Weston state legislators tackle hot topics [Weston Forum]

April 8, 2015

Article and photo as it appeared in the Weston Forum

Weston state Rep. John Shaban and state Sen. Toni Boucher joined Redding Rep. Dan Carter for a town hall meeting in Redding recently. —Anthony Spinelli photo

Two of Weston’s state legislators were in Redding March 24, prepared to talk about the major issues of the day in a meet-up with the public at town hall, but what 14-year-old James Joyce of Weston wanted to know about was something that is more of a hot topic for local high school students.

James, president of Weston High School’s Class of 2018, talked about the state law that requires all students to participate in physical education, which he and other students believe is not fair.

He wants to change the law so students who participate in sports and already spend a lot of time exercising can be excused from physical education class.

“By requiring student-athletes to participate in physical education, students are being deprived of time that would be better invested in studying, writing papers, doing homework, and applying to colleges,” James said in his letter to the legislators on the right to play. “Athletic programs outside of the Connecticut General Statutes require more athletic activity and are more beneficial than physical education. Forcing student-athletes to gain credits in PE is both unnecessary and unfair.”

James’s concerns did not fall on deaf ears. State Sen. Toni Boucher (R-26), state Rep. John Shaban (R-135), and Redding state Rep. Dan Carter (R-2) each said after the one-hour session at town hall that relaxing the physical education requirements for athletes is a topic that deserves more discussion.

“It’s an interesting idea. It’s been floated around,” said Shaban, whose district includes Weston, Easton, and Redding. His counterparts agreed.

Other issues

They had a raft of issues to discuss. Boucher, Shaban and Carter talked at length about the press in Connecticut for tolls, which have not existed in the state since a deadly crash and fire in 1983 elicited public opinion to shut them down. Public opinion is still against the tolls, they said, and they are no fans of the proposals.

Carter, for example, said tolls would hurt business at the Danbury Fair Mall, which is part of his district. He serves Danbury, Redding, Newtown, and Bethel.

“Go to the Danbury Fair Mall, and you see a lot of cars in the parking lot with New York plates,” Carter said. If there were tolls, the mall would be hurt, he said.

The state’s budget deficit is also an issue that looms large for the local representatives. Shaban said it is due to 20 years or more of the legislature spending more than it took in.

“Guess what, if you have $10 and you spend $11, you’ve got a deficit,” Shaban said. “We’ve been spending more than we have for 20 years, and we’re out of money.”

Charter schools, a type of regionalization of education, is another hot topic, said Boucher. “Some districts want it, some do not want it,” she said.

Other pressing issues in Hartford, noted in a handout booklet the legislators distributed at the meeting, include senior safety zones to protect seniors from interaction with registered sex offenders. A bill is being studied that would prohibit registered sex offenders from entering senior centers and elderly housing facilities, except under limited circumstances, such as visiting a relative or voting in an election.

Childhood obesity is another issue. The Task Force on Childhood Obesity gave a final report last October that included recommendations for expanding physical activity in after-school programs, creating a statewide volunteer physical activity commission, and restricting the marketing of unhealthy foods to children. The legislature may take up the issue this session based on the report’s findings, according to the legislators.

The legislative session ends in June.