Making 2021 Healthier on a Number of Levels Tops Legislators’ Wish Lists

In the past, 61st District Rep. Zawistowski joined her fellow representatives inside the State Capital. This year the session will begin virtually due to COVID-19.

For the first time in memory all 151 members of the House of Representatives newly elected state legislature were sworn in outdoors on the Capitol’s north steps overlooking Bushnell Park on January 6. Family members who, in the past have packed the legislative Hall in which the ceremony was traditionally held, looked on outdoors, wearing masks,

In the 11-month long attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19, the ceremony symbolized what is foremost in the minds of the oath-takers  – a virus that has affected and will continue to affect many legislative issues. Two North Central Connecticut 2021 House Representatives and two State Senators recently weighed in on their goals in this unprecedented scenario.

57th House District Rep. Jaime Foster

57th State Rep. Jaime Foster, who hopes to prioritize children’s health, stands with Ms. Samantha Duquette, teacher, Foster’s daughter, and  Ms. Tracey Tomilson, center director at Educational Playcare in Ellington.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has influenced every facet of society, schools, and education, public health, business and the economy,” said Rep. Jaime Foster, the only non-incumbent to win in November in the North Central News readership. Foster, who represents the 57th House District that includes Ellington and part of East Windsor, added she does not plan to lose sight of issues outside the pandemic that constituents raised during the election cycle, such as crumbling foundations, employment opportunities (particularly in veteran populations). Also high on her list are “looking out for seniors and those on fixed incomes, and supporting local agriculture.”

In the area of education Representative Foster, a dietician, said, “I would like to make sure that we have excellent metrics to assess children’s health and wellbeing in schools and across districts to help us assess what schools are doing well and where improvement is necessary.”

As a newcomer, Rep. Foster regrets that COVID-19 has forced  a virtual start to the 2021 legislative session. “We are not going to have the chance to just happen across people in the hallways. . .Sometimes those accidental run-ins are incredibly beneficial.” Still, she expects her good rapport with Chris Davis, her legislative predecessor, and Davis’ predecessor Ted Graziani, various selectmen and Senator Saud Anwar to provide her with various and valuable perspectives.

61st House District Rep. Tami Zawistowski

Rep. Tami Zawistowski, whose district includes Suffield, has designated three priorities as the 2021 legislative session begins:

·      Making sure that everyone who would like to get the COVID-19 vaccine gets one;

·      Survival and economic recovery for small businesses;

·      Making the state more affordable, especially in the wake of job loss created by the pandemic.

She said, “One issue particular to my district is the loss of hospitality and aerospace jobs caused by the severe downturn in air travel. “We need to make sure that workers in those industries have the ability to survive economically until things turn around. For small businesses that means the availability of grants and low-interest loans; for workers it means keeping state and local budgets under control and looking to reduce certain taxes and fees.”

7th District Senator John Kissel

Senator John Kissel will begin his 15th session representing District 7 in January

Sen. John Kissel, whose 7th District includes the North Central Connecticut towns of Enfield, Somers, Suffield, and Windsor Locks, will begin his 15th term representing the district in January. He has been reappointed to serve as the leading Republican on the legislature’s Judiciary Committee. 

Sen. Kissel recently had this to say about this and other appointments. “It is an honor to be entrusted with this responsibility . . . I continue to work tirelessly to improve the quality of life for the residents of the 7th Senate District. I love this state and will continue fighting to pass policies which put Connecticut on a more stable, predictable, pro-business, pro-taxpayer path.  I will continue to be the voice of the people at the State Capitol, and I look forward to the 2021 legislative session.”

35th District Sen. Dan Champagne

Vernon’s Senator Dan Champagne views taxes as a major burden on people in his district and across the state, as well as for businesses. He says, “Many people are at the point where they cannot simply make ends meet, and we need to reopen this state safely to get people back to work. Businesses, especially small businesses, have suffered major losses over the past year and we must find other ways to help them to sustain.”

Champagne referred to the recent news of Governor Lamont”s decision to sign on to the Transportation and Climate Initiative regional program which still requires legislative approval. Champagne said he would oppose this sort of legislation that increases the state’s gas tax.

Crumbling foundations continue to be a major issue for Champagne’s  constituents as well, with over 35,000 homes affected. “Many of these homeowners are still in need of financial assistance and I’ll continue to support legislation that helps these people to become whole,” said Sen. Champagne.

Another one of his goals is to protect public safety and those who administer it, which includes fixing the Police Accountability bill that passed in the July special legislative session. “It must be fixed because it is not a ‘police accountability’ bill; it does nothing to hold law enforcement personnel accountable,” said Sen. Champagne.

Finally, he is intent on looking at ways to reduce the cost of living in Connecticut. “We’re at a time now where our middle class and vulnerable populations cannot afford necessities. Food is one such necessity, and a goal of mine is to look at how we can help those in need. There are nearly one-half million people in the state that need food assistance, and this is a problem that must be fixed.”

By Laura B. Hayden

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