Legislators Update Residents at “Politics and Pie”

Weston Today photos

State Senator Ceci Maher and Representative Anne Hughes brought constituents up to date on the latest in Hartford at the League of Women Voters’ “Politics and Pie” discussion on May 7.

The General Assembly is still in its long session, which is scheduled to adjourn on June 7. Senator Maher and Rep. Hughes said much of the session’s legislative work has been consumed by the biennial state budget and that it is too early to know the outcome of other matters before lawmakers.

Senator Maher said she has focused much work on passing Senate Bill 2, an act regarding the mental, physical and emotional wellbeing of children. It was raised by the Committee on Children, which the senator chairs. It is currently being evaluated by the Appropriations Committee.

Ms. Maher and Ms. Hughes said some 3,000 bills were introduced in the session, a number that is now down to 750, and that 300 or so will eventually come to the floor.

A surplus

Rep. Hughes said legislators are currently “in a delicate fight with the governor” about raising the statutory spending cap that was enacted in January. Since then, she said, the state’s revenues have exceeded expectations by about $250 million.

Ms. Hughes would like to free up funds for nonprofits, specifically those that help people age at home. She is proud of the recent passage of a nursing home transparency bill, an effort to address concerns that Medicaid money isn’t being spent on direct care for residents. She also focuses on legislation for tax relief and a child tax credit.

Questions and comments from the floor (the Library lawn — it was a nice day) included what the state can do to address a shortage of staffing at child care providers and make salaries more competitive to attract teachers. Senator Maher and Rep. Hughes said there is a need to invest, including in workforce training, and that there is also a loss of nurses and social workers.

Ms. Hughes and Ms. Maher called for increased funding for higher education, again citing the need to raise the spending cap.


Rep. Hughes said the House recently passed an early voting bill, which provides different time windows of voting for different elections, the longest being 14 days for presidential elections. She said she is confident it will pass in the Senate, and that funding will be available to help towns cover costs.

A measure to allow no-excuse absentee voting must again pass both houses of the legislature to appear on the ballot in 2024 as a Constitutional amendment. The fate of the proposed CT Voting Rights Act appears to be uncertain.

Housing legislation

Senator Maher said the controversial “Fair Share” housing bill is dead, but the equally controversial “Work-Live-Ride” bill, still being drafted, may inherit some of its components.

Rep. Hughes said, “the state is standing by to provide financial support to towns willing to address the housing shortage. We want to keep our talent here by making meaningful progress.” She said the prospect exists that if towns do not act to solve the housing problem, they might eventually be forced to do so.

Senator Maher said, “there is an enormous need for housing.” She said 25,000 units are needed in Fairfield County alone and that the issue is affordable housing, which is not the same as low income subsidized housing. “We need to figure out how to make this work,” she said.

State services

After a discussion about how an understaffed Social Equity Commission may miss statutory deadlines to issue cannabis dispensary licenses, which would mean the loss of millions of community reinvestment dollars, Ms. Hughes and Ms. Maher said the staffing problem exists at all state agencies.

“State government is supposed to work for the people,” said Rep. Hughes, but cannot when legislation passes, funds are allocated but not delivered, and programs are not implemented. She objected to an alternate budget proposal that calls for vacant state positions to remain that way.

Senator Maher said she was dismayed to discover, upon taking office, a gap between legislative action and program implementation. “In Hartford,” she said, “things don’t get stood up. There’s many a slip between the cup and the lip.”

Business in Connecticut

Both legislators commented on a question about improving the state’s business climate without contradicting intentions to restrain spending. Rep. Hughes said critical elements include growing the workforce for highly skilled jobs and providing incentives such as tax credits for businesses willing to fund student loan forgiveness. “But we have to look at the whole landscape,” she said, including addressing high energy costs and the shortage of affordable housing.

Senator Maher said the state is working to increase training of students, including skills development as early as high school. She hailed efforts in the last five years by the Department of Economic Community Development to bring companies in other states to Connecticut.

Reach out

Sometime after the General Assembly adjourns in June, Senator Maher and Rep. Hughes intend to return to Weston to brief residents in person on the ultimate outcomes of the long session.

Both legislators welcome questions and input from Weston residents.

State Senator Ceci Maher: Ceci.Maher@cga.ct.gov.
State Representative Anne Hughes: Anne.Hughes@cga.ct.gov.

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