of our no-tax-increase budget proposal for all lawmakers and the public. The presentation was part of our effort to try to move the budget process forward through regular and open communication.

Among its features, the House Republican budget:

  • Includes no tax or fee hikes whatsoever
  • Increases school funding for every town and city and preserves municipal aid overall
  • Rejects any shift to municipalities of teacher pension contributions
  • Offers municipal mandate relief and limits annual state borrowing to $1.3 billion
  • Imposes no property tax on hospitals
  • Does not sweep dedicated energy or environment funds.

With no tax increases, our budget is balanced through $2 billion in savings on state labor-related costs over two years, reducing the state workforce through attrition and privatization, and numerous other savings throughout state government. These measures not only balance the current budget, but also provide structural changes that will put Connecticut on a sound financial footing for the future. They include:

  • Various increases in pension and healthcare contributions made by state workers
  • Introduction of a defined contribution plan for new hires
  • Overtime savings and enhanced fraud detection programs that make government more efficient
  • No extension of the current public-sector union contract beyond its expiry date of 2022.

You can watch the full presentation of our budget by clicking here, or you can view our presentation document by clicking here.

The House Speaker has suggested that we gavel in for a special session to vote on a budget on Tuesday, July 18, although no budget bill has yet been signed by majority leadership of either chamber, and the date has not been confirmed.

Whatever happens, on that date, and any date in the future, House Republicans continue to stand ready to call and vote on our no-tax-increase budget as an amendment. With the composition of the House membership almost evenly divided, we take very seriously our responsibility to bring our budget to a vote on behalf of the people of Connecticut: it would require only four votes by majority legislators to pass.

As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like to discuss the state budget or any other issue further.

Governor Signs Lavielle’s Mandate Relief Bill into Law

Posted on July 12, 2017 by rjoslyn


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HB 7276 Eliminates Regional School Calendar Requirement and Other Education Mandates

HARTFORD – State Representative Gail Lavielle (R-143), Ranking Member of the General Assembly’s Education Committee, applauded today’s news that Governor Dannel Malloy had signed her education mandate relief bill into law.

Rep. Lavielle authored the bill, HB 7276, with input from multiple superintendents, Board of Education members, and education advocates in order to provide local school districts relief from cumbersome unfunded mandates imposed by the state. Advocating for the bill throughout this year’s session, she assembled a bipartisan list of 62 cosponsors, and it eventually passed 126-23 in the House and unanimously in the Senate.  The governor signed the bill into law on Tuesday, July 11th.

Among the provisions of HB 7276 are eliminating the requirement for school districts to adopt a regional calendar; requiring the state to survey districts’ use of management and reporting software with a view toward eventually providing a statewide option at no cost to districts; allowing districts to decide how they provide education to expelled students; and allowing districts to focus training in procedures for handling highly sensitive behavioral issues on specially designated staff who have direct contact with students.

 “With this new law, we have done a really positive thing for educators, parents, and students across the State of Connecticut,” said Rep. Lavielle.  “School districts that have been squeezed by delays, uncertainties, and budget cuts related to the state’s fiscal crisis can breathe a small sigh of relief in knowing that they now have fewer vexing mandates to contend with.  The flexibility granted by this new law should lead to savings of time and money for school districts and allow teachers, administrators, and school staff to place an even greater emphasis on serving students.”

House Republican Leader Themis Klarides (R-114) also expressed her enthusiasm for the bill’s potential to provide relief to cash-strapped school districts during the ongoing budget crisis, noting how the governor running the state by executive order has worried education leaders and this bill could lessen the impact.

“The innovative ideas in this bill are a particularly welcome development for school districts in our state given that they are right now dealing with grave uncertainties and the threat of funding cuts as a result of the failure to pass a budget this year,” said Rep. Klarides.  “This law won’t cost the state any money, and while it doesn’t solve all of our problems, it will ease some of the pain.  Rep. Lavielle helped the legislature achieve one of its few bright spots this year and I applaud her efforts, as well as the stakeholders who worked to get this bill signed into law.”

“This new law was the product of close collaboration with a wide range of education stakeholders, bipartisan cooperation with my fellow Education Committee leaders, and general recognition that one-size-fits-all unfunded mandates get in the way of our students’ success. I want to thank all of the legislators who helped to pass this bill, as well as Governor Malloy for clearing the way for this significant step forward in good education policy,” added Rep. Lavielle.

In Throes of Budget Stalemate, Governor’s Executive Order Kicks In at Midnight

Posted on June 30, 2017 by rjoslyn


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Connecticut’s fiscal year ends tonight, with no budget in place for the next biennium. At midnight, the governor will take over management of the state’s finances by executive order, and will continue until the legislature passes a budget bill.

This did not have to happen. I’d like to share with you a detailed update on the situation. I’m also including here a 2-3-minute video message I taped yesterday on the House floor.

In odd-numbered years, the primary job of the legislature is to pass a two-year budget before the end of the regular session. The governor submits a budget proposal as a guideline, but it is up to the legislature to develop and enact its own budget. The governor, of course, has veto privileges.

During this year’s session, which ended on June 7, the governor issued a full budget proposal in February, and House and Senate Republicans released a no-tax-increase balanced budget in April that included many significant savings and structural changes. Both the governor and the Republican caucuses also revised their proposals to account for major shortfalls in state revenue projections. Majority Democrats, however, did not issue a budget at all. There was no budget vote by June 7, and a special session became necessary.

When there’s no budget by the end of the fiscal year, there are basically two options for running the state until one becomes law: 1) the governor runs the state by executive order, or 2) the legislature passes continuing resolutions (which the governor may veto).

This year, the governor gave the legislature a choice between following an executive order or passing a 3-month “mini-budget” (very much like a continuing resolution) that he proposed himself.

A special session had been scheduled for yesterday, June 29. Even though both chambers are virtually at parity, only the majority party can call a bill for a vote. Since there was no budget on the table, including the “mini-budget”, that could garner enough majority support in both chambers, the special session was canceled.

Nevertheless, House Republicans and House Democrats each caucused at the Capitol yesterday to discuss any options that might remain for Friday. While neither caucus supported the “mini-budget”, House Republicans did propose a one-month temporary budget plan as an alternative. We stood ready to return today, Friday, to vote on it, or on the full Republican budget.

Majority leadership declined to call either of our proposals for a vote. Instead, late yesterday afternoon, House Democrats released, after months of inaction, a two-year state budget that increases taxes by more than $800 million and does not include significant structural changes to state government (read more here). There could be no vote on it today, because full details, like individual town runs for municipal aid and school funding, weren’t available, many legislators had not had time to read it, even Senate Democrats hadn’t expressed a view on it, and the nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis hadn’t reviewed it. The House Speaker suggested a date to vote on this new proposal in late July, and this may or may not happen.

Hence, at midnight tonight, the governor’s executive order will take effect for an indefinite period.

While in recent years the legislature has many times not passed a final budget before the end of the fiscal year, this is the first time in modern memory that this happened because the majority party failed to produce a complete budget during the regular session.

A prolonged budget struggle will cause serious problems for towns and cities that rely on state revenue to help run local government, and residents most at risk and in need of social services will suffer (read more here).

We should all be deeply concerned about the failure of leadership that has created this situation. People, businesses, and municipalities in Connecticut deserve immediate and urgent resolution of the state’s budget. They deserve a government that takes decisive action and does its job.

My House Republican colleagues and I continue to stand ready to debate and vote on our budget, as well as any other proposal that majority leadership is willing to call. I’m sure that many of our colleagues in the majority share the same urgency. It is time for us to convene and act.

I will keep you informed about any new developments in this situation that is so critical for everyone in Connecticut. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like to discuss this or any other issue further.

Rep. Lavielle Urges Action on Resolving State Budget Crisis

Posted on June 27, 2017 by rjoslyn


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Encourages Democratic Colleagues to Consider Republican Proposal

HARTFORD  With the state’s fiscal year closing this Friday, State Representative Gail Lavielle (R-143) joined her colleagues in the House Republican caucus in calling for an up-or-down vote Thursday on the balanced, no-tax increase state budget proposed by Republicans, noting that majority legislators had still not produced a complete proposal.

“While there were several occasions in the last two decades when the legislature did not pass a budget before the end of the fiscal year, this is the first time in recent history that this has happened because majority legislators did not produce a complete budget package. This is deeply concerning for Connecticut taxpayers and municipalities,” said Rep. Lavielle.  “House Republicans released three detailed editions of a balanced budget complete with spending and revenue packages that make the structural reforms needed to enable our state to provide effective social services, create a climate friendly to businesses, and make the investments we need in education, transportation, and infrastructure. It should be a priority for all legislators to convene on Thursday to debate and pass a budget so that we can show families and businesses that we are serious about resolving this crisis and reviving the economy.”

Legislative Republicans proposed a complete balanced budget this spring and then revised that proposal to account for a dramatic drop in revenue receipts.  Even though majority Democratic leaders did not produce a plan before or since the legislative committees reached their deadlines during the regular session, they will not agree to call the Republican budget for a vote.  If no budget is passed by the end of the fiscal year on June 30, the governor will run the state by executive order.

Rep. Lavielle warned that a prolonged budget struggle will cause substantial problems for towns and cities that count on state revenue to help run local government. Residents most at risk and in need of social services will also be significantly affected.

“Failing to adopt a budget and allowing the governor to run the state by executive order would deal a severe blow to town aid, education funding, hospitals and other core services, as well as the people who rely on them, so this is not an acceptable back-up plan,” said Rep. Lavielle.  “I hope that my friends and colleagues on the other side of the aisle will consider the future of our state and join us in supporting a balanced budget that does not increase taxes.”

You Are Invited to a Town Hall in Cannondale with Rep. Lavielle

Posted on June 14, 2017 by rjoslyn


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Please join me and my area colleagues in the Cannondale neighborhood of Wilton for a post-session town hall meeting at the Cannon Grange on Thursday, June 15th, from 7:00 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. There is much to discuss, including state budget negotiations, education funding, and transportation, as well as many other matters pertaining to the conclusion of the 2017 legislative session.

Be sure to bring all of your questions about state issues. I look forward to seeing you there.

If you are unable to attend this meeting, you can always send me an email at Gail.Lavielle@cga.ct.gov, or call my office at 860-842-1423.

No End Yet in Sight to State Budget Suspense

Posted on June 14, 2017 by rjoslyn


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In odd-numbered years, the most important job of the Connecticut legislature is to pass a two-year state budget. On June 7 at midnight, however, the 2017 regular legislative session came to an end with no budget vote.

What happens now?

To enable the passage of a budget after the close of the regular session, the House and the Senate passed a resolution calling themselves into special session to consider and vote on legislation covering three things:

  • The state budget for the biennium beginning July 1, 2017, and revenue to balance that budget
  • Implementation of the state budget for the biennium beginning July 1, 2017
  • State bond authorizations and their underlying programs and projects, and school construction bonding

Only legislation that falls into any of these three areas may be considered during the special session. The “implementation” category is, however, quite vague, and as we have seen in the past few years, it may include proposals that did not move forward during the regular session.

The resolution does not include a date, and there is currently no information about how soon the legislative session will take place. An end to budget negotiations does not seem to be imminent. As of now, the governor has submitted a full proposal, House and Senate Republicans have submitted full proposals, and legislative Democrats have submitted a budget outline.

Fiscal year 2017 will end on June 30, and if the legislature doesn’t pass a budget by then, the governor will have to run the state without one until it does. In the recent past, governors have done this through executive orders.

Whatever the final budget holds in store for Connecticut, it is in the state’s best interest for it to be set as soon as possible. In particular, municipalities cannot easily deal with the significant uncertainties that would be created by a long delay after the start of the new fiscal year.

I will keep you informed of any new developments. As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like to discuss the state budget or any other issue further.

Rep. Lavielle Condemns Legislature’s Attempt to Enact Tolls in CT

Posted on June 6, 2017 by rjoslyn


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HARTFORD –

WATCH: Rep. Lavielle does not hold back in slamming the shortsighted, poorly constructed, and burdensome bill to enact tolls presented before the legislature today. Luckily for Connecticut taxpayers and commuters, just enough legislators agreed with her to assure its failure in the House (for at least this year).

“Unlimited price hikes on motorists and an unlimited period of a steady gas tax along with the tolls…on behalf of my constituents, all I can say is how dare the legislature suggest such a thing.”

 

Rep. Lavielle Applauds House Passage of Watershed Education Mandate Relief Bill

Posted on May 31, 2017 by rjoslyn


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HARTFORD – State Representative Gail Lavielle (R-143), Ranking Member of the General Assembly’s Education Committee, applauded the passage Tuesday night by the House of Representatives of a bill she authored that provides relief from cumbersome unfunded mandates to school districts across the state. As of Wednesday morning, the bill had a bipartisan list of 50 cosponsors. It now awaits consideration in the Senate.

Among the provisions of HB 7276 are eliminating the requirement for school districts to adopt a regional calendar; requiring the state to survey districts’ use of management and reporting software with a view toward eventually providing a statewide option at no cost to districts; allowing districts to decide how they provide education to expelled students; and allowing districts to focus training in procedures for handling highly sensitive behavioral issues on specially designated staff who have direct contact with students.

“This bill comes at a critical juncture for school districts and towns across the state, as they grapple with delays, uncertainties, and budget cuts related to Connecticut’s fiscal crisis,” said Rep. Lavielle. “Each of its provisions involves mandate relief measures that multiple superintendents and Board of Education members told us would help them manage their resources, save time and money, and, most important, allow teachers, administrators, and staff to focus their energies on serving students. The bill’s passage signals a clear bipartisan acknowledgement of the burdens that one-size-fits-all unfunded mandates impose on school districts. The bill is the result of close and sincere collaboration with my Education Committee leadership colleagues from both sides of the aisle, and I thank them, as well as the many other legislators who worked with their districts to contribute ideas for the bill.”

House Republican Leader Themis Klarides (R-114) has included mandate relief as a key aspect of the House Republicans’ governing agenda, citing its potential to provide districts with flexibility that would allow them to tailor education policy to fit their unique needs while saving them money during a time of fiscal crisis.

“I want to thank Rep. Lavielle for her persistence and leadership in getting this crucial legislation passed in a divided House, and for her continued dedication to every student in Connecticut,” said Rep. Klarides.  “This bill is an example of a new, innovative approach to education policy and its passage proves that legislators may finally be ready to embrace these fresh ideas.”

Post-Session Update in Norwalk with Rep. Lavielle

Posted on May 30, 2017 by rjoslyn


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NORWALK – State Representatives Gail Lavielle, Fred Wilms, and Terrie Wood are holding a town hall meeting in Norwalk in order to discuss pieces of legislation that passed this year and other issues pertaining to the conclusion of the 2017 legislative session.

This will be an opportunity for Norwalk residents to hear from their state representatives about the outcome of major developments in the session.

Anyone who is unable to attend but would still like to speak with Rep. Lavielle may contact her at gail.lavielle@housegop.ct.gov.

A Moment to Commemorate Those Who Made Our History

Posted on May 26, 2017 by rjoslyn


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Memorial Day is a time to reflect on the contributions of those who served in the military in times of war and made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of our country. 

It is a solemn and moving occasion, because it is a time for us to honor the fallen who served in all armed conflicts, at all moments in our history. We also honor their families, many of whom are members of our communities. They deserve our respect and thanks for the enormity of their sacrifice. 

This year, it’s especially noteworthy that we are commemorating the centennial of the United States’ entry on April 6, 2017 into World War One. It was a war that changed the face of the world, and even of Connecticut, which made significant contributions to the war effort. Members of more than 4 million American families served in uniform during the Great War, about 1.2 million saw combat, and more than 116,000 of them died. More than 133,000 men and women from Connecticut served in the military, about 63,000 of them served in Europe, and about 1,100 lost their lives. 

If you’re interested in learning more about this important time in our history and the role Connecticut played, the Connecticut World War One Centennial Committee and the Connecticut State Library have organized a full program of events around the state. You can read more about it here. More information about World War One and the participation of the United States is available from the United States World War One Centennial Commission here 

All of our towns in the 143rd district have wonderful traditions for commemorating Memorial Day, and there are many occasions to join our neighbors in showing our appreciation for our fallen veterans’ service. 

OBSERVANCES IN OUR TOWNS 

Norwalk: The annual Norwalk Memorial Day Parade steps off from Veteran’s Park, 42 Seaview Avenue, at 10 am and will proceed across Van Zant Street and up East Ave. to the Town Green. 

Westport: Westport’s Memorial Day Parade begins at 9 am at Saugatuck Elementary School on Riverside Avenue. Memorial services will be held on Veterans’ Green immediately following the parade. In case of inclement weather, a ceremony will be held in the Town Hall Auditorium. 

Wilton: The day begins with a pancake breakfast held by the Wilton Kiwanis from 8am to 10am at the Wilton Congregational Church. Wilton’s Memorial Day Parade steps off at 10 am, starting at 21 River Road and proceeds through Wilton Center to Hillside Cemetery on Ridgefield Road, where the Town’s annual commemorative ceremony will take place following the parade. The 11th Annual Nick Madaras Memorial Day Challenge, a free soccer event named for one of Wilton’s fallen veterans and honoring all fallen members of our country’s military, will be held on Kristine Lilly Field at Wilton High School immediately after the Town’s official events. 

My best to you and your family for this Memorial Day, and I hope to see many of you as we gather in our towns to honor our fallen veterans.

Retire Your Unserviceable American Flags in Norwalk

Posted on May 23, 2017 by rjoslyn


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With Memorial Day fast approaching and in anticipation of Flag Day, my fellow members of the Norwalk delegation and I are offering a way for Norwalk residents to dispose of their worn or unserviceable American flags in a dignified and respectful way.

The U.S. Flag Code specifies that American flags no longer fit for service must be properly disposed of, and the lawmakers are offering this service free of charge, in conjunction with Norwalk American Legion Post #12.

The Norwalk state legislative delegation will have two primary drop off locations. The drive will begin Friday, May 26 and conclude on Friday, June 14.

Drop off locations are:

  • Norwalk City Hall, 125 East Ave, Norwalk
  • Norwalk Main Library, 1 Belden Ave, Norwalk
  • South Norwalk Library, 10 Washington St, Norwalk

Residents may also drop flags off at the American Legion on 60 County St.  Flags can be dropped off in any condition throughout the year.

Rep. Lavielle Supports Revised House Republican Budget Proposal in Response to Declining Revenue

Posted on May 18, 2017 by rjoslyn


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No Tax Hikes Necessary

HARTFORD  State Representative Gail Lavielle (R-143) has joined the House Republican caucus in presenting a revised no-tax increase budget for 2018-19 that eliminates the projected $5 billion budget deficit, maintains school funding for all towns, reduces the corporate surcharge and mitigates municipal aid losses by reallocating funds.

The revisions were necessary because of severely declining tax receipts and revenue projections updated in April that predict a shortfall of $1.46 billion, which means the projected deficit for the 2018-2019 biennium now exceeds $5 billion.  Additionally, Connecticut is slated to finish the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30, with a deficit for the third year in a row. That deficit is $390 million.

Shortly before the release of the revised House Republican budget, Governor Malloy announced on Monday an update to the controversial plan he had proposed in February.  In his revised proposal, the governor recommends more than $700 million in cuts to municipal aid to help compensate for the precipitous decline in income tax receipts, as well as about $80 million in annual tax hikes in addition to the $600 million he included in his February proposal.

“The governor’s revised budget proposal is still unacceptable for towns and taxpayers,” said Rep. Lavielle.  “It still includes the provision to transfer the cost of teacher pensions onto municipalities.  When he first suggested this back in February I warned that this was only a change in the taxing authority and will in no way reduce taxes.  In fact, it would require property tax increases because municipalities would be forced to raise the revenue to afford their new obligations.  Our budget does not require towns and cities to make any contributions to the teacher pension fund, conscientiously avoids any cuts to education, and preserves special education funding for all school districts.”

The revised House Republican proposal also includes a range of reductions in state spending and significant state employee union concessions. There is a wage freeze for state employees, but no layoffs.

“The House Republican budget approaches fiscal policy in a way that benefits taxpayers instead of special interests and state bureaucracy,” said Rep. Lavielle.  “We ask for specific concessions for unions that align pension and healthcare benefits more closely with those of employees in most other states and with those of private sector employees.”

Among the measures in the proposal that would reduce state labor costs are raising retirement contributions, increasing co-pays for healthcare, and omitting overtime from pension calculations.

Not a Time to Mince Words about Connecticut’s Finances

Posted on May 16, 2017 by rjoslyn


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May 15, 2017

This is no time to mince words about Connecticut’s fiscal crisis. It is deep, serious, and affects everyone and everything: taxpayers, businesses, jobs, social services, infrastructure, K-12 schools, colleges and universities, towns and cities, federal funding opportunities, and Connecticut’s reputation. Let’s be clear – it’s not new. The state’s finances have been precarious for several years. But now even those who have long denied the gravity of the situation are acknowledging it.

The facts speak for themselves.

  • The projected deficit for the upcoming 2018-2019 biennium now exceeds $5 billion. Both the governor’s budget office and the legislature’s Office of Fiscal Analysis agree on this figure. It ballooned after they downgraded estimated revenues for the period by $1.46 billion, due to a sharp decline in income tax receipts in April.
  • For the third year in a row, Connecticut is slated to finish the current 2017 fiscal year on June 30 with a deficit. This time it’s very large: $390 million. To close this gap, the governor has proposed a plan that includes depleting the Rainy Day fund, canceling $19 million in scheduled municipal aid, and various one-time cuts and fund sweeps.
  • The state’s two massive tax increases since 2011 have not produced correspondingly robust revenues. In particular, income tax receipts, which fell $450 million below estimates in April, are not hitting their targets. Realtors, who flocked to the Capitol last week to express their concerns about the state’s economy, tell us that high earners and retirees are leaving the state, and the figures support this. Connecticut’s population declined by 8,278 in fiscal year 2016, its third straight year of shrinkage. The administration reports that it has collected 45% less in income taxes from Connecticut’s 100 wealthiest taxpayers than it did last year. Withholding taxes have also declined. According to the State Comptroller, “A general shift in the composition of employment by sector to lower paying jobs may be a contributing factor.”
  • Two major ratings agencies, Fitch and Moody’s, have just downgraded Connecticut’s bond rating. These moves followed downgrades within the past year by S&P and Kroll and a prior Fitch downgrade. Among the factors the agencies cited were declining tax receipts, growing budget deficits, increasing debt, and the pressures of growing public-sector labor costs and massive unfunded pension liabilities. Meanwhile, on Friday, the day of the Fitch announcement, the governor and majority party members of the state Bond Commission voted to approve $352 million in new borrowing, bringing the total for this calendar year to just under $600 million.

Against this backdrop, the legislature must pass a budget that closes the $5 billion looming deficit. This is meant to happen by June 7, when the legislative session ends, but subsequent special sessions may drag the process out indefinitely. As of now, the only two budget proposals on the table are from the governor and legislative Republicans, and revised versions of both, accounting for the newest revenue projections, will be released this week. Legislative Democrats, who withdrew their proposal last month for lack of votes, may release a new proposal as well.

The numbers show that higher taxes are not the answer. Proposals to make towns pay for teachers’ pension contributions (thus necessitating property tax increases), to introduce tolls, to build a third casino, or to tax marijuana will not resolve the perennial problem of skyrocketing state labor costs. The issue is spending, not revenue.

While every budget proposal on the table cuts into programs and services, the state cannot restore its finances by trimming its way around the edges of its overhead costs. Reducing public-sector pension and benefits costs, which account for more than a third of the budget, is critical. The governor’s proposal to deliver $1.5 billion in concessions from state employee unions over the next two years is likely not enough, but it’s a start. Negotiating is the governor’s job. If the legislature is properly doing its own job as an advocate for all taxpayers, it will stand firm and accept nothing less from the governor than what he has proposed, and will stand ready to ask for more.

Connecticut’s situation is serious, and I want to be sure that you know the facts. As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like to discuss this or any other issue further.

Rep. Lavielle Appointed to Two-Generational Interagency Working Group

Posted on May 15, 2017 by rjoslyn


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HARTFORD – State Representative Gail Lavielle (R-143) has been appointed by House Republican Leader Representative Themis Klarides (R-114) to the state’s Two-Generational Interagency Working Group, which is focused on helping low-income families develop economic self-sufficiency. The Working Group was created following the passage last year of a state law establishing a pilot program to assess the impact of delivering school readiness and workforce development services simultaneously to members of two generations within the same households. The program has pilot sites across the state in several locations, including Norwalk.

“I am excited to be part of this important initiative which has the potential not only to help families that are struggling economically to succeed, but also to help the state provide services that are more efficient and cost-effective,” said Rep. Lavielle. “Two-generational programs are designed to give every member of a family the tools for attaining and sustaining economic independence and security, so that they can lead productive lives without depending on government services. Through the pilots now underway, we can work directly with families to understand how to deliver these services in ways that are most effective for them and that use state resources most efficiently.”

According to the state Commission on Women, Children, and Seniors, fragmented approaches that address the needs of children and their parents separately often leave either the child or parent behind. Two-generation approaches provide opportunities for and meet the needs of vulnerable children and their parents together by focusing on education, job and career preparation, social capital, and health and well-being to create a legacy of economic security that passes from one generation to the next. The goal is to put the entire family on a path to permanent economic security and financial independence.

“Rep. Lavielle brings a unique perspective to the Two-Generational Interagency Working Group between her role in crafting education policy in Hartford and her active involvement in the diverse communities within her district,” said Rep. Klarides. “I am excited for where she can take this group and how they can make this two-generational approach to education a critical part of Connecticut’s future.”

Rep. Lavielle Receives Education Advocacy Award

Posted on May 3, 2017 by rjoslyn


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Rep. Lavielle receives the Torchbearer Award from NECSN CT Director Jeremiah Grace

HARTFORD – State Representative Gail Lavielle (R-143) was honored for her commitment to education and all of Connecticut’s students by the Northeast Charter Schools Network (NECSN) at a ceremony at the Capitol on Monday.  NECSN awarded her its Torchbearer Award, given to individuals that do exceptional work on behalf of Connecticut’s students.

Rep. Lavielle was recognized for her advocacy on behalf of not only Connecticut’s charter schools but also her efforts and initiatives to ensure adequate and equitable education funding for public school education during her time in the state legislature.

“Connecticut offers an impressively diverse tapestry of educational opportunities to public school students, and charter schools are an integral part of that system,” said Rep. Lavielle, who is Ranking Member of the General Assembly’s Education Committee.  “Our state’s charter schools – which are a complement to, and not a replacement for, neighborhood public schools — are all required to be nonprofits, and ensure that parents have a full range of educational alternatives within our public school system so that their children can obtain an education that best suits their abilities, interests, and learning styles. I thank NECSN for this recognition, which means a great deal to me, because there is nothing more important for the future of our state than ensuring that every child in Connecticut has access to the best education available today. Education is the key to opportunity and success.”

“Rep. Lavielle is someone who is extremely knowledgeable about education issues, including but not limited to charter schools,” said Jeremiah Grace, NECSN Connecticut State Director.  “Through her hard work and advocacy as the Ranking Member of the Education Committee, Rep. Lavielle has aided us in identifying and combating measures that would be harmful to charter school students and families.  Since meeting her in 2013, I have seen Rep. Lavielle time and time again reach across the aisle, encouraging her fellow lawmakers to be open minded in order to do what’s best for Connecticut’s children.  She is a fearless advocate for all kids in this state.”

Rep. Lavielle, who has served on the Education Committee since she was first elected to the legislature, is a longstanding advocate for Connecticut’s public schools, including neighborhood schools, magnet schools, charter schools, and technical high schools, and has been a vocal proponent of making adequate and equitable education funding a top priority. A three-time recipient of the “Children’s Champion” award from the CT Early Childhood Alliance, she is also a staunch advocate for the importance of early childhood education.

“Making the resources available to give all Connecticut students an excellent education that will equip them to lead full, productive lives is an imperative,” said Rep. Lavielle, “and it is a responsibility that transcends politics. I will continue my efforts to ensure that education is given deference in the state budget.”

Revenue Freefall, Budget Chaos

Posted on April 28, 2017 by rjoslyn


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This week, Connecticut may finally have come face to face with its own alarming fiscal reality and no way to escape it.

This was meant to be the week when the Appropriations and Finance Committees would pass, respectively, spending and revenue bills that would form the basis of negotiations with the governor on the 2018-19 state budget, triggering the next phase of the usual biennial budget process.

But this was not to be. Here is what happened.

  • On Tuesday, Democratic majority leadership of the Appropriations Committee delivered budget books and other documents to all committee members. Their budget bill relied on spending increases of 5.6% in 2018 and 1.8% in 2019, which would have required almost $1 billion in new revenues. The committee convened as planned, and then recessed for party caucuses. When the committee reconvened, majority leadership immediately adjourned the meeting without taking any action. There were not enough majority party votes to pass the budget bill. With only a one-vote difference between the parties on the committee, and no Republican votes in favor, majority leadership withdrew the bill, stating that there would be no committee vote by its Thursday deadline.

 

  • Meanwhile, the Finance Committee was in another room holding an all-day public hearing on multiple bills proposed by the majority that included a range of tax increases. These included: elimination of the sales tax exemption for nonprofits; an increase in the sales tax from 6.35% to 6.99%; a retroactive increase in the income tax from 6.99% to 7.49% for top earners; and allowing towns to tax property at 100% of its assessed value, instead of 70%. With no budget bill to fund and in the wake of alarming news about revenue shortfalls, all of these bills died.

 

  • Early in the week, the first figures for April tax collections were released. On Monday, they were $267 million short of projections. By Thursday, that shortfall had grown to $450 million. This massive shortfall affected projections for 2018-19, increasing the deficit for the coming biennium from $3.6 billion to $4.7 billion.

 

  • On Thursday, House and Senate Republicans released a budget with no tax increases that would spend $313 million less than the governor’s proposal. It does not require any contributions by towns to the teachers’ retirement fund, revises the state’s education funding formula, phases out the taxes most onerous for retirees, includes specific public-sector union concessions, and establishes a spending cap. The budget proposal was supported unanimously by both Republican caucuses. Majority leadership, however, declined to hold a hearing on the proposal before the Appropriations Committee. Nevertheless, the Republican budget is the only legislative proposal now on the table.

With no budget bill emerging formally from the committee process, the full House and Senate will eventually have to vote on an emergency-certified bill that will not have had a public hearing. This may happen by the session’s end on June 7, or long after in a special session. Meanwhile, negotiations will continue.

The sheer magnitude of the revenue shortfalls made one message abundantly clear: despite two historic tax increases since 2011, taxing more has not produced more tax revenue. Policies based on unfettered spending and taxing and borrowing more and more to pay for it must be dramatically changed.

I hope that our Republican budget proposal will provide the foundation for a budget that all members of the legislature on both sides of the aisle can work together to pass, so that we can restore the economy of our state. If you would like to read more about our proposal, please click here.

As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like to discuss the state budget or any other issue further.

Rep. Lavielle and Legislative Republicans Ready to Take Lead on State Budget

Posted on April 28, 2017 by rjoslyn


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Offer “No Tax Increase” Budget Proposal

HARTFORD – State Representatives Gail Lavielle(R-143) and  legislative Republicans in supporting an alternative budget proposal called “Confident Connecticut” that would balance the state’s budget without increasing the tax burden on Connecticut residents.  The budget proposal, unveiled by Senate and House Republicans on Thursday, is an alternative to the controversial proposal that the governor advocated in February and could be approved by the General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee with three votes from Democrats.

“We have built a balanced budget that would not increase taxes, get state spending under control, and restore confidence in Connecticut for businesses and taxpayers,” said Rep. Lavielle. “There is much to like, especially when compared with the governor’s highly controversial proposal. Among other things, it takes significant steps to make Connecticut more affordable for retirees. It phases in the federal exemption level on the estate tax and lowers the lifetime cap, exempts social security from income tax for middle income seniors, and phases out the income tax on pensions and annuities altogether. It also revises the current ECS formula, addressing many inequities, and makes special education funding more predictable for cities and towns. I hope our proposal will be the foundation for a budget that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and I can work together to pass through the legislature.”

The Confident Connecticut budget plan differs from the governor’s in several key areas, including the restoration of municipal aid funding that was cut from the governor’s proposal, specific concessions from state employees’ unions, and the establishment of a constitutional spending cap.  The Republican plan also spends $313 million less than the governor’s budget.

The Republican budget plan is the only proposal put forth by the legislature so far, with the only current alternative being the governor’s proposal that he announced in February.  Legislative Democrats withdrew their proposed budget earlier this week after failing to secure enough votes to approve it and declined to hold a hearing on Thursday for the Republican alternative.

Taxpayer Advocate: The Role the Legislature Must Not Forsake

Posted on April 19, 2017 by rjoslyn


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Among the many factors responsible for bringing on Connecticut’s fiscal crisis are longstanding budgetary, fiscal, and regulatory policies that have not required our state government to live within the means of those who fund it. Although there could be no state government and no state services without taxpayers, their interests do not seem to have been given much priority in any state budget for the past several years. 

If it is to restore and sustain Connecticut’s fiscal health, the legislature must be as attentive, if not more so, to the interests of taxpayers as it is to those of any other interest group. Unfortunately, for many years now, majority leadership has lost sight of the legislature’s role as taxpayer advocate. 

Serving taxpayers better must require significant policy changes, including labor cost reforms, borrowing limits, structural expense reduction, and tax relief. But there’s also another issue that we hear less about: Connecticut’s state budget process which, right now, is not designed to ensure the taxpayer a spot anywhere near the top of the priority list. This is a problem when the legislative majority is not itself inclined to provide this assurance. 

This session, I’ve introduced three bills that are meant to improve the budget process and ensure that our state government operates within the means of those who pay for its spending. 

For my testimony on these bills, follow the link to the video, or click here. 

 

HB 5465: An Act Concerning the State Budget Process

HB 5465 would require the General Assembly to establish revenue projections before setting spending priorities. 

Many of the state’s well-managed towns develop a budget by first estimating how much money they have to work with – how much taxpayers are able, willing, and likely to pay – and then decide how much to spend, and what to spend it on. When the legislature develops a budget, however, it decides first how much to spend, and then projects and seeks the revenues necessary to pay for it. 

This practice tends to breed inflated revenue projections.  Even more important, it does not encourage the legislature to listen attentively enough to its constituents, because it proceeds from the premise that taxpayers are prepared to produce money simply because the legislature has decided to spend it. HB 5465 would force the legislature to keep its spending plans within the limits of what its constituents find reasonable to spend themselves. 

 

HB 5701: An Act Concerning the Timing of the Adoption of the Education Cost-Sharing Grant and Municipal Aid Funding by the General Assembly

 HB 5701 would require the General Assembly to determine each town’s allocation of municipal aid funds and the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grant by April 1 of each year. 

Most towns set their mill rates in the April-May timeframe, while the legislature often passes its biennial budget in early June, or even later. This bill would eliminate the uncertainty about state funding decisions that Connecticut’s cities and towns have faced every year for the past few years, and that has reached new proportions during the 2017 session. Many local officials – none of whom wants to overtax residents or not tax them enough to pay for the services they expect — have said the daunting uncertainty has literally turned local budgeting into a guessing game. HB 5701 would address this issue.

 

HB 5401: An Act Concerning Terms Pertaining to the Constitutional Spending Cap 

HB 5401 would require the legislature to define the parameters of the state’s constitutional spending cap. This is the critical step necessary to keep the promise made to Connecticut residents when they voted overwhelmingly 25 years ago to approve a constitutional amendment establishing the cap. 

While there is consensus on two of the parameters, “increase in personal income” and “increase in inflation”, the legislature is still at an impasse on the third, “general budget expenditures”, because there is still substantial disagreement about whether state contributions to state employee and teacher retirement systems should be included. HB 5401 would require that all such retirement contributions be counted as spending under the cap. 

The original purpose of the constitutional spending cap was to protect taxpayers by preventing them from being required to spend more than they can reasonably afford. The state’s retirement fund contributions require spending, they cost money, and they are funded by taxpayers. Excluding them distorts reality and destroys the integrity of the cap. HB 5401 would prevent this from happening.

 

Legislators Commend DOT Commissioner, Commuters for Productive Multi-Town Community Forum on Improving the Danbury Branch Line

Posted on April 12, 2017 by rjoslyn


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WILTON – On Monday night, train commuters had a chance to air their frustrations with the Danbury Branch Line and to offer suggestions for sensible upgrades and improvements at a forum with the Commissioner of the Department of Transportation (DOT) and local area state legislators. The forum was organized by a bipartisan group of legislators from the Route 7 corridor who co-introduced House Bill 6553, which would require the reallocation of previously authorized bonds to make incremental service improvements on the Danbury Line.

The legislators who co-introduced the bill are State Representatives David Arconti (D-Danbury), Bill Buckbee (R-New Milford), Will Duff (R-Bethel), Adam Dunsby (R-Easton), Michael Ferguson (R-Danbury), John Frey (R-Ridgefield), Bob Godfrey (D-Danbury), Steve Harding (R-Brookfield), Gail Lavielle (R-Wilton), Chris Perone (D-Norwalk), Jonathan Steinberg (D-Westport), and Fred Wilms (R-Norwalk). 

Also present were John Longobardi, Metro-North’s Deputy Chief of Field Operations, and other DOT and Metro-North staff members.

The forum was held at Wilton High School between 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. to give commuters ample time to stop by after work, at a location meant to accommodate commuters all along the railroad from Norwalk to Danbury.  It was also broadcast live on Facebook and posted afterwards online in its entirety for those who were unable to attend.

Rep. Lavielle, who spearheaded the effort to introduce HB 6553, was encouraged by the passion and dedication commuters showed the commissioner.

“We all felt that if the people who regularly call and email us about Danbury Line service could share their thoughts and suggestions directly with the DOT

Commissioner Redeker and Rep. Lavielle

commissioner, it could have an impact on our attempt to focus more attention at the state level on improvements for the Danbury Line,” Rep. Lavielle said. “When people voice their views in person, they are no longer just ticket sales or numbers on a spreadsheet, but individuals with families and demanding jobs who rely on trains to make a living. We’re very grateful to everyone who came and spoke. Commissioner Redeker mentioned to me afterward how much he appreciated the opportunity to hear from commuters who use the line every day. Regardless of the outcome of our work during this session, we intend to hold further local area Danbury Line community forums with the DOT and Metro-North regularly in the future.”

HB 6553 specifically does not request new bonding.  Because of the state’s precarious financial situation, the legislators felt it was unlikely that any bill requesting the $400 million or more necessary for the full electrification of the Danbury Line would be passed this year.  Rather than making commuters continue to wait indefinitely for any further service improvements at all, however, they have taken the approach of trying to identify less extensive measures that could improve service in cost-effective ways and to begin making at least some progress now.

With that objective, Rep. Lavielle and her colleagues have been meeting with the DOT and the governor’s staff to explore these possibilities.  The language of the bill is not specific in terms of upgrades and costs, to allow for input during the legislative session, and it may evolve to focus more precisely on identification of feasible service improvements and specifying timelines for bringing recommendations before the legislature.

Reps. Perone, Godfrey, Wilms and Dunsby attended the forum to hear from commuters.

“It was a successful event,” said Rep. Perone, who is also the Chair of the General Assembly’s Transportation Bonding Sub-Committee.  “Public engagement on transportation issues, especially in lower Fairfield County is crucial in helping us set transportation policy. The give and take between the audience and public officials took on a ‘working group’ quality.  Several specific policy points were addressed, examined and in some cases, next steps were discussed.”

“It was great to hear the questions and concerns of the Danbury rail line commuters,” said Rep. Wilms. “Kudos also to DOT Commissioner Redeker for joining us.  The Danbury rail line has been ignored for far too long.  Forums like these help create the momentum to finally take action.”

“The commuters who attended the forum made several strong points to the commissioner about why the Danbury Branch Line needs to be improved as soon as possible,” said Rep. Dunsby.  “It is so important for Hartford lawmakers to hear from the people who must contend with this railroad for their commutes. Now that these issues have been brought to the attention of the DOT and their legislators, I think there is a much greater possibility of re-allocating the necessary funding for the improvements these people talked about.”

“One of the most important aspects of lawmaking is making sure you are always listening to the people who are affected by the policies you pass,” said Rep. Frey, who is the Ranking Member on the Transportation Bonding Sub-Committee. “It was an illuminating experience to hear how badly these improvements are needed and what commuters often have to go through because of the poor train service in their areas. Commuters in Ridgefield should not have to drive a half hour to Norwalk or Darien stations to be connected by train to their workplaces. We can do better.”

A commuter asks the panel a question

“I really want to thank Commissioner Redeker, Mr. Longobardi, and all of the commuters who took the time to come to the forum,” said Rep. Ferguson.  “Many people are surprised to learn the value that their words and passion have when they voice them to government representatives.  I can tell you my colleagues and I, as well as the commissioner, will remember what we heard and do everything we can to put your words into action so we can make your commutes on the Danbury Line more convenient.”

“It was great to hear from people who use the Danbury-Norwalk line often. I was very pleased Commissioner Redeker was there as well,” said Rep. Godfrey. “It was truly a dialogue on an issue I have an emotional connection to because my dad and grandad were railroad men.”

“As legislators, we need to be responsive to our constituents. I am grateful Commissioner Redeker was on hand to listen to the area Danbury Line commuters,” said Rep. Duff.  “My hope is this forum will produce positive momentum in getting the concerns of the commuters addressed.  Our rail commuters deserve real and immediate service improvements.”

Commuters make suggestions for the Danbury Branch Line

“The status of the service commuters get on the Danbury Branch Line is of tremendous concern to residents, and this forum was a great way for them to come out and have their voices heard directly by the commissioner,” said Rep. O’Dea.  “I appreciate the Commissioner dedicating so much time with us for the evening and being willing to hear all comers.  We are all looking to work together to ensure that the necessary and essential improvements to the Danbury Line are made, and that the DOT has the resources they need to make that happen.”

 

The legislators were appreciative of the individuals who came to Wilton on Monday night and shared their concerns.  While turnout was solid and discussion exceeded the allotted time, they were regretful that not everyone who wanted to come was able to attend, and stressed that April 10 was the only day that the DOT could make available, despite several weeks of efforts to secure a date.  The forum needed to be held prior to the following Tuesday’s Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee meeting.

In a step forward for the legislation, the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee voted on Tuesday to draft legislation based on HB 6553, allowing it to proceed as a committee bill.  Once fully drafted, it will await consideration by the Committee on or before its April 28 bill deadline.

Rep. Lavielle listens to a commuter’s suggestion for the Danbury Branch Line

 

“Our legislative process is unpredictable, and as with any bill, I want to caution against over-confidence that legislation will pass this session,” said Rep. Lavielle.  “We will continue to work together as a bipartisan team on making progress, and if we succeed in taking even a small step forward, it will be in large measure thanks to the articulate and thoughtful testimony we have received from rail passengers, both at the forum this week and at the bill’s formal public hearing in Hartford.”

Footage of the event is available at the websites of both the House Republicans (www.cthousegop.gov) and House Democrats (www.housedems.ct.gov) who attended the forum.

Lavielle: Access to the Danbury Line Forum for Those Unable to Attend in Person

Posted on April 6, 2017 by rjoslyn


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HARTFORD — State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) issued the following announcement about additional access to the Danbury Line forum in Wilton on April 10 with DOT Commissioner James Redeker and area legislators.

The forum, which will run from 7:30 – 9:30 PM on Monday, April 10, will be recorded live.

• It will be streamed live on Facebook. Viewers can comment or ask a question on the page in real time.
• The video will remain for viewing on the Facebook page after the forum, and will also be posted at http://www.replavielle.com.

Rep. Lavielle and her legislative colleagues will also welcome comments, suggestions, or questions before the forum starts, and they will include them in the discussion with Commissioner Redeker. Comments may be submitted:

• Online at the event’s Facebook group page:
• By email to gail.lavielle@cga.ct.gov

All submissions will be brought to the attention of Commissioner Redeker and area legislators.

Rep. Lavielle and Colleagues Promote Awareness of Safe Haven Day in Conn.

Posted on April 3, 2017 by rjoslyn


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HARTFORD – State Representatives Gail Lavielle (R-143), Fred Wilms (R-142), and Terrie Wood (R-141) are urging public education on the importance of a lifesaving bill in honor of the second annual Safe Haven Law Awareness Day on April 4.

Since its passage in 2000, Connecticut’s Safe Haven Law has saved 27 infants from abandonment and near certain death.  The law has also protected the parents from the possibility of incarceration and a life of regret from having ended their infants’ lives in a moment of panic.

The Safe Haven Law, enacted in 2000, helps prevent the death of newborn babies by allowing anyone to drop off a newborn (within the first 30 days of life) at any hospital emergency room in Connecticut without fear of repercussion.  The person dropping off the baby — whether it’s the infant’s mother, father, grandparents or a family friend — is given a bracelet matching one put on the infant by hospital staff.  Assuming there are no signs of abuse on the infant, the police will not be called and no one will be arrested.  If the parents of the baby change their minds within 30 days, they may petition to get the baby back.

“Building awareness of this law has always been a priority for me since it is essential that we spread the word to a new generation of people who were too young to be aware of the law when it passed 17 years ago,” said Rep. Lavielle.  “That is why I supported the bill making April 4th an Awareness Day for the Safe Haven Law so that these often vulnerable young women who are experiencing terrible distress know they have an option to surrender safely a baby whom they otherwise cannot care for.  I will continue to work with Norwalk Hospital or any other organization ready to help women and newborns in this agonizing situation.”

“It is important for distressed individuals to know Safe Havens are available should they find themselves unprepared for parenthood,” said Rep. Wilms. “Hospital emergency rooms are equipped to care for these infants, which can be a huge relief for young parents who are seeking an anonymous, safe option when no other alternatives are available to them. We hope this message spreads throughout the community and that this program continues to receive the necessary support so that we may continue to save lives.”

“The most important thing we can do is get the word out about his important law,” said Rep. Wood.  “We have made tremendous progress, but every year there are still heart-breaking stories of needless tragedies.  Awareness is the key.”

Rep. Lavielle Invites Danbury Line Riders to April 10 Evening Forum in Wilton with DOT Commissioner

Posted on April 3, 2017 by rjoslyn


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HARTFORD – State Representative Gail Lavielle (R-143) is inviting Danbury Branch Railroad Line riders and other interested individuals and organizations to an area forum next week with Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner James Redeker to discuss the train service improvements they would like to see on the Danbury Line. The forum will be held on Monday, April 10, from 7:30-9:30 PM at Wilton High School’s Clune Center at 395 Danbury Road.

“We’re holding this forum as a part of a bipartisan effort during the current legislative session to identify improvements that could be made cost-effectively to Danbury Line service in the near term,” said Rep. Lavielle. “The best way to understand what kinds of changes would really make a difference is to hear directly from commuters who ride the trains every day. That is why this will be a listening session and not a presentation. It’s an opportunity for people to bring their comments and suggestions about the service directly to Commissioner Redeker and their area legislators. If there are things that can be done now to improve their daily commute, we should see that the necessary steps are taken.”

Together with a bipartisan group of 11 other House legislators, Rep. Lavielle has co-introduced HB 6553, which would require the reallocation of previously authorized bonds to make incremental service improvements on the Danbury Line. The other co-introducers are Representatives David Arconti (D-Danbury), Bill Buckbee (R-New Milford), Will Duff (R-Bethel), Adam Dunsby (R-Easton), Michael Ferguson (R-Danbury), John Frey (R-Ridgefield), Bob Godfrey (D-Danbury), Steve Harding (R-Brookfield), Chris Perone (D-Norwalk), Jonathan Steinberg (D-Westport), and Fred Wilms (R-Norwalk). 

HB 6553 specifically does not request new bonding.  Because of the state’s precarious financial situation, the legislators felt it was unlikely that any bill requesting the $400 million or more necessary for the full electrification of the Danbury Line would be passed this year. Rather than making train commuters continue to wait indefinitely for any further service improvements at all, however, they have taken the approach of trying to identify less extensive measures that could improve service in cost-effective ways and to begin making at least some progress now.

With that objective, Rep. Lavielle and her colleagues have been meeting with the DOT and the governor’s staff to explore these possibilities. The language of the bill is not specific in terms of upgrades and costs, to allow for input during the legislative session.

For its public hearing in the legislature’s Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee, HB 6553 received ample testimony from commuters residing in Bethel, Danbury, Norwalk, Redding, and Wilton, offering suggestions for service improvements. These suggestions included scheduling more afternoon or evening trains, improving connections with trains on the main line in Norwalk and Stamford, opening more doors at station stops, and providing more information on delays and service issues to conductors to help them respond to passengers’ questions.

Among area organizations and officials testifying in support of the bill were Elizabeth Stocker, Director of Economic Development of the City of Norwalk; Redding First Selectman Julia Pemberton; Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi; the Economic Development Commission of the Town of Wilton; Ridgefield’s Economic Development Commission; Andrea Rynn, Director of Public & Government Relations of the Western Connecticut Health Network; Jill Smyth, Executive Director of the Merritt Parkway Conservancy; and Francis Pickering, Executive Director of the Western Connecticut Council of Governments. 

HB 6553 now awaits consideration by the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee and its Transportation Bonding Subcommittee. Suggestions received at the area forum on April 10 may help to shape the language of the bill.

The April 10 forum is meant to accommodate residents of towns all along the Danbury Line at a place that is located right on Route 7 and at a time late enough to allow them to attend after their evening commutes. Commissioner Redeker and area legislators will be present to listen to their concerns from 7:30 to 9:30 PM, and anyone who would like to attend is welcome to arrive at any time during that two-hour period.

Those wishing to attend can contact Rep. Lavielle’s office for more information by calling 860-842-1423 or by email at gail.lavielle@housegop.ct.gov.

Connecticut Must Not Wait for Structural Budget Reform

Posted on March 27, 2017 by rjoslyn


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Most people in our state government at last agree that Connecticut is in a fiscal crisis. A deficit of $3.5 billion looms in the next budget cycle; businesses, retirees, and other longtime contributors to our economy have been leaving for more fiscally friendly and stable states; the funded ratio of our state pension funds has fallen to about 35%; and our bond ratings have suffered considerably. 

A major driver of Connecticut’s persistent fiscal problems is a focus on one-time revenues and cost cuts, instead of reductions in the state’s structural – in other words, ongoing — expenses. Among the most significant of those expenses are labor costs, which represent close to 40% of the state budget. Most notably, retirement and healthcare benefits for state employees are among the very most expensive in the country. 

The General Assembly should long ago have passed legislation to introduce labor cost reforms. Examples would include increasing employee contributions to retirement and healthcare plans; including only base salaries in the compensation calculations used for retirement purposes; and moving most employees from defined benefit plans to defined contribution plans, as most of the private sector has done. 

Since the legislature has done none of this, we should be doing it now, today. 

But we can’t. Those benefits, which are set in statute in all three of our neighboring states by their legislatures, are set in Connecticut through contracts negotiated by the executive branch with public-sector employee unions. Our General Assembly, which represents both state employees and the other taxpayers who pay for their benefits, is therefore not in a position to achieve a balance of their interests. Yes, it does have the right to vote to approve or reject any such contract negotiated by the governor. But the legislative majority has refused to exercise that right since 1997, thereby allowing every negotiated union contract to take effect after 30 days. 

There are still, however, laws we can change now, before the current state employee benefits contract expires in 2022. With this objective, I have co-sponsored five bills, and I presented testimony on them last Friday before the Appropriations Committee.

To read my testimony, click here.  

HB 5838 would exclude retirement and healthcare benefits for state employees from collective bargaining, from July 1, 2022 forward. 

HB 6083 would prohibit any governor from unduly influencing future benefits structures and costs by negotiating a contract that would extend beyond his or her term.

HB 6295 would, from July 1, 2022 forward, exclude factors like travel allowances, overtime compensation, and longevity payments from the calculation of base salary when determining retirement income for state employees. 

HB 6509 would offer all new state employees participation in defined contribution retirement plans, rather than in the current defined benefit system.

HB 6512 would, from now on, require the General Assembly to vote to approve or reject all collective bargaining agreements with state employee organizations. 

Connecticut’s financial situation is not sustainable. Passing these bills would help to reduce the state’s operating costs, slow the growth of its unfunded post-retirement liabilities, free up funds for essential services and needed investment in infrastructure, alleviate mounting pressure on taxpayers, and ensure that state employees receive the benefits they have been promised. 

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like to discuss these or any other issues further. I always appreciate hearing from you.

Rep. Lavielle Applauds Powerful Testimony by Norwalk Parents, Superintendent Adamowski at Education Hearing

Posted on March 21, 2017 by rjoslyn


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Rep. Lavielle with constituents Marc D’Amelio and Drew Todd, Norwalk parents who traveled to Hartford to testify before the Education Committee on Monday.

HARTFORD – State Representative Gail Lavielle (R-143), Ranking Member of the General Assembly’s Education Committee, applauded the dedication of the Norwalkers who traveled to Hartford on Monday to testify before the Committee in support of revising the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula to provide more equitable state education funding to Norwalk’s schools.

“This has been a true community-wide collaborative effort to fight for better schools and resources for our students,” said Rep. Lavielle.  “I can say with certainty that the individuals who put other commitments aside to spend the day in Hartford made it difficult for my fellow committee members to ignore the consequences of an arguably irrational formula for allocating education aid.  The strong testimony given by Superintendent Adamowski and several Norwalk parents helped raise awareness for the gross underfunding of Norwalk schools that occurs every year.”

Legislation addressing ECS funding will be voted on in the Education Committee shortly and the legislature will continue to debate the topic throughout this session.

Rep. Lavielle with Rep. Morris and Norwalk parents

“Never will anyone who was in that hearing room doubt how much Norwalkers care about their schools and their students,” said Rep. Lavielle.  “Norwalk cannot be dismissed as an affluent community in Fairfield County.  The passionate voices at the public hearing on Monday demonstrated that Norwalk is a vibrant, growing, and diverse community, with students representing the entire socioeconomic spectrum, including many English language-learners.  Many committee members were impressed.  The data was clear, the consistency was striking, and the arguments were persuasive.  There will be many more drafts of ECS legislation before the session ends.  Thanks to the testimony given at the hearing and the countless written testimonies submitted by Norwalkers electronically, I hope that Norwalk’s voice will resonate through them.  I am so proud to represent people with such a commitment to their community.”

Reps. Lavielle, Wilms, and Wood to Host Town Hall Forum in Norwalk

Posted on March 17, 2017 by rjoslyn


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WILTON State Reps. Gail Lavielle (R-143), Fred Wilms (R-141), and Terrie Wood (R-141)  invite their constituents to attend a town hall event in Norwalk, CT, at the South Norwalk Library (10 Washington St.). The town hall will be on Tuesday, March 28th, from 7:00 p.m. until 8:30 p.m.

 The legislators will offer residents an update on legislative activity in Hartford, answer their questions on state issues, and listen to their concerns about the community.

Anyone who is unable to attend but would still like to speak with their representative can reach Rep. Lavielle at Gail.Lavielle@housegop.ct.gov, Rep. Wilms at Fred.Wilms@housegop.ct.gov , and Rep. Wood at terrie.wood@housegop.ct.gov.

Lavielle: Real Progress on Education Mandate Relief

Posted on March 14, 2017 by rjoslyn


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Lavielle: Real Progress on Education Mandate Relief

HARTFORD – State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143), Ranking Member of the General Assembly’s Education Committee, announced today that the committee has introduced a bipartisan bill that would provide significant relief from costly and time-consuming unfunded state mandates for school districts statewide. The bill is HB 7276, An Act Concerning Education Mandate Relief.

“With towns, school districts, and taxpayers under intense pressure from irresponsible management of the state budget, mandate relief for our schools is more important than ever,” said Rep. Lavielle. “It’s a measure of the seriousness of the budget situation that mandate relief is drawing broader support in the legislature. I was pleased to work closely with Committee leadership colleagues from the other side of the aisle to produce a real bipartisan bill that would benefit all districts and, most important, all students. This is, of course, just the first step in a long legislative process, but the introduction of a truly bipartisan committee bill reflects a shared commitment to progress.”

Rep. Lavielle noted that HB 7276 reflects recommendations for mandate relief that she and other committee members have received in recent years from superintendents, administrators, teachers, Board of Education members, parents, and advocates.

The Education Committee is holding a public hearing on the bill in Hartford on Monday, March 20, at 11:00 am.

Among the bill’s provisions are eliminating the requirement for school districts to adopt a regional calendar; requiring the state to purchase one digital school management and reporting software system and providing it at no cost to districts; allowing districts to decide how they provide education to expelled students; and allowing districts to focus training in procedures for dealing with highly sensitive behavioral issues on staff who have direct contact with students.

Detailed information on the bill, including a link to its full text, is available here.

“School districts and town officials from our region, as well as from all over the state, have been strongly urging us to provide mandate relief for years,” said Rep. Lavielle. “I am pleased that we are now moving forward together in the legislature on this important topic, and I am grateful to everyone who is joining us in this effort. If we succeed in passing this legislation, it will lead to important savings of money and time for our districts and towns, and will help our educators focus even more energy on providing the best possible education and services to our students.”

Anyone wishing to testify on the bill in person may speak at the Education Committee’s public hearing in the Legislative Office Building in Hartford on Monday, March 20, starting at 11:00 am.

Written testimony may be sent to edtestimony@cga.cct.gov. It must reference “HB 7276” in the subject line of the email, and authors should include their name and town.

For more information on the bill or on submitting testimony, Rep. Lavielle can be reached at gail.lavielle@cga.ct.gov.

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State Rep. Gail Lavielle represents Norwalk, Westport, and Wilton. She is Ranking Member of the General Assembly’s Education Committee and a member of the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee and the Transportation Committee.

Reps. Lavielle and O’Dea to Host Town Hall Forum in Wilton

Posted on March 9, 2017 by rjoslyn


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WILTON State Reps. Gail Lavielle (R-143) and Tom O’Dea (R-125) invite their constituents to attend a town hall event in Wilton, CT, at the Wilton Library’s Presidential Room (137 Old Ridgefield Rd.). The town hall will be on Thursday, March 23rd, from 7:00 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. They will be joined by Wilton’s State Senator, Toni Boucher (R-26).

 The legislators will offer residents an update on legislative activity in Hartford, answer their questions on state issues, and listen to their concerns about the community.

Anyone who is unable to attend but would still like to speak with their representative can reach Rep. Lavielle at Gail.Lavielle@housegop.ct.gov or Rep. O’Dea at Tom.Odea@housegop.ct.gov.

Rep. Lavielle Welcomes Ed Musante and Business Leaders to the Capitol

Posted on March 8, 2017 by rjoslyn


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On Wednesday, March 8th, the Connecticut state legislature welcomed members of one of the largest business advocacy groups in the state, the Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA) for a legislative session in Hartford.  Rep. Lavielle greeted the Executive Director of the Norwalk Chamber of Commerce, Ed Musante.

Rep. Lavielle and her Norwalk colleague, Rep. Fred Wilms, welcome Ed Musante to the Capitol on Wednesday.

Rep. Lavielle: Update on House Bill Reallocating Funding to the Danbury Branch Line

Posted on March 3, 2017 by rjoslyn


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HARTFORD – State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) provided an update on the status of legislation she has introduced to reallocate transportation funding for improvements to the Danbury branch line following last week’s public hearing in the General Assembly’s Finance Committee.  As a member of the Finance Committee, she has assembled a bipartisan team of House legislators to work together on prioritizing this funding to help Danbury Line commuters. 

While Danbury Line passengers might be forced to wait indefinitely for a major upgrade like electrification, HB 6553 calls for the reallocation of previously authorized bonds to make incremental service improvements. The group of co-sponsors includes Representatives David Arconti (D-Danbury), Bill Buckbee (R-New Milford), Will Duff (R-Bethel), Adam Dunsby (R-Easton), Michael Ferguson (R-Danbury), John Frey (R-Ridgefield), Bob Godfrey (D-Danbury), Steve Harding (R-Brookfield), Chris Perone (D-Norwalk), Jonathan Steinberg (D-Westport), and Fred Wilms (R-Norwalk).  

“For many commuters, riding on the Danbury Branch Line has long been a frustrating experience at best, and an ordeal at worst. Among their concerns, frequency and reliability of service are the most critical,” said Rep. Lavielle.  “Multiple studies from the last two decades have shown that re-electrifying the line would be an important step toward addressing these issues, but Connecticut’s precarious financial situation makes it unlikely that we will receive the necessary $400 million in new bonding in the near term. That’s why I’ve asked House colleagues from both parties to help me fight for already authorized bonds to address problems that can be fixed more quickly with much less funding.”

For the public hearing on HB 6553 recently held by the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee, Rep. Lavielle noted that there was ample testimony from commuters residing in Bethel, Danbury, Norwalk, Redding, and Wilton offering suggestions for service improvements. These suggestions included scheduling more afternoon or evening trains, improving connections with trains on the main line in Norwalk and Stamford, opening more doors at station stops, and providing more information on delays and service issues to conductors to help them respond to passengers’ questions.

There was also significant testimony in favor of an avenue currently being explored by the Department of Transportation (DOT): running a shuttle train from South Norwalk up to a midway point on the line such as Wilton, Cannondale, or Branchville to provide more frequent service along the segment of the line with the heaviest ridership in both directions. The DOT has given preliminary indications that this service could be provided at a fraction of the cost of electrification of the line.

Among those testifying in support of the bill were Elizabeth Stocker, Director of Economic Development of the City of Norwalk; Redding First Selectman Julia Pemberton; Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi; the Economic Development Commission of the Town of Wilton; Ridgefield’s Economic Development Commission; Andrea Rynn, Director of Public & Government Relations of the Western Connecticut Health Network; Jill Smyth, Executive Director of the Merritt Parkway Conservancy; and Francis Pickering, Executive Director of the Western Connecticut Council of Governments.

“I want to thank everyone who submitted testimony in support of HB 6553,” said Rep. Lavielle. “The testimony was strong not only in terms of concrete suggestions for improvements, but also in terms of the arguments offered to justify making this effort. These include access to jobs and qualified labor, traffic congestion relief, commercial development, capacity for growth in ridership, and potential for transit-oriented development.”

While Rep. Lavielle believes that this new approach has a better likelihood of providing relief – albeit modest — to commuters in the near term than legislative proposals for full electrification, she cautioned against over-confidence, adding, “It is still early in the session, and there is precious little transportation funding to go around, so I don’t want to give anyone false hope. But if there is anything we can do to improve the situation for Danbury Line commuters now, we must do it. I will be working together with my colleagues throughout the session to do everything I can to move this legislation forward.”

Office Hours in Wilton Next Week

Posted on March 3, 2017 by rjoslyn


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Please join me for coffee at Orem’s next week for my office hours to discuss the state issues that are important to you and the current legislative session.

Wilton

Tuesday, March 7, 7:30 – 9:00 a.m.

Orem’s Diner, 167 Danbury Road

I hope I will see you on Tuesday.  If you are unable to attend, please don’t hesitate to contact me about any issues that interest or concern you.

Reps. Lavielle and Dunsby Lead Discussion of Critical Political Issues at a Crowded Town Hall in Georgetown

Posted on March 2, 2017 by rjoslyn


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GEORGETOWN State Representatives Gail Lavielle (R-143) and Adam Dunsby (R-135) listened to spirited questions and engaged in a productive dialogue with their constituents in the Georgetown area at a packed town hall meeting they hosted on Tuesday night alongside their Senate colleague, Sen. Toni Boucher (R-26).

More than 100 citizens crowded into the Gilbert and Bennett Cultural Center in Georgetown from across Fairfield County to raise their concerns over national, state, and local political issues with the representatives, who were eager to get a chance to have a conversation with their constituents. The legislators stood diligently and fielded dozens of questions over the course of the hour and a half event. Afterward, all three remained in the building for an extra hour to answer questions from those who did not have a chance to ask them during the town hall.

They were asked about various topics over the course of the meeting, including the governor’s budget proposal, special education program funding, environmental and natural resource protections, health insurance in the event of a change to the Affordable Care Act, and equal rights for the LGBT community.

Reps. Lavielle and Dunsby listen to constituents’ concerns in Georgetown.

“I was pleased to welcome to Georgetown such a large and passionate crowd with such a keen interest in current affairs and the effects of public policy on everyday life,” said Rep. Lavielle.  “I always appreciate having the opportunity for serious conversation with constituents about issues that are important to them and for discussion of ways my colleagues and I can address their concerns. Connecticut’s budget and finances are in an extremely precarious condition, and the sooner we turn it around the more we will be able to do to address issues like education funding, tax pressure, the state of our transportation infrastructure, and the quality of social services. We were fortunate to hear from many residents of our area last night, and I want to thank the Gilbert & Bennett Community Center and its Executive Director Patricia Hegnauer for so graciously hosting our forum.”

“I thank everyone who attended this meeting and offered their views and asked questions. Town hall meetings like this one demonstrate that our constituents are informed and interested in government,” said Rep. Dunsby. “It’s important for me to hear your concerns and I hope I was able to provide insight into what is going on in Hartford.  I especially hope I was able to convey the seriousness of the state’s desperate financial position.  We need to resist the governor’s current plan to send our towns the bill for underfunded programs it has mismanaged for years.”

“I always enjoy meeting my constituents and it was a great turnout,” Sen. Boucher said. “We heard so many concerns and I know people are worried.  They are worried about things happening on a federal level that we as state legislators cannot control.  They are worried about the state budget and budget deficit.  They are worried about what it means for the environment, the 2nd Amendment, special education, and local education funding.  As we work toward developing a new biennial budget, hearing their concerns and input has never been more important.”

Constituents were pleased to have the opportunity to speak frankly with their legislators about hot-button topics and receive honest responses to their questions. The representatives, in turn, appreciated the feedback and thanked the group for offering their opinions on the issues.

Anyone who was unable to attend the event but would like to speak with Reps. Lavielle and Dunsby can reach them any time by contacting 800-842-1423. Sen. Boucher can be reached by contacting 800-842-1421.

How the Governor’s Education Funding Proposals Affect Us All

Posted on February 28, 2017 by rjoslyn


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As many of you know, the funding provisions related to education in the governor’s budget proposal, if passed, would have a profound effect on all three communities in the 143rd district, as well as most of the towns in Fairfield County. For example:

  • Wilton and Westport, along with most of our neighboring small towns, would see their state Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grants completely eliminated.
  • Norwalk, which has been shortchanged for years on its ECS funding, would barely receive an ECS increase, while Stamford, which has suffered from the same inequity under the current ECS formula, would see an annual increase of about $6 million.
  • Wilton and Westport, and most other Fairfield County towns, would see special education funding cuts of 60% or more.
  • All municipalities would, for the first time, be required to make substantial annual contributions to the teachers’ pension fund. For the first year, fiscal 2018, Norwalk’s contribution would be $9.2 million, Westport’s would be $5.9 million, and Wilton’s would be $4 million. This expense would be recalculated annually, and would be likely to grow over time.

This dramatic budgetary pressure on our towns would necessarily lead to equally dramatic property tax increases, immediately or in the very near future. For local officials, the proposal has created a massive cloud of uncertainty over the budget process, making informed decisions difficult if not impossible.

I cannot support this proposal.

Last week, I testified before the Appropriations Committee, and I would like to share that testimony with you here.

It is important to note that the governor’s budget bill is just one of the education funding proposals that will be considered by the General Assembly during the legislative session. I will keep you informed as others emerge in the next few weeks.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like to discuss education funding or any other issue further. I always appreciate hearing from you.

Help Us Move the Danbury Branch Line Forward

Posted on February 22, 2017 by rjoslyn


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Commuting on the Danbury Branch Line has long been a frustrating experience at best, and an ordeal at worst, for many of you. While there are numerous issues with the service, the main concerns are frequency and reliability. I’ve ridden the trains with you, I’ve heard from you, and I know you mean business. 

Over the years, my legislative colleagues and I have introduced many bills requesting bonding or other financing for electrification and upgrades to the line, but the legislature and the administration have always chosen to support other priorities. This year, I wanted to take a different approach to securing long-awaited funding for badly needed improvements to the branch line. 

I’ve introduced a new bill, HB 6553, together with 11 other state House members – both Republicans and Democrats – who represent towns on and near the Danbury Line. The bill doesn’t request new bonding, but rather would reallocate already authorized bonds for improvements. 

Given the state’s precarious financial situation, we feel that it’s unlikely that any bill requesting the $400 million or more necessary for the full electrification of the branch line would be passed this year. So instead, we are taking the approach of trying to identify other less extensive measures that could improve service in cost-effective ways and to begin, at least, making progress now. 

With that objective, we’ve been meeting with the DOT and the governor’s staff to explore these possibilities, and we certainly welcome suggestions from people who travel on the Danbury Line. The language of our bill is not specific in terms of upgrades and costs, to allow for input during the legislative session. If there are things we can do now to improve the daily commute for Danbury Line passengers, rather than making them wait indefinitely for a major upgrade, I believe we must move forward and do them now. 

The public hearing for HB 6553 is this Friday, February 224, at 11:00 AM, in the Legislative Office Building, Room 2E, in Hartford. 

* * * * * * 

Here’s how you can make sure your thoughts on this bill count: 

Submit your written testimony on HB 6553 at fintestimony@cga.ct.gov, and please be sure to copy me at gail.lavielle@cga.ct.gov. Your testimony can be as brief or as lengthy as you like. Just include your name and town. Refer to the bill as HB 6553 and mention it in your subject line. 

If you’d like to testify in person, the hearing will be held by the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee on Friday at 11:00 AM in Room 2E of the Legislative Office Building. 

For a copy of the bill, click here.

I’m here to help with any questions, so please call my office at (860) 240-1423 or email me at gail.lavielle@cga.ct.gov  if you’d like to discuss this or any other issue further. I always appreciate hearing from you.

Frustrated with the DMV? Help Us Make Change!

Posted on February 21, 2017 by rjoslyn


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I have received countless emails and phone calls about poor service at the Department of Motor Vehicles and how much of an inconvenience it has become for residents in Fairfield County.

This problem was exacerbated a few weeks ago when contractual disagreements led to a decision that AAA offices would no longer offer license renewal services at its locations in Fairfield and New Haven counties.  Residents of southwestern Connecticut seeking these services are now being forced to endure longer lines, slower service, and an even more complicated experience at the DMV if driving to a far-away AAA office across the state is not an option.

We have just received word that the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee will have a public hearing on a bill I have introduced that would require the DMV to establish service agreements with contractors throughout the state, including in Fairfield County, to offer not only license renewals, but also vehicle registrations.  This is short notice, but submitting your written testimony by email can be very helpful in moving the bill forward.

The public hearing for H.B. 6272 is this Wednesday, February 22, at 12:30 P.M., in the Legislative Office Building, Room 2E, in Hartford.

* * * * * *

Here’s how you can make sure your opinion on this bill counts:

Submit your written testimony on H.B. 6272 at tratestimony@cga.ct.gov and please be sure to copy me at gail.lavielle@cga.ct.gov. Your testimony can be as brief or as lengthy as you like. Just include your name and town. Refer to the bill as HB 6272 and mention it in your the line.

If you’d like to testify in person, the hearing will be held tomorrow at 12:30 PM in Room 2E of the Legislative Office Building.

For a copy of the bill, click here.

I’m here to help with any questions, so please call my office at (860) 240 8700 or email me at gail.lavielle@cga.ct.gov if you’d like to discuss this or any other issue further. I always appreciate hearing from you.

Rep. Lavielle Sponsors Pro-Small Business Legislation

Posted on February 17, 2017 by rjoslyn


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HARTFORD – State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) testified this week in support of a bill that would lift regulatory barriers to many small businesses seeking to qualify for awards of state contracts under Connecticut’s Supplier Diversity Program. She is a co-sponsor of the bill.

Rep. Lavielle testifies in support of small business

HB 6416 would require Connecticut to replace its definition of “small contractor” from one based only on gross revenue with one based on the more flexible, industry-specific standards identified under the federal Small Business Act.

Connecticut’s Supplier Diversity Program provides an avenue for small and minority-owned businesses to compete for state contracts. Currently, however, only a business that has generated $15 million or less in gross revenues during its most recently completed fiscal year qualifies in Connecticut as a “small contractor.” This criterion excludes many small Connecticut businesses that easily qualify for similar programs in other states where qualification is based on other criteria like number of employees or owner assets. This makes it harder for the state of Connecticut to offer contracts to local small businesses that are based here.

For example, a business like a lumber yard or cement company that purchases heavy materials on behalf of its customers and then uses them in manufacturing or providing a service may generate a small profit margin while posting substantial gross revenues due to the pass-through to customers of the materials costs.

“Connecticut must become more business-friendly, particularly when it comes to providing opportunities for its own local small businesses to grow,” Rep. Lavielle said in testimony before the General Assembly’s Government Administration and Elections (GAE) Committee.  “Adapting these criteria to the variety of industries and sectors in our state could remove an existing regulatory barrier to a key market for our small businesses. It could also make Connecticut more competitive vis-à-vis surrounding states, which, though more flexible than Connecticut, also use limited criteria. This measure would show that Connecticut is serious about helping our small businesses succeed.”

The GAE Committee had raised a similar bill (HB 5246) at Rep. Lavielle’s suggestion last year, but it did not pass before the end of the session. This year, GAE Ranking Member Rep. Laura Devlin (R-134) introduced the new bill, HB 6416, and the CT Business and Industry Association (CBIA) has joined the representatives in supporting it.

Read Rep. Lavielle’s testimony on HB 6416 before the GAE Committee here:  https://www.cga.ct.gov/2017/GAEdata/Tmy/2017HB-06416-R000215-Lavielle,%20Gail,%20State%20Representative-TMY.PDF

State Representative Gail Lavielle represents the 143rd district, which includes parts of Norwalk, Westport, and Wilton. She is Ranking Member of the General Assembly’s Education Committee and a member of the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee and the Transportation Committee.

Rep. Lavielle Holding Town Hall Meeting in Georgetown on February 28th

Posted on February 15, 2017 by rjoslyn


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GEORGETOWN State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) invites her constituents to attend a town hall event in Georgetown, CT, at the Gilbert and Bennet Cultural Center (49 New Street, Wilton). The town hall will be on Tuesday, February 28th, from 7:00pm until 8:30pm. She will be joined by fellow House Republican State Rep. Adam Dunsby (R-135) as well as State Sen. Toni Boucher (R-26).

Rep. Lavielle will offer residents an update on legislative activity in Hartford, answer their questions on state issues, and listen to their concerns about the community.

Anyone who is unable to attend but would still like to speak to Rep. Lavielle can reach her at Gail.Lavielle@housegop.ct.gov.

What: Georgetown Town Hall

Where: G&B Cultural Center, 49 New Street, Wilton, CT

When: Tuesday, February 28, 2017 at 7:00pm

Rep. Lavielle: Governor’s Proposed Budget Forces Municipalities and Taxpayers to Bail Out the State

Posted on February 9, 2017 by rjoslyn


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HARTFORD –State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) expressed grave concerns about the budget proposal Governor Malloy presented to the General Assembly on Wednesday, saying that it shifts the burden of the state’s massive deficit onto municipalities and the taxpayers who live in them. The deficit for the next two years is projected to exceed $3.5 billion, including $1.7 billion next year.

For each of the two years it covers, the governor’s proposal aims to tackle the deficit by relying on nearly $200 million of new fees and taxes and $1.3 billion in cuts from the state budget.  These cuts, however, include shifting from the state to municipalities $400 million in annual contributions to the teachers’ pension fund and negotiating unspecified concessions worth $700 million annually with state employee unions.

“This proposal seems to absolve state government from its responsibility to address Connecticut’s financial crisis,” said Rep. Lavielle. “It’s based on critical savings from union concessions that may never materialize – as was the case with the 2011-2012 budget — and it shifts hundreds of millions of dollars of state obligations onto towns and cities. This would inevitably lead to massive property tax increases for households across the state. Ironically, at the same time, the proposal eliminates the property tax credit for homeowners. State government has not been a good steward of taxpayer dollars, and now this proposal would require taxpayers to spend even more to make up for its irresponsible financial management.”

Rep. Lavielle emphasized that the governor’s proposal is not a final budget, but is meant to provide guidance to the legislature, which must craft, debate, and vote on a budget for the next biennium, which will begin on July 1.
Rep. Lavielle said that she is hopeful that many of the substantive structural changes, including reforms to state labor costs, that she and colleagues in the House Republican caucus have consistently proposed over the last several years will be incorporated into the budget ultimately proposed by the legislature. “We are ready to work together with our colleagues across the aisle on a bipartisan solution that will restore the health of Connecticut’s finances and economy,” she said.

Rep. Lavielle: Governor’s Proposal to Shift Teacher Pension Costs Means Property Tax Increases

Posted on February 3, 2017 by rjoslyn


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HARTFORD –State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143), the House Ranking Member of the General Assembly’s Education Committee, expressed serious concerns about the impact on municipal budgets of Governor Dannel Malloy’s proposal to shift onto cities and towns one-third – about $407 million next year – of the state’s annual cost of teachers’ pensions.  Currently, teachers contribute 6% of their salary towards their pensions, and state government covers the rest.

 “This proposal is a major tax increase in disguise,” said Rep. Lavielle, who warned of such a possibility after the administration’s municipal mandate relief announcement earlier this week. “Shifting such a massive cost to towns and cities means an enormous hit to municipal budgets.  While it makes the state budget look better on paper, the total expense is still borne by Connecticut’s taxpayers. And it will also substantially increase their tax burden: if more than $400 million must come out of municipal revenues to be sent to the state next year, towns and cities will somehow have to make up for the revenues they have lost. In many cases, this will mean significant increases in property taxes.  Municipal officials and taxpayers should prepare for a stunning blow to their finances if this proposal goes through.”

 The proposal does not affect either the contribution that teachers themselves make to the pension fund or the retirement benefits they receive.

 Governor Malloy is scheduled to deliver his 2018-2019 budget proposal on February 8. It is meant to provide guidance to the legislature, which must develop and vote on a biennial state budget during the current legislative session, which ends on June 7.

Rep. Lavielle Welcomes Governor’s Mandate Relief Proposals, but Remains Wary of Budget Uncertainty for Cities and Towns

Posted on January 31, 2017 by rjoslyn


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HARTFORD – After Governor Dan Malloy’s Tuesday press conference where he announced certain components of his forthcoming state budget proposal, State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) welcomed the attention that the governor is finally giving to municipal mandate relief, while also expressing apprehension for what the state budget may have in store for Connecticut’s cities and towns.

“It is absolutely a step in the right direction for Governor Malloy to be considering the needs of cities and towns by proposing to relieve them from cumbersome and costly mandates, a policy I have long supported,” said Rep. Lavielle. “However, I remain concerned that substantial cuts to municipal aid and possibly forced regionalization measures continue to be on the table. Facilitating regionalization that municipalities voluntarily choose to pursue is mandate relief. Requiring regionalization for towns and cities that don’t want to do it is not.

“While the governor spoke today about relieving several specific mandates, he also said that he would be issuing more proposals in areas including the regionalization of educational services in the coming days,” said Rep. Lavielle. “Municipal leaders from towns and cities all over our region and the state have told me that the uncertainty about the levels of state funding they can expect for education, infrastructure, and even teacher retirement contributions is making it more difficult than ever for them to prepare their budgets and fund their ongoing operations. Many see the potential significant cuts to their funding as a kind of property tax increase in disguise. Today’s mandate relief proposals were encouraging and I welcome them, but this uncertainty for our towns remains to be addressed.”

Posted on January 30, 2017 by rjoslyn


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HARTFORD – At a public hearing in front of the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee, State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) questioned her colleague, State Rep. Fred Camilo (R-151).  Rep. Camilo testified in support of her bill, H.B. 5773, an act requiring legislative approval for all rail and bus fare increases.

Rep. Lavielle and Rep. Camilo had each been among a group of mostly Republican legislators who circulated a petition opposing last year’s Metro-North fare increase instituted by the Department of Transportation (DOT) after their operating budget was cut in the governor’s budget.  Neither Governor Malloy nor the Majority Party responded to the thousands who had signed the petition or sought an alternative source of revenue because they had no obligation or incentive to intervene.

In response, Rep. Lavielle introduced H.B. 5773, a measure that would protect commuters from paying for deficiencies in the state budget and make legislators accountable for fare increases.

Watch the clip right here!

To track this bill and any other legislation, visit the home page of this website, click “Basic Bill and Document Search” and type in the bill number. Watch Rep. Lavielle and the rest of the CT General Assembly live at www.ct-n.com.

Protecting Commuters: Public Hearing on Stopping Future Unfair Fare Increases

Posted on January 26, 2017 by rjoslyn


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Many of you told me how upset you were last year when the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced another Metro-North fare hike beginning December 1, and you were right. The increase represented neither service improvements nor rising costs, but were, rather, a means of making commuters pay for a deficiency in the overall state budget.

Because so many of my constituents commute to New York City and other places for their livelihoods, I refused to let this happen without a fight. I formed a group of 18 legislators who worked together to circulate a petition, which many of you signed, on the morning trains and online. And we submitted a concrete proposal to the governor and legislative leadership for an alternative to the fare hike that would have generated revenues without imposing new obligations on commuters or taxpayers.

Majority legislative leaders never responded to our proposal. One likely reason: they didn’t have to. This is because the Connecticut DOT, an executive branch agency, can act unilaterally under the governor’s authority to increase mass transit fares, and the legislature has no accountability for these decisions.

That’s why I have introduced a bill that would require legislative approval to increase rail or bus fares.

This legislation, HB 5773, is aimed at protecting commuters from fare increases that bring them no benefits.  Although it wouldn’t prevent every future increase, fare hike proposals would be subject to floor debate and public vote, a process that of course takes time, and, above all, would make every supporting legislator accountable for their votes to increase mass transit fares.

This Monday, January 30, at 11:00 A.M., the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee will hold a public hearing in Hartford for H.B. 5773 in the Legislative Office Building, Room 1E.

* * * * * *

Here’s how you can make sure your opinion on this bill counts:

Submit your written testimony on this commuter protection bill at tratestimoney@cga.ct.gov, and please be sure to copy me at gail.lavielle@cga.ct.gov.  Your testimony can be as brief as you like. Just include your name and town. Refer to the bill as HB 5773 and mention it in your subject line.

If you’d like to testify in person, the hearing will be held on Monday at 11 AM in Room 1E of the Legislative Office Building.

For a copy of the bill, click here.

I’m here to help with any questions, so please call my office at (860) 240 8700 or email me at gail.lavielle@cga.ct.gov if you’d like to discuss this or any other issue further. I always appreciate hearing from you.

The Next State Budget: Beware of Taxes in Disguise

Posted on January 23, 2017 by rjoslyn


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With the opening of Connecticut’s 2017 legislative session has come a new certainty: there’s no longer any denial that the state is in a severe financial crisis. The crisis is not new, but its acknowledgement by the administration and the legislative majority is.

Connecticut’s precarious financial situation will drive all policy decisions. The reality is incontrovertible: despite the two largest tax increases in the state’s history since 2011, a deficit of about $3.5 billion is projected for the next biennium, which begins on July 1.

The legislature’s partisan balance is now near parity, with the Democrats retaining a razor-thin majority, so budget negotiations may consider more alternatives, and perhaps be longer, than usual. We have already seen clues about what the first volleys will look like.

Addressing the General Assembly on January 4, Governor Malloy did not mention the deficit per se, but he did say that his priority was restoring stability and predictability to the state’s finances. He proposed three avenues for doing that: 1) spending cuts and efficiencies; 2) negotiating with public-sector unions to reduce the costs of pensions and benefits; and 3) reallocating municipal aid, particularly education funding, among towns.

Is this enough? What’s missing? What’s between the lines? What should we expect as the session unfolds?

The state has a longstanding spending problem, so cutting spending is essential, but it must be done strategically and by itself isn’t enough. Cuts that are structural and sustainable over time are required. They will need to be accompanied by expansion of the tax base through an economic development program that will almost certainly include tax reductions designed to attract businesses of all sizes.

As for labor costs, they represent more than a third of the state budget and continue to grow while tax pressures increase and services decline. Labor negotiations are an executive branch function. If the governor does make headway on substantially reducing benefits costs, this would not only lower current operating expenses, but also slow the growth of Connecticut’s massive unfunded retirement liabilities.

So far, so good, for the most part. The third item in the speech, however, is focused not on reducing persistent deficits by balancing spending, revenue, and debt, but instead on shifting funds among communities. While he didn’t say so precisely, the governor suggested that existing state funding should be moved to the state’s largest cities. This could mean widespread cuts to many towns and even to other cities.

For municipalities that have already felt the blow of the $20 million in midyear cuts ordered by the governor last month, the concerns raised by this idea are particularly glaring. Chief among them is that municipal aid cuts are like property taxes in disguise: towns must find the missing money somewhere. The potential ramifications of higher local taxes include increased out-migration of retirees and declines in property values.

Another concern stems from statements by both Governor Malloy and Democratic majority leaders that funding should be cut for towns that haven’t regionalized services to save money. Voluntary regionalization is one thing. Regionalization forced by the state is another. For example, a recent legislative proposal from the administration that requires regional consolidation of all municipal health departments would cost many towns four times as much as they now pay to maintain their own local departments. Is this what is meant by regional savings?

Yet another concern is what has so far been left out of the discussion. Relief from costly and cumbersome mandates to help towns reduce their expenses should be an imperative. New legislation should also allow multiple towns seeking to consolidate services to override obstacles posed by the existence of separate union contracts. Neither of these matters seems to be on the front burner now, but we must make sure they get there as the session moves forward, because both could mitigate or cancel out the effect of town aid cuts.

While none of this augurs well for smaller towns, the prospects for cities like Norwalk and Stamford, long gravely shortchanged by the state’s education cost sharing formula, remain uncertain. These and other inequities must be addressed and not disregarded as they have been for years.

Finally, another budget idea, all too familiar in recent years, has reemerged into plain view just in the last week. The Senate’s Democratic President suggested that new taxes might be necessary, and Governor Malloy and the House Speaker said that they “wouldn’t take new taxes off the table”.

Although the legislature, not the governor, ultimately determines the budget, the first step in the process is for the governor to provide his guidance. He will deliver his proposal on February 8. Despite the many promises to the contrary made before last November’s legislative elections, it’s a fair bet that new taxes will be among its major features — whether in plain view or in disguise.

Rep. Lavielle on Face the State

Posted on January 23, 2017 by rjoslyn


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Last Sunday morning, Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) appeared on WFSB’s Face the State with Dennis House and Susan Raff to discuss recent cuts to education aid in Connecticut.

The week before Christmas 2016, the Malloy administration announced how much each town’s education aid would be cut, based on state budget cuts and changes to the Education Cost Sharing formula.  Towns in Fairfield County were hit hardest with these cuts.  Greenwich lost 90% of its education aid, while Wilton, Westport, and Fairfield lost almost half of theirs.

Rep. Lavielle condemned the Governor and the majority party for poor budgeting and reckless spending which has caused instability and unpredictability in Connecticut.  She explained that the biggest problem with this, aside from the obvious detriment to public schoolchildren, was that these cuts were a “surprise.”  Towns responsibly budget for the fiscal year and include expected aid from the state.  They are now left with a gaping hole in their budgets because of the removal of these funds.

The only answer for towns is to respond with filling this financial hole in other ways – by raising your property taxes.

You can watch Rep. Lavielle discuss these issues here at this link.

A New Session, A New Context, and New Responsibilities

Posted on January 10, 2017 by rjoslyn


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The 2017 Connecticut legislative session opened on Wednesday, January 4. The occasion signaled a new day: for the first time in decades, the two parties are essentially at parity. In the 151-member House, the Democrats have a majority of only six seats, which means that just three votes can shift the majority on a bill. The Senate is now evenly split, with the Lieutenant Governor, who is a Democrat, casting the deciding vote in a tie. In committees, all of which are joint House/Senate and where the most important policy decisions are made, there will be a difference between parties of only one or, at most, two seats.

 

This situation should augur well for collaborative work across the political aisle, in the best interest of the state and its residents. I hope it does.

 

In this new and promising context, I’d like to share with you my session assignments, which I believe position me well to focus on the issues that are of most importance to our district, and to do so with the authority that accompanies a leadership role.

 

Assignments: A Combination of Leadership and Policy Roles

 

As legislators gain seniority, we have opportunities both to serve in caucus leadership and to lead in policy at the committee level. During this session, I am pleased to have been appointed to do both.

 

I have been named an Assistant Republican Leader. This should facilitate building bipartisan coalitions to get legislation passed and ensure that our district’s concerns are front and center in key policy discussions within our caucus leadership team. In the newly balanced legislature, both parties will be bringing fully developed policy platforms to the table, and it’s more important than ever for our district’s viewpoint to be represented. As part of this leadership role, I will be serving on our caucus’ Screening Committee. We review all bills sent by committees to the House floor well before any debate, and discuss and draft potential amendments and referrals to additional committees.

 

I will continue as Ranking Member of the Education Committee. One of the legislature’s largest committees, Education should be a focal point for activity this year. The need for equitable education funding, an issue I have been advocating to resolve for years, figured prominently in Governor Malloy’s speech on the session’s opening day. I hope to make progress on this, in a way that is fair and makes sense for all types of districts. Significant mandate relief must be part of any discussion, and I have already begun building bipartisan support for legislation in this area. Special education funding, student assessment, and workforce development will also be key agenda items.

 

I will also continue to serve on the Transportation Committee, where I will be heavily involved in the process of defining goals, priorities, and funding solutions for improving our transportation infrastructure. I believe that the economic importance of southwestern Connecticut and the large numbers of daily commuters traveling through our area justify allocating significant financial resources to Metro-North, as well as our major regional arteries. I will continue to advocate vigorously for making our region’s transportation infrastructure, including the Danbury Branch Line, a priority for the state. I will also devote significant attention to passing “lockbox” legislation to protect transportation funding, restricting the DOT’s authority to increase mass transit fares, and resolving the DMV’s persistent service issues.

 

After spending three terms on the Appropriations Committee. I will be serving on the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee, where I will be working on tax policy, ensuring that revenue projections are realistic, and bonding, particularly transportation bonding. Because spending continues to outpace revenues, even after the historic tax increases of 2011 and 2015, Connecticut is facing a deficit of more than $3 billion in the next biennium, and a current deficit as well. If we don’t resolve the persistent structural deficit, we won’t be able to fund our critical needs in areas like transportation, education, and social services. While controlling spending is essential, we must at the same time expand our tax base, and this entails finding opportunities for tax relief that will attract businesses and jobs and help older members of the population retire here. It will take strong bipartisan collaboration to find solutions.

 

In addition to my specific committee work, I will also be addressing a number of issues that remain important to the state and to our region. These include: shaping a sound and dynamic economic development policy; addressing the state’s precipitously high level of unfunded liabilities; reducing tuition costs and improving transparency in our public higher education system; improving services for people with intellectual disabilities and their families; opposing one-size-fits-all efforts to force regionalization of certain services; and ensuring protection of open space and our local water supply and supporting historic preservation.

 

As always, I will be sending you regular updates on important legislative developments. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions or concerns. I am always happy to hear from you.

 

Lavielle Assumes Expanded Leadership Role in General Assembly

Posted on January 5, 2017 by rjoslyn


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HARTFORD – State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143), who was sworn in for her fourth term in the Connecticut House of Representatives on Wednesday, has been appointed by House Republican Leader Themis Klarides (R-114) as an Assistant Republican Leader, giving her significant influence in crafting and passing legislation.  She will also continue as Ranking Member of the General Assembly’s Education Committee.  Leader Klarides also assigned her to two other powerful committees; Finance, Revenue, and Bonding, and Transportation.

Rep. Lavielle will also sit on the House Republicans’ Screening Committee, which reviews all bills that are sent to the House floor.

 

Rep. Lavielle will have more influence in her fourth term in the State House

“Gail has been a tireless and effective advocate for her district and for the state of Connecticut,” said Klarides.  “This session will see the closest margins between the majority and minority in recent memory.  I need a talented and dedicated team of leaders to assist me in working with the majority party.  Gail will be a key player in the House, making sure the General Assembly works to relieve the undue stress that government places on Connecticut families and businesses.”

Lavielle is honored to have been entrusted with these new responsibilities in the House.  “With near parity between the parties, this is a historic moment for the state of Connecticut,” she said.  “There has never been a better opportunity to work across the aisle to develop policies that will restore Connecticut’s financial health, reduce the tax pressure on families and businesses, improve the economic climate and infrastructure, and preserve essential services.  I believe that these roles and appointments position me well to focus on the issues that are most important to Norwalk, Westport, and Wilton, and to do so with the authority that comes with a leadership role.”

Rep. Lavielle will serve in a House of Representatives with more partisan balance, with 72 Republicans to 78 Democrats.

State Representative Gail Lavielle represents the 143rd district, which includes parts of Norwalk, Wilton, and Westport. She is Ranking Member of the General Assembly’s Education Committee and a member of the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding, and Transportation.

PHOTO: Reps. Lavielle & Wilms Ring Bells for the Salvation Army Norwalk

Posted on December 22, 2016 by admin


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Norwalk, CTState Representatives Gail Lavielle (R-143) and Fred Wilms (R-142) participated in the Salvation Army’s annual Red Kettle Campaign by ringing bells last week to collect donations from local shoppers at the Norwalk Stop & Shop located at 380 Main Avenue. Funds raised by the legislators during the event, along with all donations collected during the Red Kettle Campaign, will go to local Salvation Army centers and help provide holiday dinners, clothing and toys for families in need. Funding sometimes stretches beyond the holiday season and donations can provide aid for families, seniors and the homeless throughout the year.

nowalk-bell-ringing-press

The Salvation Army operates 7,546 centers in communities across the United States. These include food distribution, disaster relief, rehabilitation centers, anti-human trafficking efforts, and a wealth of children’s programs. The Red Kettle Campaign began in 1891 and raises millions of dollars each year during the holiday season.

For more information on the program or to donate online, visit: www.salvationarmyusa.org.

 

Representatives Gail Lavielle and Fred Wilms to Ring Bells for Salvation Army in Norwalk on Dec. 15

Posted on December 7, 2016 by admin


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NorwalkState Representatives Gail Lavielle (R-143) and Fred Wilms (R-142) will participate in The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign by ringing bells at the Norwalk Stop & Shop on Thursday December 15 from 5:00pm-6:00pm.

The public is invited to support the cause with donations of any size. The Salvation Army provides food, clothing, comfort and care to local residents as well as people in need across the United States. Stop & Shop is located at 380 Main Avenue in Norwalk, CT.

WHO: State Representatives Gail Lavielle (R-143) and Fred Wilms (R-142)
WHAT: Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign bell ringing
WHEN: Thursday, December 15 from 5:00pm-6:00pm
WHERE: Stop & Shop, 380 Main Avenue, Norwalk
WHY: State Legislators will join fellow volunteers ringing bells to raise money for the Salvation Army this holiday season.

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MEDIA CONTACTS:

AmyLynn Thompson, House Republican Office, 860.240.8706
Alicia Mucha, House Republican Office, 860.240.1492

bell-ringing-december-2016

Spending By Any Other Name Would Cost As Much

Posted on October 20, 2016 by admin


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In 1992, an amendment imposing a spending cap on the state budget was added to the Connecticut constitution, following an affirmative vote by more than 80% of the voters. To implement the cap, the General Assembly was required to vote on its parameters, including guidelines for setting the cap and for the budget items to be classified as “spending” for purposes of inclusion under the cap.

After almost 25 years, the legislative vote on those parameters has still never taken place. In December 2015, a new law required that a commission be formed to recommend definitions for the spending cap’s parameters. The Spending Cap Commission has been meeting since March of this year.

While the Commission has reached tentative agreement on the indices for annually setting the cap, the question of what budget items should be included in the capped amount is still open. For example, there are several members who would like to exclude from the cap necessary contributions (which I believe must be scheduled and made) to the state’s massively underfunded employee retirement plans.

I believe strongly that it is essential to include under the cap all spending, except for debt service, which was specifically excluded by the constitutional amendment (and even then, I would include short-term debt service, because the state has often issued bonds to pay operating expenses, a practice I would like to see discontinued).

Connecticut’s constitutional spending cap was meant to protect taxpayers from being required to spend at levels beyond their means. Whether counted under the cap or not, all budget items still cost money, are still being spent, and are still funded by taxpayers. All budget items are subject to taxpayers’ ability and — because of the easy accessibility of tax domiciles in other states — to their willingness to pay for them.

If the legislature does, as I hope it will do, finally implement the spending cap, I hope that its parameters will not distort reality and will reflect an honest accounting of what is really being spent. Only then can it serve its purpose of requiring our state government to live within the means of the people who fund it.

After all, like Shakespeare’s rose, which by any other name would smell as sweet, spending by any other name costs just as much.

Last week, I testified for the second time before the Spending Cap Commission in Hartford, during the first of five public hearings held around the state this fall. You can read my testimony here.

As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me if you would like to discuss this or any other issue further.

 

From the Desk of Reps. Wilms and Lavielle: Walk Bridge Project

Posted on October 12, 2016 by admin


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Below you will find a joint statement issued by State Representative Fred Wilms and me regarding the Walk Bridge project in Norwalk. The Walk Bridge is a key part of the entire Northeast corridor that is used for rail transportation. In 2014, ridership on the New Haven Line topped at close to 40 million riders. Given the critical role of the Northeast Corridor, any kind of Walk Bridge failure is unacceptable. We believe that the best way to maximize the chances for success, both for the Walk Bridge and for Norwalk, is to explore more, not fewer, alternatives, including the full engagement of a team of technical and legal experts so that they can provide the best possible advice to Norwalk’s decision-makers. 

The Walk Bridge project has attracted enormous attention from Norwalk residents and businesses. This bridge is a key part of the entire Northeast corridor that is used by both Amtrak and Metro-North. In 2014, the New Haven Line carried almost 40 million riders. Given the critical role of the Northeast Corridor, any kind of Walk Bridge failure is unacceptable.

The Walk Bridge is also a mammoth project that will have a profound impact on Norwalk for years to come. With the Mall project, the Wall Street/POKO project, the East Avenue bridge project and the Yankee Doodle bridge project all happening almost simultaneously, many Norwalkers are legitimately concerned that Norwalk may become one big construction zone. Could Norwalk end up looking like the current Wall Street? Or if this is all done right, could Norwalk be on the verge of an amazing new chapter in our history?

Given the high stakes for Norwalk, the residents and businesses will benefit from the City’s advocacy on their behalf. Nowhere is this more imperative than with the Connecticut Department of Transportation (DOT). As the lead agency for state transportation projects (like the Walk Bridge) the DOT is staffed with talented engineers, who have demonstrated a real desire to reach out to the public.

But the DOT is not local, and it is in Norwalk’s best interests not to accept at face value what the DOT advises is best for the community. That’s why it’s important to have independent experts in an Owner’s Representative role who can go toe-to-toe with the DOT. The Mayor has taken a good first step by initiating the process for the City to hire such outside experts.

Their hiring is timely, given the recent release of the DOT Walk Bridge Environmental Assessment/Section 4(f) Evaluation/Environmental Impact Evaluation report. This report evaluates the many bridge options and evaluates a range of environmental and community impacts. While comprehensive in many ways, the report appears incomplete in others.

The DOT Walk Bridge report lays out four main bridge construction alternatives:

  1. No Action
  2. Rehabilitation
  3. Replacement – Moveable Bridge
  4. Replacement – Fixed Bridge

Option 1 – No Action. The DOT makes a persuasive case against this option. Any threat to the integrity of the entire Northeast Corridor from the Walk Bridge’s malfunctioning is unacceptable.

Option 2 – Rehabilitation. This also does not appear attractive. Of the ten key project requirements, this option meets none of them. It is also surprisingly costly, at $425-475 million.

Option 3 – Moveable bridges. All three alternatives meet ten out of ten project requirements and all are thoroughly evaluated. Of the three, DOT’s preference is for the Long Span Vertical Lift (LSVL) Bridge.

Option 4 – Fixed Bridges (Low-Level, Mid-Level and High-Level). These options are discussed only briefly and then dismissed. Of the three alternatives, the first two appear feasible, while the High-Level alternative appears infeasible, with a $1 billion price tag plus enormous environmental impacts.

The dismissal of the low and mid-level fixed bridge alternatives is confusing given their following positive attributes:

(1) Both the low- and mid-Level alternatives meet nine out of ten project needs. The only need they do not meet is “marine traffic”. This is despite the low-level bridge’s clearance at 4 feet higher than the current Walk Bridge and the mid-level bridge’s clearance at 18 feet higher.

(2) Both fixed bridges cost less than the LSVL bridge. The estimated low-level cost is $290-340 million; the mid-level cost is $320-370 million while the preferred LSVL Bridge is $425-460 million.

(3) Would the fixed bridges not require towers – thus creating less visual pollution?

(4) Would Metro-North and Amtrak prefer a bridge that never breaks down, because it never has to open and close? Would that not ensure more reliable train service?

Only in Table 2-3 of the report is there buried the briefest of explanations for the DOT’s rejection of the fixed bridge option. The sole reason the DOT provides: “Some boats will no longer be able to pass upstream of the Walk Bridge”. The DOT appears to view this reason as a conversation-stopper. We respectfully suggest that it be viewed instead as a conversation-starter. At the recent candidates’ forum in East Norwalk, US Congressman Jim Himes seemed willing to look at the related federal waterway decertification issues.

To ensure the best possible outcome for Norwalk, the City’s independent experts might want to evaluate the following:

  • Verify whether the traffic and community disruptions in SONO and East Norwalk have been fully vetted
  • Describe more fully how the Maritime Aquarium, the Iron Works Building, and the Lock Building, along with the restaurants/businesses on Washington Street, will coexist with the construction
  • Explore whether the effects on ownership or occupation of local properties can be minimized in any way
  • A thorough analysis of whether the LSVL Bridge is truly the best of the three moveable bridge alternatives
  • Requiring the DOT to evaluate fully the pros and cons of the low- and mid-level fixed bridges
  • Identification of additional side projects that would benefit Norwalk and that the DOT could undertake as compensation for Norwalk’s absorption of 100% of the Walk Bridge construction’s impact.

We believe that the best way to maximize the chances for success, both for the Walk Bridge and for Norwalk, is to explore more, not fewer, alternatives. To be open to thinking outside the box, rather than running on auto-pilot. And to engage fully, the team of technical and legal experts so that they can provide the best possible advice to Norwalk’s decision-makers.

Fred Wilms is the State Representative for the 142nd district, which encompasses Norwalk and New Canaan.

Gail Lavielle is the State Representative for the 143rd district, which encompasses Norwalk, Westport, and Wilton.

Rep. Lavielle Offers Testimony to Spending Cap Commission

Posted on October 6, 2016 by admin


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In 1992, an amendment imposing a spending cap on the state budget was added to the Connecticut constitution, following an affirmative vote by more than 80% of the voters. To implement the cap, the General Assembly was required to vote on its parameters, including guidelines for setting the cap and for the budget items to be included under the cap.

After almost 25 years, the legislative vote has still never taken place. In December 2015, a new law in December required that a new commission be formed to develop recommendations for the spending cap’s parameters. The commission has been meeting and deliberating since March of this year.

Yesterday, I testified for the second time before the Spending Cap Commission in Hartford, during the first of five public hearings to be held around the state this fall, as the Commission decides on recommendations it will make to the General Assembly for consideration during the next legislative session. Following is my testimony:

Testimony

Spending Cap Commission

October 5, 2016

Good afternoon. Thank you for your work on this critical subject. I am pleased that you have made progress on developing the definitions for two of the terms that are necessary for implementing the state’s constitutional spending cap.

I testified before you at your hearing last April, and I have returned because of the importance I attach to the integrity and rigor of the spending cap. I have a question about one of the two definitions you are offering for consideration, and comments about the third.

Increase in inflation

Your proposed definition includes the phrase “increase in the consumer price index for urban consumers”. Perhaps limiting the CPI index to urban residents needs further explanation.

General budget expenditures

As I did when I testified before you last, I want to recall the original purpose of the constitutional spending cap, which was to protect taxpayers by preventing them from being required to spend more than they can reasonably afford. This is a principle that I believe should guide the work of both this commission and the General Assembly. It aligns spending with a criterion several of you have spoken of as “ability to pay”.

To it, I would add another criterion that we might call “willingness to pay”. This is crucial to consider, when the disparities among states in terms of their tax environments are significant. It is naïve to believe that people who have the resources to move elsewhere or merely to change their domiciles will not do so if their financial obligations to Connecticut become overly onerous. It happens in Fairfield County all the time. This is a loss, because the state needs people who pay the taxes that fund infrastructure, education, and services for the neediest. Denying the existence of the phenomenon achieves nothing but depletion of the state’s financial resources. We can’t, of course, quantify willingness, but its importance underscores the necessity of implementing the cap and doing it honestly.

By that, I mean that an honest accounting of what is really being spent is necessary. Budget items that do not fall under the cap are still money, they are still being spent, and they are still funded by taxpayers. Excluding non-emergency items like pension contributions, debt service, expenses related to federal mandates, supplemental educational aid, one-time programs, and Medicaid costs destroys the integrity and usefulness of the cap. All of these cost money. All are funded by taxpayers.

Together they are subject to taxpayers’ ability and, yes, their willingness to pay for them.

I urge you to recognize this, and to respect Connecticut’s taxpayers by implementing a spending cap that does not distort reality and that requires our state government to live within the means of the people who fund it.

Lavielle: Rail Fare Increase Decision Ignored and Disrespected the People of Connecticut

Posted on October 4, 2016 by admin


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HARTFORD — State Representative Gail Lavielle (R-143) expressed disappointment in the CT Department of Transportation’s (DOT) decision to increase rail fares by 6 percent (5 percent, plus a previously scheduled 1 percent increase) on December 1. Further, she was sharply critical of the unwillingness of the administration and majority legislative leaders to listen to public opinion and to consider alternative proposals.

“The decision to increase rail fares is disappointing, but the unwillingness of majority legislative leaders and the administration to address or even to acknowledge widespread public opposition to the increase is far more disturbing,” said Rep. Lavielle. “Eighteen legislators submitted to the governor, legislative leadership, and the DOT Commissioner a letter proposing an alternative to the fare increase that would not involve service reductions, along with almost 1,800 petition signatures. We received no response, no acknowledgement, not even an official refusal to consider our proposal. This is disrespectful to the people of Connecticut, and demonstrates that listening to commuters is not a priority for either the legislative majority or the administration.”

Explaining the rationale for its decision to increase fares, the DOT stated in its announcement: “Almost 400 people commented on the proposed fares.  While some opposed a fare increase of any kind, there were no recommendations to cut service.” Rep. Lavielle noted that this statement did not tell the whole story.

“The DOT’s rationale for its decision assumes that money to replace the cuts ordered for its own budget could not be found in other state budget accounts,” said Rep. Lavielle. “While the DOT itself does not have the authority to find the money elsewhere, our proposal demonstrated that other possibilities exist. It is disingenuous to say that the only choices are fare hikes or service reductions. The public needs to know the truth. The $5.9 million in revenue that the fare increase is expected to raise can be recovered from other accounts in the state budget. The only obstacle is lack of political will.”

Rep. Lavielle noted that two of the recipients of the proposal letter and petition did respond by taking concrete action. House Minority Leader Rep. Themis Klarides (R-114) and Senate Minority Leader Sen. Len Fasano (R-34) wrote to Governor Malloy to request that the scope of the legislature’s September 28 special session be expanded to include transit fares, among other topics. Their request was denied, both through press statements from the administration and majority legislative leaders, and on the Senate floor, where majority legislators unanimously voted down a resolution to expand the scope of the session.

Rep. Lavielle also noted that in addition to the 18 House Republican legislators who submitted the proposal letter, several others of both parties representing the three other legislative caucuses spoke against the increase at the public hearing held by the DOT in Stamford. “The opposition to this increase was widespread and certainly crossed party lines,” said Rep. Lavielle, “and the disrespect shown to constituents was nonsectarian. The people of Connecticut should not take this sitting down.”

To read the letter submitted by Rep. Lavielle and 17 other legislators, click here.

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State Rep. Gail Lavielle represents Norwalk, Westport, and Wilton. She is Ranking Member of the General Assembly’s Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation and a member of the Transportation Committee.

Putting Out Fires is Not an Economic Development Strategy

Posted on September 30, 2016 by admin


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Yesterday, the General Assembly convened in special session to vote on a deal designed to keep Sikorsky in Connecticut. My remarks on the House floor are in the attached video.

Sikorsky employs more than 7,000 people here and does business with about 300 Connecticut suppliers. It’s a key player in the state’s economy. Recently, it won an important federal government contract to manufacture a new helicopter, and as a recently acquired subsidiary of Lockheed Martin, it explored possible manufacturing sites in other states, including several where its parent already had facilities.

In a briefing earlier this week, Sikorsky management told us that it would cost the company $400 million more to stay in Connecticut than it would to move. As has so often happened, Connecticut had to act to save itself, instead of to create new opportunities. Hence the deal.

Even economically successful states do engage in incentive deals from time to time (not generally a solution I prefer). But they use them only as a supplement to sound economic development policies, based on attractive and consistent tax structures for all businesses across the board, reasonable regulations, sustained investment in essential infrastructure, and aggressive outreach to new businesses.

Unfortunately, Connecticut doesn’t have a fundamental, broad-based economic development policy in place, and this policy void forces it to rely almost exclusively on deals like this one with Sikorsky, just to hang on to the businesses that are already here. Even more unfortunately, this makes businesses not receiving this largesse feel slighted, while also raising the question, “Where does it end?”

Earlier this year, my House and Senate Republican colleagues and I proposed a range of measures designed to improve Connecticut’s economic climate by reducing both the costs and regulatory obstacles to doing business here. This week, our minority leaders formally requested that the scope of the special session be expanded to include discussion of several of these proposals, but majority leadership denied their request.

It was a missed opportunity. Sound economic development is not a series of rescue missions. It’s something that should be implemented actively every day with sound business-friendly policies firmly in place — not on an emergency basis. Emergencies are high-risk situations, and they are very costly too. Connecticut needs a coherent economic development policy, and now is not a moment too soon.

As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like to discuss this or any other issue further.

Lavielle Named “Legislative Champion” for Fifth Consecutive Year by CT League of Conservation Voters

Posted on September 22, 2016 by admin


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HARTFORD — State Representative Gail Lavielle (R-143) has been named a “Legislative Champion” by the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters (CTLCV) for the fifth consecutive year. Of the 14 legislators to receive the recognition this year, she was commended particularly for her leadership on issues affecting public water supply during the 2016 legislative session.

“Environmental stewardship is always a priority for me, as it is for many of my constituents,” said Lavielle. “I firmly believe that conservation of natural resources goes hand in hand with conservation of financial resources, and that should underpin everything we do in the General Assembly. The League of Conservation Voters is a valuable resource and does excellent work, and I am honored to be recognized by such a distinguished organization.”

During the 2016 session, Lavielle was a vocal supporter and co-sponsor of a constitutional amendment resolution protecting land set aside by the state for conservation. She also actively supported or co-sponsored bills protecting the public water supply, reducing the use of pesticides that are harmful to essential pollinators, improving the approval process for the statewide water plan, and prohibiting the use of harmful flame retardant chemicals used in children’s products.

The CTLCV is a bipartisan, statewide, nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting Connecticut’s environment by making it a priority for elected officials. CTLCV works with the state’s environmental advocacy groups to identify, highlight, and track important bills that affect Connecticut’s natural resources, including air, water, wildlife, open space, and health. Following each legislative session, it recognizes a number of lawmakers for their leadership in protecting the environment by naming them Legislative Champions.

State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) represents Norwalk, Westport, and Wilton. She is Ranking Member of the General Assembly’s Education Committee and of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, and a member of the Appropriations and Transportation Committees.

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Lavielle: Statement on CT Supreme Court’s Review of Education Decision

Posted on September 20, 2016 by admin


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HARTFORD — Today the Connecticut Supreme Court agreed to accept both the state’s and the plaintiff’s applications to appeal the recent decision by Superior Court Judge Moukawsher on education funding and policy in Connecticut. As a result, the Supreme Court will be reviewing all aspects of the Superior Court’s decision.

State Representative Gail Lavielle (R-143), Ranking Member of the General Assembly’s Education Committee, issued the following statement on the Supreme Court’s announcement.

“This is not a time to identify winners or losers in this matter. The Supreme Court’s review may be a very long process, and until it is completed, the state’s and the legislature’s obligations remain unaffected by the Superior Court’s decision.

“While the issue of education funding, which is central to the case, therefore remains unresolved, it is an area where constantly changing legislation and policy over the years, coupled with grave deficiencies in the state budget, have created acute inequities or climates of great funding uncertainty in many school districts.

“In Fairfield County, for example, Norwalk and Stamford continue to receive a level of state funding that is calculated primarily on the basis of their grand lists. This means that both have received substantially less than other municipalities that are similar to them in all respects apart from property values, including median income and poverty levels. At the same time, local governments in our area’s smaller towns like Wilton, Westport, New Canaan, and Weston, having been taken by surprise at the end of their budget seasons last spring by massive education funding cuts, now face great uncertainty about further cuts if the state’s budgetary situation continues to deteriorate. There are, of course, many districts with other types of funding-related problems around the state.

“As it was before the Superior Court decision, it is still critical today to resolve these funding issues. Norwalk and Stamford, and other districts in similar situations, should receive equitable funding, and our smaller towns with high-performing school districts need both more certainty and relief from costly one-size-fits-all mandates.

“There is nothing to stop the General Assembly from addressing these specific longstanding matters in the 2017 session, nothing except political will. I hope that there will be no movement in the legislature to use the Supreme Court review process as an excuse to delay or hinder reasonable action in these areas once again. We have a duty to set sound policy for the state’s public education funding system – not just Education Cost Sharing (ECS), but also categories like magnet schools, charter schools, and Priority and Alliance Districts. The legislature has work to do in this area, regardless of the timing and outcome of the Supreme Court’s review, and we should get on with it.”

State Rep. Gail Lavielle represents Norwalk, Westport, and Wilton. She is Ranking Member of the General Assembly’s Education Committee.

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Lavielle, House Republican Legislators Testify in Opposition to Proposed 2016 Transit Fare Increases, Document Commuter Opposition, and Propose Alternatives

Posted on September 16, 2016 by admin


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Stamford – In a concerted effort to stop the CT Department of Transportation’s proposal to raise Metro-North fares by 5% this December, State Representative Gail Lavielle, joined by House Republican legislators, State Representatives Brenda Kupchick, Laura Devlin, Mike Bocchino, Dave Rutigliano, Fred Camillo, and J.P. Sredzinski, testified at the public hearing held Wednesday at the UConn Stamford Campus Auditorium.

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“I am here for my constituents today,” said Lavielle. “Commuters aren’t getting anything back from these increases. Instead, it’s a deficiency in the state budget that the public is being asked to pay for.”

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Over the last few weeks, the legislators have met with early morning rail commuters on the train station platforms and riding the trains, and speaking with them about the unfair increase. At the public hearing, Lavielle and House legislative colleagues presented signed petitions containing more than 1,700 signatures of constituents who join in the opposition to the proposed hikes.

At the public hearing, Lavielle presented a letter addressed to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, legislative leaders and CTDOT Commissioner James Redeker to Commissioner Redeker following her testimony. In the letter, Lavielle and 17 other House Republican legislators write about their objection to the proposed fare hike, explaining that rail commuters are being “forced to pay for gaps in the state budget that was passed by the legislative majority this spring.”

The letter stated, “The increase is unfair, and it is unnecessary. In a year when majority legislators and the administration have insisted that the state budget includes no new taxes, it imposes a new tax on one group of people who, as a result, have no choice but to spend more money just to be able to go to work.”

The lawmakers explain in the letter that the DOT acknowledged from the start that the proposed fare increase has nothing to do with either service improvements or cost increases, but rather, is due exclusively to a $37 million cut to the agency’s budget as a direct consequence of the 2017 budget passed by the legislative majority last May.

Lavielle also noted during her testimony that rather than merely objecting, the group of 18 House lawmakers is also offering alternatives for consideration in place of the fare hikes on rail commuters. Among their suggestions is eliminating the tax exemption on the sale of tickets to events at the XL Center in Hartford, the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, and the Harbor Yard Ballpark in Bridgeport. Lavielle added, “Recreational activities are optional, but for these rail commuters, taking the train to work is not an option, and they are hostages to this steep 5% increase.”

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State Rep. Gail Lavielle represents Norwalk, Westport, and Wilton. She is Ranking Member of the General Assembly’s Education Committee and a member of the Appropriations and Transportation Committees.

Lavielle, House Republican Legislators Submit Letter Opposing Rail Fare Hikes

Posted on September 16, 2016 by admin


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State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) and fellow House Republican Legislators submitted the below letter to Governor Malloy, CT DOT Commissioner James Redeker, and legislative leaders, stating their opposition to the proposed 2016 transit fare increase.

Rep. Lavielle: Testimony in Opposition to Proposed 2016 Transit Fare Increases

Posted on September 15, 2016 by admin


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State Representative Gail Lavielle (R-143) and fellow House Republican legislators attended the public hearing on Metro-North train fare hikes, held at the UConn Stamford Campus Auditorium. Legislators have collected signatures from rail commuters who oppose the fare hikes. Rep. Lavielle testified at the 4pm public hearing and presented the signatures, as well as a constructive alternative to the fare hikes, to DOT Commissioner, James Redeker. The legislators will also be submitting their proposal and the signatures to Governor Malloy and legislative leaders in the coming days. Legislators have been collecting signatures at www.nofareincrease.com .

Testimony in Opposition to Proposed 2016 Transit Fare Increases

DOT Seeks Public Input for Walk Bridge Project in Norwalk

Posted on September 12, 2016 by admin


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DOT Seeks Public Input for Walk Bridge Project in Norwalk
Please see the below press release issued by the CT Department of Transportation (DOT) regarding the opportunity for public input on the Walk Bridge replacement project in Norwalk and scheduled public hearing.

Walk Bridge Replacement Project Environmental Assessment Released

45-Day Comment Period Begins – Public Hearing on October 6

      The Environmental Assessment for the Walk Railroad Bridge replacement project in Norwalk has been published, triggering a 45-day comment period that will include a public hearing on Thursday, October 6.

The analysis – officially the Environmental Assessment/Section 4(f) Evaluation/Environmental Impact Evaluation (EA/EIE) – presents alternatives for the replacement of the Walk Bridge and identifies a preferred alternative: a Long Span Vertical Lift Bridge.

The purpose of the Walk Bridge replacement project is to replace the deteriorating railroad bridge over the Norwalk River in Norwalk. One of the oldest movable bridges in the country, the Walk Bridge is a critical transportation link on the Northeast Corridor between Washington, D.C., New York City, and Boston, and carries four tracks of Metro-North Railroad, Amtrak and freight service.

Initially, more than 70 design concepts were screened to identify feasible alternatives. A No Build (No Action) Alternative, Rehabilitation Alternative, Fixed Bridge Alternative and Movable Bridge Alternative were all considered. The No Build Alternative was studied in the EA/EIE as a baseline condition. The DOT held multiple meetings with stakeholders including federal and state agencies, the city of Norwalk, businesses, and the public to identify concerns and considerations in selecting a replacement alternative.

The EA/EIE, published by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is available for review at the DOT, the Western Connecticut Council of Governments, Norwalk City Hall Town Clerk’s Office, and Norwalk Public Libraries, and on the Project Website at www.walkbridgect.com/environmental.

The selection of a Long Span Vertical Lift Bridge as the preferred alternative was based on a comparison of factors such as construction duration, risk, navigation, local road impacts, environmental footprint, long-term performance, aesthetic flexibility and cost as they relate to the project’s purpose and need statement. The Long Span Vertical Lift Bridge is the only alternative with both foundations proposed outside of the existing swing span limits, allowing the existing bridge to remain operational longer during construction and requiring a shorter rail track outage.

The new bridge will provide safe and reliable rail service and efficiencies of rail transportation while improving navigational capacity and dependability for marine traffic. It will be a redundant structure with two independent movable spans – each carrying two tracks – and will be designed and constructed to be resilient and sustainable for extreme weather events including storm surges and high winds.

The Walk Bridge replacement project includes railroad approaches from the east and west, totaling approximately one-half-track mile. The project also includes track, catenary, and signal work within the existing state right-of-way, extending from approximately the Washington Street Bridge in South Norwalk to approximately 300 feet east of the Fort Point Street Bridge in East Norwalk. The Fort Point Street Bridge will be replaced as part of the project.

Construction of the new Walk Bridge is anticipated to begin in mid-2018, based on the availability of funding. This project is expected to be undertaken with federal and state funds.

      During the 45-day public comment period beginning now through October 21, 2016, the public is encouraged to provide comments on the EA/EIE. DOT will conduct a public hearing on Thursday, October 6, at the Norwalk City Hall, Concert Hall at 125 East Avenue, Norwalk, CT. An open forum for informal discussions with department officials will begin at 6:00 P.M., followed by a formal presentation at 7:00 P.M.

The public hearing is being held to afford a full opportunity for public participation and to allow open discussion and comments. This hearing will provide an opportunity for oral testimony.

Written statements may also be submitted either at the public hearing via comment cards or delivered to:

Mark W. Alexander
Connecticut Department of Transportation
Bureau of Policy and Planning
2800 Berlin Turnpike, Newington, CT. 06131

Written statements should be delivered on or before October 21, 2016 and must be reproducible in black and white on paper that should not exceed 8 ½” x 11” in size. Public comment can also be submitted through the Walk Bridge Program’s website at www.walkbridgect.com/contact or via email at info@walkbridgect.com. These written statements will be made a part of the record of the public hearing. DOT will consider all oral and written comments received during the public comment period.

The meeting facility is ADA accessible. Free language assistance or sign interpretation may be requested by contacting the Program’s Public Information Office at (203) 752-1996 at least five (5) business days prior to the meeting. Efforts will be made to respond to requests for assistance.

More detailed information is available online at www.walkbridgect.com.

CT Early Childhood Alliance Names Rep. Lavielle a 2016 Children’s Champion

Posted on September 9, 2016 by admin


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NORWALK – The Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance is recognizing 29 state legislators as 2016 “Children’s Champions,” including Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143).

“It’s an honor to have been selected as a Children’s Champion by the CT Early Childhood Alliance,” said Rep. Lavielle.  “It is important that parents, caregivers, and teachers have access to quality resources and essential information in order to help children grow and develop during their formative years. As Ranking Member of the General Assembly’s Education Committee, I remain committed to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to develop policies that provide children the solid foundation they need to make the most of their education and lead happy, productive lives. I thank the Alliance for its recognition and especially for its work on behalf of Connecticut’s children.” Every year, the Alliance recognizes legislators for their leadership on issues that impact the well-being of Connecticut’s young children in the areas of healthy development, early care and education, nutrition, and safety.

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“Although much of the focus during the session was on filling holes in the state budget, a number of early childhood issues received attention,” said Merrill Gay, Executive Director of the CT Early Childhood Alliance. “Some very important early childhood issues were raised, and some good legislation did pass.”

Among the items passed this year: Repeal of the sales tax on diapers, which was included in the budget implementer and is set to take effect July 1, 2018; and House Bill 5466, which requires background checks and notice of convictions for any household member in a family child care home or group child care home. Important issues raised included paid family and medical leave, childhood obesity prevention, increased access to early childhood programs for homeless children, and recruitment and retention of the early childhood workforce.

Founded in 2002, the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance is a statewide organization committed to improving outcomes in the areas of learning, health, safety, and economic security for children ages birth to eight.

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State Rep. Gail Lavielle represents Norwalk, Westport, and Wilton. She is Ranking Member of the General Assembly’s Education Committee and a member of the Appropriations and Transportation Committees.

In Norwalk: Wilms, Lavielle Attend Back To School Night with Norwalk ACTS

Posted on September 7, 2016 by admin


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State Reps. Fred Wilms (left) and Gail Lavielle (right) attended a September 1 ‘Back To School Night’ hosted by Norwalk ACTS at the Stepping Stones Museum for Children.

The state lawmakers attended this free event, which was open to students of all ages, parents and educators to kick off the school year and prepare for children’s success.

Wilms and Lavielle can be reached at 800 842-1423, Fredreich.Wilms@housegop.ct.gov or Gail.Lavielle@housegop.ct.gov.

Norwalk ACTS is a diverse partnership of over 100 civic leaders, educators and organizations working collectively to achieve the mission of enriching and improving the lives and futures of all Norwalk’s children, cradle to career.

For more information visit: http://www.norwalkacts.org/.
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Lavielle Circulating Petition to Stop Proposed 5% Rail Fare Increase

Posted on September 2, 2016 by admin


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HARTFORD – State Representative Gail Lavielle (R-143) is circulating a petition to commuters in a concerted effort to stop the proposed 5% fare increase for all Metro-North and Shoreline East trains, which would take effect on December 1. For Metro-North commuters, the fare hike would be combined with a previously scheduled 1% increase, making the increase 6% in total.

The proposed fare increase is a direct result of the $37 million in cuts imposed on the Connecticut Department of Transportation (DOT) by the administration as part of the 2016-2017 revised state budget passed by majority legislators last May. In its announcement of the proposed increase, the DOT said that it expected the higher fares to generate $5.9 million.

“I will not let this go forward without a fight,” said Rep. Lavielle. “Commuters are not getting any improvement in their transit service in return for this increase. Instead, they’re being forced to pay for problems created by irresponsible management of the state budget. Metro-North passengers in particular already had to swallow 5% increases in 2012, 2013, and 2014, and 1% increases in 2015 and 2016. Because many commuters have no alternative for getting to work, they are hostages to these increases, and this is a hard hit to their household budgets. This isn’t right, and it isn’t fair.

“It’s not enough, however, just to protest. That’s why I am working together with several other members of my caucus to go the extra distance to help commuters voice their concerns and to propose other feasible ways for the state to address its budget issues that will not impose yet another unfair sacrifice on hardworking people who must use the trains every day.”

To help rail passengers make their voices heard, Rep. Lavielle and her colleagues have created a petition and over the coming days will be riding the trains to collect signatures from concerned commuters. The petition is also easily accessible online at www.nofareincrease.com.

The CT DOT has announced that public hearings will be held this month in six communities, including Stamford, New Haven, and Waterbury. Rep. Lavielle will attend at least one of the scheduled public hearings and present the signed petitions on behalf of those Metro-North and Shoreline East commuters opposed to the fare hikes, along with a letter to DOT Commissioner James Redeker, the governor, and legislative leaders proposing alternative budgetary solutions for avoiding the fare increase.

The DOT’s full public hearing schedule is posted at www.ct.gov/dot. The DOT is also accepting public comment by email through September 15 at dot.farecomments@ct.gov.

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State Rep. Gail Lavielle represents Norwalk, Westport, and Wilton. She is Ranking Member of the General Assembly’s Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation and a member of the Transportation Committee.

 

CT Sales Tax Free Week, 8/21-8/27

Posted on August 9, 2016 by admin


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With the start of another school year just around the corner, I wanted to remind you to take advantage of the upcoming “Tax Free Week” which runs from Sunday, August 21st through Saturday, August 27th.

This one-week event eliminates Connecticut’s 6.35% sales tax on clothing and footwear costing less than $100 per item.

Additionally, new and used college textbooks are exempt from the state 6.35% sales tax for students who present a valid college ID at the time of purchase.

Since sales tax is calculated after the use of any coupons or discounts, if the final price is less than $100, the sale is exempt from taxes. Clothing or footwear under $100 put on layaway is also tax-free.

Please note: The threshold for this benefit has been substantially reduced from $300 in previous years, and will only apply to clothing and footwear that costs less than $100.

Tax Free Week was first enacted in 2000, and applies to most clothing and footwear purchases intended for everyday use.

Goods not covered under the program include, but are not limited to:

  • Clothing or footwear specifically designed for athletic activities: football cleats, specialty boots for fishing, hiking, skiing and other activities, as well as wet suits, helmets and headbands, etc.
  • Accessories: jewelry, handbags, luggage, umbrellas, wallets, watches, etc.

Please consult with your local retailer, or visit the Department of Revenue Services website for a full list of qualifying and non-qualifying items.

Public Hearings on Proposed Health Insurance Rate Hikes

Posted on August 1, 2016 by admin


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The Connecticut Insurance Department is holding public hearings this week on proposed rate hikes requested by Connecticut’s biggest health insurers—Anthem, ConnectiCare and Aetna. Plans administered by these companies cover thousands of Connecticut workers and their families, with average  requested increases as high as 28 percent. The Insurance Department has the authority to accept or reject the rates.

There are two ways you can provide testimony on how these rate hikes will affect you and your family: in person, and in writing.

Testifying in person

Anthem Health Plans: Aug. 3, at 9 a.m.
ConnecticutCare Insurance Company: Aug. 4, at 9 a.m.
Aetna Insurance Company of CT: Aug. 4, at 1 p.m.

All  hearings will be held in Hartford at 153 Market Street, a public building that houses the Insurance Department, Capital Community College, the Hartford City Public Schools and the U.S. Social Security Office. There is validated parking for visitors using the Morgan Street Garage.

Submitting written testimony

If you are unable to attend but would like to share your concerns, you can submit public comment on each rate hike request here.

 

Rail & Bus Fare Hikes: New Public Hearing Schedule with Extended Hours

Posted on July 29, 2016 by admin


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As I wrote to you last week, the DOT will be holding public hearings in September on the proposed new rail and bus fare hikes.

Many of you had expressed concern that all of the hearings were being scheduled from 4 -7 pm, a time that conflicted directly with your work schedules. In response to requests in writing from me and other legislators and advocates, the DOT has revised the public hearing schedule in several venues, extending the hours until 9 pm, so that commuters will be able to testify in person. The DOT will also be accepting written submissions of testimony.

The new public hearing schedule was released late this afternoon, and I wanted to share it with you as soon as I received it.

Thursday, September 1, 2016
4 pm – 6 pm and 7 pm – 9 pm
Old Saybrook
Old Saybrook Town Hall
302 Main Street

Wednesday, September 7, 2016
4 pm – 7 pm
Hartford
Hartford Public Library
500 Main Street

Tuesday, September 13, 2016
11 am – 2 pm
Meriden
Meriden Town Hall
City Council Chamber
142 East Main Street

Tuesday, September 13, 2016
Waterbury
4 pm – 7 pm
Silas Bronson Library
267 Grand Street

Wednesday, September 14, 2016
4 pm – 6 pm and 7 pm – 9 pm
Stamford
UConn Stamford Campus Auditorium
One University Place

Thursday, September 15, 2016
4 pm – 6 pm and 7 pm – 9 pm
New Haven
New Haven Hall of Records, Room G-2
200 Orange Street

I will be sending you further information, including details about how to submit written testimony if you can’t speak at a hearing.

Lavielle Statement on Proposed Metro-North Fare Increases

Posted on July 22, 2016 by admin


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Lavielle Statement on Proposed Metro-North Fare Increases

Today, the Connecticut Department of Transportation (DOT) announced a proposed 5% fare increase on the main New Haven line and its branches, as well as on Shore Line East, that would take effect on December 1. It would be in addition to a 1% increase previously scheduled to take effect around the same time. The proposal also includes increases in CTtransit bus fares statewide. The DOT will hold public hearings on the increases during the coming months.

State Representative Gail Lavielle (R-143) issued the following statement in response to the announcement:

“The total 6% increase is substantial and will hit Metro-North rail commuters particularly hard. They already had to swallow 5% increases in 2012, 2013, and 2014, and 1% increases in 2015 and 2016, and when you add it all up, their daily rail fares have become a significant drag on their household budgets. Because many commuters have no alternative to taking the train, they are essentially hostages to these increases, and they and their families are definitely feeling the impact.

“The fare increase proposal is a direct result of the $37 million in cuts imposed on the DOT in the 2017 budget passed by the majority last May. It’s just one example of the consequences of budgetary policies that are not serving the state or its residents well. Policy changes that include realistic revenue assumptions, state labor cost reforms, spending rigorously focused on essential services, limited borrowing, and business-friendly tax structures can change the direction of the state’s finances and reduce the heavy burdens falling on hard working commuters and taxpayers across the state.

“I will oppose these fare increases and work with my colleagues on both sides of the political aisle to try to find a way to stop them from being implemented.”

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State Rep. Gail Lavielle represents Norwalk, Westport, and Wilton. She is Ranking Member of the General Assembly’s Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation and a member of the Transportation Committee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lavielle Op-Ed: Mileage Tax – Why Spend Money on Something Nobody Wants? And Why Didn’t the DOT Tell Us?

Posted on July 15, 2016 by admin


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There has been quite a lot of coverage lately about Connecticut’s interest in a mileage tax. Most of it focuses on how bad a mileage tax would be for the state. I agree, it would. People in Connecticut just can’t take on one more tax, and on top of that, a mileage tax raises too many privacy issues. But I don’t think that’s what the real story is.

The story is really about trust, transparency, and inappropriate use of scarce resources. Connecticut isn’t just joining other states to ask for federal money to study the mileage tax: it has actually committed to spending taxpayer dollars and to playing a lead role in the study should the grant be awarded. This is something the public needs to know.

In 2015, when the governor’s Transportation Finance Panel suggested that a mileage tax might be a viable course to pursue, legislative leaders from both parties made statements unequivocally opposing it, and the public displeasure was equally pronounced. This made the recent news of the grant application very surprising.

Many state lawmakers and the general public first learned about the application in a June 25 story in the Washington Post. The application was submitted by the Delaware Department of Transportation (DOT) on behalf of the I-95 Corridor Coalition, a consortium of 16 states. It proposes pilot programs in five states – Connecticut, Delaware, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and another to be determined – designed to learn more about implementing “mileage-based user fees”. The proposal includes developing model legislation.

The program’s estimated cost is $2.98 million. The application requests half that amount, $1.49 million, in federal funds, with individual states providing the rest in matching funds.

With a commitment of $300,000, Connecticut would pay more in cash than any other state. Delaware and Pennsylvania would each pay $290,000, and Vermont $30,000, for planning and analysis. Instead of cash, New Hampshire would use $580,000 in toll credits. Eleven of the consortium’s 16 states have no active role in the program.

When asked by the Connecticut media to explain the state’s role in the grant application, the DOT spokesperson said that Connecticut had no plans for implementing a mileage tax, but that the DOT had an “obligation” to seek federal funds for studies in order to do its job better. He said nothing about spending taxpayer money to get those funds or about leading the pack. Those details appeared only in the grant application, which is available online, although hard to find.

There is overwhelming opposition to the concept of a mileage tax. Moreover, essential services are being cut because the state’s budget is stretched beyond its limits. Under those circumstances, why was it so critical for the DOT to make these commitments? As a member of the consortium that submitted the application, Connecticut would presumably have access to the pilot program’s results, so why was it necessary to be a lead participant, especially in the face of such broad opposition?

As a Ranking Member of the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the DOT’s budget, I was not officially informed about the proposed financial commitment, and I have sent a letter to DOT Commissioner James Redeker requesting responses to these questions and others. I will share whatever information I receive.

I don’t believe there is a mileage tax in Connecticut’s near future, if for no other reason than that it’s a complicated and controversial undertaking, and, fortunately, no one seems to be even close to figuring out how to implement it. But I am extremely concerned about how the decision was made to pursue this study and to commit scarce and needed dollars to something that taxpayers and their representatives overwhelmingly oppose.

The clear message here is that the executive branch is determined for Connecticut to lead in studying the mileage tax concept, regardless of what taxpayers and their General Assembly representatives think about it. The proper course of action is for the DOT to withdraw its commitments from the grant proposal, and to improve the transparency of its communications with the legislature and the public.

State Rep. Gail Lavielle represents Norwalk, Westport, and Wilton. She is Ranking Member of the General Assembly’s Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation and a member of the Transportation Committee.

Lavielle to DOT: Why is CT Big Spender in Mileage Tax Grant Application?

Posted on July 14, 2016 by admin


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HARTFORD –State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) said that recent reports of Connecticut’s participation in a multi-state application for a federal grant to study the feasibility of a mileage tax do not tell the whole story. Citing the grant application itself, she expressed deep concern that Connecticut had not only joined other states in requesting a grant, but had committed to spending taxpayer funds and to taking a leading role in the study should the grant be awarded.

Rep. Lavielle, who is Ranking Member of the General Assembly’s Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, has written to Connecticut Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner James Redeker. Her letter calls for a full explanation of Connecticut’s commitments in light of the state’s straitened financial circumstances and of overwhelming opposition to the mileage tax by both the public and General Assembly leadership.

Rep. Lavielle said, “It is shocking that even though legislative leaders of both parties have expressed unequivocal opposition to the concept of the mileage tax, our DOT has committed to spending $300,000 in matching taxpayer funds – the highest cash amount promised by any participating state – on this study. While the grant application was submitted on behalf of 16 states and the District of Columbia, Connecticut also chose to be one of five states to propose running a pilot program. It’s extremely disappointing that these commitments were not communicated openly to the General Assembly and the public in Connecticut before they were covered by the national press.”

The federal grant application came to the attention of many Connecticut lawmakers and the general public in a June 25 story published by the Washington Post.

The application was submitted by the Delaware DOT on behalf of the I-95 Corridor Coalition, a consortium of 16 states. It proposes pilot programs in five states – Connecticut, Delaware, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and another to be determined – designed to learn more about mileage-based user fees, and to evaluate implementation alternatives. Proposed activities also include developing model legislation.

The total estimated cost of the program is $2.98 million. The application requests half that amount, $1.49 million, in federal funds, and proposes that individual states, including Connecticut, provide the rest in matching funds.

With a commitment of $300,000, Connecticut would pay more in cash than any other state. Delaware and Pennsylvania would each pay $290,000 in cash, and Vermont would contribute $30,000 for planning and analysis. Instead of cash, New Hampshire would make available $580,000 in toll credits.

Rep. Lavielle said that while she opposes the mileage tax, and her constituents have expressed overwhelming disapproval of it, there are also many broader issues related to this grant application. “This is about trust, transparency, and appropriate use of scarce resources. The clear message here is that the executive branch is determined for Connecticut to lead in studying the mileage tax concept, regardless of what the public and its General Assembly representatives think about it,” said Rep. Lavielle.

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State Rep. Gail Lavielle represents Norwalk, Westport, and Wilton. She is Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation and a member of the Transportation Committee.

 

Lavielle Letter to DOT’s Redeker Questioning Mileage Tax Grant Application

Posted on July 14, 2016 by admin


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Lavielle: Landmark Bill to Protect Student Data Privacy Signed into Law

Posted on July 13, 2016 by admin


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Bi-partisan Bill Restricts Use and Electronic Storage of Student Data; Requires Parental Notification by Local School Boards

HARTFORD- State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) today applauded Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s signature on legislation that will expand the state’s effort to protect the privacy of student data.

bill signing

The state representative was accompanied by fellow legislators of the Education Committee and advocates at today’s landmark bill signing at the State Capitol.

Rep. Lavielle, Ranking Member of the General Assembly’s Education Committee, said, “With an ever-increasing reliance on technology, we must remain vigilant about third parties seeking to utilize the personal and private information of students. This bill requires meaningful actions and strategies not only to protect how that personally identifiable information is being used, but also includes provisions to strengthen parents’ rights to notification by their local school boards. With this legislation, Connecticut will join the ranks of more than half the other states in the nation that have passed legislation to close the gaps left by federal law.”

Rep. Lavielle, a staunch advocate for student data privacy, has been a long-standing champion of the issue. She introduced a concept bill during the 2015 legislative session which passed out of the Education Committee, but was not called for debate. Lavielle again introduced legislation in the Education Committee earlier this year during the 2016 legislative session, and was instrumental in the debate and passage of the bill on the floor of the House of Representatives.

Rep. Lavielle added, “While there is much work still to be done, this bi-partisan legislation is a major step forward in ensuring that strong protections regarding the privacy of our students’ data are in place. I was pleased to have worked on behalf of my constituents as well as students and parents across Connecticut. I am very grateful for the tireless advocacy and research of many Fairfield County advocates, including Jennifer Jacobsen-Tapsall, Anne Manusky, Maria Naughton, and Kim Butler. Their work made the unanimous passage of this bill possible.”

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The legislation, Public Act 16-189, is comprehensive in nature and incorporates several provisions to protect the privacy of student information including:

  • Restricting how student information may be used by entities that contract to provide educational software and electronic storage of student records and by operators of websites, online services, or mobile applications (i.e., apps)
  • Clarifying that student data collected for school purposes is not owned by any of these third-party contractors
  • Requiring local boards of education to notify parents when they execute a new contract with a software, data storage, or internet service provider
  • Stipulating data security and privacy provisions that must figure in all contracts between local school districts and software, data storage, and internet service providers.
  • Requiring school districts to withhold the release of student directory information if the local or regional board of education determines that a request for such information is not related to school purposes.

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State Representative Gail Lavielle (R-143) represents Norwalk, Westport, and Wilton.

2016 Legislative Review

Posted on July 5, 2016 by admin


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Below is a link to the 2016 Legislative Review that my office has recently sent to residents of the 143rd district. The report summarizes major developments during this year’s legislative session. For any of you who may have moved within the district or have just recently arrived, I wanted to share it with you electronically as well.

To see my Legislative Review in an easy-to-read format, just click on the image below.

Please don’t hesitate to call or email me if you’d like to discuss the issues outlined in the Review, or any other questions or concerns you may have.

June 15 Invitation: Top Capitol Reporter Keith Phaneuf on CT’s Budget & Economy

Posted on June 13, 2016 by admin


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With the increasing coverage of the declining state of Connecticut’s budget and finances, many of you have been contacting me about its impact on your own lives and communities.

The situation is serious, and I think it’s important for you to hear the facts from a recognized nonpartisan expert, and to be able to ask questions about whatever concerns you.

That’s why Rep. Tom O’Dea and I have invited the CT Mirror’s Keith Phaneuf, the top budget reporter from the state Capitol press corps, to present an in-depth review of Connecticut’s state budget and economy. Please join us! Everyone from all towns is welcome.

Wednesday, June 15

8:00 – 9:30 am

Wilton Library – 137 Old Ridgefield Road

Lavielle ODea

Keith Phaneuf

As the CT Mirror’s budget reporter, Keith, along with colleague Jacqueline Rabe Thomas, won first prize in investigative reporting from the Education Writers Association in 2012 for a series on the Board of Regents for Higher Education. Formerly the State Capitol bureau chief for The Manchester Journal Inquirer, Keith has spent 24 years reporting on state government finances, analyzing such topics as income tax policy, waste in government, and the complex funding systems behind CT’s transportation and social services networks. A former contributing writer to The New York Times, Keith is a graduate of and a former journalism instructor at UConn.

Westport Town Hall Meeting

Posted on June 13, 2016 by admin


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Please join me and my fellow members of the Westport state legislative delegation for a discussion of the recently adjourned 2016 legislative session and an update on the state budget.

Monday, June 13
6:30  – 8:00 pm
Westport Town Hall
110 Myrtle Avenue, Westport

THM TB,TH&Reps Westprot6-13-15

Capitol Doldrums: Downgrade, Deficit, and Delay

Posted on May 27, 2016 by admin


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The past few days have seen a surge of disturbing, but not unpredictable, budget news from the state Capitol. Here are the headlines.

Rating Agencies Downgrade Connecticut’s Debt

Despite much rhetoric to the contrary, majority legislators’ passage on May 12 and 13 of a new budget for fiscal 2017 (which begins on July 1) has not had a reassuring effect on the financial world.

Last week, two of the four major rating agencies, Fitch and Standard & Poor’s, downgraded Connecticut’s general obligation debt from AA to AA–, with a stable outlook. Notably, Connecticut’s bonds have not been simultaneously downgraded by two agencies for at least 40 years, if ever. The other two agencies, Kroll and Moody’s, maintained their ratings, as well as a negative outlook, signaling close monitoring and the potential for a future downgrade.

As reasons for their downgrades, both Fitch and S&P cited reduced budgetary “flexibility”, due to low reserves and high fixed costs. While the two agencies acknowledged the state’s recent efforts to address spending, both of their reports reflected strong concerns about the effect of its existing ongoing obligations – mostly debt service and state employee fringe benefits – on its fiscal soundness and ability to weather downturns or economic surprises.

According to S&P, “Rising debt service, pension, and other postemployment benefit (OPEB) costs have pushed fixed costs to what we see as a significant portion of the overall budget and could potentially hamper the state’s ability to make further budget cuts should new revenue shortfalls develop. At the same time, tax increases enacted in the last two bienniums have constrained revenue-raising ability, in our view.” In the same vein, the Fitch report noted, “Fitch views Connecticut’s fixed costs as being relatively high, well above the U.S state median, driven by an above average burden of debt and unfunded pensions.”

Why do these ratings matter? Downgrades make it more expensive for Connecticut to borrow money, a cost that is passed on to taxpayers. And they send a signal of instability to businesses about the state’s economic climate.

These downgrades should also send an unequivocal message to any legislators who are not yet convinced that it is imperative to work with public-sector unions to reduce the costs of state employee fringe benefits, and to place reasonable limits on the state’s borrowing.

Deficit: The Current Year’s Budget Springs Another Leak

Also last week, OPM, the administration’s budget office, confirmed that the state is now facing a $259 million deficit for 2016, the current fiscal year that will end on June 30. This deficit follows other similar deficits already closed during the fiscal year in progress, including notably a $350 million deficit, closed in December, and a $220 million deficit that was closed in March. Further gaps were closed by unilateral rescissions ordered by the governor.

In fact, the 2016-2017 budget, passed by the majority last spring, fell into deficit within weeks after it took effect, and remained there except for during brief periods after the implementation of mitigation plans over the course of the past year.

A projected deficit of nearly $1 billion, which takes effect on July 1, made it necessary to revise completely the 2017 budget. Built on very shaky revenue estimates, the newly passed 2017 budget may well be headed for another deficit very shortly. What is certain is that annual deficits of more than $1 billion are still looming in the out years.

Delay: Holding the Bonding Bill Hostage

The legislature held a special session on May 12 and 13 to finish several pieces of essential business: two budget bills, the land conveyance bill, and the bonding bill. A criminal justice reform bill proposed by the governor was also to be included in the agenda.

During the special session, however, majority leadership in first the Senate, then the House, found that there were not enough votes to pass the governor’s legislation. As part of an effort to keep the question open and the bill alive (and, it has been speculated by many, to influence the outcome), House majority leadership declined to call the bonding bill, which includes many important transportation, infrastructure, and school construction projects, for a vote.

The House will convene in special session on June 2. It’s never over until it’s over.

I will continue to keep you informed about critical developments in our state’s financial situation. As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like to discuss this or any other issue further.

Lavielle: 2017 Budget Built on Misplaced Spending Priorities and Phantom Revenues, Lacks Long-Term Changes

Posted on May 16, 2016 by admin


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HARTFORD – On Friday night, May 13, the state House of Representatives convened in special session to vote on bills adjusting the 2017 state budget, which was running a $935 million deficit. The special session was required because Governor Malloy and legislative Democrats had differed significantly in their budget philosophies and were unable to reach agreement on proposed bills in time for the May 4 statutory deadline. State Representative Gail Lavielle (R-143), who voted against both the budget bill and the budget implementer bill, issued the following statement:

“Connecticut’s persistent deficit cycle reached a new low this past year. The biennial budget that majority legislators passed last spring fell into deficit almost immediately, and has had to be fixed four times since then by the legislature. After the state’s two largest tax increases ever, the current year’s budget is almost $300 million in deficit, and billions of dollars in deficits still loom in the future. It’s disappointing that despite months of negotiations, the 2017 budget produced by majority lawmakers does not make the long-term structural changes necessary to set Connecticut on a sustainable financial path.

“The 2017 budget is built on misplaced spending priorities and phantom revenues. It relies on one-time revenue sources and fund sweeps, decimates funding to hospitals, substance abuse programs, and services for the sick and the disabled, and cuts local education and municipal aid when most towns and cities have already set their budgets.

“Constant revenue shortfalls this year showed clearly that the state can’t collect all the taxes it has imposed, both because people and businesses have left or because personal income has dipped, as low-wage jobs replace higher-wage jobs in our economy. Yet this budget relies on arbitrary assumptions that revenues will grow not only from lawsuits filed by the state Attorney General, car sales, real estate transfers, and fees, but also from more cigarette and alcohol sales and gambling. This budget is ripe for new deficits just around the corner.

“This didn’t have to happen. House and Senate Republicans produced a plan that balanced next year’s budget and included a long-term framework of structural changes that would help Connecticut finally break out of its deficit cycle, and showed this could be done without raising taxes, hurting the neediest, or increasing the burden on cities and towns. Unfortunately, however, the budget passed on Friday was largely just a short-term, illusory fix.

“Many town and city officials are deeply concerned that the cuts to their education and municipal aid funding will mean higher property taxes down the line, and they no longer trust promises of state funding for the future. If they continue to send money to the state without getting any back, why, they ask, should their communities be obligated to follow state mandates? I introduced an amendment on the floor of the House that would have offered relief from a comprehensive range of school and municipal mandates, including prevailing wage requirements, the uniform regional school calendar, and contractual labor roadblocks to voluntary regional service consolidation efforts. Mandates cost our towns both money and time, while bringing nothing to the state. Yet all House members in the majority voted against mandate relief.

“I also supported several amendments introduced by my caucus that would have imposed rigorous caps on spending and borrowing, substantially reformed state employee benefits, and restored education funding to our towns and cities, as well as money for rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters, and services for the intellectually disabled and people with traumatic brain injuries.

“The people of Connecticut deserve a budget that takes their priorities seriously, a budget that is based on plausible, realistic revenue assumptions, a budget that respects their intelligence. Above all, they deserve a budget that sets the state on a sustainable, predictable path that will restore economic stability and opportunity for families, businesses, and towns. Unfortunately, Friday’s vote has put these objectives on hold.”

The budget passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 74-70, and the implementer bill passed by a vote of 73-70. All Republicans present and eight Democrats voted in opposition to both bills. The implementer bill included the policy provisions necessary to implement the budget.

Meet the Leaders

Posted on May 13, 2016 by admin


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Hartford-I joined David Smith on Meet the Leaders to discuss the state budget on the last day of session.

Join Me for a Town Hall in Wilton

Posted on May 10, 2016 by admin


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Please join me, along with State Rep. Tom O’Dea and State Sen. Toni Boucher, for a discussion of the recently adjourned 2016 legislative session and an update on the state budget.

 

Thursday, June 2 

7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

The Cannon Grange

25 Cannon Road, Wilton 

Wilton Town Hall

Legislative Session Ends with No State Budget Resolution

Posted on May 6, 2016 by admin


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In the early hours of the morning on Wednesday, May 4, the last day of the regular 2016 legislative session, legislative majority leadership announced that they had reached an agreement with the governor on adjustments to the 2017 state budget enacted last spring. Substantial adjustments are necessary because the budget for fiscal 2017, which begins on July 1, has a projected deficit of approximately $950 million.

The agreement came after the governor had released three 2017 proposals, legislative majority leadership had released two, and minority legislative Republicans had released one. The work was done amid persistent deficits in the current 2016 budget year, which added pressure and created more uncertainty. The 2016 deficit is currently about $260 million. In previous months, the legislature had had to close a $350 million deficit, and a subsequent $220 million deficit.

It wasn’t until 5:30 pm on Wednesday that we learned that there would be no vote on a budget adjustments bill before the session ended at midnight. At 12:15 am on Thursday morning, the House and Senate convened themselves into special session on an unspecified date next week to vote on the 2017 budget and state bonding.

On the one hand, this delay, on top of the last-minute announcement of the agreement, has added to the continuing uncertainty about education funding and municipal aid that has been weighing heavily on towns and cities trying to pin down their 2017 budgets. On the other, however, waiting a few days will allow legislators of both parties to read and understand the budget adjustments bill before debating and voting on it. Forcing a vote with only minimal information available would not have been respectful to the people of Connecticut.

What We Know Today

As of now, Friday morning, most legislators have not seen a complete document for the majority’s 2017 budget adjustments proposal. We have received revenue projections, a spreadsheet with spending line items, and a breakdown by town of Education Cost Sharing (ECS) funding and certain municipal aid items. However, we have no official documents to give us confidence that this information is in fact the majority’s budget plan.

I am very concerned about the revenue projections – which provide the basis for gauging a budget’s feasibility — because they seem unrealistic. The personal income tax estimate for 2017 is about $250 million higher than the 2016 figure, even though that line item has shown consistent shortfalls throughout 2016. There is an item with no substantiation showing $40 million anticipated from legal settlements through the Attorney General’s office. There is also a particularly disquieting proposal that may require banks to provide the state’s revenue agency with the complete credit and debit card transaction history of every resident, so it can tax all out-of-state transactions. We haven’t seen the final language, however, so we don’t know for sure what the impact of this proposal is on access to individual credit card data. Connecticut would be the only state to do this, and the idea raises serious questions about privacy.

According to the information in the summary we received, the proposal cuts ECS funding statewide by $32.2 million vs the 2017 budget enacted last spring. This includes a 57% cut for Wilton (leaving an allocation of $665,382); a 54% cut for Westport (leaving an allocation of $909,281); and a .05% cut for Norwalk (leaving an allocation of $11,493,340). The uncertainty around these cuts has been particularly difficult for municipalities to navigate during their own budget seasons. And the reductions, which could ultimately lead to local tax increases, make mandate relief all the more necessary. The proposal also cuts special education by $4.3 million and eliminates all school transportation funding.

The proposal also includes a number of cuts to services for the neediest, like a $30 million cut to hospitals, creating a $130 million total cut, taking into account federal matching funds; a $13.8 million cut to mental health and substance abuse services; and a $7 million cut to services for the intellectually disabled.

My caucus presented a proposal last month including measured cuts that would not punish the neediest and a comprehensive five-year strategic plan with structural changes that would achieve sustained savings and halt the state’s deficit cycle. Among these changes are, for example, adopting a rigorous spending cap, limiting annual borrowing, municipal mandate relief, and reforms to state employee fringe benefits costs. The majority’s new proposal does not appear to include these structural changes.

This lack of sufficient structural changes is a major concern. Without them, even though the proposal may close next year’s deficit of $950 million, it doesn’t address the more than $4.5 billion deficit projected for the 2018-2019 biennium. The unwelcome alternative that might well be on the horizon if this budget bill passes could be significant tax increases, and this would be unacceptable to the overwhelming majority of constituents and small business owners who have shared their thoughts with me.

House leadership intends to convene in special session next week, but has not yet set a precise date. The state Senate will convene on May 12.

Rep. Lavielle Leads House Passage of Student Data Privacy Protection Bill

Posted on May 4, 2016 by admin


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HARTFORDState Representative Gail Lavielle (R-143), Ranking Member of the General Assembly’s Education Committee, applauded the unanimous passage of a bill Tuesday night by the state House of Representatives establishing strong protections for the privacy of student data that is meant to be used for school purposes.

“With public schools’ fast-growing use of technology and third-party providers to collect and analyze student data, parents are increasingly worried about how their children are being tracked in school,” said Rep. Lavielle. “They want to make sure that personally identifiable information about their children is not being obtained without their knowledge or improperly used by third parties. More than half the other states have passed legislation that closes the gaps in privacy protection left open by federal law, and Connecticut needs to catch up. This bill is a critical first step in making sure that student information is used only for school purposes.”

Rep. Lavielle spearheaded the introduction of HB 5469, An Act Concerning Student Data Privacy, in the Education Committee early in the session. The bill protects the privacy of student information by:

  • Restricting how student information may be used by entities that contract to provide educational software and electronic storage of student records and by operators of websites, online services, or mobile applications (i.e., apps)
  • Clarifying that student data collected for school purposes is not owned by any of these third-party contractors
  • Requiring local boards of education to notify parents when they execute a new contract with a software, data storage, or internet service provider
  • Stipulating data security and privacy provisions that must figure in all contracts between local school districts and software, data storage, and internet service providers.
  • Requiring school districts to withhold the release of student directory information if the local or regional board of education determines that a request for such information is not related to school purposes.

The bill also creates a task force that will present recommendations on subjects like penalties to third-party providers for violations of the bill provisions, deletions of incorrect information by students’ parents or guardians, and raising awareness of student data security best practices.

The bill now awaits passage in the state Senate.

Rep. Lavielle Applauds House Passage of Landmark Bill Improving Services to People with Intellectual Disabilities and Their Families

Posted on May 3, 2016 by admin


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HARTFORDState Representative Gail Lavielle (R-143) applauded the passage of a landmark bill Monday night that would improve state delivered services to individuals with intellectual disabilities.

An Act Concerning Services for Individuals with Intellectual Disability, S.B. 294, will improve both the way the state manages waiting lists for individuals with intellectual disabilities and the way it keeps the families who care for these individuals informed. It does this through a four-pronged approach:

  • The bill requires the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) to provide families with a copy of the needs assessment document for each individual on the waiting list for services, including scoring results, comments, a summary report, and any other relevant information.
  • It requires DDS to provide families information on each individual’s priority status on the waiting list. DDS must also disclose the amount of funding budgeted for each service, allowing individuals and families to also see the cost associated with the services they need.
  • It prohibits DDS from removing individuals from the waiting list for services without their consent.
  • The bill also requires DDS to give at least 90 days’ notice to individuals with intellectual disabilities before they become ineligible for state-assisted care, and then to locate and secure private funding for care or services.

“Families of people with intellectual disabilities have told us how frustrated they have been by lack of information and by the long wait for services that never seem to materialize,” said Rep. Lavielle. “These are people who work hard, who have other family duties, and who worry constantly about ensuring that their intellectually disabled loved ones are cared for. This legislation makes DDS accountable for helping them plan ahead and for making the process of receiving services transparent and easy to understand. This legislation makes a real difference for individuals with intellectual disabilities. We can never do enough to reassure these families, but this bill is an important step forward in reestablishing open communication, rigorous processes, and trust.”

SB 294 passed the House unanimously and now heads to the Governor’s desk where it awaits passage into law. Rep. Lavielle was an early co-sponsor of the bill.

The 2016 legislative session will adjourn on Wednesday, May 4.

Walk Bridge Program Public Information Meeting

Posted on April 29, 2016 by admin


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The Connecticut Department of Transportation, the City of Norwalk, and the Walk Bridge Program Team are holding an information meeting on the replacement of the Walk Bridge and related projects. All residents, business owners, waterway users, and commuters from Norwalk and the surrounding communities are welcome and encouraged to attend.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016 

Norwalk City Hall, Community Room

145 East Avwnue, Norwalk, CT 06851

Two Sessions 

4:30-6:30 PM or 7:00-9:00 PM

If you have any special needs and require assistance at the meeting, please contact the Program’s Public Information Office by calling 203-752-1996 no later than 5 PM on Friday, May 6, 2016.

For more information go to: www.walkbridgect.com.

As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like to discuss this or any other issue further.

Rep. Gail Lavielle Supports GOP State Budget Plan that Protects Local Education Funding and Makes Structural Changes to Prevent Future Deficits

Posted on April 26, 2016 by admin


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