The following has been compiled based on press releases from State Sen. Toni Boucher and State Rep. Tom O’Dea, both of whom represent Wilton in Hartford.

Sen. Boucher Calls Opening Day Positive Harbinger for the 2017 Legislative Session

State Sen. Toni Boucher (R-26) said opening day of the Connecticut General Assembly was a congenial affair with members expressing gratitude to their supporters, especially their families.

“Running for public office is very demanding for candidates and their families,” Boucher said. “It’s important that we show our appreciation to our families and all the people along the way that help to get us into office. Being able to publicly recognize that support in the Senate Chamber is one of the things that makes opening day so special.”

Boucher said opening day is also a time when members of both parties show they share a positive personal regard toward one another. She said everyone was glad to see that Sen. Martin Looney (D-11) is recovering from his recent kidney transplant operation, and new Republican senators received a warm welcome from their Democrat colleagues.

Gov. Dannel Malloy’s 2017 State of the State address also provided a promising start to the session, Boucher said.

“The Governor’s call for a partnership as we work through the budget process was a good sign,” she said. “I was glad to hear him mirror some of the things we Republicans have been saying. The state, and state government, needs to live within its means.”

Some of the Governor’s remarks, however, gave the senator pause, she said.

“Making cuts to municipal aid is absolutely the wrong thing to do right now,” Boucher said. “Many towns only get one penny for every dollar they send to Hartford. They are also burdened with 380 regulations and mandates that add to their costs. You can’t get blood from a stone.”

Boucher said that with a Republican/Democrat tie in the Senate and a slim Democrat majority in the House, she is looking forward to a collaborative session and the creation of a state budget that will improve the state’s economy, help businesses grow, and provide stability for all taxpayers.

Boucher represents the communities of Bethel, New Canaan, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston, Westport and Wilton.

UPDATED 3:30 P.M.–Sen. Boucher’s staff sent a second press release regarding her appointment to Chief Deputy Senate Republican Majority Leader, which they wrote, “…brings her more authority and greater responsibilities.”

She will now be a co-chairman on the Education and co-chairman on the Transportation committees where she previously served as a ranking member. She will also serve as vice-chairman on the Banking Committee, and as a member of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee.

Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Len Fasano said, “Senator Boucher is an extremely dedicated lawmaker who will serve very well in her new committee leadership roles. She always puts her all into helping her constituents and making their voices heard at the state Capitol.”

Boucher said she appreciates the confidence of the Senate Republican caucus and its leader. She will continue to bring the same energy and commitment to her new roles.

“I fully intend to leverage my position and experience on these committees to bring about the kind of changes our state so desperately needs,” she said. “We must make structural changes to state government, the state budget, and state funding. Connecticut will only succeed if we improve the internal and external perceptions of our fiscal health, reduce burdensome taxes, shore up our infrastructure, and create sufficient, sustainable funding for our schools and municipalities. We have a lot of work to do, but real change is possible.”

Leadership positions in the legislative committees and the current balance of power in the State Senate means Republicans will have the same ability to set agendas in both venues as their Democrat counterparts.

Sen. Boucher said, “The opportunity to lead also means the responsibility to produce results. My constituents are counting on me and the rest of the caucus to give them a reason to stay in Connecticut, a reason to believe our economy will improve, and a reason to believe that government can be responsible. I have no intention of letting them down.”

Some of the issues Sen. Boucher intends to focus on this session include:

  • Ban overtime and mileage reimbursements from any pension calculation for any category of state employee including all legislators;
  • Raise required employee pension contributions from 2 percent to 8 percent;
  • Require legislative approval of all state employee contracts;
  • Require a two-thirds vote of each chamber of the legislature to adopt any unfunded municipal mandate;
  • Phase out the inheritance tax;
  • Eliminate state income tax on social security benefits;
  • Restore $32 million shortfall in care for kids program and find an offsetting reduction;
  • Set a minimum number of social workers for each high school at one for every 400-500 students to address mental health and special education issues;
  • Limit state colleges power to raise tuition without legislative approval;
  • Direct the commissioner of education to provide written guidance on model identification procedures, as well as best instructional and professional development practices to support gifted and talented students in Connecticut; and
  • Prohibit the state from implementing rail and bus fare increases without prior legislative approval.

O’Dea Appointed Deputy Republican Leader At Large

State Rep. Tom O’Dea (R-125) has been named Deputy Republican Leader at Large by House Republican Leader Themis Klarides (R-114), and received his committee appointments for the 2017-19 Legislative term.

O’Dea, who represents New Canaan and Wilton in the House, said the coming session will be filled with numerous serious challenges that the legislature needs to rise to.

“Our state is facing fiscal challenges that have not been seen for decades and we have yet to recover from “the Great Recession,” O’Dea says. “The key to recovery is job growth and in order to achieve that we need to improve the economic environment for businesses, large and small. I am hopeful that this session, with most legislators understanding the link between taxes and job growth, we’ll be able to put our fiscal house in order.”

O’Dea will continue serving on the Transportation Committee and the Judiciary Committee.