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107th state House district candidates debate

The candidates looking to represent Brookfield, the Stony Hill section of Bethel and a portion of Danbury have debated the issues.  107th state House district incumbent Republican Steve Harding and Democratic challenger Kerri Columbo appeared in person, though Brookfield Town Hall was closed to the public, who were able to stream the debate. 

They differed on tolls.  Columbo supports tolls on Interstate 95 because surrounding states have them on that roadway.  She says 40-percent of tolls would be paid for by out of state drivers and would lead to needed infrastructure repairs.  Harding says it wouldn't end with just one highway and called it a regressive tax. He wants a way to ensure money from the Special Transportation Fund stays in that fund.

Among the topics discussed last night was the police accountability bill recently signed into law.  Harding said reforms and more training were needed, but police are inhibited from protecting themselves and the public.  He opposed a portion of the bill regarding consent searches.  Police in Connecticut cannot ask drivers to search their car if they’ve been stopped solely for a motor vehicle violation. They may only conduct such searches if they have probable cause or receive unsolicited consent.  Columbo supports the intent of the measure. She touted the portions that included money for body cameras and dashboard cameras.

Affordable housing was another topic.  Harding has been a vocal opponent of the 8-30g affordable housing statute.  He says it's

a law that allows greedy developers to come in and usurp a town's zoning regulations.  He gave the example of a 6-story proposal for Federal Road, noting that the all volunteer fire department doesn't have ladders to reach the top floor.  In that case, the zoning commission could deny the application because it would have impacted safety.  Columbo says there's a need for housing that teachers, police and firefighters can afford, where seniors can age in place and young people can start families.  She notes that the 8-30g law came about because municipalities wouldn't make the move out of the goodness of their hearts.

On the pandemic, the pair agree that Governor Lamont has done a decent job in his handling of coronavirus.  Harding says the state should work with health experts on regulations that can be implemented and enforced, but also to help businesses.  He noted that this is a consumer-based nation and if if businesses can't be open or fully open, they will close permanently.  Columbo wants a statewide Preparedness Task Force to be able to handle future outbreaks and other new diseases.  She called for a panel of scientists so the state can take a proactive approach to public health.

When it comes to Candlewood Lake, Harding says he supports an invasive species stamp.  A user-fee-based approach would enable municipalities and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to prevent and respond to infestations of aquatic invasive species.  Harding wants to be able to use funds from the Community Investment Act for lakes.  Columbo says they are on the same page when it comes to protecting the environment.  She called for better coordination of safety operations saying there currently are no clear guidelines on who can do what when it comes to noise regulations and other enforcement matters.