Witkos, LeGeyt Discuss Latest Legislative Session [Avon Patch]

May 24, 2012

Senator Kevin Witkos speaks with constituents at a town hall meeting in Avon on Wednesday, May 23rd.

Article as it appeared in the Avon Patch on May 24, 2012

Major bills passed included education reform, Sunday liquor sales, repealing the death penalty and legalizing medical marijuana.

By Jessie Sawyer

State Sen. Kevin Witkos, R-8, and State Rep. Tim LeGeyt, R-17, spoke to constituents Wednesday about the bills that came out of the short legislative session.

Avon and Canton residents who attended were most interested in the education reform bill and new storm response legislation.

Here are some highlights from their presentation on the major bills passed.

Education Reform

  • Creates 1,000 new preschool program seats for lower performing districts.
  • Support for 25 schools designated as consistenly lowest performing; turnaround committees and pilot programs to be established to implement improvements.
  • Funding for charter school access will be increased for lowest performing districts.
  • More funding for magnet schools, technical high schools and agricultural science schools.
  • Teacher tenure will depend on "effectiveness" and evaluations; "ineffective" teachers can be dismissed.
  • $50 million added to Education Cost Sharing grant; $39.5 million of that will be given to low-performing school districts
  • Charter school funding increased from $9,400 to $11,500 per student for the next two fiscal years

Witkos said he voted against education reform because the state Senate had too little time to read it before voting. More specifically, he opposed two items that are part of the bill. The first was enforcing a uniform way for school boards statewide to keep their books. The second was giving school governance councils at low-performing schools the authority to make decisions about the schools without the local school boards.

LeGeyt, who has previously expressed how he thought Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s education reform proposal was overzealous, continues to endorse more aid for early education. He spoke in favor of the added program seats in preschool programs.

“That’s the place money needs to be spent because children need to get a good start and be helped early on to become comfortable and get used to the routine because once the grades hit, things happen so quickly," LeGeyt said.

Storm Response Legislation Improvements

  • Utilities companies and municipalities will work together more and have more training for storm response.
  • Tree trimming to continue.
  • The state will study the possibility of having micro-grids and ways towns can have alternative energy sources, such as wind, solar or fuel cell energy. Grocery stores, gas stations and other staple businesses could also buy into the micro-grid, if one were in place, Witkos said.
  • The bill also allows for review into burying power lines underground during road renovations.
  • Utilities will need to meet certain performance standards or benchmark requirements and deadlines will be established. If they are not met, customers can receive credits on their electric bill.

The Emergency Preparedness and Storm Response Act comes after the Tropical Storm Irene and the October snowstorm ripped thorugh the state this past year.

"I want to give the governor credit for his communication," Witkos said.

Sunday Liquor Sales

  • Alcohol can now be sold Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Package stores can offer fruit, cheese, crackers and olives.
  • Beer manufacturers can open a pub or restaurant on site, which mainly applies to the Thomas Hooker Brewing Company in Bloomfield.
  • Package stores can give a 10 percent discount on one item once a month.

Connecticut is the second to last state in the country to eliminate this blue law.

“Finally this year it passed and very particularly the package stores understood all the things in bill this time. They were totally against, but they were willing to barter, so it did pass," LeGeyt said.

Death Penalty

  • Connecticut is the 17th state in the nation to abandon capitol punishment, Witkos said.

Racial Profiling Legislation Amendment

  • This bill ammends the 1999 Alvin Penn Racial Profiling Prohibition Act.
  • Local and state police departments must adopt a written policy prohibiting racial profiling.
  • Police will now be required to give anyone they stop a form with their name on it and information on how to report them if a person stopped believes they’ve been racially profiled.

Witkos, also a retiring Canton police officer, said that he has concern officers will stop making motor vehicle stops for fear of being the subject of a racial profiling complaint if the system were abused.

Medical Marijuana

  • Patients using medical marijuana and their caregivers will need to register with the Department of Consumer Protection.
  • Doctors will need to verify that a patient’s marijuana use is for medical purposes, such as to treat cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis or epilepsy before marijuana can be given to the patient.
  • Only pharmacists with a particular license will be permitted to dispense medical marijuana.
  • There will be tight regulation.