Local lawmakers discuss their legislative priorities



State lawmakers opened the 2022 legislative session last week with hopes of returning the state back to normal — as much as possible — following two years of grappling with the pandemic.

Unlike last year, when members of the General Assembly took the oath of office outside, braving frigid cold and hundreds of protesters angry about COVID restrictions, on Wednesday, Feb. 9 mostly masked state legislators filled the House of Representatives and Senate while just a small group of people opposing mask mandates gathered outside.

State Rep. Donna Veach (R-Berlin, Southington) said one of her top priorities this session is improving public safety.

"For almost a year, my Republican colleagues and I have done everything within our legislative powers to sit down at the table with our counterparts and try and address this issue," Veach said. "Unfortunately, our requests have largely gone ignored despite the crimes happening with greater frequency. Anyone who opens up a newspaper or turns on the television is bound to come across a story where someone's car was stolen, a homeowner was shot at, or most recently where a victim was dragged attempting to stop a car theft in process."

Additionally, Veach said she would like to readdress the police accountability bill to restore officers’ qualified immunity, ability to request a consent search during a motor vehicle stop when reasonable suspicion exists, and provide protections to officers who receive a mental health assessment.

Also, Veach said she will focus on limiting the tax burden on residents and businesses.

Another local lawmaker, William Petit (R-Plainville, New Britain), also listed tax relief, public safety and improving the police accountability bill among his legislative priorites. 

And Petit hopes to pass a comprehensive mental health bill which would increase access, licensing reciprocity and school-based health centers, while providing adequate funding and resources to the Office of Victim Advocate.

"While the legislature will have many issues to consider during this shortened session, one of the most important items on my agenda this year is addressing the mental health issues we face, especially those in children," Petit said. "I am very hopeful that we will be able to shepherd a large multifaceted bill thorough the Public Health, Children’s and Human Services committees to improve and expand mental health services throughout the state.”

The 2022 legislative session will adjourn at midnight on Wednesday, May 4.

Besides the future of COVID restrictions, tax cuts, criminal justice reform and a proposed ban on flavored vaping products are among numerous topics lawmakers are expected to take up over the next several months. They’re also expected to try and address the continuing fallout of the pandemic, including various labor shortages.

“While the pandemic seems to be easing and we’re increasingly optimistic about what the future holds for us, we know that there’s so much work to be done as the pandemic continues to impact our families, our schools, our business communities in ways direct and indirect,” said House Majority Leader Jason Rojas (D-East Hartford).

Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont kicked off the legislative session by delivering his State of the State Address and unveiling his proposed revisions to the two-year, $46.3 billion state budget passed last year. Lamont and members of the General Assembly face reelection in November.

This report includes information from The Associated Press.



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