Two veteran lawmakers are seeking to get out of the state House of Representatives and into the state Senate. With the retirement of Senate Minority John McKinney from the 28th Senate District, there is an open race. Republican Tony Hwang and Democrat Kim Fawcett, both from Fairfield, are looking to fill the role, which represents a part of Newtown.
Hwang says an immigrant experience and upbringing in urban schools helped shape the person he has become. He was first elected to his House seat in 2008.
Fawcett was first elected to her House seat in 2006. Fawcett says recent Metro-North failures have propelled both the management of the aging train system and its much needed, long-term investments into the spotlight. She says she understands the critical need to get Metro-North back on track serving commuters and assuring safe and reliable service, in party because Fairfield has three train stations but also because her husband commutes to New York City.
Hwang says during his time in the House he has fought efforts to raid the Special Transportation Fund and supported increased spending to keep trains safe and on time. He wants to empower the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council to require a constitutional amendment to protect transportation funding, and make safety and on-time performance top priority.
Hwang says from No Child Left Behind and the Common Core Curriculum Standards to the new Teacher Evaluation procedures, educational decisions are not being made where they belong – with teachers, parents, and administrators. Hwang says he will support legislation that returns decisions regarding education to those groups, ending what he calls the “one size fits all” mentality of bureaucrats. He wants to modify the teacher evaluation process to make it more fair and equitable for Connecticut teachers and to ensure that curriculum standards are stringent, yet age appropriate.
Fawcett says while the intent of Common Core education standards might have been laudable, the implementation has not lived up to expectations. She says many dedicated teachers are feeling demoralized and devalued. Fawcett says part of the problem with the implementation is that it came at the same time that Connecticut put new standardized tests in place and a new teacher evaluation system.
Hwang says he is proud to have helped Housatonic Community College obtain a portion of a $17.8 million grant to build a state of the art manufacturing education center.
Fawcett says she's proud of legislation passed last session to help children including a new law which allows trained school officials to administer epinephrine to students experiencing severe allergic reactions for the first time. She co-sponsored a law to improve how colleges respond to sexual assaults, intimate partner violence, and stalking by creating campus resource teams trained to properly respond to these incidents. Another bill she has personal experience with is one that deals with properly preventing and treating a concussion. Her children are both student athletes who have suffered concussions. The bill requires the State Board of Education to develop a concussion education plan and calls on coaches to provide youth athletes and their parents or guardians with information on concussions.
Hwang is touting his work on economic issues while serving in the state House. He says he helped draft legislation that will eliminate nearly a thousand pages of state regulations identified as obsolete, duplicate, excessively burdensome, or otherwise ineffective or unnecessary. As Co-Chair of the legislature's bipartisan Bioscience Caucus, Hwang says he was able to spearhead legislation to make Connecticut a world leader in bioscience research. The law strengthens the State’s capacity to create competitive investment tools, attract additional federal and private dollars.
He also says he advocated for legislation to empower those with developmental disabilities to achieve a sense of independence and enriched living through work. He says the legislation will allow community non-profits to support and coordinate employment opportunities for the developmentally disabled.
Fawcett is touting her work last year chairing an Affordable Housing Working Group that explored policy initiatives aimed at bringing smart growth, transit-oriented development, and an increase in affordable housing options to the state.
When it comes to passage of Connecticut’s comprehensive gun legislation last year, Fawcett says it was a victory for advocates of gun safety. But she says other less well-known components of the legislation are equally important in curbing gun violence. She pointed to key provisions that lay the groundwork for improving school security and addressing gaps in youth mental health services. Fawcett says the ultimate goal must be to do a better job identifying young people who are struggling and to find effective ways to intervene and provide treatment when necessary.
Hwang says the gun legislation debate was one of the most emotional and grueling exersize lawmakers could have gone through. He voted for the bill says he and will not support any repeal effort. He says it's important to reach a compromise to protect second amendment rights. He says moving forward, there are pieces that need to be better addressed. Hwang says that includes mental health, removing the stigma and offering a collaborative support network. He also wants another look at gun security storage. When it comes to school security, he says there needs to be a balance of cost to municipalities are not overly burdened.