January 23, 2020

Haskell, Senate Democrats Announce “A Smart & Responsible Connecticut” Agenda

Bill proposals aim to strengthen our economy, economic competitiveness, and education system

Today, State Senator Will Haskell (D-Westport) joined members of the Senate Democratic caucus to announce “A Smart & Responsible Connecticut,” the third of four legislative agendas for the 2020 legislative session from Senate Democrats. The series of bills outlined the policy proposals from Senate Democrats aim to strengthen our state’s economy, economic competitiveness, and education system.

Sen. Haskell addressed two key pieces of legislation. The first would increase Connecticut federal education funding by requiring high school students complete the FAFSA, or “free application for federal student aid.”

“Something I hear a lot from my constituents, something they’re frustrated about, is that Connecticut is a donor state,” said Sen. Haskell. “We send so much money to Washington and see very little of it return to Connecticut. One way my colleagues and I believe we can turn this around is to mandate completion of the FAFSA form. As of January 10, 48 percent of high school seniors have completed the FAFSA form, which makes us the seventh-highest state in the nation on FAFSA completion. Relative strength should not be confused for true strength, though, and I believe Connecticut should follow in the footsteps of both red and blue states in mandating high school seniors fill out this form before they graduate. Texas, Louisiana and Illinois have all implemented this, leading to a dramatic increase in federal dollars coming to help students.”

“Why is this important for families? By not filling out the form, they could be leaving up to $6,000 per year in Pell Grants on the table. When the price of a degree continues to rise, no one should be leaving money on the table. We believe we can mandate this by the 2024-25 school year. When Louisiana implemented this mandate, they increased their FAFSA completion rate to 79 percent.”

Sen. Haskell also addressed legislative efforts to enact the recommendations of the Taskforce on Mental Health on College Campuses, which is set to begin releasing its findings next week. Recent tragedies on local college campuses further confirm the need for increased mental health support on college campuses, Sen. Haskell said.

“We have a crisis of mental health in this country, and it is especially true on college campuses,” said Sen. Haskell. “I was proud to work with State Representative Gregg Haddad (D-Mansfield) and the rest of the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee last year to create a taskforce looking into the mental health crisis on college campuses. I look forward to their meeting on Monday where they will consider a variety of recommendations to the General Assembly. Recent suicides show that this epidemic is urgent. As many as 60 percent of college students experience symptoms of anxiety and 40 percent experience symptoms of depression – but only 10 to 15 percent of students reported seeking assistance. There continues to be a stigma on college campuses about reaching out and asking for help. I’m excited to act on these recommendations and work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find solutions to these problems.”

Additional legislative proposals in the “A Smart & Responsible Connecticut” agenda discussed today included:


Housing Solutions for Connecticut
To provide for the creation of housing opportunity zones within which certain incentives are available for new construction or substantial rehabilitation of residential units.

21st Century Jobs
To expand existing and establish new incentives for large and small businesses that hire new employees under new and expanded criteria such as unemployed, low income, veterans, or disabled. To support small businesses through cutting unnecessary regulations and red tape.

Legalization, Taxation and Regulation of the Retail Sale and Recreational Use of Cannabis
To legalize, tax and regulate the retail sale, personal growth and recreational use of cannabis by individuals twenty-one years of age or older.


Mental Health & Substance Use Disorder Education in Schools
To provide that the teacher in-service training programs include the warning signs of mental illness, substance-use disorder and suicidal behavior in youth. To also provide mental health awareness to students in grades 6-12.

Mental Health on College Campuses
To enact the recommendations of The Taskforce on Mental Health on College Campuses.

Revamping Behavioral Suspensions
To protect students by curbing school suspensions and finding alternative behavioral solutions.

Financial Literacy in Schools
To require financial literacy instruction for pupils enrolled in grades sixth through eighth and require that a school district incorporate financial literacy instruction to pupils enrolled in those grades.

Mandating FAFSA Completion
To require the completion of the FAFSA for Connecticut high school students to increase the number of students who qualify for and receive federal financial support for college.

Read background information on the proposed legislation here.