Duff reviews legislative victories during stop in Westport
WESTPORT — With the ending of the 2019 legislative session in June, state Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, stopped at a ReSisters meeting in Westport on Monday to give a breakdown of the past year.
“A lot of times people really don’t pay attention to state government,” Duff said to the political action group. “State government is really where your life is impacted quite a bit.”
The legislative session saw many bills passed, such as paid medical family leave and the passage of gun safety legislation. Duff highlighted that state government has a good working relationship across the aisle and, outside of major issues, tend to largely agree.
“Eighty-five percent of the stuff we pass in the state senate is unanimous and 95 percent is bipartisan,” he said. “We do work together.”
The minimum wage increase was described as a big victory in Connecticut by Duff and will help give over 300,000 people a raise.
“People have not had a raise for minimum wage for a very long time,” he said. “People who are impacted most by minimum wage tend to be women, especially single moms who are working maybe multiple jobs to put food on the table.”
The increase would also help students who are helping to contribute to their family’s budget, Duff said.
“We also passed a balanced budget that did not increase income taxes or sales tax rate,” he said. “It’s one that now has the largest rainy-day fund we ever had.”
Moving forward, Duff noted it was important to address excess costs for special education, as well as make education affordable for all.
He also touched on the growing vaccination debate.
“We can not continue to see vaccination rates drop,” Duff said. “I feel very strongly about that. We have to make sure that kids aren’t exposing other kids to disease.”
In addition to Duff, Westport’s Board of Education candidates — Democrat nominees Lee Goldstein and Youn Su Chao, and Republican nominee Liz Heyer — spoke briefly at the meeting.
Chao said she and her fellow Democrat candidate became heavily involved during the closure of Coleytown Middle School.
“Through the period of chaos and frustration we have maintained relationships throughout town. Parents across the district understand we hear them and we’re able to speak to the issues that concern them,” Chao said. “We want to bring a positive problem solving approach to taking our school district forward.”
Goldstein said while the crisis is over, there is still tons of work to be done. This includes hiring a superintendent for the school district as well as ensuring another situation similar to Coleytown does not occur again.
“We hope to work together to continue to improve what we have as a wonderful school system,” Goldstein said, adding she hopes to see schools return to experiential learning where the focus is less on test scores and more on teacher assessments.
For Heyer, viewing the challenges the district has faced over the past year compelled her to become more involved. She said, if elected, she will focus on uniting the community behind common goals, hiring a superintendent, reviewing the schools’ infrastructure, and greater transparency from the BOE.
“Not everybody always has the same perspective on different issues,” Heyer said, “but I think if you have a clear framework for decision making and a rational justification for the decision you’re making it’s significantly easier to get community support.”