Mark DeCaprio, a navy submarine veteran, and long-time state employee who coordinated hazardous materials emergency response, is making his third attempt at winning the 48th district House seat representing Colchester, Bozrah, Franklin and Lebanon in the state legislature.
DeCaprio, a Republican, previously lost to long-time Democratic State Rep. Linda Orange by more than 1,000 votes in 2018, and by 213 votes to current Democratic State Rep. Brian Smith in a 2020 special election to replace Orange after she died.
In the meantime, the district boundaries were redrawn to leave out the towns of Mansfield and Windham and to include Bozrah and Franklin.
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Brian Smith, the incumbent, is not running for re-election, and instead DeCaprio will face Christopher Rivers, a Democrat from Colchester.
In an interview with CT Examiner, DeCaprio said he’s running for office because he wants to cut taxes and make life more affordable so that people can survive and retire in Connecticut.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
CTEx: What are your main goals if elected?
DeCAPRIO: The main point is the affordability in Connecticut. We’re really getting hit right now with inflation, so I’d really like to see financial freedom for people.
I’d like to see more freedom, and what I mean by that is, there’s government mandates on people that I’m opposed to. I was on the Board of Education during the mandated vaccine process where the Governor had put two executive orders to school districts to have staff be vaccinated. There’s been staff shortages in schools, and then to mandate this or you’re going to get terminated, I didn’t think that was very fair.
My background at the [Department of Environmental Protection] was emergency response. In hazmat incidents, there’s the emergency phase and the post emergency phase. And it felt like the leadership in the state basically dragged on the emergency phase, and I did not feel there was still an emergency.
Another big concern for me is crime in the state and policing. I also believe that parental rights in schools need to be supported.
CTEx: What do you think about the job the state has done balancing its renewable energy goals with the cost of energy?
DeCAPRIO: The cost of energy here is significant, particularly the electric costs. I know from knocking doors that people are concerned about that, and it’s one of the areas that – I’m not going to say it’s cursing people – but the cost for basically just keeping warm is an added pressure to them.
In Lebanon we have a smaller utility [Bozrah Light & Power], not Eversource. So I’ve only personally experienced paying bills from a smaller utility, and there are several of those throughout the state. I will say, being a smaller utility, the outages are usually addressed a lot quicker.
In a crude sense, I think [the transition to renewable energy] is contributing to the cost. Particularly I think the initiatives that are being taken to mandate electric vehicles by a certain year, I don’t think the technology is there right now.
From serving on a nuclear submarine, I think if you were looking to get to zero emissions, nuclear is something that should be looked at. With solar panels and wind, there’s all these issues, and I think if we put too much stock there, we’re going to be like Texas with rolling blackouts during storms or cloudy weather.
I don’t think this technology is there yet, but it’s not harming anything as far as putting solar panels on your rooftop to augment your own power. But I don’t think the cost to benefit ratio is there yet.
CTEx: What do you think the state’s role should be in ensuring people have access to affordable housing?
DeCAPRIO: I don’t think mandating municipalities is the right thing to do. I think there is a housing shortage, and I think towns should be encouraged, particularly for housing for seniors and veterans, and other housing if they so choose. That would be up to those land use boards in those towns.
CTEx: What do you think is the state’s role in making healthcare more affordable and accessible?
DeCAPRIO: I don’t think that I’m an expert on health care coverage, but I think having a program for low-income people who don’t have coverage is fine. I don’t believe in mandating the health care system right across the board. I think privatizing health care is what’s going to give us the best outcomes with superior coverage, products and delivery.
CTEx: What else should the state do to make life more affordable in Connecticut?
DeCAPRIO: One of the things Republicans have talked about is cutting the income tax. If we make unfunded mandates on towns, then they have to cover the costs. So I think we need to look at what unfunded mandates are out there and see what we can do to bring down costs for towns so that property taxes can be reduced.
Part of that is, where there’s opportunities to share resources, you might have towns get together and have co-ops or some sharing of resources.
The other thing is to cut the income tax. The income tax we have now was supposed to be temporary when Gov. Weicker was in office, but unfortunately when there’s a revenue stream, they just keep spending our money. I’ve also heard there’s taxes that basically cost more to collect than they bring in, so anything like that should be eliminated.
The highway tax on trucks that’s going to start in January, I don’t support that. And there’s taxes on motor vehicles that I think should be reduced. So I think there’s plenty of opportunities to look at some things that we can change to make it more affordable for our families here in Connecticut.
CTEx: What are your goals for improving education?
DeCAPRIO: Based on my experience with the Board of Ed here, one of the most important things to me is ensuring that our schools are safe for our children. And that means hardening our actual structures.
It’s also important that students are proficient in reading, writing and math. I think we should be less focused on some of the other things that are being taught.
There also needs to be a look at funding for special needs students. If a child moves to town with special needs, that can upset the whole budget for the district. I wonder if there’s an opportunity for that money to follow the student around so it doesn’t upset the budgets of these towns.
CTEx: What about the 2020 police accountability law do you think was effective, or what do you think needs to be changed?
DeCAPRIO: I think one thing we need to look at is the qualified immunity for officers that was removed. If an officer is doing things within the scope of their normal duties, that should not be a situation where they have to worry about being sued.
There have to be operational procedures and they have to operate within those, but if they’re working within those procedures, they shouldn’t have to worry about being sued.
I’m hearing that is very concerning for police officers, and I think it’s affecting the retention for officers, leaving many departments short staffed. I think the State Police is short-staffed now, so that’s a problem.
I think we need to ensure there’s enough funding for public safety to operate in a safe manner. I also want to make sure that the Office of Victim Advocates is properly funded and has enough resources.
CTEx: What are your thoughts on marijuana legalization, and are there any changes that need to be made for how that’s being handled?
DeCAPRIO: I was asked in 2018 whether I would support it, and I said I would not. At the time, I said it was because there’s no way to tell if someone is incapacitated, we don’t have a scientific means to test if their intoxicated like we do with alcohol. I don’t believe there’s a method to tell if someone’s able to operate a motor vehicle safely. So that’s still a concern of mine, because when you have intoxicated people operating motor vehicles, innocent people get hurt.
CTEx: Where do you see yourself in the Republican Party?
DeCAPRIO: I’m not going to speak for the whole Republican Party, but I do want to protect the Constitutional rights of our law-abiding citizens of our state. I want to protect the rule of law, and I want to see our economy grow and jobs retained.
I would also like to eliminate obsolete regulations that are burdensome to our businesses. I would like to lower the tax burden for our residents. So I stand on those things.