Wilton delegates move up

When the state legislature convenes for the 2015 session on Jan. 7, Wilton’s representatives will have some new committee assignments along with returning to familiar seats. The town will be represented by ranking members on several powerful committees, and will have a voice in judiciary, financial, education, and transportation matters.

Sen. Toni Boucher (R-26) will join the Judiciary Committee of the General Assembly. It is a body that “is extremely busy laying the groundwork for the state’s future in many areas of law.  Especially critical is overseeing nominations relating to future judges and members of the Board of Pardons and Paroles,” Ms. Boucher said in a press release this week.

In addition, the committee oversees such matters as criminal law, probate courts, all nominations of workers’ compensation commissioners, and all bills carrying civil penalties that are more than $5,000.

Ms. Boucher will also return as Senate ranking member of the Education and Transportation committees. Both issues have been of great importance to Ms. Boucher over her career as a public servant. On the local level, she has served as chair of the Wilton Board of Education, and then as a member of the state Board of Education. She has served on the Education Committee as both a state representative and state senator.

Ms. Boucher was deeply involved in preventing the construction of a Super 7 highway through Wilton and neighboring towns, and has been vocal in the use of transportation funds and service problems plaguing Metro-North over the last few years.

Her final seat is on the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee, which sets tax rates. Ms. Boucher has been a vocal critic of rising taxes and state spending levels.

“With next year’s budget deficit already projected to hit more than $1 billion, legislators have some serious work to do in developing the next two-year budget,” she said. “The state is already taxing families and businesses too much, making Connecticut unaffordable. Too many residents and jobs are fleeing to tax-friendly states. I look forward to playing a positive role in resolving our state’s fiscal challenges in a bipartisan and responsible manner.”

Representatives

When she begins her third term in office next month, state Rep. Gail Lavielle will take her place as ranking member of the General Assembly’s Education Committee. She has been critical of the breadth of state mandates regarding education and has been a champion of early literacy.

“I am honored to have been named to this leadership position,” Ms. Lavielle said in a press release. “Nothing is more important to the future of our state than ensuring that all of Connecticut’s students receive a quality education. While our educational system has experienced many significant changes over the past few years, there is much more work to do to make sure that all of our districts are prepared and equipped to serve their students and that they have the local decision-making authority to do it well,” she said.

The committee oversees all matters relating to the state Department of Education; local and regional boards of education and the substantive law of collective bargaining covering teachers and professional employees; vocational rehabilitation; the Commission on the Arts; and libraries, museums and historical and cultural associations.

She will return to familiar ground on the Transportation Committee, where she plans to  continue her long-standing advocacy for commuters, transportation infrastructure planning and funding, and safety. Previously, she was ranking member of the Appropriations Committee’s Transportation Subcommittee.

Ms. Lavielle will retain her seat on the Appropriations Committee, which sets budgetary and spending policies for the state.

“Getting the state’s financial house in order must be our top priority,” she said. “Spending, which increased by 16% over the last four years, continues to outpace revenues, even after the historic tax increases of 2011. If we don’t resolve this structural deficit, we will not be able to fund our critical needs in areas like transportation, education and social services. At the same time, people and businesses cannot withstand further tax pressure, and many are leaving the state. It will take strong bipartisan collaboration to find solutions.”

Tom O’Dea (R-125), who serves parts of Wilton and New Canaan, will return to Hartford as ranking member on the Regulations Review Committee. He will also serve on the Judiciary and Transportation committees.

“In a few short weeks, I will be starting my second term as state representative, where I intend to continue working to make Connecticut a better place to live and work,” Mr. O’Dea said.

“We have a lot of work to do. The most pressing issue of the session will be balancing the budget deficit. We will continue ensuring that Connecticut’s court system is the model system in the nation, and we will renew focus on ensuring the efficiency of Metro-North.”