The State Legislature convened a special session two weeks ago to vote on a critical expansion of last fall’s highly publicized Jobs Bill. As a candidate for State Senator of the 13th District and a Meriden City Councilor, I firmly believe our Legislature did the right thing by passing this legislation, which will have a far-reaching impact on behalf of small businesses, veterans and victims of violent crimes.
Small businesses have long been the heart and soul of Connecticut’s economy, and for that reason our lawmakers have a moral imperative to provide them with every opportunity to succeed in a difficult economic climate. Under the new law, businesses eligible for financial assistance from the state’s Small Business Express program can now employ as many as 100 employees, instead of 50 under the previous statute. This change expands the pool of companies that can receive loans up to $100,000 for operating and infrastructure expenses, and up to $300,000 for job creation commitments.
In approving this measure, our Legislature sent a message to small business owners that a greater number of companies in our district can now access the resources needed to expand, pay down their start-up costs or create jobs that would benefit our citizens and economy.
The bill also provides for our veterans. In recent years, our percentage of unemployed post 9/11 veterans has been unforgivably high - twice that of non-veterans in some age brackets. Expansion of the law will directly combat this problem by providing incentives for businesses that hire unemployed veterans who served since September 11, 2001. This includes payment of a service member’s salary for their first 180 days and comprehensive training that ensures each new hire has the tools necessary to succeed in today’s workforce.
Connecticut has also taken a compassionate step forward on public safety and victim advocacy, especially towards women and children. Our health care facilities now have access to uniform evidence collection kits for sexual assault cases, and victims of a sexual assault or child abuse are now exempt from bearing the cost of a medical examination. The bill also establishes a pilot program using GPS technology to monitor high-risk offenders charged with violating a restraining or protective order. These steps will help ensure the safety of our citizens, while providing a measure of comfort and dignity to those who have endured unspeakable crimes.
While initiatives like these and last year’s domestic violence prevention bill hold great promise, our continued vigilance is required. Here in Meriden, our own State Senator proposed a budget amendment in 2011 that would have cut all state funding to Planned Parenthood.
As a City Councilor and concerned citizen, I joined advocates and political leaders from across the state in opposition to this amendment. Had it been successful, the amendment would have prevented a large percentage of our female population from accessing affordable and essential health services, such as cancer screenings and routine tests. But the defeat of this amendment and the passage of the aforementioned legislative initiatives represent a promising sign that the health and safety of women remains a top priority here in Connecticut.
These are not partisan issues, but rather matters of equality and fundamental fairness that should transcend politics and party lines. By passing this bill, the members of our State Legislature that supported this bill took a decisive stand on behalf of our citizens. For that, they should be congratulated.