Martin M. Looney

Senate President Pro Tempore

Martin M. Looney

An Advocate for Us

February 21, 2024

HARTFORD – Today Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven), Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk), Senator Saud Anwar (D-South Windsor), Senator Martha Marx (D-New London), and Senator Matt Lesser (D-Middletown) announced Senate Democratic Caucus priority bills concerning healthcare, prescription drugs, and paid sick days. The press conference was the second of three press conferences this week regarding the caucus policy priorities for Senate Democrats.

“Expanding paid sick time benefits makes a critical difference for employees who might otherwise be putting themselves at financial risk by taking unpaid time off – or might put their co-workers and customers at risk by going to work while sick,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney. “An expanded paid sick days policy will also attract more young workers into Connecticut and keep them here. It’s crucial for Connecticut’s position in a competitive economy that employers have a happy, healthy and productive workforce. Connecticut was once a leader when our General Assembly passed a paid sick days bill covering employers with 50 or more employees. We must reclaim that leadership position with this year’s bill.”

“A robust healthcare system, coupled with accessible prescription drugs, is the cornerstone of a great state to live in,” said Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff. “It ensures that individuals can maintain their health and well-being, contributing to a higher quality of life. Access to essential medications allows people to manage chronic conditions effectively, reducing the burden of illness on families and communities. Ultimately, prioritizing healthcare accessibility not only improves individual outcomes but also enriches the overall fabric of society and helps make Connecticut a more desirable place to call home.”


Senate Bill 1, An Act Concerning the Health and Safety of Connecticut Residents, acknowledges that healthcare workers play an irreplaceable role in the fabric of our communities. In light of growing trends in recent years where healthcare workers are experiencing increased threats and violence on the job, Senate Democrats introduced Senate Bill 1, focused on protecting these workers and preserving their safety.

“By championing the safety of our healthcare workers, we are writing a hopeful chapter for our future, one where every healthcare professional can perform their duties without fear, fully supported by the community they serve,” said State Senator Saud Anwar. “It is no secret that the healthcare workers especially the home care workers, despite being a beacon of hope, have been at unprecedented risk. They are five times more likely to experience workplace violence than workers in any other sector. This is not just a number; it’s a stark reminder of the urgent need for action. We need to act in honor of Joyce and Otolegile and protect others in their memory.”

“I’ve been a nurse for my entire career, and in that time I’ve seen the best and worst ways people treat those working to help them. It’s unfortunate, but necessary, that we take action this session to protect the health care workers who keep us healthy and aid us in recovery from illness and injury,” said State Senator Martha Marx. “The deaths of Joyce Grayson and Otolegile Morulane in recent months, good people who were trying to help others, make our need to act all the more pressing. By providing health care workers with risk assessments, improved training and technology for their safety, we can better make sure they are informed and protected on the job. Our health care workers already make sacrifices to take care of us. Let’s make sure they don’t have to sacrifice their safety anymore.”

The legislation was inspired by and will be dedicated to the memories of two visiting nurses who were killed in incidents in recent months, including Joyce Grayson, who was killed upon visiting a patient for an appointment in a halfway home in Willimantic in late October, and Otolegile Morulane, a live-in caregiver who was killed in an East Lyme house fire in January.


The bill is before the Public Health Committee where the Senate Chair and Vice Chair, Senators Saud Anwar (D-South Windsor) and Martha Marx (D-New London), are both healthcare workers and who have experienced the growing threats of violence themselves. Sen. Marx is herself a visiting nurse and called for action immediately following the death of Grayson.

Senate Bill 1 would include policies supporting the safety of health care workers including:

  • Providing workers with a risk assessment for patients with potential histories of violence or criminal histories, including instances where a patient’s history may require the assistance of an escort for the worker’s safety, in an effort to prioritize transparency in communication.
    • Such a report would also involve information on people present or anticipated to be present in a home, including family members, other residents of a household or animals, as several examples, and the location of a home, including information about violent or criminal activity in the area.
  • Workers would receive comprehensive training regarding their own safety, including training on how to handle a patient in a dangerous situation, such as if a patient exhibits agitated or angry behavior that could escalate. It would also allow for training on how to seek help quickly, safely and effectively in the event of an event’s escalation.
  • Health care workers will receive regularly scheduled health and wellness checks where they can report information to employers and agencies.
  • Agencies will provide workers with an adequate mechanism for safety checks and implement technology integrations, which can include mobile applications, emergency buttons or other devices.
  • Workers will also be able to utilize applications that will provide data including patient appointments, care needs and schedules of patients, among other needs. That application could provide an emergency button feature to support such care.
  • For payment support, Medicare would cover escorts if requested or needed by a worker.
  • A task force would be created to give recommendations on coordinating these needs.

The October 2023 death of Grayson and January 2024 death of Morulane only reinforce what health care workers have known for far too long: before and after the COVID-19 pandemic, health care workers are subject to increased odds of violence and threats on the job. A National Nurses United survey in 2022 found that 48% of surveyed nurses reported increased in workplace violence, a rate that rose from 21.9% in March 2021.

Government data tells a similar story; it found that health care workers are five times more likely to experience workplace violence as other workers and in 2018 – two years before the pandemic – represented 73% of non-fatal injuries from violence in 2018. Anywhere from 18 to 65% of home health care workers have experienced verbal abuse and up to 44% have reported physical assault, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; home health workers often treat patients with histories of violence, mental illness or substance use disorder, which can increase the chances of future violent events. Bureau of Labor Statistics information shows that, on average, 44 private health care workers are victims of homicide every year.

On top of heavy understaffing leaving workers stressed and struggling, as well as the extreme burdens faced during the COVID-19 pandemic by workers, this constant pressure is placing undue stress and pressure on workers seeking to help patients heal and recover from illness and injury.

In the case of many health care workers, including traveling and visiting nurses, patients’ homes can also be sources of potential threat, as can be seen with Morulane’s death as the result of a house fire. That makes worker training and risk assessment, as well as emergency alert support, even more valuable as a tool to support them as it can provide insight on additional points of concern workers may experience.

States including Missouri, Colorado and Michigan have either introduced or passed legislation aiming to address and reduce the prominence and threat of workplace violence, with policies including preventing workers from being forced to enter threatening situationsdocumenting violent incidents and emphasizing workplace violence prevention plans, and increasing penalties for harming health care workers. Federal protection legislation has been introduced but has not passed.
Senate Bill 8

With Senate Bill 8: An Act Concerning Drug Affordability, the Senate Democratic Caucus continues to tackle an issue familiar to many Connecticut families – the cost and availability of prescription drugs. Sky high prices of prescription drugs are driving up healthcare costs, creating barriers in access and forcing many Connecticut families to make sacrifices to get the care they need.

“This is an issue my colleagues and I hear about nearly every day – families across Connecticut are struggling with the sky high prices of prescription drugs,” said State Sen. Matt Lesser. “It is beyond outrageous that Americans pay the highest prices in the world, for the same medicines available elsewhere. With Senate Bill 8 we are taking steps to create more affordable options.  The possibilities are really exciting. We’ll be bringing in safe, affordable Canadian prescription drugs, which have finally been endorsed by the federal government. We’ll be working with our hospitals and a nonprofit generic drug manufacturer to address critical drug supply shortages. We’re going to piggyback on the Biden Administration’s new effort to negotiate down the price of Medicare drugs. And most importantly, we’ll be passing on those savings to everyone in Connecticut.”

The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services ranks Connecticut the 4th highest in estimated per-capita expenditure on prescription drugs, an estimated $1,788 per person in 2020.

Additionally, a 2022 study of more than 1,300 Connecticut adults from the Healthcare Value Hub found that:

  • Over half (55%) experienced at least one healthcare affordability burden in the past year;
  • Nearly 4 in 5 (78%) worry about affording healthcare in the future;
  • Over 1 in 4 (28%) of those surveyed with household incomes under $50,000 had rationed medication in the last 12 months due to cost.
  • Lower-income respondents and respondents with disabilities are more likely to go without care and incur debt due to healthcare costs; and
  • Across party lines, respondents express strong support for government-led solutions.

Building upon a number of pieces of past legislation that address various barriers in access to prescription drugs, including capping the out-of-pocket cost of insulin at $25, allowing pharmacists to prescribe birth controlauthorizing the ArrayRx discount drug program, and prohibiting Pharmacy Benefit Managers from imposing gag orders on pharmacists to prevent customers from saving money on certain generic drugs. Senate Bill 8 aims to further this work through a number of provisions:

  1. Establishing a Prescription Drug Advisory Board
    Establish an advisory board to adopt reference prices to set upper payment limits for prescription drugs.
  2. Addressing Insulin Affordability
    Require all insurers make the lowest cost insulin option available to consumers.

3. Preventing Drug Shortages
Require hospitals to identify drugs that are likely to experience a supply shortage and to plan for such shortages.

4. Allowing Canadian Pharmaceutical Imports
Allow pharmacies to import safe, effective and affordable prescription drugs from Canada.


Senate Bill 7

Senate Bill 7, An Act Concerning Connecticut Paid Sick Days, will expand the state’s 13-year-old paid sick leave law to cover all working people in Connecticut.

State Senator Julie Kushner, who is Senate Chair of the Labor and Public Employees Committee, could not attend today’s event due to a family commitment. But she said the public supports an expansion of paid sick leave and that Connecticut’s rapidly growing private sector needs to keep pace with other states on the issue of paid sick days if they want to continue to attract and retain qualified employees.

“This is good public policy for employees who are sick and who need to stay home from work, just like parents keep their sick kids home from school to prevent the whole class from getting ill,” Sen. Kushner said. “Connecticut residents are very hard working. We owe it to them to make Connecticut a great place to work as well as a great place to live and raise a family. We can do that by expanding our paid sick days policy so that it reflects the advances made in other states over the past decade-plus.”

Senate Bill 7 expands paid sick days to every employee in Connecticut, increases the rate at which employees can accrue leave to one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, and allows employees to begin using their leave just 100 days after they begin their employment.

If passed into law, the bill would take effect on October 1, 2024 and be retroactive to October 1, 2023 for the purposes of accruing paid sick time.

Right now, Connecticut’s 13-year-old paid sick days law applies only to private-sector employers with more than 50 employees, mostly in “service worker” occupations – about 12% of Connecticut’s entire private-sector workforce. Changing the law to require all employers with one or more employees to offer paid sick leave could benefit an estimated 1.6 million people in Connecticut.

Connecticut passed its first paid sick days law in 2011 as Senate Bill 913, “An Act Mandating Employers Provide Paid Sick Leave to Employees.” Currently, eight states and Washington, D.C. require paid sick leave for any business with one or more employees: Arizona, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Vermont and Washington.

Contact: Kevin Coughlin | 203-710-0193 |
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