2019 has been an exhilarating year, and I’m grateful every day for the opportunity to serve our community in Hartford. As next year’s legislative agenda begins to take shape, I think it’s important to reflect on the steps we took this year to build a better future for Connecticut. Between long drives to Hartford, roughly a dozen town halls and countless community events, I was proud to deliver real progress for our district.

This year, we brought Paid Family and Medical Leave to Connecticut, because no one should be forced to go back to work when they are still recovering from an illness or caring for a new baby. This legislation represents a major step forward and the beginning of a new chapter in our state’s history. The program is financed by employee contributions, meaning employers will not be asked to pay their employees who are on leave.

Next, Hartford heard my constituents loudly and clearly when it comes to gun violence prevention. I sponsored three new laws that will prevent future tragedies. We banned untraceable and dangerous ghost guns, so that law enforcement officers are better able to track firearms and keep them out of the wrong hands. We also passed Ethan’s law, which requires firearms to be stored safely when kept in the home of a child. Thanks to the strength and courage of Ethan Song’s parents, we honored their son’s life by preventing future accidental deaths.

Environmental protection took a central role this year, and I’m grateful that my colleagues agreed to phase out single-use plastic bags. So many towns in my district have already taken this important step, and it was time for the state government to follow their lead. We also banned fracking waste and transitioned more of Connecticut’s energy grid to greener, newer technologies.

Despite Hartford’s habit of late budgets, we passed a budget on time that cut income taxes for seniors and set aside a historic amount of savings. The $2.45 billion in the Rainy Day Fund will ensure that Connecticut is prepared to weather a potential economic recession. Our budget also eliminated the business entity tax, sending the signal to entrepreneurs that Connecticut is open for business. We reduced by state employee workforce by 1,000 positions, and I worked with fellow freshmen in the legislature to protect taxpayer dollars and reduce wasteful spending within the bureaucracy.

Since 95% of adult smokers become addicted before the age of 21, we raised the minimum age for smoking and vaping. It’s clear from the experience of other states that raising the minimum age to 21 saves lives, prevents addiction and reduces healthcare expenditures. We also stood up to insurance companies by requiring short-term health insurance to cover individuals with pre-existing conditions.

Finally, I worked with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to address the student debt crisis and provide local businesses with the highly-skilled workforce they need to succeed. A brand new tax credit cuts taxes for businesses that provide student loan relief to their employees. With the private sector and public sector working together, we can begin to address this $1.5 trillion problem.