"When the status quo stops us: work together, innovate, and do the extraordinary."
COVID-19 has made 2020 a year of historic disruption, but we have also witnessed something new and positive in Connecticut. We saw how 3 million people in 169 towns and cities can do the extraordinary when we work together and embrace innovation!
We are a state where people are guided by science, by good common sense, and by compassion and respect for our neighbors. Because of these values Connecticut became a refuge from the virus. Our success is a symbol of the power of collaboration and innovation.
As your State Representative, these same values will empower my work, evaluating hundreds of bills each session. I will be an asset to our people in the district, and seek to engage more people in state government – and be open to all who voice solutions.
I hear you. And when needed, I will challenge the status quo and stand up for you. Let’s work – together – and make Connecticut stronger than it was before!
State government must stand up for consumers in new, stronger ways to protect access, affordability, and integrity of essential services. Michele will stand up and be part of solving cost-of-living imbalances through common sense regulations that offer people more economic security at every stage in life.
For young families just starting out. For elderly citizens who want to stay near family. All of us are having trouble making ends meet, and the cost of healthcare and essential services in our homes are a big reason why. Citizens get less and less for our dollar, while powerful corporate giants and their executives keep cutting benefits and customer service to score record-breaking profits. Yet most deliver poor services and shrinking benefits while continually raising rates. Michele says her family’s small business would never have survived 83 years if they served customers like these companies do.
In just 10 years, the cost of essential utilities in CT has near doubled. Many families pay more than $12,000 per year for electricity, water, internet/cable and telephone.
Healthcare companies charge Connecticut customers more than most other states in the U.S. Healthcare is easily the largest budget buster. It can cost more annually than home mortgage or rent. Citizens should have access to good, affordable, portable healthcare products with no exclusions for pre-existing conditions and improved access to mental health services and coverage.
Charm and history: meet innovation. The character of our state is rooted in small towns and small businesses. We’ve relied on the strength of these communities, and now they need our attention and support. To fulfill our promises for the next generation, lawmakers and municipalities should establish a Small Business Innovation Task Force. We should prioritize programs that make the state a place where small business has the right conditions to prosper.
For small business owners trying to support a family and retain employees, the cost of healthcare alone can block growth and hiring. As Connecticut gets building again, Michele believes “Smart” economic growth that protects air, water and land is fundamental in our small state.
The Zommer Family Business Story
My great-grandfather Tad launched an 83-year-old family business legacy for the Zommer family, across 5 generations, based on a simple commitment to caring customer service at fair, honest prices. Specializing in residential waste hauling in central Connecticut, the Zommers were on the forefront of curbside recycling when the state introduced mandatory recycling in 1989. We were one of the first haulers in CT to distribute blue bins to residents and find markets for consumer-separated materials.
About 30 years ago, the state built a good infrastructure for municipal solid waste. There’s been little innovation and diversification since. Now the waste incinerators have aged out and residents face a potential disposal rate hike crisis. We need a rapid plan to stimulate market forces and innovate next-gen waste management and recycling strategies. This not only protects consumer access to these essential services, but it honors Connecticut’s commitment to protect the environment.
Connecticut’s most proud tradition is leadership in caring about citizens and safety. In just the past few legislative sessions our leaders passed laws to enhance gun safety, protect teens from vaping, and expand tele-health. We stood up for low wage workers with laws to raise the minimum wage. We put protections in place for all “at will” employees with paid family medical leave.
As a small state with a big heart, our COVID response was extraordinary and it saved lives.
The crisis, as well as a series of weather disasters over the past decade, have exposed weaknesses in laws about responding to statewide or regional emergency declarations. The “home rule” ethic leaves citizens in some towns vulnerable to a patchwork of local officials who may not have the preparation or the expertise to respond. The right crisis management systems, resources, and leadership should not be left to chance. To do so gives citizens a false sense of security.
The legislature should look closely at Section 28 of the Connecticut Emergency Preparedness statutes that govern the role of municipalities in emergencies and the collaboration among agencies. The state should establish clear guidelines and penalties when fundamental organization, procedures, and resources are not in place, beginning with a review of municipal codes and common practice statewide.
For the first time in 50 years, one Democratic governor stood up and took bold action on sound fiscal policy and actions. Democrats are on a path to correct the state’s economic slump that has persisted since big banks triggered the recession of 2008. Michele views these initiatives as common sense, responsible, and in line with what citizens expect from state leaders.
- Ned Lamont refused to defer unfunded pension liabilities for one more year. Actuarial errors first set in motion under the administration of Gov. Abe Ribicoff in 1958 got passed along through three generations of governors in three political parties. Until 2019 when Gov. Ned Lamont insisted on a fix.
- Democrats have also built our state’s Rainy Day Fund (RDF) to an all-time high. In fact, for the first time in almost 20 years it now exceeds the minimum required by law. Finance Committee Co-chair, Sen. John Fonfara (D) proposed the legislation that set this milestone in motion. He passed the Volatility Cap, a mechanism that requires all capital gains revenues over a certain amount to be automatically directed into the fund. Now CT has one of the best economic buffers in the U.S. for weathering the COVID crisis.
- Lamont’s “debt diet” was unpopular with some Connecticut towns. He refused to borrow money to fund projects. This was in sharp contrast to the Republican’s preferred plan: to pay for new road and bridge infrastructure with loans – in combination with raiding the Rainy Day Fund.
- Lamont had the sense to pull a poorly conceived and communicated toll plan off the table. A public referendum should be part of any future discussion on tolling for transportation work.
In addition to keeping citizens safe who need to distance-vote in 2020, Michele hopes the mail-in voting and change in habits leads to more citizen engagement in local and state government. Voting is fundamental to our democratic rights, and no person, no process, certainly no foreign government, should be allowed to put a barrier between American citizens and their ballots.
As we use phrases like “21st century education” we see education being transformed before our eyes. We’ve always asked a lot of our schools and teachers… now they’ve also become frontline defense against the virus. Teachers and staff are riding busses, sanitizing desks between classes, and inventing new ways to teach children over an Internet connection instead of in a classroom.
State leaders must find ways to ensure that the cost of a college degree does not become out of reach for the children of average wage earners.
Lessons learned in 2020 should be studied to analyze how they can strengthen our public schools.