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Legislators Prepare to Tackle State's Fiscal Woes

On this short list of legislative priorities, lawmakers prepare to talk about budgets, the death penalty, double-dipping employees and more.

 

So with the New Year fast approaching, the spotlight once again shines on the state’s biennium budget. 

The budget is priority number one for state Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, a Democrat representing Westport in the 136th House District.

“I’m not sure we can count on all the savings the Governor projects. We need to be proactive,” Steinberg said, adding that he wants more oversight on more agencies. “I hope everyone is as excited as I am about tackling endemic operational inefficiencies.”

After the budget boondoggle last session, one local resident wants the General Assembly to pass legislation requiring it to make substantial steps towards multi-year budget reform. Others want to see the state legislature being to roll back some of the added taxes.

“That’s a good one,” said state Rep. Livvy Floren, a Republican representing North Stamford and parts of Greenwich in the 149th House District. “Also, because of windfall from tax receipts would I’d like to see scale back or sunset some taxes. But I believe in the tooth fairy and Santa Claus, so that probably won’t happen. 

Aside from budget issues, Floren said the General Assembly would likely tackle electricity thanks to Irene and Alfred - there are already 24 bills on file with the Office of Legislative Research regarding this.

 “Power outages will be addressed but there are other issues we need to spend time on that have longer implications,” said state Rep. Terrie Wood, a Republican representing Darien in the 141st House District. “It was sort of a fluke that we had two storms six weeks apart. We need to really focus on jobs.”

State Rep. John Hetherington, representing New Canaan in the 125th House District said it’s high time the state tackles the “$50 billion to $60 billion in unfunded pension liabilities – nothing has been done to address that.”

DON’T DOUBLE DIP 

State Rep. Gail Lavielle, a Republican representing Wilton and Norwalk in the 143rd House District plans to introduce a bill next session that would stop state employees from double dipping.

Right now state employees that retire can draw their pension even if they are rehired and earn a salary. Lavielle isn’t proposing they lose their pension, just that they don’t draw it until they retire – for real.

QUICK DRAW

The state map has been redrawn, and now the redistricting committee has to decide what to do with The Nutmeg State’s five Congressional Districts. It has until Dec. 21 to figure it out. If it doesn’t the matter will be sent to the state Supreme Court.

“We have an opportunity here to go back to more historic districts and have five compact districts – not the hook and claw we have in the first and fifth. We can put an end to the outrageous map we have now. Whether Bridgeport would then remain in the fourth remains to be seen,” Hetherington said.

On that note state Rep. James Albis, a Democrat representing East Haven in the 99th House District will join the General Assembly's Government Administration and Elections Committee, GAE. The GAE oversees elections and election laws, the Freedom of Information Commission and the Ethics Commission. 

KILL THE DEATH PENALTY

State Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, a Democrat representing New Haven in the 94th House District remains devoted to overturning Connecticut’s death penalty. Last session, it was expected to pass the General Assembly and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has said he supports its repeal.

“I am going to push this each session,” Holder-Winfield said.

SECRET SANTA

With the holidays here, some shoppers might still be pondering the perfect present. One thing not to put on your list: a skunk. According to the Office of Legislative Research, state law prohibits (1) with some exceptions, possessing skunks and (2) breeding, propagating, and selling skunks. No state legislation has been proposed in the last 15 years (1997-2011) to allow possession of skunks in Connecticut.

Unlike cats and dogs, skunks can’t be vaccinated for rabies. That’s because there isn’t a licensed vaccine available that works on wild animals.

The following 17 states allow possession of skunks: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. All but Wyoming have special conditions for the possession to be legal. Most require a potential skunk owner to get a state permit and obtain the skunk from a licensed in-state breeder.

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