Helping our Hometown Heroes
Each day as we go about our regular business in our communities, we encounter heroes – heroes who volunteer their time and put their lives at risk to protect our lives, our families and our property. These heroes are our volunteer first responders: our volunteer firefighters, emergency service medical personnel, canine search and rescue teams, and others who have generously devoted their time and skills to serve to our communities. We owe them a debt of gratitude for putting themselves in harms’ way – and it has been my honor in recent years to do what I can as a legislator to acknowledge and assist those who protect us and our communities.
Many towns, including Windsor, East Granby and Suffield, provide a modest tax abatement to certain active and retired volunteer emergency personnel as a way to not only as a benefit but to create an incentive to volunteer. Until last year the maximum tax abatement was set by state statute at $1000. In 2019, I introduced a bill that would allow municipalities to voluntarily increase the abatement up to $1500 for the following two years and then to $2000 afterward. The bill was taken up by the Planning & Development Committee, passed the House and Senate unanimously, and was signed by the Governor as Public Act 19-36: “An Act Increasing the Property Tax Abatement for Certain First Responders”. Windsor was one of the first towns to approve increases based on this legislation, and I am extremely proud to have gotten the enabling bill through the legislature last year.
Proper training is also vital to our first responders, and at the suggestion of the Foundation for Exceptional Children of Suffield (FECS), I introduced a bill to expand training opportunities for Fire/EMS and other first responders for incidents involving individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder or other nonverbal learning disorders – at no cost to individuals or municipalities. I worked with a colleague across the aisle to combine this with a similar bill related to police training, becoming Public Act 19-147: An Act Concerning Training for Certain Public Safety and Emergency Services Personnel, which also passed unanimously in both the House and Senate, and subsequently signed into law.
I was also delighted to work with DOT to advance a request from Windsor Volunteer Firefighters to name the Bloomfield Avenue I-91 overpass as Windsor Volunteer Firefighters Memorial Overpass, which was approved in a Transportation Committee bill at the end of the 2019 session.
My commitment to public safety volunteers runs deep. I have supported a relief fund for firefighters diagnosed with cancer directly linked to their service, and worked to expand access to mental health coverage for first responder suffering from PTSD - I believe this coverage should also be expanded to include emergency medical personnel. As a member of the bipartisan legislative Fire/EMS Caucus, I continue to look for opportunities to help our hometown heroes.
Thank you to all our public safety volunteers who are such an important part of our communities, and who make our lives safer.