With the close of the 2019 legislative season, Republican state Reps. Gail Lavielle (R-143) and Tom O’Dea (R-125) reached out to residents, giving them a brief rundown of the state budget and key issues they supported and opposed.
The pair discussed guns, paid family and medical leave, the minimum-wage hike, tolls, change in the smoking age, regionalization and other topics with about 35 constituents at Orem’s Diner on Friday, June 21.
“The budget was the biggest hurdle to get over in the Connecticut legislature,” Lavielle said, referring to the two-year, $43-billion state budget which passed the House and the Senate mostly along party lines.
She said she was happy that three gun bills passed this session.
The first bill prohibits the manufacturing of so-called “ghost guns” — guns created without serial numbers.
The second bill, known as Ethan’s Law, requires both loaded and unloaded firearms to be safely stored in homes where there are minors under age 18.
The third bill prohibits storing a pistol in an unattended vehicle unless that pistol is in the trunk, a locked glove box, or a locked safe.
Both legislators said they were opposed to the paid family and medical leave act passed by the state.
The program allows workers 12 weeks of paid leave if they or a member of their family are ill.
“Everyone needs a version of the family and medical leave act, but not this one,” Lavielle said.
Workers will be funding the program with a payroll tax of one-half of one percent. But benefits will be cut if the revenue proves insufficient to meet demand, and that would be a likely scenario, she said.
“The labor commissioner can lower the benefit if the fund runs low. So you would still pay your [0.5] percent but not get the benefit out of it,” she said.
Both also opposed the new law which will increase the minimum wage from $10.10 to $15 an hour by 2023.
“One question I have about the minimum wage hike, is whether $15 an hour is the correct number? Where did it come from? As far as I know, there has been no study done about it,” Lavielle said.
Another problem she envisions is that the minimum wage will continue to increase every year after 2023 unless there is additional legislative action taken. “The minimum wage is tied to the employment cost index which has a history of never going down,” she said.
Regarding Gov. Lamont’s campaign to institute highway tolls, Lavielle said she has yet to see a comprehensive plan that explains the need for tolls and where they will be located. “It keeps changing, there is no definitive plan,” she said.
O’Dea said he has not gotten an explanation of the costs involved with the installation of tolls. “We want to go to ‘no toll state’ to ‘most toll state?’” he asked.
Both legislators supported the bill that raises the smoking age, or age that someone can purchase tobacco products, from 18 to 21. A chief goal of the bill is to prevent young people from vaping.
“A lot of people start smoking when they are young. But if they don’t start, there is a good chance they will never start. Vaping is very attractive to young people and that leads them to start smoking,” she said.
O’Dea said he is usually supportive of things for 18-year-olds who are old enough to serve in the military, but he draws the line with tobacco products and vaping. “My children see a lot of vaping at their school and it is a real problem,” O’Dea said.
On the topic of school regionalization, where a number of bills were proposed that would force certain-sized school districts to merge, Lavielle was happy to report that none of those bills survived. “We’re safe for at least a couple years,” she said.
The audience was appreciative and gave her a round of applause.