James Maroney


James Maroney



May 16, 2023

Senator Maroney Applauds Passage of Comprehensive Priority Legislation Focused on Improving Children’s Health and Protecting Literary Freedom

Today, state Senator James Maroney (D-Milford) applauded passage of Senate Bill 2 “An Act Concerning the Mental, Physical and Emotional Wellness of Children,” priority legislation for the caucus that, among other important factors, aims to protect libraries from the onslaught of book bans by conservatives that have been prevalent across the nation. The bill also contains several provisions crucial to fostering positive health and wellness for Connecticut children.

“Over the last several years we have witnessed a mental health epidemic in our country. Our local schools are dealing with the fallout of the increases in anxiety and depression among children. The addition of necessary resources allows for the continued support of students in need,” said Sen. Maroney. “This bill further ensures that children will be afforded the ability to learn about any subject. Literacy is important in the classroom and students should be provided with books with a diverse selection.”

SB 2 is a comprehensive bill that protects against politically fueled book bans, commonly by conservatives, which has remained an issue over the past year. The American Library Association (ALA) recently reported last year there were 1,269 attempts to ban books across the country, a sizable increase from the 729 in 2021. Last year, Texas banned 801 books from July 1, 2021-June 30, 2022 according to Statista. Florida banned 560 books and Pennsylvania banned 457 last year as well. According to PEN America, Between August and November, Missouri banned nearly 300 books in at least 11 school districts. These bans are targeted specifically at books regarding the LGBTQ community and communities of color. According to PEN America, “more than 40% of the banned titles address lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer themes or have prominent queer characters.” Per Statista, “40 percent of banned titles featured protagonists or other key characters of color.”

Rewarding Libraries that Protect Literary Freedom

SB 2 enables libraries that prioritize and protect literary freedom by establishing a system to review books that have been challenged via a policy set by their governing board to have access to a state grant which could provide a library with approximately $1,300 to $3,000 per library.

Per the legislation, ” no principal public library shall be eligible to receive a state grant, if such principal public library does not maintain and adhere to collection development, collection management, and collection reconsideration policies which are approved by their governing body. The collection reconsideration policy shall offer residents a clear process to request a reconsideration of library materials. In the instance of a book challenge, these policies shall govern.”

Addressing Birth to 3

Per the bill language, “the bill makes permanent the $200 general administrative payment the Office of Early Childhood commissioner must make to certain Birth to Three early intervention service providers that will sunset under current law on June 30, 2024.” This will go into effect July 1, 2023, if signed into law. Under the bill and current law, the commissioner must make these payments to providers for each child: with an individualized family service plan on the first day of the billing month; whose plan accounts for less than nine service hours during the billing month, as long as the provider delivers at least one service during the month

Creating Mental Wellness Days

SB 2 requires employers to allow service workers to use accrued paid sick leave for a “mental health wellness day” to attend to their emotional or psychological well-being. Currently, existing law allows service workers to use paid sick leave for their, or their spouse’s or child’s (1) illness, injury or health condition; (2) medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of a physical or mental illness, injury, or health condition; or (3) preventive care. Per bill language, the legislation applies to specified service worker occupations covered by existing law, they are as follows: certain food service industry jobs; health care; hospitality; retail; sanitation industry workers

The legislation also covers certain, specific scenarios in which a worker would need to use a mental health wellness day. They are as follows: where a service worker is a victim of family violence or sexual assault, or the parent or guardian of a child who is a victim of family violence or sexual assault, provided such service worker is not the perpetrator or alleged perpetrator of such family violence or sexual assault; for medical care or psychological or other counseling for physical or psychological injury or disability, to obtain or obtaining services from a victim services organization; to relocate or while relocating due to such family violence or sexual assault; to participate or while participating in any civil or criminal proceedings related to or resulting from such family violence or sexual assault

If signed into law, this will go into effect on October 1, 2023.

Help for At-Risk Teenagers

SB 2 makes it optional for the State Department of Education (SDE) to hire one full-time employee responsible for awarding a grant to, and collaborating with, a nonprofit organization specializing in identifying and providing services for at-risk teenage students with depression, anxiety, substance abuse struggles, and trauma and conflict-related stresses, per the bill language. The bill continues: the organization must use the grant to train school behavioral health providers to provide them services. The bill allocates $15,000, for the 2024 fiscal year, to SDE from the federal funds the state received under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to fund the awarding of a grant to a nonprofit organization to train school behavioral health providers to identify and provide services for these students. This will go into effect July 1, 2023, if signed into law.

Due to the clear need for this bill, SB 2 received support during the public hearing period of the legislative session. Nicole Chen of Yale Dems spoke in favor of SB 2, saying, “this bill would allocate further resources towards improving children’s access to mental, physical, and emotional health services.” Chen added “this shortage of mental health services for children in Connecticut demands a solution. We should prioritize this issue, increasing funding along with access to professional services and training, in order to ensure children the chance at help.”

The bill heads to the state House of Representative for further debate and action. It previously passed the Committee on Children by a 13-6 tally before landing in the state Senate.