Democrats plan to use their new near-super-majorities in the Connecticut legislature to pass a paid family and medical leave law, raise the minimum wage, and expand the state’s “second chance” criminal justice reforms and job-training and higher ed programs.
That was the takeaway, at least, from remarks that New Haven Democratic Martin Looney delivered on the opening day of the legislative session after being reelected president pro tem (i.e. leader) of the State Senate.
His full remarks follow:
“Opportunity To Achieve Ambitious Goals”
Thank you, thank you. I want to begin by thanking my wonderful wife Ellen. Your generous heart, patience, and understanding have sustained me throughout my 38 years in the General Assembly.
I also want to thank my son Michael, my daughter-in-law Becky, and my grandchildren. You are my inspiration and continuously fill me with joy and pride.
I am deeply honored to stand here today to begin a third term as your Senate President Pro Tempore. Every day serving our beloved state is a privilege and to lead this body for another two years is a blessing beyond words. Your faith in me is a cherished responsibility that I will never undervalue.
Every one of us standing in this circle has been given an enormous responsibility and opportunity. It is on us to always foster the best interests of the people of this state.
On November 6, 2018 the people of Connecticut sent a clear message to the General Assembly and state government as a whole. We must invest more to maintain and improve the quality of life of all our residents. The fiduciary challenges that we continue to face are critical but cannot distract us from the larger task we are given. We have the opportunity to:
• Create a Paid Family and Medical Leave system that means no one in our state has to choose between a paycheck and caring for himself or herself or for a loved one
• Raise the minimum wage so that people who work an honest day can rise above poverty, support a family, and take pride in being self-sustaining
• Continue the second chance and re-entry initiatives that build a more equitable criminal justice system that allows people to get their lives back on the right track
• Strengthen and expand investment in job training and higher education so that all residents willing to work to fulfill their dreams have the opportunity to do so.
Together we have made genuine progress for the people of Connecticut and we must continue to advance enlightened policies aimed at promoting the kind of future we envision for our children and grandchildren.
As representatives of state government we must commit to be a partner of the people striving to build a better life for themselves and their families. A sensible, responsible, well managed government can provide nurturing support to its people, through:
• Comprehensive, effective job training programs so that a person can embark on a new career path with legitimate expectations rather than vague hope
• More affordable housing so that a young child has the opportunity to grow up without daily fear and dread in a crime-ridden neighborhood
• A strong, patient-centered healthcare system so that people will not live in fear that a major illness may cause financial ruin
• A superb public education system with a strong commitment to excellence at all levels including in early childhood education so that an inquisitive child can grow up to become a scholar, a physician, an architect, an inventor of transformative technology, or a member of this General Assembly
We must not stifle the fragile dreams of our young. As Former First Lady Michelle Obama wrote in her recent memoir, “Failure is a feeling long before it is an actual result.”
Our state must not be complicit in the growth of that poisonous feeling.
Government can do great things to lift people up as demonstrated most heroically by Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. There is no more effective force than government to mobilize the strengths of our people together in order to help their neighbors and, in turn, help themselves.
If we look past the arbitrary walls that separate our communities we can make our state more efficient and more creative at providing services people rely on.
Our fellow citizens of Connecticut sent us here to make responsible and difficult choices. There is nowhere else we can turn. In this State Senate we have educators, town leaders, lawyers, business owners, labor leaders, parents, and grandparents. Together we have the experience to tackle the obstacles that we face. We must look to each other to move Connecticut forward and create enhanced, comprehensive regional cooperation to provide state assistance to cities and towns in creative and efficient ways.
As the esteemed economist John Kenneth Galbraith said, “The conventional view serves to protect us from the painful job of thinking.”
The median size of a Connecticut town is 27 square miles, with a range of 5 to 61. While our close knit communities help make Connecticut an attractive place to live, we cannot continue to have so many government fiefdoms that expend precious energy protecting the status quo. In fact, the best way to preserve the character of neighborhoods and villages is to find ways to lower their costs and establish a long-term path of sustainability. We have succeeded before with the streamlining of our probate court system and I believe we can muster the collective will to create more regional school districts and shared services districts.
More than anything with a new Governor and a transformed General Assembly we have an opportunity to achieve ambitious goals for our state.
For our returning Senators, the new legislative session represents an opportunity to create change unlike anything many of us have experienced in this chamber.
For the many new Senators, please take full advantage of this unique historical moment. Push yourselves and your fellow Senators to seize this opportunity and act vigorously upon the mandate that sent you here today.
To all of my colleagues here today, I look forward to harmonizing our diverse gifts and perspectives in a spirit of bipartisan good will to meet the challenges and foster the vast potential of our state during the next two years.
As the great 18th Century British essayist Joseph Addison said, “A man must be both stupid and uncharitable who believes there is no virtue or truth but on his own side.”
Also, we must proceed with an attitude of collective forbearance and not automatically assume bad faith on the part of others. I believe that the American poet Marianne Moore was correct when she observed that “The passion for setting people right is in itself an afflictive disease.”
Our successes in navigating this chamber will require us all to work together. We had substantial achievement before the historic tie of the 2016 legislative election, we had substantial achievement during that tie, and we will again with the new dynamic in the General Assembly.
Finally, we would do well to embrace the insight of President John Quincy Adams, who noted that “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”