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Rep. Palm Introduces Voting, Education, Environment and Healthcare Bills

Submitted by Christine Palm.

CHESTER (Jan. 27, 2021) – State Rep. Christine Palm has raised seven proposed bills whose intent ranges from eradicating invasive hydrilla to expanding voting rights.

A member of the Government Administration and Elections Committee, Palm introduced a legislative proposal for a resolution to amend the state constitution so that absentee ballots become unconditional. (Currently, a voter must have a recognized reason to request an absentee ballot.)

“I support anything that makes our voting laws more accessible, safer and simpler,” Palm said. “As the November general election during the pandemic clearly showed, our voting system is far too limited. I am confident the GAE will move this important item forward.” Palm said she met with numerous voting rights advocates, both locally and statewide, and stressed that in expanding voter access, the State must support municipal clerks and registrars, who are charged with ensuring efficient elections.

Another new initiative of Palm’s stems from the recent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Palm, a former high school journalism teacher, introduced a bill to require the teaching of civics and media literacy.

“I am deeply concerned about media illiteracy, which is fueling many growing extremist movements,” Palm said. “So many of their actions are based on erroneous beliefs, which comes from the inability to discern fact from fiction. Additionally, even some members of Congress have a shocking lack of understanding about the three co-equal branches of government, or how a bill is made, or what the balance of powers is.” While a Public Act was enacted in 2017 that created an advisory committee to oversee media literacy, including internet safety, Palm wants to make sure the committee’s recommendations are actually being implemented in every public school.

Another curriculum reform bill before the Education Committee is a legislative proposal Palm raised last session, which made it through the House on a bipartisan basis, but was not called in the Senate. It would require the teaching of climate change as part of the state’s science curriculum.

Palm is also advocating for the non-profit community, whose members have lost an estimated $461 million since 2007 because of underfunding on the State’s part. Palm wants the State to make non-profits “financially whole” through phased-in funding indexed to the cost of goods and services they provide.

“Our non-profits have suffered major reductions in fee-for-service revenue because of the pandemic, many are on the front lines of Covid service to one-half million state residents, and they are, in fact, a major employer — 12 percent of the state’s workforce works in the non-profit community. All told, they add immeasurably to our quality of life, and we need to do right by them.”

Palm, who serves on the General Assembly’s Environment Committee and was named a “Legislative Champion” by the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters, introduced a bill to create a special fund for a coordinated plan to manage the spread of hydrilla, an invasive aquatic plant that is choking the lower Connecticut River. She also re-introduced a bill to prohibit commercial seismic surveying and drilling in Long Island Sound (which passed the Senate but was not called in the House). (She does not expect this bill to be raised, now that President Biden announced he will revoke the previous administration’s drilling permits.)

“Hydrilla is a relatively new phenomenon in our waterways but it’s already a real scourge to environmentalists, to those who use the river for recreation, to tourists, and to our boating industry,” Palm said. “We need to support a coordinated plan to find effective, safe ways to eradicate it and prevents its spread. This is an issue of grave concern to folks living in our Connecticut River towns and to our municipal leaders.”

Finally, Palm introduced a bill that would ease the burden on families of elders in assisted living facilities and save the overburdened healthcare system money. The bill addresses the very common problem of urinary tract infections in older people. By allowing Certified Nurse Assistants to give urinalyses and, under the supervision of a certified clinician, give the first dose of the appropriate antibiotic, “we could spare our elders and their families the trauma of the emergency room, and cut costs dramatically.” Palm said she and her husband, who were the primary caretakers of their elderly mothers, made numerous trips to the E.R., “when a standing order from their physician, plus a slight expansion of the CNAs’ role, would have made a huge difference.”

Palm stressed that in this highly unusual legislative session, when most business is being done remotely and most legislation will focus on Covid recovery, very few bills will actually pass this year.

“Public policy is often a long and arduous process,” Palm said. “It can take years to get a bill through. And given that our focus is, and should be, dominated by the pandemic, many initiatives will, by necessity, die in committee. But it’s always worthwhile to submit them, because it can plant the seed for future discussions.”

Palm is reviewing colleagues’ bills now to see which ones she will co-sponsor.

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