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Newtown Board of Ed member looks to unseat incumbent 106th District Representative

Republican Mitch Bolinsky is seeking his 4th term representing Newtown in the state house.  Democrat Rebeckah Harriman-Stites is looking to unseat him.  She was raised by a single mom, who taught her the value of hard work and community service.  Harriman-Stites served as President of the PTA, and helped to raise $1.5 million for the families most impacted by the shooting at Sandy Hook School.  She has served on the Board of Education for the past three years.  Harriman-Stites owns a fundraising consulting firm, serving non-profit and municipal clients in surrounding states.

Bolinsky says there were a lot of items that got accomplished in the short session earlier this year.  But he says the big outstanding issues is getting the economy back on track.  It was a no tax-increase budget and he was proud to help defeat a toll bill.  He also touted a state road project getting underway next year, which Bolinsky says will alleviate 60% of the traffic at Wasserman Way/Berkshire Road.

Harriman-Stites called for fundamental changes to the education cost sharing formula and more help for small businesses.  She feels the partisan rhetoric has gone too far and wants to collaborate with others to move Connecticut forward.  Harriman-Stites says the ECS grant being withheld during the state budget process and later restored, showed that long-term changes weren’t addressed.  She wants something that’s fair, equitable and reliable.  She says local budgets are put together before state funding is determined.

Bolinsky says there’s a new school funding formula that began to come together in 2017 when the minority party’s budget became the foundation of a bipartisan budget.  He was concerned with the inconsistencies in school funding because it was being done in a political way as opposed to a needs-based way.  He is still concerned about the achievement gap and would like to continue to even out the education system.

In the aftermath of the shooting at Sandy Hook School, a number of reforms were put in place.  Bolinsky is a member of the school security committee and one of the founding members of the school security caucus.  There were robust funding streams for the 2013-14 budget cycle for mental health and community action, but that money has fallen off.  He called for more investment in safe school environments.  He introduced a bill to create a safe school environment for teachers who were in fear of classroom violence, but it was vetoed by the governor.  It was compliant with federal regulations.  Bolinsky advocated for social-emotional learning introduced by Scarlett Lewis and the Choose Love Foundation.  Her son, Jesse, was one of the children killed on 12-14.  The Social Emotional Learning Task Force bill was signed into law and Bolinsky says that will go a long way in helping to create a better school environment, bringing inclusiveness.  He is concerned about special needs learners being mainstreamed and falling behind.

Harriman-Stites wants to build on the measures passed in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting.  She has a background on social work and joined the Board of Ed to make sure students get access to mental health support services and social-emotional programming they need.  She believes that investing in mental health and well-being of children helps to build strong and safe communities.  Harriman-Stites supports a ban on ghost guns.

Bolinsky wants to continue working on senior issues, as it’s the fastest growing population in Connecticut.  He was pleased that they were able to stop cuts to the special qualification for the Medicaid Savings Program so 130,000 people were not stuck without their Part B coverage.

Harriman-Stites wants to look at ways for seniors to age in place.  She says the higher tax rate isn’t giving them enough bang for their buck and suggested an income tax credit, adjusted for inflation, is important.  She also supports Paid Family and Medical Leave. Harriman-Stites also wants to improve ways for seniors to get around communities and suggested investing in education for home-health aides.

Harriman-Stites supports legalizing recreational marijuana, but wants to see more studies on the correlation between pot and opiate abuse.  She says the revenue impact and criminal justice impact could both be positive.  She is concerned about the idea of expanding gambling, but wants to further study regulating sports betting.

Bolinsky says he is not opposed to the legalization of sports betting as it would be a legitimate revenue stream, especially since Connecticut has casinos, keno and other gaming.  But he is opposed to online sports betting because there’s no guarantee minors are gambling.  As for the legalization of recreational marijuana, Bolinsky says there’s no way for police to test if a driver is under the influence, and that’s a big concern for him about saying yes.

The Environment Committee has had several bills to address water quality, but Bolinsky says they haven’t made it out of committee because of the fiscal note attached.  He’d like to partner with the U.S. EPA to address some issues.  Bolinsky says there’s a lot of communication from local health districts and lake authorities about how to prevent the spread of certain invasive species. 

Harriman-Stites believes making communities more walkable by investing in sidewalks will help with community health, take cars off the road and help the environment.  Harriman-Stites does not want tolls, but doesn’t believe Connecticut is in a position to close the door on any revenue stream.  She wants to look at how Connecticut residents could pay less like a tax credit, while bringing in revenue to fix infrastructure.  She also wants to look at investing in transportation infrastructure in the towns impacted by having tolls in their municipality might be something to look at.

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Brian Kilmeade

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