Martin M. Looney

Senate President Pro Tempore

Martin M. Looney

An Advocate for Us

February 16, 2022

Senate Democrats Announce Clean Air Act and Initiatives to Combat Domestic Violence, Online Harassment, and Gun Violence

HARTFORD – Today, Senate Democrats announced legislative initiatives to support children who have experienced domestic violence, address the pervasive state of online harassment, increase gun violence prevention efforts, and decrease carbon emissions to protect the environment. The legislative proposals outlined in Senate Bill 4 and Senate Bill 5 include:

Senate Bill 4, An Act Concerning The Connecticut Clean Air Act

  • Expand Electric Vehicle Rebate Program
  • Expand Electric Vehicle Quick-Charging Stations
  • Purchase Electric School Buses
  • Stronger Emissions Standards for Heavy-Duty Trucks
  • Business Incentives for Electrifying Heavy-Duty Truck Fleets
  • Modernize Municipal Traffic Signals

Senate Bill 5, An Act Concerning Child Victims of Domestic Violence and Online Harassment

  • Strengthening Gun Violence Prevention Efforts
  • Fund More Child and Family Advocates to Assist Children Impacted by Domestic Violence
  • Increase Funding and Efforts to Prevent and Combat Online Harassment

“The priorities outlined today in Senate Bill 4 and 5 further the work of Senate Democrats from previous legislative sessions,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven). “The work of combatting domestic violence, online harassment, gun violence, and climate change can not be solved in one year or with one piece of legislation. It is the duty of all of us in the General Assembly to attack these societal problems every year by focusing on what works and trying new tactics. Senate Democrats will continue this work in 2022 thanks to the leadership and hard work of our committee chairs.”

“Senate Democrats do a tremendous amount of work to address gun violence on our streets but we know that is only half of the equation,” said Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk). “Increasing funding for programs like Project Longevity are critical to focus on the root cause of why someone picks up and uses it in the first place. These interventions work and we are committed to funding them further to spread the good work that they do.”

“While gun violence often leads the evening news, climate change and its detrimental impact on our planet gets far less attention,” Senator Duff continued. “We know Connecticut leads the way in protecting our environment but we need to do more to change our behaviors to reduce carbon emissions. Senate Bill 4 will help more people make the transition to electric vehicles and protect our air in the long term.”

“I started my journey in politics as an activist. Talking to the members of my community and seeing firsthand the issues that impacted their lives, I am always focused on moving the powers of the government to address those needs,” said Senator Gary Winfield (D-New Haven), Senate Chair of the Judiciary Committee. “That’s the mindset I bring every day as Senate Chair of the Judiciary Committee. Senate Bill 5 and every priority of the committee are focused on ensuring the government is addressing the concerns of the people.”

“Sadly, it seems that protecting the victims of domestic violence and legally inhibiting new avenues for domestic violence to occur is an ongoing public policy task here in Connecticut,” said Senator Mae Flexer. “Nevertheless, there is no challenge that I will not confront to eradicate domestic violence in this state. The stakes are too high and the cost to us as a society is too great.”

“This legislative session I am committed and focused on putting an end to gun violence in our state especially with our youth,” said Senator Marilyn Moore (D-Bridgeport), Senate Chair of the Human Services Committee. “We have an extraordinary, experienced group of people that are working on creating and implementing a statewide plan to put an end to gun violence. They bring their lived experience in addressing the many facets of gun violence. We as a state must come together and coordinate services and funding to fight this issue, it must be a multifaceted approach.”

“Connecticut is in non-attainment for air quality and not meeting important greenhouse gas emissions goals,” said Senator Christine Cohen (D-Guilford), Senate Chair of the Environment Committee. “We need to use every tool at our disposal to reduce transportation emissions and build the environmentally friendly transportation infrastructure that will serve this state and its residents for decades to come. By increasing access to electric vehicles, installing charging stations and incentivizing the electrification of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, we will be taking meaningful climate action that will have a direct and beneficial impact on our health, air, jobs and community.”

“Tackling carbon pollution is the critical issue of our time, and Connecticut cannot achieve its goals without reducing emissions from the Transportation sector,” said Senator Will Haskell (D-Westport), Senate Chair of the Transportation Committee. “This bill accelerates our transition to electric vehicles, promotes the health of children by investing in electric buses, and cuts congestion by modernizing traffic signals. If you breathe air in the state of Connecticut, there’s something in this legislation for you. I’m excited that so many of my colleagues are signed onto this bill, and we’ll work over the next few months toward a greener, cleaner present and future.”

Senate Bill 4 – An Act Concerning The Connecticut Clean Air Act

Address Connecticut’s Goals for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The latest greenhouse gas emissions inventory shows that Connecticut is moving in the wrong direction toward its 2030 goal of a 45% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to 2001. Not only is Connecticut not meeting its current goal, but – despite more fuel-efficient cars – greenhouse gas emissions are increasing primarily due to the high number of miles traveled.

Nearly 40% of all greenhouse gas emissions in Connecticut come from the transportation sector, and transportation emissions must drop by at least a third by 2030 in order to get Connecticut back on track toward its goal. One big way to reduce these emissions and move Connecticut closer to its 2030 goal is to increase the number of non-polluting electric vehicles (EVs) and EV charging stations in Connecticut. Connecticut can also use state bonding for the mass purchase of EV school buses and adopt stricter air pollution standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks operating in the state.

Connecticut currently has about 21,400 zero-polluting EVs on the road, and on average it adds another 3,300 EVs to the road every year. The state has a goal of about 137,500 EVs on the road by 2025. At the current sales rate, Connecticut will only have about 31,300 EVs on the road by 2025 – just 23% of its goal.

Senate Bill 4 aims to reduce carbon emissions by expanding public and private utilization of electric vehicles in Connecticut to protect human health and the environment.

Expand Electric Vehicle Rebate Program

To make EVs more affordable and accessible, Connecticut can streamline bureaucratic processes for individuals in Environmental Justice communities while also deepening subsidies and expanding its EV rebate program to more EV models on the market, to municipalities and business fleets, and to electric bikes.

Expand Electric Vehicle Quick-Charging Stations

At the same time, Connecticut can use federal dollars to expand access to EV quick-charging stations in both existing “alternative fuel corridors” (like I-95) and to more rural areas, thereby increasing access and reducing “range anxiety,” making the purchase and use of EVs more attractive to a broader range of consumers.

Purchase Electric School Buses

Connecticut can also consider using its bonding authority to conduct a bulk purchase of EV school buses – perhaps up to 5,000 buses over several years (major school bus manufacturers like Thomas Built, Blue Bird and The Lion already manufacture them). The state could partner with towns, Eversource and United Illuminating on the cost of and charging for those buses. $10 million in state bonding could buy about 225 EV buses, with a 20% federal match.

Stronger Emissions Standards for Heavy-Duty Trucks

Connecticut can adopt recent California emissions standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks which requires manufacturers to make a certain percentage of those vehicles of the alternative fuel variety. This will create a market for these types of vehicles and allow for their purchase in the commercial sector.

Business Incentives for Electrifying Heavy-Duty Truck Fleets

Connecticut could also incentivize businesses for converting their truck fleets and/or installing electric charging infrastructure. California estimates that while heavy-duty trucks weighing more than 14,000 pounds account for only 3% of all the vehicles on the road in California, they emit more than 50% of all the nitrogen oxides and fine particle diesel pollution from all mobile sources in the state.

Modernize Municipal Traffic Signals

Modernizing municipal traffic signals and making them more responsive to the ever-changing nature of traffic flow is another key step in reducing congestion — and, by extension, reducing carbon emissions. While the state Department of Transportation is working to modernize state-owned traffic signals, municipalities need their own source of financial support to make this transition possible at the local level. It’s a victory for our environment and for our everyday commuting lives when motorists spend less time idling in traffic.

Senate Bill 5 – An Act Concerning Child Victims of Domestic Violence and Online Harassment

Fund More Child and Family Advocates to Assist Children Impacted by Domestic Violence

One goal of Senate Bill 5 involves amending the general statutes to provide $1.44 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2023, for eighteen full-time child and family advocates at local non-profits that assist domestic violence victims. This funding will play a vital role in getting children impacted by domestic violence the direct attention and aid they need.

According to the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the funding would support 18 full-time Child and Family Advocates who would work directly with affected children; currently, there is no state funding provided in Connecticut for these important roles, and existing funding only allows for each child treated by the state to receive 2.26 hours of service annually.

According to the Resource Center on Domestic Violence, an alarming number of children – between 3.3 million and 10 million – are exposed to adult domestic violence each year. It’s estimated that as many as 20% of children may be exposed to intimate partner violence annually; up to one in three children may be exposed during childhood or adolescence. Children exposed to domestic violence are at increased risk of being physically abused, among other forms of maltreatment; they also are at greater risk of experiencing additional problems later in life that could lead to adverse outcomes. Stress factors including poverty, unemployment and lower levels of education for families correlate directly to increased risk of domestic violence, and domestic violence has direct ties to worsening psychological and physical health, decreased quality of life, decreased productivity and, potentially, decreases in lifespan.

The impacts of the pandemic have likely made this issue worse in multiple ways. Teachers were unable to notice behavioral changes that could be attributable to domestic violence with classrooms closed, especially with online platforms being a likely explanation at the time for missing such irregularities. Fewer referrals from educators have resulted since the start of the pandemic, with community programs also limiting children’s participation abilities.

By increasing availability of resources for families and children experiencing domestic violence, more individuals will be able to receive the help they need and deserve, especially in children, where its impacts risk lifelong effects in children both physically and mentally – and potential for the cycle of violence to continue. From July 2019 to June 2020, the state’s 18 member organizations provided aid and services to 37,223 victims, including 32,201 adults and 4,922 children. Those victims were able to receive court-based advocacy, group counseling, one-on-one counseling and outreach; increasing funding to allow for more experts aiding families will improve on these figures, especially given interruptions in services caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Family and child advocates will support both children and parents, aiding affected children with services meeting their needs and teaching them emotional wellness, conflict resolution and the advantages of social supports. The non-offending parent will further be supported in identifying protective factors and building parental resilience, aiding them in recovering from trauma and improving their relationship with their children. Increasing parental safety and aiding them in building resiliency are proven to be effective methods of family support.

Combat Online Harassment

The legislation also seeks to increase funding to the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection to increase efforts to prevent and combat online harassment. Ways in which this can be accomplished include requiring dating apps to disclose they do not vet participants and making it illegal for an individual to solicit contact information from minors if the solicitation is sexually motivated.

Why is this important? It would better limit and provide oversight to protect the public from online sexual harassment or phishing. The FBI reports that there are up to 500,000 sexual predators active online; over 50% of their victims who are sexually exploited online are between the ages of 12 and 15. Just under 90% of sexual advances directed toward children occur in Internet chatrooms or over instant messaging; 25% of exploitation incidents see a predator ask a minor for sexually explicit pictures, while as many as 4% of all children will be aggressively solicited online.

Further, requiring apps to disclose lack of vetting participants will better inform the public before joining a platform; according to Pew Research, 37% of dating app users under the age of 35 reported unwanted contact from individuals on dating sites; 35% received sexually explicit content unprompted, 28% were called offensive names and 9% were threatened with physical harm. This disclosure will help aid users in determining whether they want to use such a platform.

Strengthening Gun Violence Prevention Efforts

In 2021, Senate Democrats led passage of legislation to implement a gun violence intervention and prevention committee. Putting an end to gun violence that takes place across cities in Connecticut and protecting the young children who are in the crossfire is a priority for Senate Democrats. A number of gun violence intervention programs were implemented across the state in 2021 which helped address youth gun violence and secured funding through various initiatives that will help create, implement, and evaluate a plan to build statewide coalitions for cities most impacted by gun violence.

In 2022, Senate Democrats will prioritize funding the efforts of The Gun Violence Intervention and Prevention Advisory Committee. The committee works to coordinate the funding and implementation of evidence-based, community-centric programs and strategies to reduce street-level gun violence in the state.