This legislative session has truly been like no other. Our committee process was conducted entirely over Zoom, which was convenient at times but certainly limited our ability to work as closely as we might have in the past. Lately we have been meeting daily in a nearly empty building, with Republicans and Democrats more separated than ever. In reflection, we have tried to make the best of this strange situation and have accomplished a lot of good things despite these limitations. But unfortunately, we have yet to come together on some issues we need to tackle.
First and foremost, I am so proud of the work that we were able to do in the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee. As Ranking Member, I worked closely with the co-chairs of the committee to pass legislation in the House that will benefit our state colleges and universities and the students they serve. We passed measures that award military students college credits for their training, assess student access to mental health services, improve dyslexia instruction and training in our teaching programs, and protect students who come forward after they have been a victim of or witness to sexual assault.
Outside of the Higher Education committee, we passed bills out of the House that expand insurance coverage for breast cancer diagnostics and early detection, connect those struggling with opioid addiction with peer counselors who can help on the road to recovery, and require background checks for camp counselors and youth coaches. We also passed legislation that will aid businesses and municipalities as they continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, and a bill that gave the legislature oversight over the spending of federal COVID-19 relief dollars.
There is much that I wish we could have accomplished this session as well. A bill we may still see in these final days would require colleges and universities to report accidental deaths and serious accidents that occur on campus, as a means of studying these tragedies and preventing them in the future. I also worked on legislation that would create a pilot program to develop a virtual platform in collaboration with potential employers on which state residents can register for and earn microcredentials. While this legislation likely won’t pass this year, I have already been in talks with legislators on both sides of the aisle who want to make it a priority for the next legislative session.
Most importantly, as this a ‘long’ session, our main priority is the biennium budget. Every year I maintain the hope that we will come together and create a budget that serves our constituents to the best of our ability, while continuing to work on the state’s financial health. It is rumored that a proposal agreed upon by Governor Lamont and the majority party will be called as early as Monday. I have heard good things, including the removal of the TCI proposal and its corresponding gas tax. Until we know for sure, I will hold out hope that we can finally get together and come up with a plan that will benefit our state.
As always, please reach out to me if you have any questions or concerns: Irene.Haines@cga.ct.gov.
34th District: East Haddam, East Hampton and Colchester