Legislative Update: Unfunded mandate relief, clean elections, ESL support

Unfunded mandate relief

State Senator Toni Boucher (R-26) testified this month before the General Assembly’s Planning and Development Committee in support of a proposal to make it harder for unfunded mandates to be passed by the legislature.

According to the Connecticut Council of Municipalities (CCM) there are currently 1,200 mandates, most of which are unfunded, that place an undue burden on towns already grappling with severe budget problems. “Faced with ever rising costs, many of these towns are forced to raise their property taxes, or to cut back on services to the detriment of their residents,” a press release said.
“With the state asking so much of its towns already, we should not add to that burden without the most careful consideration,” Ms. Boucher said.
The bill is called An Act Increasing The Threshold Required For Passage Of Unfunded Mandates.

A call for ‘clean elections’

State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) has joined fellow Republican legislators in calling on the General Assembly to “restore transparency and integrity to Connecticut’s clean elections program.”
“Connecticut’s clean elections legislation set a real example for the rest of the country when the legislature passed it a decade ago,” said Ms. Lavielle. “Unfortunately, over the past 10 years, new legislation has created so many loopholes that the program today bears very little resemblance to the original” which, among other reforms, curtailed the influence of special interests.
The House and Senate Republicans proposed the following reforms:

  • Cap organizational expenditures by state parties on behalf of candidates at the following limits:

• Governor — $250,000;
• Constitutional Officer — $75,000;
• State Senate — $10,000;
• House of Representatives — $3,500.

  • Reduce individual donor limits to state parties from $10,000 to $5,000.

  • Eliminate Citizens’ Election Program grants to unopposed candidates. (They currently receive 30% of a full grant.)

  • Stop allowing state contractor donations to federal accounts from being used to fund state races.

  • Reduce all Citizens’ Election Program grants by 25%.

Supporting English language learners

State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143), Ranking Member of the General Assembly’s Education Committee, has joined a new work group charged with reviewing, assessing, and proposing recommendations to the House of Representatives designed to improve the educational outcomes of English Language Learners (ELLs) in Connecticut.
Comprised of educators, child language specialists, legislators, administrators, and state officials, the work group will meet regularly in February and March, with the aim of presenting recommendations for consideration by the General Assembly during this legislative session.
As of October 2014, there were nearly 35,000 students identified as English language learners attending the state’s public schools and speaking about 160 different native languages. The seven most frequently spoken languages, in descending order, are Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, Polish, Arabic, Haitian Creole, and Vietnamese. While a high proportion of Connecticut’s ELL students live in the state’s largest cities, many also attend schools in smaller cities and towns.
Ms. Lavielle said it is imperative non-native English speakers learn English as quickly as possible but added, “One of the most important concepts we discussed in our first meeting was flexibility: people learn languages differently depending on their age, their previous educational background in their first language, and their motivation, among other factors. I’m very pleased that we won’t be seeking a one-size-fits-all solution.”