Connecticut’s 2017 legislative session began back in January, and is scheduled to conclude on June 7. Even though we are quickly nearing the end, much work remains.
Legislators are now mainly focused on closing another record budget deficit, which is currently at $1.7B for Fiscal Year 2018. Ideas are currently being floated on just how to do this, with the conventional wisdom holding that it will require not only severe budget cuts, but also new revenue.
The American Heart Association has been working hard to advance a few priority pieces of legislation, all of which, if passed, will increase the heart-health of every CT resident. Currently, there is no formal system of stroke care in CT. Senate Bill 34 will ensure that every person in our state who experiences a stroke, receives the best possible treatment for their case. It will designate three types of stroke-ready hospitals, and establish transport protocols for EMS professionals. This bill was unanimously voted out of the Public Health committee, and currently awaits further action by the Senate, which could come any day now.
House Bill 5384 will raise the tobacco sales age to 21. In CT, there are currently 56,000 kids, now under the age of 18, who will eventually die from their own tobacco use, and we want to make it as difficult as possible for them to start down this path of addiction. This bill has successfully been passed by both the Public Health and the Finance committees, and we expect that it will soon be sent to the Judiciary committee for another vote.
Recognizing that sugary drinks have been identified as the primary source of added sugars in American’s diets, and that the consumption of them is associated with rising obesity rates and increased risk of chronic diseases, we have also been working hard to pass a sugary drink excise tax. Recent data has shown that this tax can positively change consumer behavior, as well as raise much needed revenue to fund important health programs.
Finally, we faced another challenge to keeping CPR training in the public high school curriculum. Senate Bill 1026, which mainly attempts to revise various, non-related high school graduation requirements, also would have inadvertently deleted this life-saving skill. Working closely with legislative leadership, and thanks in large part to passionate advocates contacting their own legislators, we were successful in getting it put back into the list of requirements.