Mae Flexer

State Senator

Mae Flexer

Deputy President Pro Tempore & Federal Relations Liaison

An Advocate for Us

January 30, 2023

Senate Democrats Announce “A Safer Connecticut” Agenda

Addresses issues of domestic violence, online privacy, transportation safety, and improved access to mental health and addiction treatment

HARTFORD, CT — Today, the Senate Democratic Majority of the Connecticut General Assembly announced the first of its legislative priorities for the 2023 session, focusing on creating “A Safer Connecticut” for our residents by addressing the issues of domestic violence, online privacy, transportation safety, and improved access to mental health and addiction treatment.

Today’s announcement marks the first of four successive days of public policy statements from Senate Democrats on a wide variety of issues confronting Connecticut and its residents: improved personal safety, strengthening education and Connecticut’s workforce, improving mental and physical health, and lowering costs for consumers.

“Safety has been at the crux of all modern societies. As far back as 1689 in John Locke’s ‘Second Treatise on Civil Government’ he states ‘The great end of men’s entering into society being the enjoyment of their properties in peace and safety,'” said Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney (D-New Haven). “Fast forward to 2023 and our safety concerns have moved past the worries over the absolute power of a King or Lord to the unchecked power of massive technology corporations. The fear of being broadsided by a passing horse has been replaced by the fear of being broadsided by a 5,000 pound pickup truck while crossing the street, riding a bike, or changing lanes in a vehicle. The times have changed but the need for safety remains. Our ‘A Safer Connecticut’ agenda addresses through sound public policy the varying safety concerns we all have in a modern world.”

“As a father of two older boys, I understand the pleas of children for the latest and greatest cell phone,” said Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk). “When that parent finally breaks down and buys that new phone for their child like we all do, we need to make sure our kids are safe and protected once they power that device on. Big Tech is collecting too much data on all of us, but especially our children. That data is bought and sold, exploiting our most personal information. Beyond the technology companies, there is the very real increase of online threats, stalking and harassment by dangerous individuals. We need to be doing everything we can to not only hold those criminals accountable, but also to prevent their access to our youth in the first place.”

Today’s “A Safer Connecticut” announcement focuses on a number of public policy areas including:

Online Safety & Privacy

Senate Bill 3: AN ACT CONCERNING ONLINE PRIVACY AND PROTECTIONS will help reduce electronic harassment by modernizing state laws to deal with ever-changing electronic harassment methods.

“With the proliferation of online hacking and the scamming we have a responsibility to try and stay one step ahead of them. It’s a never-ending challenge,” said state Senator Gary Winfield (D-New Haven), who is Senate Chair of the Judiciary Committee. “What we see happening with adult online users is problematic. What is even scarier is the access online predators have to our children.”

“Privacy is a human right,” said state Senator James Maroney (D-Milford). “Medical information should only be accessible to a patient and their medical provider. The choice to have a family or not have a family should be between a woman and her medical professionals, and not intruded on by digital advertising. We have seen a rise in anxiety among children and much of that has been caused by the increase in social media usage. We are seeking to ensure that apps designed for children are designed with the best interest of the child in mind, not with what is best for the bottom line.”

From 2014 to 2020, the share of Americans reporting online experience with physical threats, stalking, sexual harassment, or sustained harassment has risen from 14% to 25% (Emily A. Vogels, The State of Online Harassment, Pew Research, January 13, 2021). As more of our world moves online and children engage online at younger and younger ages, Connecticut needs to ensure we are doing everything we can to protect people, especially kids, online.

Many people are familiar with federal HIPPA laws, which require your personal health information to be kept private between you, your doctor, and anyone you choose to share it with (such as a spouse or insurance company). But there’s a lot more private health information that is not covered by HIPPA, such as your phone location if you visit an abortion clinic, or a menstrual cycle app that you keep on a smartphone.

Law enforcement officials are also constantly challenged by electronic harassment, threats, fraud and other illegal acts that can be hard to investigate and prosecute.
Senate Bill 3 seeks to address both of these issues by:

  • Identifying and holding accountable individuals who have an online presence only to gain personal information and potentially try to harm children
  • Maintaining a woman’s privacy when she seeks medical care at a medical office or abortion clinic by outlawing any ‘geo-fencing’ which could be triggered when a smartphone or other device enters a particular location
  • Assisting law enforcement by requiring that when a warrant is issued to investigate suspected criminal activity at a telecommunication provider, website, or social media site, that telecom provider cannot disclose the existence of the warrant to the target for 90 days, in order to prevent the possible deletion or destruction of any electronic evidence
  • Placing more restrictions on social media companies and other online entities that collect and sell the personal information of children under age 18
  • Requiring employers, when responding to recommendations about a previous employee, to disclose any history of sexual harassment where a complaint was filed, as well as all acts of sexual assault
  • Requiring dating apps to ask users whether they are on a sex offender registry, notifying them that providing false information is a crime, and then requiring that online platform to disclose that information in the user’s online profile

Domestic Violence

Senate Bill 5: AN ACT STRENGTHENING THE PROTECTIONS AGAINST AND RESPONSE TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, will provide even greater protections for – and enhanced responses to – people involved in domestic and intimate partner violence.

“Connecticut is known for being at the forefront nationally when it comes to domestic violence protections,” said state Senator Mae Flexer.” We have an obligation to continue looking at ways to protect the lives of those who have been victims of, or who could become victims of, domestic or intimate partner violence. We will continue to invest in the systems that support survivors in our courts, through counseling for families and children and the housing needs that are more and more dire. We also need to send a strong message to potential abusers that we will do everything in our power to stop the abuse, hold you accountable and to protect lives from harm.”:

Senate Bill 5 will::

  • Look at new standards (i.e. acceptable timely responses) between local police departments and state offices, such as the State’s Attorney’s Office
  • Examine and expand the Judicial Branch pilot program which uses GPS monitoring of certain people convicted of violating a protective order
  • Continue innovative funding for advocates that support survivors and children and fill in the gap for a decline in federal funds for domestic violence agencies across the state
  • Prevent a domestic violence victim from having to pay any alimony to an abuser convicted of attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder, or certain other Class A and B felonies

Mental Health and Addiction

Senate Bill 9: AN ACT CONCERNING HEALTH AND WELLNESS FOR CONNECTICUT RESIDENTS, will strengthen our response to the fentanyl and opioid epidemic and improve access to physical, mental and behavioral health care.

“In the first nine months of 2022 we had over 1,000 drug overdose deaths in Connecticut – four people a day on average” said state Senator Saud Anwar (D-South Windsor), who is Senate Chair of the Public Health Committee. “It’s almost all opioids and fentanyl, and it’s affecting people in their homes, across decades of different age ranges, and impacting whites, Blacks and Hispanics in large numbers. We can and must do more for our state residents to protect them from this scourge of tainted and deadly drugs.”

According to the state Department of Public Health, from January to the first week of November 2022, there were 1,139 confirmed fatal overdoses in Connecticut, with 85% of the cases involving fentanyl and 24% involving the animal tranquilizer xylazine. In 2021, about 60% of drug overdose deaths occurred in the person’s home.

Senate Bill 9 will:

  • Create more access to the anti-overdose drug Narcan, such as through bulk purchases or prescribing it along with new and refilled opioid prescriptions
  • Pilot a safe injection site program
  • Create more access to fentanyl strips, which test unregulated or counterfeit drugs for possible fentanyl contamination in powder or pill form
  • Improve access to long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCS), such as hormonal implants and hormonal or copper IUD’s
  • Allow for pharmacist-provided (over-the-counter) contraceptive care, such as birth control pills, without a doctor’s prescription. Both The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and The American Academy of Family
  • Physicians have called for making birth control pills available over-the-counter without a prescription

  • Create new discharge standards for patients being discharged from a hospital and or nursing homes
  • Expand Connecticut’s healthcare workforce by creating job pipelines at younger ages (similar to Connecticut’s existing technical school job pipeline for manufacturing jobs)
  • Improve EMS services throughout Connecticut through increased state funding

Motorist, Pedestrian, and Cyclist Safety

“While there has been increased focus on making improvements to roadway safety, the seemingly constant barrage of wrong-way driver reports and news of motorist, pedestrian and bicyclist deaths are evidence that much more needs to be done,” said state Senator Christine Cohen (D-Guilford), who is the new Senate Chair of the Transportation Committee. “If the people of Connecticut are serious about creating safer roadways in our state – and I believe that they most certainly are – we are going to offer them some fairly comprehensive new public policies to help achieve that.”

“Last year, Connecticut saw its highest number of pedestrian deaths since 1988. Meanwhile, the number of fatal crashes on state roads has increased about 40% since 2019. Additionally, wrong-way driving deaths in Connecticut more than doubled from 2018 to 2022.

Topics that the Transportation Committee will be looking at include:

  • Implementing additional countermeasures to decrease accidents and fatalities caused by wrong-way driving
  • Creating a State Police “fatal collision reduction team” charged with identifying the motor vehicle violations most associated with crashes, identify intersections throughout Connecticut with a history of crashes, and engage in high-visibility enforcement of these violations and intersections
  • Creating violation-specific motor vehicle license retraining classes
  • Studying whether bicyclists should stop at red lights, and whether to amend Connecticut’s right-on-red turn law (such as banning right turns at red lights where a crosswalk is present)
  • Creating a new driver video regarding laws impacting motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists and ways to reduce accidents as part of the state MV licensing requirement
  • Creating a public health campaign at pharmacy counters and cannabis retailers warning of the dangers of driving while under the influence of certain medications or cannabis
  • Allowing cities and towns to install automatic speed cameras and issue infractions in school zones and at intersections with a history of crashes
  • Requiring drivers to stop and grant the right-of-way to pedestrians crossing in a crosswalk, rather than “slow or stop” for pedestrians in a crosswalk, as is current law
  • Allowing speed limits not to exceed 65mph on multiple lane, limited access highways in Connecticut, rather than setting an established speed of 65 mph (i.e. speed limits could be lower on certain roadways depending on design, population and traffic flow)
  • Banning all open containers of alcohol in a motor vehicle in Connecticut. Connecticut is one of just 11 states in America and the only state in the Northeast that allows open containers of alcohol in motor vehicles
  • Requiring all motorcyclists to wear a helmet; there have been 190 unhelmeted motorcycle operators or passengers fatally injured on Connecticut roads over the past five years