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As the end of January approaches, we eagerly anticipate the start of the General Assembly’s 2012 Regular Session February 8th. This promises to be an eventful year at the Capitol—here’s a brief summary about some of what’s already underway.
Public Education Takes Center Stage
Three separate groups are working on recommendations to the General Assembly; one will have addressed the state’s achievement gap, the widely disparate education received and performance attained across our state. Another has been looking into the state’s Education Cost Sharing grant program (ECS) through which the bulk of state aid for education is distributed to local governments and school districts. A third task force has already submitted suggestions on how to improve what has long been a priority of mine: the state’s vocational/technical high school system.
The link between effective, efficient public education and job creation and economic development is irrefutable. As the governor himself describes it, “We cannot prosper if we do not produce a workforce equal to the task of keeping Connecticut’s companies competitive. And we cannot fulfill our moral obligation to give every student a genuine chance to succeed . . . if we do not make fundamental reforms to our schools.”
New Insurance Laws In Effect
Even as we look ahead, it’s gratifying to note how several new insurance laws I worked to enact went into effect as of January 1. First and foremost among them, in my view, is the new law requiring health insurance coverage of ultrasound screening and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) if a woman’s routine mammogram reveals dense breast tissue.
Another new law requires coverage—without co-pays or any other out-of-pocket expenses—of annual colorectal cancer screening. In a somewhat related initiative, another new law requires coverage of one-time bone marrow testing to determine a potential donor’s compatibility for transplants to combat certain cancers of the blood.
These new laws underscore my commitment to continue working for lower health care costs through comprehensive health insurance coverage to promote preventative care among Connecticut residents.
Biomedical Research Grants Awarded
On January 6th, this year’s grants from the Biomedical Research Fund were awarded: one to UConn, one to the UConn Health Center and one to Yale University. The program was established in state law I wrote in 2000, directing tobacco settlement funds to underwrite worthy research seeking causes and a cure for heart disease, cancer, and smoking-related diseases. In 2010, I amended the law to include research into Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes.
With this seventh round of grants, more than $11 million have been awarded to Connecticut research institutions for the purpose of funding biomedical research. The original intent was to make a difference in research where funding from the National Institutes for Health (NIH) is unavailable. In recent years however, the Biomedical Research Trust Fund has successfully acted as catalyst for larger federal grants through NIH.
These grants are consistent with what seems to be a growing and accelerating emphasis on comparable projects in Connecticut. We recently voted to overhaul the UConn Health Center and provide economic development funding for the Jackson Laboratory, a bioscience leader. It’s gratifying to know Connecticut will continue setting the pace in health-related research in the foreseeable future.