HARTFORD- Fairfield state legislators on Feb. 16 participated in a wide-ranging the discussion at the Legislative Office Building on the controversial 1990 affordable housing state law known as “8-30g”.
Housing Committee Chair Sen. Tony Hwang, Ranking Member Rep. Brenda Kupchick, and Rep. Laura Devlin said the public hearing was an opportunity to:
“We asked area residents to make their voices heard in Hartford, and they did exactly that,” Sen. Hwang said. “Housing policy impacts so many other policies, so when we get the chance to improve a nearly three-decades-old state law, we need to do it in a comprehensive way. We thank everyone who took the time to express their viewpoints and we continue to urge people contact us with their thoughts on how to make Connecticut’s housing policies a role model for the rest of the nation.”
Rep. Brenda Kupchick, the ranking member of the Housing Committee said, “After years of attending town planning and zoning meetings, I’ve seen first-hand how this statute can be used to overbuild and override local zoning laws. We’ve been meeting with housing advocates, members of our local zoning officials to identify helpful changes. Massachusetts has a similar affordable housing statue that has been far more effective and isn’t punitive. Thursday’s public hearing was enlightening”.
“While well-intended to increase affordable housing in our state when enacted in 1989, the Affordable Housing and Land Use Appeals Act, state statute 8-30g in fact is not working to achieve its intended goal. Current law has made it more difficult for municipalities to comply and offers an unfair advantage to developers,” said Rep. Laura Devlin. “The modifications brought forth in the proposals discussed today will help communities meet the goal of increasing affordable housing across Connecticut and address the unintended consequences that have resulted from this statute.”
Joining the lawmakers were the co-chairs of the Town of Fairfield Affordable Housing Committee: Robert Frigo and Cynthia Sammarco.
According to the both Mr. Frigo and Ms. Sammarco, the Affordable Housing Committee believes that 8-30g needs to be amended for several reasons. One primary reason is to address predatory practices by developers who use the existing regulations, not for the purpose of serving low-income families, but instead are motivated purely by profit, regardless of how their development may affect the neighborhood and the surrounding homes and for many residents, equity in these homes represents the bulk of their retirement savings.
I’m looking forward to serving as Co-Chair for Thursday’s public hearing at the Legislative Office Building on the controversial 1990 affordable housing state law known as “8-30g”.
It’s an opportunity to:
What can YOU do?
Senior advocates from Fairfield on Feb. 7 joined Sen. Tony Hwang at the State Capitol to speak in favor of legislation to exempt Social Security payments from the Connecticut income tax.
“We are trying to eliminate the state tax on Social Security, and I really appreciate that area seniors are joining me in speaking out for this tax relief,” said Sen. Hwang, who serves as Vice Chair of the legislature’s Aging Committee.
Sen. Hwang said residents can continue to speak out in favor of providing tax relief to seniors across Connecticut by:
Email a brief comment to the Aging Committee at: AGEtestimony@cga.ct.gov
In the subject line, put “Support Bill 6987 / Eliminate the tax on Social Security”
Include your name and town.
Copy Sen. Hwang on the email at Tony.Hwang@cga.ct.gov
For more info on Bill No. 6987: www.cga.ct.gov/2017/TOB/h/2017HB-06987-R00-HB.htm .
*Sen. Hwang represents Easton, Fairfield, Newtown, Weston and Westport . On the web: www.SenatorHwang.com .
Attached photo, left to right: Gordon MacKenzie, Sen. Tony Hwang, and Robert Frigo.
The Connecticut General Assembly’s Housing Committee, which I Chair, will soon hold a public hearing on the controversial affordable housing state law known as 8-30g.
The hearing will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 16 in Room 2A of the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.
Section 8-30g of the Connecticut General Statutes:
This year, we have an opportunity to:
What can YOU do?
For more information on the law: www.cga.ct.gov/2017/rpt/pdf/2017-R-0013.pdf .
Sen. Tony Hwang (second from right) on Feb. 8 was a guest on the Talk of Connecticut radio program hosted live at the State Capitol by Brad Davis and Dan Lovallo. Hwang and lawmakers discussed state issues and previewed the governor’s state budget address. Hwang can be reached at 800 842-1421 and at Tony.Hwang@cga.ct.gov . Hwang represents Easton, Fairfield, Newtown, Weston and Westport . On the web: www.SenatorHwang.com and www.TalkofConnecticut.com . Attached photo, l to r: Sen. Len Suzio (R-Meriden), Rep. Russ Morin (D-Wethersfield), Davis, Lovallo, Hwang, and Rep. Tony Guerrera (D-Rocky Hill).
State Sen. Tony Hwang can be an expansive speaker about nearly any topic – until he’s asked about his plans to run for governor in 2018.
“I have formed an exploratory (committee),” the Republican lawmaker told the Business Journal. “I’m first and foremost thrilled and honored to represent the 28th district.”
Still, the 52-year-old Hwang, who represents Fairfield, Newtown, Westport, Weston and Easton, described how he’s been visiting all corners of Connecticut, meeting local lawmakers and residents to learn more about issues facing municipalities statewide.
That on-the-road education has informed his involvement with groups like the Coalition Against Casino Expansion in Connecticut. The nonpartisan, 15-group alliance opposes the legalization of a third casino in the state.
The momentum behind that allied opposition began when the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes formed a joint venture, MMCT, to explore opening a gambling site in the Hartford area, with Windsor Locks and East Windsor being the leading contenders to land the project. Those tribes respectively operate the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Ledyard and Mohegan Sun in Uncasville.
Hwang said although Connecticut’s original arrangement with the tribes, under which they pay approximately 25 percent of slot machine revenues to the state, had worked well, “The landscape has changed.”
“Over the past years, we’ve seen nearly every state get into the gambling business. We’ve reached an oversaturation point, where the only way to grow that business is to create more addicted gamblers.”
Hwang said that his involvement with the coalition – which includes members of the Connecticut Catholic Public Affairs Conference, the Connecticut Conference of the United Church of Christ, the New England Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Farmington Valley American Muslim Center – has provided him with innumerable tales of woe and tragedy, including that of one pastor who herself was once a gambling addict.
The senator also decried the high number of suicides and attempted suicides linked to gambling addiction. According to a Georgia State University report, pathological gamblers are five to 10 times more likely to attempt suicide than non-afflicted people. The report also cites Gamblers Anonymous figures stating that 12 to 18 percent of its members have attempted suicide, 45 to 49 percent have made plans to kill themselves, 48 to 70 percent have contemplated suicide and 80 percent have said they “wanted to die.”
Strong stuff, but does it necessarily apply to Fairfield County? Hwang said it does.
“Constitutionally, we are opening the door to creating a precedent,” he said, “with the MGMs of the world wanting to come in.”
Indeed, the tribes once sought to open two casinos in Fairfield County, and last year MGM Resorts International commissioned Oxford Economics to conduct a study of the potential benefits of constructing a new casino off Interstate 95 in southwest Connecticut.
Building one between Bridgeport and Greenwich “would generate far greater economic benefits than locating one in north central Connecticut because southwest Connecticut offers a much deeper market,” the Oxford study said, estimating that such a casino would generate $70 million for the state, as opposed to $16 million from a north central gambling center.
A Bridgeport area casino would cost about$1.1 billion and create more than 5,700 jobs, nearly 2.8 times as many as one in the north central area, according to the study.
The state is also considering a casino in the north central area in order to compete with MGM’s $950 million casino and entertainment complex under construction in Springfield, Massachusetts, just a few miles from the Connecticut border.
Hwang said he understood how appealing are numbers such as those in the Oxford report, especially in the state’s current economic climate. But the potential human cost must outweigh the bottom line, he argued.
He also pointed to Atlantic City, New Jersey as “a bellwether of gambling in the Northeast.” Once a gambling mecca, that city’s casino revenue dove from $5.2 billion in 2006 to $2.9 billion in 2013.
Last month, New Jersey state regulators released figures showing that Atlantic City’s casinos took in $2.6 billion in 2016, an increase of 1.5 percent from 2015, but noted that the increase was due mostly to internet gambling. Over the past three years, five casinos have closed and 11,000 jobs have been lost in the city.
“This is a Fairfield County issue because it’s something that impacts all of our communities,” Hwang said.
Housing law reform
Hwang said another of his priorities this legislative session is tied to his recent appointment as co-chairman of the legislature’s Housing Committee, alongside two fellow Democrats, Rep. Larry Butler and Sen. Gayle Slossberg. In particular, he wants to revisit the often-controversial community and workforce housing statute 8-30g.
Hwang said the law, enacted in 1990 to provide affordable housing, has been repeatedly abused by developers to bypass local zoning laws.
“Our priority is to ensure that every individual in the state has the opportunity to have a roof over his or her head,” he said. “The problem (with the statute) is that it has become a tool for potentially predatory development practices.”
Such developers, he said, can come into a community and propose multiple-unit buildings in any area that qualifies, regardless of the historical character of a given neighborhood or the wishes of existing residents or zoning restrictions. When such cases go to court, the developers typically win approval.
“It’s not simply a NIMBY issue,” Hwang said, referring to the not-in-my-backyard opposition to proposed developments often mounted by community residents. “It’s being used as a hammer to drive nails into communities without any degree of local input.”
While 8-30g’s aims are admirable, its implementation has often been “ill-fated and ill-advised,” Hwang said. He said he plans to call for input from local zoning officials, community leaders and others to create a more flexible law while simultaneously maintaining the objective of creating sufficient affordable housing.
Even in a state facing a nearly $3 billion deficit over the next two years, Hwang said he believed this to be “an exciting time” to be a legislator. “For the first time since 1893, we have a tie in the Senate,” he said, referring to the body’s new makeup of 18 Republicans and 18 Democrats. He said he believes that rather than descending into partisan rancor, such an arrangement will give rise to a new era of bipartisan cooperation, especially when it comes to the budget.
“We need to understand that we don’t have a revenue problem,” he said. “We have a spending discipline problem. A lot of us, including myself, will be watching the governor to see if he has the courage to get us away from business as usual and to economic stability.”
Sen. Tony Hwang issued the following statement regarding Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget address:
“On Feb. 7, I was proud to join with Connecticut Senate and House Republicans’ in proposing a plan to reinstate nearly $20 million in education funding that was cut midyear to cities and towns throughout the state. Our plan keeps our promise to towns, to schools and to Connecticut property taxpayers.
“On Feb. 8, the governor told the state he wants to ‘give taxpayers, communities, and businesses more predictability and more sustainability.’
“Unfortunately, the governor’s budget proposal does not back up that claim.
“It is balanced on the backs of towns and every local property taxpayer in Connecticut.
“Make no mistake: Property taxes will rise significantly across Connecticut if the Gov. Malloy budget becomes law.
“Gov. Malloy also balances the budget on the backs of our children and grandchildren. Future generations of Connecticut resident would be saddled with today’s debt, and that’s not sound policy.
“The good news is that the governor’s speech is just the first step in the process. Our new balance of power in the state senate will allow Democrats and Republicans to now sit down and deal with this budget deficit in a thoughtful, responsible way. I look forward to working closely with my colleagues on both sides of the political aisle to put Connecticut back on a path toward true long-term sustainability and predictability.
“That effort will emphasize our commitment to make our towns’ education mission whole. It will emphasize the need to protect vital services for our most vulnerable residents. It will involve measures to create the business ecosystem needed to retain and grow good Connecticut jobs.
“I urge taxpayers in Easton, Fairfield, Newtown, Weston and Westport to contact me with any questions they may have about the governor’s proposal. I look forward to joining with my fellow lawmakers in crafting a budget which is fair to towns, schools and taxpayers.”
The governor’s budget documents can be viewed at: http://www.ct.gov/opm/cwp/view.asp?a=2958&Q=590066&PM=1
**Sen. Hwang (www.SenatorHwang.com) can be reached at 800 842-1421 and at Tony.Hwang@cga.ct.gov .
I will not stop fighting for our schools, our towns, and local property taxpayers.
Check out my latest State Capitol Video Update here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNGzTJpHzOs .
View our plan to restore the governor’s cuts to education funding at www.ctsenaterepublicans.com .
Send me your thoughts at Tony.Hwang@cga.ct.gov .
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