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News from Senator Needleman

Happy March! I’m continuing to work hard as the seasons start to change, and I’m happy to announce that several bills I’ve introduced or co-sponsored are progressing through government committees. Here are the latest updates on several of them:

GIS

As First Selectman of Essex, I know firsthand that our towns need additional support when they can get it. That’s why I’m happy to have testified this week in support of Senate Bill No. 550, which would expand geographic information system tools and software accessibility and create an overarching state system. I testified with Essex Town Planner John Guszkowski to explain the advantages this legislation would provide to municipalities.

GIS systems are common in our daily lives, as they power online maps, GPSes and geographic information collections. But in our small state, we have no statewide collections of data. All of our practices involve each town having its separate GIS system. This isn’t just inefficient in contract negotiations, but leaves the technology’s advantages off the table for municipalities; for instance, individuals wanting to look at land in two different towns would have to open two separate services just to gain access, even when the land is separated by mere feet over the towns’ borders.

My bill, if enacted, would change that. It would create a state-wide service, putting towns’ disparate services into one larger platform. That would lower costs through more efficient negotiations, as the state could enter discussions with services on its own instead of each town needing to develop individual contracts. It would also allow for more effective communication methods. Guszkowski added that current systems make it impossible to know how the state fares in its progress toward conservation and open space preservation goals, and a new system could lower costs while improving access to information.

I’m excited to push forward this bill that would improve services for towns across our state, as the increased access to information and the lowered costs of purchasing the services would benefit leaders and residents of towns alike.

Economic Benefits

Additional bills this week I’m happy to see move forward have strong economic potential. Senate Bill No. 598, which would legalize the growing and production of hemp, was discussed this week at a public hearing. Legalizing this product, which has long been unfairly kept illegal despite numerous known uses and benefits of its growth, would benefit the farmers and businesses of Connecticut. More than 100 farmers are already interested in growing hemp, and its use could benefit numerous industries including construction, textiles and fuel. It would do so while reducing those industries’ use of harmful products, and it is simple for farmers to grow. Legalizing hemp would be a simple way to bolster Connecticut’s economy and small businesses while cutting down on use of wasteful pesticides, and I look forward to continuing the fight.

Additionally this week, Senate Bill No. 665, which would legalize wagering on competitive sports, also reached public hearing. This provides a new opportunity for Connecticut to add tax revenues while taking gambling off the black market, bolstering state casinos in the process.

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