Haskell, Hughes recap ‘historic legislation’
WESTON — A rainy Wednesday afternoon didn’t deter residents from coming out to hear a breakdown of the 2019 legislative session at Weston Town Hall.
Hosted by state Sen. Will Haskell, D-Westport, and state Rep. Anne Hughes, D-Weston, the conversation touched on hot topics like tolls, gun safety legislation and education.
“I do think that this was a historic legislation,” Haskell said. “We got 5,000 bills proposed and many, many became law after six months of hard work.”
One of the Legislature’s priorities was holding state spending down, and Haskell said a break to taxpayers was achieved by passing only a 0.3 percent budget increase this year.
“This year we put a priority on compromising so we can pass something that was balanced and on time,” he said. “Democrats and Republicans also came together to try and hold down state spending.”
Throughout the legislative session, Hughes said she worked hard to amplify the voices of those that submit testimony or went to the capital to testify. She added public engagement can drive what is placed on the legislative agenda.
“If there’s no public will behind it, it will die,” she said. “As soon as public will gets energized around an issue it really comes to the top of the list.”
Haskell, 22, was particularly proud of helping to write and pass gun safety legislation during his first legislative session.
“In the face of absolute inaction and cowardice on the federal level, it’s fallen on the states to step up to the plate and make sure we’re doing our very basic duty that ensures everyone feels safe when they go to a school, a movie theater, a garlic festival in California, or a block party in Brooklyn,” he said.
One of these new laws included Ethan’s Law, which addresses the safe storage of unloaded and loaded firearms in homes. The bill was named after 15-year-old Ethan Song who was killed after gaining access to an unsecured handgun at a friend’s house.
“The proudest moment I had in the Senate was when we got to press the ‘yay’ button and Ethan’s family was sitting in the gallery,” Haskell said. “It was an incredible moment.”
Another highlight was the passage of paid family leave, which Hughes said was important for caregivers and even those who think they’ll never use it.
“No one ever plans on their loved ones getting dementia, or having surgery, or suddenly getting chronically ill,” she said. “No one ever plans on that.”
Haskell said some of the most rewarding days of his job have nothing to do with legislature and everything to do with being an advocate for his constituents.
“Things as small as putting up a sign on Weston road in an area where there has been too many tragic accidents...to much bigger issues that are going to change people’s lives like getting their daughter in a crucial program,” he said. “All of those are core functions of our job.”