Posted on April 15, 2021
We are roughly half way through the current legislative session. This session has been atypical, with very little in-person business being conducted. This has meant a quick adaptation by both the public and legislators to stay involved with the legislative process. At the beginning of session, I had proposed several bill topics that will help improve life here in New Milford and across our state. Now that we are through the public hearing and committee processes, we have a little bit better of an idea of what will be coming up over the next few weeks.
As Ranking Member of the Commerce Committee, I took on an expanded role that included screening legislation that will ultimately be voted on by the entire General Assembly. As a result of our work during the committee process, there are many good concepts moving forward. These concepts include an emphasis on revamping the tourism industry, which is an integral part of our state and local economies to provide first-time seasonal jobs to many teenagers and young adults, and a pipeline to provide quality employment opportunities to those with disabilities.
COVID-19 has impacted all businesses, across the board. One small initiative that will help Connecticut businesses is to disregard negative experience ratings, a standard indicator in setting unemployment compensation insurance, against them at this point in time. Unemployment hit record numbers during the pandemic, and it’s critical that we do not punish job creators for decreasing the workforce when business was halted.
Kimberly-Clark has been a wonderful steward to New Milford for generations. I have supported legislation that will allow them to continue operating their state-of-the-art factory for years to come, without burdensome regulations. Increasing operating costs on manufacturing could drive this industry right out of our state. It’s important to recognize long-term partners and support their efforts in changing antiquated practices to eliminate green house gasses. I will be proud to champion this bill, which secures hundreds of quality job opportunities for our community and surrounding towns, when it hits the House Floor for further debate.
New Milford continues to be a beacon of light for the rest of the state in terms of how we are handling the opioid crisis at a local level. Our regional navigator has really done a great job of informing those in crisis with the menu of services available to them. We continue to make strides in reversing stigma associated with addiction, but more needs to be done. I have put in legislation that would crack down on ‘trap houses,’ increase penalties for drug dealers, and deploy the use of GPS and electronic monitoring systems so that first responders have adequate resources when responding to expected incidences of an overdose.
While it is disappointing that some of these concepts will not be brought up on the floor, I am confident that we will be able to provide some relief to those suffering from opioid addiction. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on the increased usage of controlled substances, which is why I am in support of a bill that will create a tighter continuum of care to focus on the delivery of mental health and substance abuse prevention services.
A state-wide mill rate on real estate property, implementing a new gas tax, and creating a higher tax structure on large trucks are all examples of new tax proposals put forth by my colleagues on the other side of the aisle. It’s important to know that while hard-working families are struggling to make ends meet and businesses are barely able to stay open, there are many legislators that believe the solution is to have you further empty your wallets into the state coffers.
I disagree with that sentiment. Now is not the time to kick people while they’re financially down. The approval of one, or more, of these new tax proposals would have a chilling effect on our economy. This is counterintuitive in getting our state up and running again. These new ideas to tax you, unfortunately, have cleared the committee process and will undoubtedly come up for debate in the next few weeks. I will continue to fight any new law that is intended to simply increase state revenue in the midst of a pandemic.
Despite this being a session like none other, we are working toward improving the lives of all Connecticut residents. I will fight fiscally irresponsible proposals, specifically ones that ask you to pay more into a broken system. I will also advocate for new laws that support our economy and help our businesses owners re-open safely, not slow that process down. And we will deliver a better continuum of care to reach those who are vulnerable and struggling with the misuse and abuse of opioids.
If you have any specific questions, or would like to speak to me about our state government, I can always be reached by emailing Bill.Buckbee@housegop.ct.gov or through my website at RepBuckbee.com.