The current legislative session has taken on a new and sharper focus in light of the Newtown tragedy. Like many state and federal legislative bodies, the Connecticut General Assembly is assembling a task force charged with crafting concrete solutions to address gun violence, school safety and mental health. I look forward to being part of this important discussion.
I believe in and support the right of law-abiding citizens to possess firearms. I also believe that reasonable gun control measures can and should be passed (and the existing measures enforced) to protect the public and law enforcement officials.
Many of the new gun control bills we will see this session will be laudable, reasonable and effective; some I suspect will not. My intention is to err on the side of public safety and effectiveness while being cognizant of the rights of law abiding citizens.
The school safety component will likely be addressed on a local basis, with each community deciding how to best protect their schools in accordance with their local concerns and opinions. I believe this approach is the best and most appropriate place to focus such efforts.
Mental health treatment also needs to be evaluated, with early identification of troubled individuals being a central component of any effort to minimize the chance of another tragedy. Those with mental illnesses should receive treatment, and those with violent tendencies cannot have access to firearms.
I expect to participate in a local public forum next month to discuss these measures and the status of the task force’s efforts.
Next, and more in the normal course, we still need to address our state budget — both the deficits from the last budget cycle and the creation of a new biennium budget.
The latest financial reports confirm that, due to the precipitous and continuing fall in state revenues, the current budget year (which ends June 30) is still in deficit despite the emergency mitigation plan passed in December. Simply put, our state cannot withstand the current level of spending, and we must halt our government’s “spend then tax” approach that hurts the private sector and stifles economic growth.
Lastly, I have filed a number of legislative proposals that should have a positive impact on our towns.
One bill would establish a task force to implement improved Lyme disease testing and related measures to promote Lyme disease prevention, tick reduction, and support for individuals who are presently afflicted.
I have also proposed a bill to strengthen yet again the role of municipalities in cell tower placement, an effort that will build on a similar law I promoted and saw passed last session.
I have also resumed my effort to amend the outdated municipal employee retirement system to give our towns greater flexibility over municipal finances.
Finally, I have filed bills to require utility companies to fix utility poles when discovered and back-bill the pole’s owner — rather than pointing fingers while customers sit in the dark.
I also have proposals to increase access to natural gas in Connecticut, and to strengthen the ability of DEEP to expedite the remediation of contaminated lands.
I look forward to serving your interests this coming session. Please don’t hesitate to contact my office with any questions or concerns. As always, you can reach me at 860-240-8700 or by email at John.Shaban@housegop.ct.gov.