NORWALK, Conn. — Connecticut Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25) put forth various topics apropos to the state’s upcoming legislative session (Feb. 5 through May 6) at Monday night’s Humanists and Freethinkers of Fairfield County get-together.
Noting that Connecticut’s policy of allowing unlimited debate time can hinder lawmakers’ ability to address a session’s entire agenda, Duff predicted enactment of:
- A statute protecting net neutrality, owing to a recent court decision granting state jurisdiction
- Revocation of non-medical vaccination exemptions
- A “big climate change bill,” specifics of which are not yet determined
- Legislation targeting deceptive practices of women’s “health centers”
The Senator envisioned a $20 billion transportation program “which will put about 20,000 people to work and get our infrastructure in order.” Claiming that one fully-loaded 18-wheel truck causes as much road damage as 5,000-10,000 cars, he anticipates truck tolls to be charged at 12 locations.
On education and jobs:
- “A passion for me continues to be educating all of our children, not just based on your zip code but based on all children in the state having the ability to go to college or to a career. We have 40,000 advanced manufacturing jobs and 4,000 IT jobs that are open right now at Sikorsky, Pratt & Whitney, Electric Boat, and other places. It’s really important that we train our students and our college kids for those jobs. Sikorsky Helicopter stayed in Connecticut for two reasons: we have the most productive and highly educated workforce in the nation, and we have a manufacturing supply chain that is second to none. What we are missing are the people to fill those jobs.”
On community solar power:
- Audience member Diane Keefe commented that Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey all have statewide solar community access. “When is Connecticut going to have it?” she asked. The senator replied “I don’t know. To be honest, I hope sooner rather than later, because I support it. I think we’ll get it anytime soon. I’m not really sure what the holdup is…I’ll try to find out.”
On legalizing cannabis:
- “We need to create our own destiny on it, and have a policy that works for Connecticut or we’ll just have people going to New York and Massachusetts like they did in the past when it was the liquor laws. It should not be done as a revenue-generator, although there will be revenue. We should do it in a way that makes sense for our state.”
On the State’s economy:
- “Our Rainy Day Fund is approaching $3 billion right now, which is almost 15 percent of our state budget. When it gets to 15 percent, anything additional is diverted to pay down long-term debt.
- “We have reduced the government expenses quite a bit. Right now our state has the fewest amount of employees since the 1950s per capita. Folks hired after July 1, 2016 are on a 401K/pension hybrid program, and that’s reducing costs.
- “The Department of Transportation used to be about 3,000 employees, and they’re about 1,500 to 2,000 now. Our State Police full force used to be 1,400, and they’re now down to about 800. We think there may be a tsunami of retirements coming up because, in our state employee contract, if somebody stays after 2022, their retirement changes. So we could be down to 600 state troopers. We have made great strides in criminal justice reform that have actually been national models, so much so that it’s actually enabled us to close prisons.”