Voters Should Reject “Lockbox Ruse”

Posted on October 18, 2018 by rjoslyn


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October 18, 2018

Voters Should Reject “Lockbox Ruse”

Every state relies on its transportation network to drive economic development and maximize quality of life. For this reason, insufficient transportation funding and mismanagement of spending on projects presents a major roadblock to Connecticut’s economic recovery.

The unacceptable state of our infrastructure has a direct impact on all residents, making commuting a nightmare while constraining existing businesses and dooming many newer ones. A study by US News & World Report named Connecticut’s transportation system the third worst in the nation overall, with the very worst road quality out of all 50 states. Meanwhile, rail and bus services are threatened with cuts on an almost annual basis.

A major cause of our transportation woes is a state legislature that has made a habit out of raiding money earmarked for transportation from the Special Transportation Fund (STF) and sweeping it into the abyss of the General Fund, where they can use it to fund “pet projects”, to maintain entitlement programs and to plug holes in the billion dollar budget deficits that have presented themselves annually for the past decade.

To address this misuse of your tax dollars, I, along with my Republican colleagues, have proposed that the State Constitution be amended to prevent the legislature from using STF dollars for any purpose other than transportation, with clear definitions of what constitutes “transportation purposes.” Further, we proposed that the Connecticut Supreme Court be given jurisdiction in the event the legislature violates the constitutional lockbox. That way, current and future revenue streams intended to support the STF and improve our infrastructure could not be diverted for other purposes, transportation spending could be prioritized, and we could eventually shift towards finding ways to reduce the tax burden on Connecticut residents.

Following our lead, the majority party proposed and passed a Resolution that will appear on the ballot this November, which, at first glance, appears to create the constitutional “lockbox” we have been advocating for. However, upon closer look, there is no definition of what constitutes transportation funding, nor any provisions for recourse if funds are diverted out of the STF for other purposes. Worse, during public debate over the Resolution, the Democrats acknowledged that the “lockbox” could be raided, if needed, for other purposes.

Therein lies the ruse being perpetrated on the public. The ruse to create a lockbox, knowing they have the key to unlock it for more spending.

Democrats seem intent not on dedicating transportation revenue for transportation projects that will allow us to eventually improve our infrastructure and decrease taxes and fees, but, instead, to gradually garner popular support for tolls, which will generate an additional revenue stream. Connecticut drivers forced to pay the tolls will be under the illusion that the additional money they will send to Hartford will be used to improve transportation.  In reality, though, this lockbox is leaky enough that tolls would merely be another cash cow for the state to feed its reckless spending habits at the taxpayers’ expense.

Accordingly, I urge Connecticut voters to reject their “Lockbox Ruse” and require the legislature to create a real lockbox that takes any vagueness out of what exactly the money is for and empowers our courts to enforce it.

The goal for the legislature cannot be to make new taxes, fees, and tolls more palatable, but, instead, to help ease the tax burden on our residents. The “lockbox” on the ballot will not help accomplish this goal.

Rep. Smith Update: New Laws Taking Effect on October 1

Posted on October 2, 2018 by rjoslyn


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A number of new laws that passed during the 2018 Legislative Session took effect this week on October 1, 2018. These new laws may have an impact on you, your business, or our community.

New laws taking effect that may be of interest to you include:

AN ACT CONCERNING BUMP STOCKS AND OTHER MEANS OF ENHANCING THE RATE OF FIRE OF A FIREARM (PA 18-29)

A provision that received wide bipartisan support that bans the sale, transfer, or posession of bump stocks or any after-market device that allows semi-automatic rifles to fire at near-automatic speed.  FOR MORE DETAILS CLICK HERE.

 

AN ACT CONCERNING BENEFITS FOR CERTAIN VETERANS WHO HAVE BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER OR TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY OR WHO HAVE HAD AN EXPERIENCE OF MILITARY SEXUAL TRAUMA (PA 18-47)

Veterans who receive so-called “bad paper” or other than honorable discharges and are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, a traumatic brain injury or who were the victim of sexual trauma while in the military will have access to veterans’ benefits that they were previously denied.  CLICK HERE FOR MORE DETAILS.

 

 

AN ACT ESTABLISHING A “SAVE OUR LAKES” NUMBER PLATE TO COMBAT AQUATIC INVASIVE SPECIES AND CYANOBACTERIA BLOOMS. (PA 18-101)

This law requires the Department of Motor Vehicles to begin work on designing new commemorative license plates emblazoned with the words “Save Our Lakes.”  The license plates, which will be sold beginning Jan. 1, 2020, will raise money to help preserve Connecticut’s lakes and ponds. CLICK HERE FOR MORE DETAILS.

 

AN ACT PROVIDING PROTECTIONS FOR CONSUMERS APPLYING FOR REVERSE MORTGAGES. (PA 18-38)

In the wake of increased reports of fraud concerning reverse mortgages, new protections for consumers include counseling requirements to make sure borrowers better understand the terms of the loan and a prohibition on banks or credit unions from paying the groups that counsel borrowers. CLICK HERE FOR MORE DETAILS.

 

AN ACT CONCERNING ROBO CALLS AND SPOOFING (PA 18-135)

To criminalize the act of masking the identity of a caller initiating robo calls. FOR MORE DETAILS CLICK HERE.

 

AN ACT CONCERNING ELECTRONIC PROOF OF AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE (PA 18-108)

To permit automobile insurance identification cards to be provided electronically for motor vehicle traffic stops and registration of motor vehicles with the Department of Motor Vehicles. FOR MORE DETAILS CLICK HERE.

For a full list of bills taking effect on October 1, 2018, click here.

As always, you can contact me at (800) 842-1423 or Richard.Smith@housegop.ct.gov if you have any questions regarding state government.

Rep. Smith Update: Emergency Road Closure for Rt. 37 North of Big Trail in Sherman

Posted on September 5, 2018 by rjoslyn


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Dear Friends & Neighbors,

Please see the message below from the Connecticut Department of Transportation regarding an emergency road closure of Rt. 37 in Sherman that may impact your travels.

 

 

Emergency Road Closure for Route 37 North of Big Trail in Sherman Due to Slope Failure

The Connecticut Department of Transportation is announcing the closure of Route 37 north of Big Trail for emergency repairs on Route 37 beginning on Thursday, September 6, 2018 at 9:00 AM in Sherman.  The closure will be in place for roughly two to three weeks while repairs for a slope failure between Route 37 and Quaker Brook are performed.

DOT Project No. 0127-0090 was awarded to Waters Construction Company at an estimated cost of $245,000.00 on August 17, 2018, and is scheduled to be completed by September 30, 2018.

A detour route will be signed for all through traffic to use Route 39 between Sherman and New Fairfield. Local traffic will be available south of Big Trail toward New Fairfield and north of Durgy Road toward Sherman.

Rep. Smith Signs Petition to Call a Special Session and Stop Governor’s $10 Million Toll Study

Posted on July 24, 2018 by rjoslyn


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HARTFORD – State Representative Richard Smith (R-108) today signed a petition to request a special session for the purpose of prohibiting the expenditure of taxpayer funds to study and evaluate the establishment of tolls in Connecticut.

Last week, Governor Dan Malloy issued an Executive Order directing the state Department of Transportation to prepare a plan implementing tolls and study its impacts. He is requesting to borrow $10 million for the study from the Bond Commission, which he chairs.

The study would explore tolls on all major Connecticut highways, including Interstates 95, 91, and 84, along with the Merritt and Wilbur Cross parkways. This past spring, the legislature refused to consider a similar study costing only $5 million.

“The General Assembly represents the will of the people of Connecticut, which is why for the past five years the legislature has heeded the public’s strong opposition and refused to support tolls on our highways,” said Rep. Smith.  “Now, our lame-duck governor wants to circumvent the legislative process and the will of the people by demanding to borrow $10 million in taxpayer money in order to study tolls, which would continue his ruinous policies that have brought Connecticut to the brink of financial collapse.  Instead of spending money we cannot afford to waste, how about looking for ways to improve our economy without increasing taxes or adding new fees? I, along with my republican colleagues, have offered alternatives to fixing our crumbling infrastructure without the imposition of tolls, but the governor’s need to spend your money is insatiable.”

“Enough is enough. That is why it is imperative the legislature convene a special session and put a stop to the governor’s unilateral request to borrow more money as he prepares to head out the door in January.  I hope my colleagues will join me to help protect taxpayers and commuters alike,” added Rep. Smith.

The State Bond Commission is scheduled to meet on Wednesday, July 25.

Rep. Smith Update: Saying “No” to the Governor’s Request for $10 Million to Study Tolls

Posted on July 19, 2018 by rjoslyn


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Dear Friends & Neighbors,

As you may have heard, Governor Malloy this week announced he is requesting $10 million in borrowed money to pay for a study on the impact of electronic tolling in Connecticut.

Toll legislation has been considered by the General Assembly each of the past five years, and it has never gotten a floor vote.  Thus far, significant public opposition to putting another financial burden on Connecticut taxpayers has prevented its passage in the legislature.

In the face of that opposition and despite several studies done prior, the governor nonetheless issued an Executive Order to proceed with a study that he says will show us what a toll proposal would look like and how much it would cost commuters.  I can tell you right now we don’t need a $10 million study to figure out that tolls will place yet another serious financial burden on our residents.

What we should be studying are ways to reduce the tax burden on families and businesses, not more ways to collect revenue from them.

In that vein, Republicans sent a proposal to Governor Malloy to address our transportation needs without imposing tolls – proposals that have clearly been ignored.

To that point, I would like to share with you a letter my colleagues – House Minority Leader Themis Klarides and Finance Committee Ranking Member Chris Davis – wrote to the governor asking him to remove the request from the Bonding Commission’s agenda.

I stand with my Republican colleagues in urging the Bond Commission to refuse the governor’s $10 million request as well.

The Commission is scheduled to meet on July 25.

Click on the image below to read the full letter:

 

Rep. Smith: Storm Recovery Update

Posted on July 3, 2018 by rjoslyn


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As our communities continue to recover from the unexpected and devastating storm that hit our part of Connecticut in May, I wanted to update you on the status of storm recovery efforts and clarify the degree of anticipated help from FEMA.

Here are the estimates of the storm damage I received from New Fairfield (subject to change):

  • Debris Removal (assumes 50,000 yards of chipped debris, final disposal  and monitors)  $3,250,000.00
  • Storm Related Costs (Shelter, overtime, equipment, fuel, etc. as of 6/15)  $144,000.00
  • Estimated Home Damage (provided by approx. 220 homeowners, includes property damage estimates and tree removal estimates) $2,500,000.00

 

In the Town of Sherman, $50,000.00 – broken out by public roads and does not include volunteer hours.

New Fairfield, Sherman, and New Milford have each hired contractors and cleanup is underway.

  • Sherman has finished clearing debris from all town roads and some private roads
  • New Fairfield’s debris removal began on Monday and is estimated to continue until August 8, though this could change
  • In Danbury, cleanup is expected to begin after the Fourth of July holiday

 

Officials in New Fairfield, Sherman, New Milford and Danbury have been in touch with FEMA in regards to obtaining federal assistance for public land, roads and utilities.We hope to know soon how much FEMA funding each town will qualify for.

Private/non-profit organizations can also attempt to secure federal assistance for disaster management and recovery.  Visit this link for information from the State of Connecticut on how to apply.

FEMA also has information on applicant eligibility and the steps involved with receiving assistance, available here. Relevant information can be found on pages “9” and “54.”

I have been working in concert with local officials to make sure we receive as much aid as our communities will need.

If you are aware of an unresolved issue from the storm or have questions about applying for federal assistance, please do not hesitate to contact my office and I will be happy to help. You can send me an email at richard.smith@housegop.ct.gov or give me a phone call at 800-842-1423.