State legislators discuss pending bills
By Martha Marteney - Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Thu., Apr. 7, 2011
Manchester’s state legislators held open office hours on April 6 to give their constituents a time to discuss issues of concern. State Sen. Steve Cassano (D-District 4) was joined by state representatives Jason Rojas (D-District 9), Geoff Luxenberg (D-District 12) and Jack Thompson (D-District 13). The legislative group met with a dozen residents in the Manchester Room at Town Hall.
The legislators spent two hours listening to the people’s concerns about specific bills currently pending in committees, as well as general discussions about the about the status of certain policies and programs. “It’s refreshing to see so many new faces,” said Cassano about the participants.
It was the first time the four legislators had held such a meeting in Manchester since being elected. Cassano and Rojas had previously met with constituents in Glastonbury.
After reviewing the areas represented by each legislator and their committee standings, Thompson invited the residents to introduce themselves and provide a summary of the issues about which they were concerned. Throughout the evening, as residents came and went, the legislators made sure that each person had the opportunity to speak.
David Mordavski asked the legislators to oppose the bill that would close the Kensington fish hatchery, which produces all the state's Atlantic salmon and Seeforellen brown trout. Thompson indicated that he had already sent an e-mail to his fellow legislators calling for the continued operation of the hatchery, which not only supplies the fish, but also is a source of information for schools.
Cassano said, “I haven’t heard of anyone who is opposed to saving it [the hatchery.]” He explained that some of the program cuts were included in the budget process as a matter of course.
Members of the Manchester Elks Club raised their concerns regarding the proposed bill that they understood would not only deregulate charitable gambling, but prohibit it entirely. “If we lose Bingo, we’re not going to be able to contribute funds the way we do now,” said Scott Cratty. The language of the bill reads such that it would terminate the state’s permitting process, and thereby prohibit charitable gambling.
Rojas took advantage of today’s technology to search the Internet via his cell phone for testimony from the governor’s budget secretary stating that the intent of the bill was not to restrict charitable games, but simply to remove the governmental permitting.
The Elks were also concerned about Senate Bill 948, which addresses smoking locations with fewer than five employees. The legislators agreed that the language should clearly exempt private clubs. “Just by your being here and raising the issue, we can make sure the exemption is included,” said Cassano.
Speaking on behalf of antique car enthusiasts, John Thrall spoke against House Bill 5583, which would raise the simplified value for tax purposes of antique cars from $500 to $2,500. The $500 value was set in 1972 and has not been adjusted in the interim. Although the legislators did not commit either way, they did indicate that the bill might not move forward because of the way it is attached to a bill that would change the automobile tax from town to state jurisdiction.
There were also general discussions about staffing issues at state facilities, the success of mental health facilities, and the unintended consequences of a variety of state policies.
Manchester Town Clerk Joe Compaseo and Glastonbury Town Clerk Joyce Mascena raised concerns about the bill that would conceal the address of public officials from land records. “While it sounds like a good piece of legislature, it’s not workable,” said Mascena. She pointed out that several examples of public records from which names or addresses would have to be redacted, if the bill were passed, such as dog licenses or trade names.
“We’ll look that up, for sure,” said Cassano.
East Hartford Middle School teacher Geri Brin-Keane, a Glastonbury resident, asked the legislators to consider the impact of the vocational schools admitting only the students with higher academic success. She noted the value of hands-on skill development in certain students, who are now being excluded from technical schools. In Brin-Keane’s opinion, this is due to state’s policies regarding the standardized testing, which naturally causes schools to matriculate those students who are more likely to succeed on the tests - “Because the schools need kids to pass the CMTs, not build a house,” she said.
“This highlights the demand for voc-tech schools,” said Luxenberg, “and that we don’t have enough of them.”
The legislators hope to have periodic open office hours to engage the public in these types of discussions. To learn about the next meeting, visit the websites of the legislators: senatedems.ct.gov/Cassano.php; housedems.ct.gov/rojas/; housedems.ct.gov/Luxenberg/; and housedems.ct.gov/thompson/.