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Lamont comes to Groton, signs bill aimed at aiding military families

Gov. Ned Lamont came to Groton Monday morning to sign a bill aimed at helping military families relocate to the state. 

Lamont joined military and political leaders as well as military family members at the Submarine Force Library and Museum at the Naval Submarine Base. After the bill-signing ceremony, he discussed the COVID-19 pandemic at a news conference.

The new state law will allow military spouses with certain professional licenses from other states to use those same licenses in Connecticut.

Commanding Officer Capt. Todd Moore of the sub base said the legislation would help military families make a more comfortable transition to Connecticut. He emphasized how important military families are to the U.S. military’s mission.

“There isn’t a submarine that rides up and down this river that isn’t packed with family drawings and family photos,” Moore said.

Connecticut Executive Director for Military Affairs Robert Ross expanded on Moore’s point, noting that keeping military families happy is a matter of national security. If military members come to work worried about family, “That is an impact on readiness,” Ross said.

“We want you in our schools, we want you in our neighborhoods, we want you in our workplaces,” he added.

Ross and Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz rattled off U.S. Department of Defense statistics bearing out the economic hardship military families face. As Ross said, “You can’t make that military salary stretch far enough” to support a whole family.

About 35% of military spouses who work do so in occupations requiring state certifications or licensing. Around 90% of military spouses are women. Among military spouses, the unemployment rate is about 16%, dwarfing the national rate.

State Rep. Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme, said she, Ross and others “worked long and hard on this bill to create opportunity for military spouses to continue their careers in their trades.”

“Licensure in my point of view harms so many people,” she continued. “It harms women, it harms minorities, by creating barriers to entry.”

The new law takes effect Oct. 1. The state Departments of Public Health and Consumer Protection will give required licenses or credentials to spouses of active duty service members in Connecticut “if that person has practiced safely under another state’s license for at least four years, meets examination requirements as defined under state statutes and completes the necessary background checks,” a statement from Lamont’s office reads.

Both departments are still allowed to deny requests if doing so is deemed to be in the state’s best interest.

More than 20 professions are covered by the new law, including nursing, physical therapy, accounting, interior design, hypnosis and locksmithing.

Lamont said the bill is about making sure people who move to Connecticut are able to continue to work, calling it “cumbersome as heck” to get re-certified.

“What we’re doing here today is about keeping this the best sub base in the world,” Lamont said. “Part of that is how we treat military spouses. Part of that is about making Connecticut a great place to work.”

COVID-19 update

Lamont answered reporters' questions about wearing masks, the possibility of vaccine mandates and vaccine booster shots. He said there are no plans to require state employees to get the vaccine.

He maintained a position he’s held for much of the pandemic, which is to let private enterprises, be they restaurants, music venues or anything else, decide whether patrons need to wear masks or provide proof of vaccination.

Lamont did not say whether he’d made a decision about children having to wear masks in Connecticut’s schools. He mentioned that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state Department of Public Health guidance states that “everybody in schools is better off wearing a mask.”

“How that is enforced, we’ll figure that out over a period of time,” he continued. “We’re in early August and school starts at the end of August, we always try to give people at least a couple weeks notice so people can plan ahead.”

Acting Department of Public Health Commissioner Deidre Gifford said the state is in conversation with different vaccine providers about booster shots due to the proliferation of the delta variant.

“We’re seeing increases in our cases in Connecticut, so clearly we haven’t reached the stage of herd immunity when it comes to the delta variant,” she said. “We all need to get vaccinated.”

When asked why Lamont was avoiding aggressive mask mandates and other measures in contrast to his early response to the pandemic, he pointed to vaccination rates, saying that about 75% of state residents are fully vaccinated, including 90% of those age 65 and older.

Data collected in the state since Friday show 1,245 new COVID-19 cases had been detected among 39,189 tests, a positivity rate of 3.18%. Hospitalizations had increased by 32 to 148. On Monday, Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London had nine cases and Westerly Hospital had two.

Since March 2020, New London County has had 23,072 COVID-19 cases and 451 deaths linked to the disease.

s.spinella@theday.com

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