Priorities of the 2002 Legislative Session: Everything from Public Health to Recreation

Last November's Special Session, although it included the passage of a disappointing budget plan, saw many positive steps toward easing people's anxieties after the terrifying attacks on Sept. 11. That session included passage of a bill that protects the benefits of state employees called up to military service and a bill that increases the penalties on those who make false chemical, biological, or bomb threats.

As we draw closer to the opening of the 2002 session, which begins on Feb. 6, I hope to accomplish still more positives for our district and the entire state. I plan on introducing ten new legislative proposals, four of which I will briefly describe here.

First, I will continue my fight to pass legislation that would require state universities to ban smoking in their dormitories. As the law states now, smoking is prohibited in all state buildings with the exception of college dormitories, which are funded by taxpayer dollars, and ARE essentially state buildings.

There are state universities around the nation who ban smoking in their dorms, including Florida State University and Mississippi State University.

Smoking, besides being a health hazard, is also a fire hazard, as fires have broken out in dorms at both Seton Hall and the University of Connecticut.

Second, I will also seek to pass a bill that would discourage parents from allowing their underage children to drink alcoholic beverages. That bill, if passed, would mean fines for parents who either supply underage children with alcohol or who know their children are being supplied alcohol.

With all the issues facing our children today, this most certainly is an issue that we all need to focus and cooperate on.

Third, I will propose legislation that would enable those getting a driver's license to choose from organizations in need of donations. Organizations, such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving and other such groups, can apply to get a checkbox on the registration form.

Then, if they want to, citizens can check off a box and donate $1 to that agency. With so many worthwhile groups in need of financial assistance, and with so many out there who may want to help out but haven't found the time, this would strike a good balance between the two.

And finally, I will also support legislation for our residents who enjoy the pastime of horseback riding. Many have already taken advantage of Rails To Trails, where those who walk or ride bikes can enjoy trails built over old railroad tracks.

There is a movement on a proposal to create enough space on these trails for all these individuals. The idea is to create a four-foot wide natural surface shoulder on all multi-use trails paid for with state or federal funds, making it usable by equestrians. If this bill becomes law, everyone would be able to enjoy these paths.

If you would like to discuss an issue included in this column, or have a concern that I can help you with, please feel free to contact me. You can write to me at Room 4200, Legislative Office Building, Hartford, CT 06106-1591, send me e-mail at Themis.Klarides@housegop.state.ct.us or call my office toll-free at 1-800-842-1423.

State Rep. Themis Klarides respresents the 114th District which covers Woodbridge and Orange