House: 41st District

REPLAY OF DEBATE

CANDIDATES

Elissa Wright, Democrat

Occupation

State Legislator, Attorney

Town

Noank

Incumbent

Yes

Contact

Phone: 860-536-1813

Email: elissa.wright@gmail.com

Age (as of Nov. 4, 2014)

68

Family

Two grown children, Matthew Hemond and Elizabeth Hemond

Education

Groton Public Schools; Connecticut College, B.A.; M.A.; University of Connecticut Law School, J.D.; New York University Law School, LL.M. in Taxation

Civic Involvement

Member, Connecticut Lyric Opera, Board of Directors; Member, Groton Democratic Town Committee; Member, Noank Historical Society; Groton Open Space Association; Former Member, Thames Valley Music School Board of Directors

Elected/appointed offices held

Former Member, Groton Town Council; Representative Town Meeting; and Board of Education; Served as Secretary of the Jabez Smith House Committee, Town of Groton, for more than fifteen years; House 2007-present, Assistant Majority Leader (2011-present), Regulation Review Committee, ranking member (2012-present); Judiciary Committee and Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee, member (2007-present)

Other government service

Legislative aide to the late James J. Kennelly, Speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives and the late William A. O'Neill, Majority Leader of the Connecticut House of Representatives (later Governor), in the House Majority Office, 1975-1977; Law Clerk, Honorable Ellen Ash Peters, Connecticut Supreme Court (later Chief Justice), 1979-1980

What makes you the best candidate for this office?

As state representative for the 41st District, I have played a pivotal role in

  • Increasing state funding for Groton and New London to help keep local property taxes in check

  • Securing more than $6 million for Grasso Technical High School

  • Investing state funds to protect the Naval Submarine Base

  • Creating a Connecticut Port Authority to realize the economic potential of New London's deep-water port

  • Launching the Connecticut Institute for Resiliency and Climate Adaptation at UConn Avery Point to help protect our coastline from future storms and flooding

  • Promoting a Thames River Heritage Park and implementing a successful water taxi demonstration project across the lower Thames River linking historical, cultural, and recreational sites in New London and Groton

  • Extending and expanding Shore Line East commuter rail service to New London I have worked effectively and across party lines to enact legislation to

  • Provide assistance to small businesses and start-ups to create and retain jobs and train workers

  • Expand pre-k opportunities for thousands of children

  • Promote collaboration among towns to reduce state and local spending

  • Provide access to quality, affordable health insurance coverage for nearly 200,000 people

  • Protect Long Island Sound, our coastline, and environment As a lifelong resident of Groton, I have a deep and abiding committed to community. I have served on the Groton Town Council, RTM, and Board of Education and understand the complexities and challenges facing municipal government. I have been involved in protecting some of our most precious resources ¬– Haley Farm State Park, Bluff Point Coastal Reserve, and saving Branford House at Avery Point from privatization. Having served as state representative for Groton and New London, I am well positioned to continue to assist and strengthen our communities.

    Estimates of the state's unfunded pension and benefit liability for retired teachers and state employees are in the tens of billions of dollars. Should the state continue offering a defined benefit pension plan or switch to some type of 401(k) defined contribution plan, which has become standard in the private sector? Please explain why you do or do not support such a change.

    The state has a responsibility to provide for the retirement of its employees. While the state's long-term liabilities are significant and inadequate funding in the 1990s left state pension systems precariously underfunded, progress has been made to provide stability and restore the funds to financial health. Connecticut should continue to offer defined-benefit pensions while making them more secure and fiscally sustainable. The state needs to continue a disciplined and sustained approach to close funding gaps in the state employee pension system and teachers' retirement fund by continuing to make at least the actuarially required contributions each year, and when possible contributing more than pension actuaries recommend. Annual contributions to the state employee retirement system have been fully funded in ten of the last 13 years. The teachers' pension fund has been fully funded every year since 2006. After peaking with the retirement of Tier I state employees (hired before July 2, 1984) who account for 72% of the state employees' retirement system pension liability, the cost curve will flatten. Various near-term savings from benefit changes negotiated with SEBAC in 2009 and 2011 already are helping achieve more sustainable annual funding contribution levels. But state employee retirement benefits, among the most generous in the nation, need further examination to reflect the new economic reality with respect to employee contribution rates, the number of years and time frame used to determine benefit amounts, copayments, and other similar restrictions in benefits. More broadly, under-saving for retirement throughout the economy requires our attention. 401(k) plans or other similar defined-contribution plans, though attractive for many people, pose a number of challenges, including high administrative costs, market uncertainty, and confusion about investment choices.

    If a bill came before the General Assembly to repeal or amend the gun control law passed last session after the school shootings in Newtown, would you vote to amend the law? If so, what would you want to change?

    I would not vote for a full repeal of the gun control law. The law contains reasonable, bi-partisan measures including universal background checks for the sale of all firearms; a ban on ammunition magazines holding more than ten rounds; increasing the penalty for firearms trafficking; requiring schools and colleges to create security plans; an expansion of state mental health services; and the addition of a mental health professional to the Firearms Permitting Board. Government has an important role to ensure the safety, security, and wellbeing of families and communities. Our communities are safer when everyone in Connecticut has access to the mental health care that they, or a family member, might need. Our children are safer when the schools we entrust them to every day are the safest schools that they can be. But like any law, our gun control law should continue to be evaluated to ensure that it is achieving its goals. In that regard, I would advocate banning the printing of 3D guns, which can more easily get through security systems unnoticed.

Aundré Bumgardner, Republican/Independent

Endorsed - View The Day Editorial Endorsement

Occupation

Campaign Operative

Town

Groton

Incumbent

No

Contact

Phone: 860-961-9048

Email: aundrebumgardner@gmail.com

Age (as of Nov. 4, 2014)

20

Family

Elizabeth Bumgardner (Mother & Former NLPS Teacher and Principal of North Windham Elementary School) Pierre Bumgardner (Father & East Lyme Dept. of Water and Sewer) Benjamin Bumgardner (Brother, age 11) and Lourdes Bumgardner (Sister, age 12)

Education

Cambridge School of Weston

Civic Involvement

Thames Valley Sustainable Connections, currently serving on the Board of Directors Cambridge School of Weston, past member of the Board of Trustees

Elected/appointed offices held

Groton Republican Town Committee, Member

Other government service

Campaign work throughout Southeastern Connecticut

What makes you the best candidate for this office?

I am uniquely qualified to represent Groton and New London in the legislature because I offer a perspective that is vastly underrepresented in Hartford. My political background and proven bipartisan spirit augment my experiences as a young person who is invested in a state that is struggling to have an economic renaissance. Southeastern Connecticut has seen a net loss of 2400 jobs this past year, our state has an ever growing achievement gap, and our deteriorating infrastructure does very little to incentivize any business to move or expand to our state. The status quo is not working. As an individual who benefited immensely from school choice, I will be a willing partner to ensure that ushering in an all magnet school district in New London has the state support necessary to be successful. I have a strong desire to work across the aisle on issues like reforming our ECS formula coupled with fully reimbursing municipalities for special education expenditures, comprehensive property tax solutions, a constitutional lockbox on STF revenues, advocacy for a more robust transportation network in southeastern Connecticut, and reforming our corporate tax structure so that we get out of the business of picking winners and losers and get into the business of creating an environment where all businesses can flourish. In my eyes, a 41st district state representative requires energy, the ability to listen to the needs of both sides of the river, and be an unrelenting fighter for our region. I am proud to have the support of past mayors such as Heather Somers, Jane Dauphinais, and Harry Watson in Groton as well as Rob Pero and Adam Sprecace in New London. They understand that Groton and New London are ready for renewed leadership, and prepared to see our state get back onto the path to prosperity.

Estimates of the state's unfunded pension and benefit liability for retired teachers and state employees are in the tens of billions of dollars. Should the state continue offering a defined benefit pension plan or switch to some type of 401(k) defined contribution plan, which has become standard in the private sector? Please explain why you do or do not support such a change.

If lawmakers continue to underfund the state's pension fund, taxpayers will have to incur the consequences as result of poor policy making. The legislature has a tendency to kick the can down the road when it pertains to our unfunded liabilities, which is why our pension system is the 2nd most underfunded in the nation with the liability totaling upwards of $80 billion. This past year, my opponent had the ability to fully fund contractually obligated DOC retiree benefits as requested by the Comptroller, but instead supported a budget that will not be in balance and is loaded with gimmicks. This kind of decision-making undermines good government. As the son of a former New London Public Schools teacher, I find it deplorable that state auditors have identified situations where retired teachers and their families failed to receive their benefits from the state. Additionally, if Connecticut continues to authorize bonds (borrowing) to pay off outstanding debt, delay debt payments, and accrue a multibillion dollar liability because of interest on past bond authorizations, "we will find ourselves in a similar situation as Detroit or Illinois," as Art Renner, executive director of the Connecticut Society of CPAs, said in an interview with The Day; calling our pension system "a financial time bomb." Connecticut must set a higher criteria for authorizing bonding for capital projects, should ban the practice of bonding to pay for operating expenses, and restrict bonding for non-capital projects such as the bond authorization on failed First Five program expenditures. By eliminating gimmicks and levying a lockbox on our special transportation fund, and smarter investment decisions with the pension fund, we could fully fund our pensions and provide every state employee the ability to make a choice between a defined benefit and a defined contribution plan.

If a bill came before the General Assembly to repeal or amend the gun control law passed last session after the school shootings in Newtown, would you vote to amend the law? If so, what would you want to change?

After the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a proper response from elected officials was absolutely warranted in the wake of such a gruesome tragedy. However, our legislature greatly missed the ball on providing fundamental changes to the way we handle our most mentally and emotionally vulnerable members of within our communities by levying overreaching restrictions on law abiding gun owners – as a large number of Southeastern Connecticut legislators in the democratic caucus saw when voting in opposition to SB 1160. Aside from the fact that the legislature adopted emergency certification tactics to bypass the normal procedural process (which weakened the ability to vet the legislation), the legislation included loopholes that could make certain gun owners felons. Even advocates for further gun restrictions have acknowledged that such loopholes do very little to prevent another mass shooting, which should have been the ultimate goal for this piece of legislation. While full repeal is unlikely due to the political structure of the General Assembly and that there is federal litigation currently in the courts to overturn the law, I pledge to protect against further erosion of second amendment rights and advocate for comprehensive mental health reforms which will require our state to make investments in programs that have seen large cuts in times past.

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