PRESIDING CHAIRMEN: Senator Meyer
COMMITTEE MEMBERS PRESENT:
REPRESENTATIVES: McMahon, Herlihy, Ruwet, Carson, Farr, McCrory, Mushinsky, Sherer, Truglia, Thompson
REPRESENTATIVE CARDIN: Are dual public hearings today. I'm going to ask people to be very concise and follow our three-minute deadline or time limit, if you will. Our first hour is reserved for Legislators or for agency heads.
And while we normally don't have a time limit or time constraints for their public testimony, we as the Legislators on this side are going to try to be very concise and pointed with any questions we have in that first hour so we can try and facilitate this in an expeditious manner to meet our deadline.
We have a second public hearing that will begin at 1:00, so, as many of you know, there are numerous public hearings and meetings going on throughout the building, so don't take a lack of attendance as a sign of disinterest.
All Committee Members receive your testimony, and they'll be coming and going throughout the morning and afternoon.
All right. Without further ado, let's get right to the first speaker in the Legislator/Agency Head, Ellen is it Blaschinski, representing the Department of Public Health followed by Natasha Pierre. Good morning.
ELLEN BLASCHINSKI: Good morning. Nice job with my name. Representative Cardin, Senator Meyer, and Member of the Committee, I'm Ellen Blaschinski. I'm the Chief of the Regulatory Services Branch of the Department of Public Health.
And I'm here today to talk about Senate Bill 396, AN ACT IMPLEMENTING A COMPREHENSIVE PLAN TO ERADICATE CHILDHOOD LEAD POISONING IN THIS STATE.
DPH believes this legislation would go a long way toward implementing key elements of the DPH plan to eliminate childhood lead poisoning by 2010.
Lead poisoning can strike any child, regardless of race, nationality, geographic location, or economic status. Any amount of lead in the body of a young child is unsafe and can cause permanent damage to that child's health.
Lead is absorbed into the bloodstream by swallowing or inhaling lead-contaminated materials. Lead can damage the brain, the nervous system, interfere with growth, cause hearing loss, produce learning disabilities, among other negative health and behavioral impacts.
Many children do not show signs of lead poisoning until they are severely poisoned. The most important thing though to remember about lead poisoning is it's a preventable disease.
And in the Department's viewpoint, there are key elements of this bill that would help prevent this critical health issue.
Section two of the proposal would enact mandatory universal blood lead screening of young children.
This would improve blood lead screening rates in our most vulnerable, at-risk population and help to identify all children who have been exposed to lead.
Identification of these children will allow local Health Departments to investigate and identify sources of lead exposure and initiate actions to eliminate these hazards.
Section 12 of the bill establishes that liens may be placed on properties to recover cost that can be occurred by a municipality when a property owner fails to abate or remediate a nuisance related to lead poisoning.
Sections 13 and 14 establish that deteriorated paint in older rental housing that is identified during code compliance or similar inspections will be presumed to be lead-based paint and corrected using lead-safe work practices.
The presumption of lead-based paint can be challenged at the owner's expense. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Protection views the comprehensive control of potential lead hazards in the housing stock as a key component in addressing the lead poisoning issue.
Lead hazards in Connecticut's housing stock must be eliminated to successfully resolve the issue of childhood lead poisoning. Lead-based paint hazards are the primary source of lead exposure for young children.
While DPH is supportive of the concept raised in this bill, the Governor's budget did not provide funding for this initiative. Should this proposal move forward, the Department has included some suggested technical changes to the proposal.
These appear in writing at the end of my testimony. And we would be happy to work with the Committee and others on this proposal.
Thank you for your consideration of the Department's views on this bill. And if I can answer any questions?
REP. CARDIN: Thank you very much. I appreciate the suggested changes, and I'm hopeful that we can work together. I know it's a very important issue for both Senator Meyer, my Co-Chair, and Senator Slossberg. So I'm sure Senator Meyer has a question or a comment.
SEN. MEYER: Just a quick, quick question. This bill, as presently drafted, applies to children six and under.
Supposing a child came into Connecticut from out of state who was more than six who presumably had not been lead-screened before, shouldn't we be considering screening all children who come into the state from outside the state, even if they're more than six years of age?
ELLEN BLASCHINSKI: I could be in error on my response. I have not studied the language of the bill. We've been reviewing it rather rapidly.
My understanding is it has some provisions that if a child is in, demonstrates some behavioral issues or other risk factors that screening would be encouraged, but the mandatory requirements would be the six and under. But it does have recommendations for risk factors and other behaviors.
SEN. MEYER: The Department of Public Health then is not concerned about children more than six who come in from out of state, unless they're showing signs of actual lead poisoning, which is awful late in the game?
ELLEN BLASCHINSKI: I would hate to say that the Department does not care about children above six.
I think what we want to focus on is the children who have the most serious health consequences from this exposure, but certainly any child who has risk factors for exposure to lead should be tested.
REP. CARDIN: Thank you very much.
ELLEN BLASCHINSKI: Thank you.
REP. CARDIN: We'll look forward to working with you on this.
ELLEN BLASCHINSKI: Thank you.
REP. CARDIN: Next is Natasha Pierre followed by Senator Slossberg.
NATASHA PIERRE: Good morning.
REP. CARDIN: Good morning.
NATASHA PIERRE: Good morning, Senator Meyer, Representative Cardin and Members of the Committee.
I am Natasha Pierre, the Associated Legislative Analyst at the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women.
And I am pleased today to be here to testify in support of House Bill 5507, AN ACT CONCERNING ELIGIBILITY AND REIMBURSEMENT UNDER THE CARE FOR KIDS PROGRAM, and House Bill 5504, AN ACT CONCERNING A SAFE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT FOR CHILDREN AND YOUTH.
PCSW supports House Bill 5507, which would revive eligibility limits and provide reimbursement standards under the Care for Kids program.
The Care for Kids program was established as a work support for moderate and low-income families who need help paying for early care and education while parents are at work, in school, or in training.
Since 2002, funding has dropped by 56% from its peak of $121.5 million to $69 million, and in Rome, it has dropped from $28,000, approximately $28,000 to $14,600.
The current caseload would appear to indicate that the funding supply is keeping pace with the demand, however, this is not the case. Currently, there is a 52% denial rate of families who have applied for subsidies since the program reopened last spring.
There are two key policy changes that have reduced the participation rates and the ability of parents to find high-quality settings for their young children.
First, the eligibility threshold for childcare subsidies has been reduced from 75% of the state median income, or SMI, to 50% of SMI. The federal recommendation is 85% of SMI. This bill would provide a phase-in beginning at 60% and ending at 75% SMI.
Secondly, the current reimbursement rate is below the recommended percentile and out of date.
Federal law requires states to conduct a biennial market rate survey to ensure that payment rates are sufficient to provide access to childcare services for eligible families.
While federal regulations do not identify a specific percentile, it notes that payments at the 75th percentile rate would be regarded as providing equal access.
The state currently reimburses at the 60th percentile rate, and they're using the 2000 biennial market rate. So this bill would require the state to utilize the most recent market survey.
This proposal would assist families who are still struggling to remain self-sufficient to obtain safe, secure early care and education for their children while they work.
Funding for childcare assists everyone. It assists parents by providing adequate care while they work.
It supports employers by ensuring that employees can be productive at work, knowing their children are in safe and productive environments.
And it benefits the overall state economy by helping to grow a professional and competent workforce.
We also support House Bill 5504, AN ACT CONCERNING A SAFE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT FOR CHILDREN AND YOUTH, which will strengthen our state response to blame and harassment of children in schools by requiring schools to evaluate and document the effectiveness of their programs, provide technical assistance in a state ombudsperson to help schools respond to bullying.
It would also provide funding to schools in the amount of $1 million for innovative and effective programs to promote safe learning environments.
The bill also calls on schools to focus on the relationship between bullying, and school dropout rates, and student suicides.
The PCSW and other groups advocating for gender equity in schools have been focusing on sexual harassment and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation against students for many years.
We believe the focus on bullying is complementary to this work and may include some, but not all, instances of sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination.
In recent years, the resources available to monitor and force compliance with Title 9, the federal law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender, have been reduced.
Therefore, we support any increased focus and resources that will enable local school districts to reduce bullying and harassment and promote an equitable and safe learning environment for all children. We thank you for raising these important bills and allowing us to express our opinion.
REP. CARDIN: Thank you, Natasha.
NATASHA PIERRE: You're welcome.
REP. CARDIN: In being made aware of the issues with Kids for Care program, I was told that we could possibly be fined or have some, pay some penalties to the federal government. Are you aware of that, if we don't raise that level back up?
NATASHA PIERRE: I'm not aware of that. I hope there are some people from the Voices or other childcare centers that can answer that, but it is a federal suggestion.
So usually when you have some regulation, if you don't comply after awhile, they'll start enforcing some type of penalties. But I'm not sure at all.
REP. CARDIN: Okay. Thank you very much. Thank you for your testimony.
NATASHA PIERRE: Thank you.
REP. CARDIN: Senator Slossberg followed by Dr. McBride. Good morning.
SEN. SLOSSBERG: Good morning, Representative Cardin and Senator Meyer. Representative, nice to see you.
I just wanted to start off this morning by saying thank you, thank you to this Committee, to leadership, for the leadership that you showed last session with passing a bill out of this Committee with regard to lead poisoning.
And I know that this Committee cares about children. And that's what we're talking about today and the future of the children in the State of Connecticut. And I thank you for your leadership on that.
And this bill before you, as you know, just builds on the momentum that you began last session. So I thank you for that.
As you know that lead poisoning is something that we can prevent. It's one of those great things that we don't get to see very often in the Legislature that actually has a solution.
It is a finite problem, something that if we actually just focus on it and make the commitment to deal with it, we can make it go away.
We're talking about poisoning children. And I know there will be a lot of discussion going on, you know, should it be at ten micrograms, what level are we talking about, what age are we talking about, but the very simple, basic truth with this discussion is lead poisoning is lead poisoning.
And how much poison are we going to allow our children to have? Doesn't there come a point when you say we don't want any poison for our children?
I think there's a, you know, obviously there's a price tag associated with this, but, ultimately, we gain far more than we expend.
I just wanted to take a minute and just thank all of the people who have contributed to this effort and to this legislation today, and a lot of them are in this room.
And just to say that I'm looking forward to working with the Members of this Committee to refine this proposal that there are still some, some blanks in it and some things that need to be addressed, and I look forward to working together to do that.
As you know, this is a comprehensive plan to eradicate childhood, child lead paint poisoning in the state, in the State of Connecticut.
Currently, we have about 270,000 children who are under the age of six. Of those 270,000, we screen less than 25% of them for lead poisoning. At age one and two, we screen 44% of the state's children.
If we talk about the HUSKY population that is federally mandated to be screened, we only screen 66% of those children. So the time has come for us to make a focused attention on this.
But screening is only the first step. We need to be screening our children at the ages when they are most vulnerable and in the most risk situations. But then we need to follow up, and this bill provides for that.
We've worked together with the local health districts, with the Department of Public Health, with our State Department of Education, with our State AG's Office to try to come up with a comprehensive, comprehensive plan that will deal with every element of lead poisoning, from beginning until end, until we can finally stand up in the State of Connecticut and say this is something we have conquered, and we can move on to the next thing.
There were some, I know there will be a lot of questions as the day wears on, and, you know, I look forward to hearing what other people have to say as well. We do expect to be making requests for appropriations in association with this bill.
Those numbers aren't in there, aren't in here as they are now, but I know that there is a great will here in the General Assembly to address this at this time.
And I would just mention with regard to one element, and that is the proposal to have this covered by health insurance, 98% of our health insurers already cover this, so it's not really any change, any great change from what we already have.
Our HUSKY, Medicaid children are already covered. It's a federal mandate. So I don't think there's any great difference with regard to that element.
But there are other things that we're asking our communities to do. And I believe, if we give them the resources to do that, we will be taking a great step in the right direction. And I appreciate your support with this, and I look forward to working with you.
REP. CARDIN: Thank you, Senator Slossberg. And we too appreciate your leadership on this issue. And I'm hopeful that we can bring all interested parties to the table and pass some legislation this year. Senator Meyer.
SEN. MEYER: Gayle, you really helped to move this from last year's bill that dealt with screening and now into prevention. And I think that it's really a significant, substantive bill, more so than last year.
The expertise that you've developed has contributed a great deal to that. I contributed the paper today and, as I mentioned to you outside, and I didn't read the whole article, but New Haven Register had a lead story on lead poisoning in Milford. Do you know anything about what's happening there?
SEN. SLOSSBERG: Sure. I'll just tell you very briefly, but I, actually, following my testimony is Dr. McBride, who is the local Health Director in Milford and has been a leader in the state on lead poisoning. Thankfully, there wasn't any lead poisoning in Milford. It was the discovery that, in some of the art storerooms, there was lead glaze that was being used in our art classes, something that obviously would pose a hazard to the people who were exposed to it, or if our kids brought home things that had the lead glaze on it, and people were using it to drink out of, there would be a potential harm.
I think it was an oversight on the school's district somehow that it was still stored there. We're not quite sure who was exposed and at what level, but I think it really does bring home the point that when we talk about lead poisoning, so many people say oh, didn't we solve that problem? That doesn't exist anymore.
And the reality is it does exist, and we need to be aware of it. It has, you know, it can affect anybody in any circumstance under certain circumstances. It's still out there. It is still a hazard. And it is something that we need to be addressing.
So if you have more specific questions though, I think, I'm sure that Dr. McBride would be much more capable of answering them than me.
SEN. MEYER: I don't know about that.
REP. CARDIN: Thank you very much.
SEN. SLOSSBERG: Thank you again.
REP. CARDIN: Dr. McBride followed by, is it Judith DiVine, DiCine, sorry. Thank you very much for coming up from Milford this morning.
DR. DENNIS MCBRIDE: Thank you, thank you. I thank the Committee for inviting me or for allowing me to speak. And I thank the Committee for its leadership in this important area.
And I've been around Connecticut for quite a while and have had this issue, this is a very serious issue for, on my docket. I'm sure on many of you, I know many of you, Senator Meyer and Senator Slossberg have been very, very active in this area.
I consider lead the Rodney Dangerfield of toxins. I mean, I don't know if you remember Rodney Dangerfield, I got no respect. It's one of those issues that seems to drop in and out of our consciousness, and it's a terrible thing.
It's been well known to be a toxin. And the science has, the science has been there a long time in terms of it being a toxin for our children.
And I'm thrilled that the Health Department, the State Health Department is taking a positive position on this effort. I think that too long, childhood lead poisoning has been with us in various degrees and some severe degrees.
About 10, 12 years ago, I had an issue in Milford when I was, in Stamford, when I was the Health Director there. We found a school that had high levels of lead during a renovation and we had to take action in that regard.
And we actually closed the school down because it was a lead hazard in the school. And that was about 10, 12 years ago. It's paradoxical today the Senator raises that.
We have another wakeup call in Milford that we had lead ceramic glazing used that is well-known to be a toxin, a way of getting this toxin to people, not only children, but the staff as well.
So we see clearly that this is a time that we should be taking action. I strongly support the aspects of the bill that increase the screening because the more we look for this issue, the more we'll find.
Literally, when we started targeted screening children back several years ago in 1991, the levels of poisoned children dropped off dramatically because we simply were not screening these children. So I strongly support the aspects of the bill that talk about screening.
The other aspects of the bill that I, that I really think needs to be emphasized is the public health response at a much lower level.
I think it's still a shame that we do use blood leads as a measure of public health response, which I feel it shouldn't be.
But since we do have it, the ten micrograms a deciliter to have as an action level, I think is very, is critical in the secondary prevention aspect of things.
The other aspect I want to point out, and I'll give you written testimony to follow, is the aspect of linking these children into educational services and also making sure that the educational people understand the impact of lead poisoning on the neurologic and behavioral development of these children. So I think that that part is very important.
The other part, as you mentioned, Senator, the aspect of prevention and dealing with the source before, before children are poisoned is critical.
And I think that the communities can respond in a positive way and make it available so that, make the conditions available so that we can deal with it in a preventive way. I want to thank the Committee, and I'll be willing to answer any questions you might have.
REP. CARDIN: Senator Meyer.
SEN. MEYER: Dr. McBride, could you, even anecdotally, give us a little bit more indication of your experience with lead poisoning, what you've seen?
Senator Slossberg has talked frequently about, about your authority in this, in this field. And I wondered if you could describe some of the circumstances of lead poisoning that you have actually observed.
DR. DENNIS MCBRIDE: Well, we, I've had a very positive, I've had both communities in Stamford and Milford, both communities support our efforts with lead in terms of lead.
One of the first experiences we had was the school. I mentioned that we had a school in which they were doing revisions of, they were doing revisions of the school setting and renovation.
And what happened was lead dust was distributed throughout the school, and we had to close the school. When we did that, that, that community was really heightened awareness in our community.
And when I first came to Stamford, it was the difference between white and black children, the lead levels were great. I mean, it was like, it was roughly about 25%, 30% of the children were positive, had lead levels above 10 and only 3% to 5%, compared to white children.
We changed in Stamford, and it still exists, we changed our standards to be the standard that's on the table right now. We used ten as an action level. We encouraged screening. We would even go out and screen ourselves.
We had animal rides and things to get our children, to get awareness from our children. We were very strong in enforcement in rental areas, strong in the area of housing.
And we did have to, we did do some condemnations. And the whole idea that this somehow would help, would hurt the low-income housing really didn't materialize.
Even though we were very strong in our enforcement, when the landlords knew that Public Health was serious about it, they were coming to me and asking how can we straighten up our places so there wouldn't be, wouldn't be this hazard?
And over the years, it took about seven years, the differences between white and black children, that all just largely disappeared. And the positive screening rates were much lower, became like around 3% or under 3%.
In fact, we even lost our preventive, our preventive grant from CDC because we were doing too well. I mean, we didn't have enough kids who were, so it's, paradoxically, we didn't have enough kids who were at that level.
So the combination of enforcement and judicial enforcement and screening did help. As a result, in Stamford, there was not a single house, not a single unit that was brought offline in a permanent way behind enforcement of lead standards.
So the concern that, there was a lot of concern, but this didn't materialize. Once, once landlords and the community is aware of the problems, then you have this response.
In regards to Milford, Milford to me is a situation where we sort of lost our consciousness again about this being a toxin.
Ceramic tile and glazing is well known to be a poison to children, a poison to anybody who uses it. And we, nonetheless, found it extensively being used in Milford.
SEN. MEYER: What are the, what are the specific effects of lead poisoning on children? What happens when a child is lead poisoned? What happens to that child's health?
DR. DENNIS MCBRIDE: Well, the health of the child, first of all, the most insidious thing about it is that there's no open, there's no obvious symptoms.
Acute lead poisoning can give you symptoms. Acute lead poisoning, like in a kiln, or that can give you acute symptoms. It can give you neurologic symptoms, headaches, and mostly GI complaints, constipation, stomachaches, diarrhea.
But the long-term effects on children are neurologic effects that mostly concern us. The neurologic effects of either behavioral issues that have been associated with lead poisoning, even negative, antisocial behavior, studies have shown that.
And the more we look at this, the more we find lower and lower levels are significant. So we have loss in, most people will say, IQ points. Well, it's really even more than IQ points. It's loss in various parts of, various behavioral capacities the child has lost. So it's a very diffuse kind of thing.
It's also intergenerational. There's aspects of that where a woman who has a lead level and who's pregnant can, the lead passes through the blood-brain barrier and can affect the fetus. So you have those, those issues.
And then, of course, long-term issues, you have issues of lead being associated with hypertension in adults. So many of these folks who do have a lead level go on to have, who are at risk for things like hypertension, cancer.
The issue of cancer is still in question, but it's still there. So lead is, lead is, no question, one of those toxins where the science is there. It has no use in any living organism.
Viruses can't, can't live off of lead, nothing, no living thing, it's very incompatible with life. So that's kind of a short thumbnail.
SEN. MEYER: Okay. I mean, it's very important to tell that story. The general public impression over the last several years has been that lead poisoning is a thing of the past. And, you know, we dealt with that back in the '60s and '70s.
And the fact is that it's a prevalent problem today, and we've got to stir up the public consciousness about it.
The Governor has chosen not to put any money in her proposed budget for lead poisoning, which is another indication of, I think, of a mistake in perception about this effect. So I really appreciate your leadership in this. And help us talk this up in the next few months.
DR. DENNIS MCBRIDE: I'll try, Sir.
REP. CARDIN: Representative Truglia.
REP. TRUGLIA: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Good morning.
DR. DENNIS MCBRIDE: Good morning, Christel. How are you?
REP. TRUGLIA: I just want to confirm everything you said. And Dr. McBride has been a champion in this field. I mean, you have no idea how hard he worked in Stamford for a very long time to make us aware of the problem.
But not only Stamford, he's been to the public hearings up here numerous, numerous times. This is something that he truly believes in, and he wants to make sure that every child is protected, especially the young children under the age of six.
And I really appreciate your being here again. Thank you. You never give up, like Winston Churchill. Thank you.
DR. DENNIS MCBRIDE: Thank you, Christel.
REP. CARDIN: Thank you very much again for coming up from Milford. We appreciate it.
DR. DENNIS MCBRIDE: Thank you.
REP. CARDIN: Judith DiCine followed by Faith Vos Winkel. Good morning.
JUDITH DICINE: Good morning. Thank you. Thank you, Senator Meyer. Thank you, Representative Cardin, Members of the Committee. Thank you also to Senator Slossberg for your support and your motivation.
I'm here representing the Chief State's Attorney, Mr. Christopher Morano. My position is Supervisory Assistant State's Attorney for Statewide Housing Matters for his Office.
In layman's terms, that means I prosecute safety code violations statewide. I'm specifically responsible for a few judicial districts and supervise the remaining areas.
The reason a prosecutor is standing before this Committee this morning is because of the relation of criminal matters to this effort to alleviate the poisoning in children by lead.
The Division of Criminal Justice supports Senate Bill 396, AN ACT IMPLEMENTING COMPREHENSIVE PLAN TO ERADICATE CHILDHOOD LEAD POISONING IN THE STATE.
This legislation is required to implement key elements and recommendations of the Department of Public Health's plan to eliminate child lead poisoning in Connecticut by 2010.
I was a Co-Chair on the Committee, which created that plan over the last two years, along with Mr. Ronald Kraatz of the LAMPP program who is going to be speaking this morning. The efforts of that Committee are put forth in this bill before this Committee this morning.
The Department of Public Health reports that lead poisoning is one of the most common pediatric health problems in our state today, and that lead poisoning imposes costs associated with medical care, special education, juvenile delinquency, and lost taxable income.
The direct effects of lead poisoning to a child can include, as you've heard this morning, development of reading disabilities, attention deficit, hyperactivity, and behavioral problems.
The indirect effects of lead poisoning are extensive and extremely difficult to quantify. However, recent studies have shown that juvenile delinquents are five times more likely to have elevated levels of lead in their bones.
Also, an estimated 10% of juvenile delinquency can be attributed to lead. This directly affects the Division of Criminal Justice and the entire State of Connecticut.
The estimated sum cost to the state in the expenditure of money and resources by the Criminal Justice Commission and system on juvenile delinquency, including placement where necessary in residential treatment often associated even with just 10% of the delinquency numbers, is enormous.
The greatest component of this terrible issue is that it can still be avoided by eliminating lead poisoning, which is what Senate Bill 396 can do.
Supported in its entirety, the Division of Criminal Justice highlights certain points of Senate Bill 396. Lead paint remains the primary source of poisoning and exposure to children.
It is coupled with the fact that our housing stock in Connecticut is aged and contains a significant amount of lead hazards.
Current Connecticut law that paint and rental property may not be deteriorated is good, but there is no presumption that it is lead-based.
And even in aged housing, where a landlord is in good faith trying to make the property in a better condition, removal of chipped paints in the inappropriate fashion can, in fact, exacerbate the risk of exposure to a child.
And that's the good landlords who want to make places safe not knowing how to correctly do so without further exposure to a child.
And as a result, we get accidental poisonings. Sometimes, we get careless poisonings. All of this can be addressed by the substance of this bill.
Sections 11 through 14 establish that a deteriorated paint in an older residential property, which is defined as pre-'78 property, 1978, is presumed to have lead-based paint, which is a rebuttable presumption by the landlord, but otherwise would require that the removal of the hazardous conditions, particularly the deteriorated paint, be done in a manner currently not required called lead safe work practice, a standard which does not need to be recreated by the State of Connecticut.
It is a federal standard in common use in federal properties with a full training program and curriculum. The state would adopt that as its measure for existing rental properties.
Our paint at this point, our paint laws at this point effectuate poorly. And the reason I say that is because we have a method of approaching this problem, which I call pigeon in a coalmine.
We wait for a poisoning, and when we have a poisoning, we proceed with enforcement. Legal orders are issued by directors of health and directors of health districts. And those orders are generally complied with.
When they're not complied with, it is referred to my office for prosecution against the property owner for violation of a legal order of a director of health, which is a criminal matter in our state.
I will see a lot less cases, which would not bother the State's Attorney's Office in the least, if we could avoid poisonings, if we could avoid the issuance of orders on properties, which can be abated safely before a child is poisoned. And all of that would result in the main goal, which is to protect the children of our state.
To the extent municipalities are proceeding with their obligations to relocate children and to remediate violations where they find children and other persons at risk, Senate Bill, Section 12B of Senate Bill 396 would allow a recovery to the municipalities who go forward with their legal obligations.
And some of which have not gone forward as swiftly as they should have based on my 15 years experience in this position due to the fact that they have limited resources to recover from the expenditure of monies for remediation or relocation of families and children.
If this bill is passed, with this revision particularly, it would allow the municipalities to do what they need to do to safeguard the children and afford them a priority lien for any expenditures that they must make.
And they must make them. And they will be inclined to do so if they know that they can recover these funds, because otherwise this is an unfunded portion of this bill. The Criminal Justice Division supports the bill, again, in its entirety.
I am fully available to this Committee and intend to assist Senator Meyer, assist all Members of this Committee and of the State Legislature in promoting this bill for passage this year. And I thank you.
REP. CARDIN: Thank you very much for your support and your testimony. You know, these aren't the types of cases that we see the Chief State's Attorney on TV on at night.
How many cases are we talking about that your, that your division deals with, either on a monthly or even on a yearly basis?
JUDITH DICINE: I would say, personally, I cover New Haven and Waterbury judicial districts and portions of Ansonia, Milford judicial district. I prosecute about 30 a month. Probably a couple hundred can come through our division of four housing prosecutors in a year.
And over the last 15 years that I've occupied this position, I've prosecuted several hundred of these. And in my experience, not one landlord has come before me refusing, keep this in mind, please.
It's a matter of initially ignorance of the issue. Sometimes, as I said, a mistaken poisoning is involved. They didn't know better, particularly with the exterior removal of property.
I know professionals, lawyers, and even lawyers within our office, who accidentally poisoned their own family by removal of exterior paint that had lead in it with no knowledge that they were intoxicating the area outside their property, and their kids playing in the yard were affected by that.
This also affects it, but hundreds of cases, Representative, do come through our office. And we have had experience beyond that with many call-ins for assistance on enforcement, I'd say probably several hundred more than have been docketed.
REP. CARDIN: Okay. Thank you. I notice Tim Calnen signed up under the public part, so we'll talk to him about the education that he and the realtors are doing. Senator Meyer.
SEN. MEYER: Let me ask you a follow-up question on what the Co-Chairman just said. What's your pattern with respect to these prosecutions? Are they increasing now? Are they decreasing, staying the same?
Should we be considering tougher sanctions with respect to penalties for this kind of conduct by landlords?
JUDITH DICINE: I think that they are pretty consistent. And although the poison reporting levels have gone down some in Connecticut due to the success of this program, at the same time, the inspectors have been better trained, year after year.
And they are doing a better job at locating lead-poisoned children and that remediating the conditions that made them poisoned at the field. So it's leveled off between the two efforts.
And as to the penalties, Senator, I think that the penalty under 19A-230, which is generally used by our division, which is a misdemeanor penalty, is sufficient most of the time.
I would suggest, if you're looking for strengthening, it would be for repeat offenders, people who know, who have had experience with lead poisoning, or, for that matter, any other housing nuisance affecting children or the public who come back a second time.
There is reason to treat those people differently, I think, and the law does not provide that strictly at this time.
REP. CARDIN: Representative Ruwet.
REP. RUWET: Thank you for your testimony. I can tell you have passion around this issue just by the articulation of your words and certainly your testimony, and you have knowledge.
So I'm actually interested, because you referenced a federal law having to do with lead abatement. And the little I know in terms of any kind of HUD funding that are supporting different community home grants within municipalities, they do require, you know, they have a full lead abatement program.
Are you, would you suggest, you know, you mentioned something about being unfunded in this legislation in reference to that, and I'm concerned about that piece of it.
I think there are certainly landlords out there that want to do the right thing, as you indicated.
The challenge will be, I have no idea what the cost is for a house of that age to be abated, so maybe if you can just give me a little more information about the federal legislation on lead abatement, that would help.
JUDITH DICINE: I could give you some. I am somewhat versed on the federal requirements. I would say that, in my reference to the federal requirements, it was more particularly regarding the lead-safe work practice standard, which exists federally.
To that extent, we had hoped there would be a low cost. It would not be to the state. It would be to people who would like to take that training and would be required to take that training on what is expected to be future regulations of the Department of Health relation to these statutory changes.
In other words, if a person wanted to do lead work in a house that is pre-'78 that is rental, it is going to be presumed to need to be done with lead-safe work practices.
Then it is envisioned by the, could the taskforce, this Committee, which was made up of professionals, not from just certainly lawyers, but health professionals, education professionals, construction professionals, and landlords were representative on this Committee.
It is envisioned that those people who would want to do lead-safe work practice would need to do so in accordance with this standard, would be provided easy to get to trainings, which would be a low-cost, but some cost to the owner or participant in the training themselves.
They'd have to pay to be trained. It would be a short course. We anticipate less than one day of class to learn to bring it to the safe standard.
As to the abatement, in practicality, it's going to cost a homeowner a lot less than it would to keep going under our current plan.
Our current plan, if you're going to abate for lead, would require abatement in accordance with our regulations to a standard, which has been told to me to be quite expensive. Generally, it can be thousands of dollars per unit, dwelling unit, to properly abate.
Where there's no poisoned child, the Committee's recommendation is everybody else can do lead-safe work.
Everybody else, therefore, will have a ticket for this remediation, which is significantly lower because the standard of abatement for lead-safe is much easier to meet.
What it basically does, instead of replacing a wall, is take a defective area of the wall and make it safe in accordance with this tested federal standard, which would alleviate the need to do the entire area, but make safe the wall, which would get to the goal of avoiding a poisoning.
And, therefore, it would be a lot less money. So the funding is still critical. The plan is that this would be easier to follow by landlords and less expensive.
REP. RUWET: Just one more follow-up question. Do you have, I mean, you were able to, and I sometimes have my fiscal hat on and my children's hat on.
I think, the, you know, the efforts of the Attorney General's Office is complementary because you are protecting our children. I'm fully supportive of screening.
I am concerned as it comes to as what we put in legislation that might require the, and if the federal program is working, if, in fact, we could look at that offered grant opportunities for landlords, mostly because housing's a huge issue in the State of Connecticut as well.
And we don't want to lessen the, certainly, the opportunities for families to have rental properties available. So I guess I'm out there still learning, but I appreciate your testimony and your information.
JUDITH DICINE: You're very welcome. And I think that the funding of any lead program is critical. I don't want to be unclear about that. But the mandate that the Committee I was on was given was to come up with the best plan you can.
The ones that became the Commissioner of Health's plan for lead abatement, lead elimination by 2010 ended up being one which didn't require fiscal funding. So the plan that you have before you is still in that measure.
But if you have the ability to get grant programs, I think that that could only make it better.
Again, I've never had 1 landlord out of the 100 say I won't. It was usually an educational issue and a financial issue, primarily a financial issue.
REP. CARDIN: Senator Slossberg.
SEN. SLOSSBERG: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for your testimony today, Judy. I was wondering if you could just speak a little bit about Section 11, where there is language about the large edifice lead abatement program, things like bridges and dams and the notification fees that were in there and how that would [Gap in testimony. Changing from Tape 1A to Tape 1B.]
JUDITH DICINE: Well, 111C is being amended or substituted with the language that's presented. And what we're looking to do in Subsection 11 is to require the owner of any property to remediate in accordance with the standards I'm discussing.
In the case of properties, which may not be residential, it is acknowledged by the Lead Committee that lead poisoning can occur at other locations.
And it is not, therefore, limited, although it is focused on, it's not limited to the direction of lead poisoning that may arise from paint inside a residential unit. It may be, in fact, in some sort of public area, which could be an exposure to children.
The notification requirements on the removal of the paint from any exterior premises of a residential or nonresidential facility is a requirement which would allow for an avoidance of an accidental exposure.
The fees that may be appropriated for this program are considered to be one that may be imposed by the local Health Department or district.
And the fees would be generated and run the program that we're talking about, that is the anticipation it will be self-run through those funding inputs. And the value is obvious.
And if it's not, let me just say that it is my experience, we've had many cases come through and many more that I've learned about that existed strictly because somebody was outside trying to do something good, and it turned into a poisoning accidentally.
This would allow the director of health for every district or municipality to take a look at those projects before they go forward.
That is the best person, in my opinion, in any municipality, to weigh out the risk and to agree and permit the removal of exterior lead in a safe way so that it is monitored, it is properly disposed of, and there is no risk at all to the public.
REP. CARDIN: Thank you very much for your testimony.
JUDITH DICINE: Thank you, Sir.
REP. CARDIN: Next, we'll hear from Faith Vos Winkel, followed by Representative Ken Green. Is Kenny here? He will be?
FAITH VOS WINKEL: Good morning, Senator Meyer, Representative Cardin, Members of the Select Committee on Children.
I'm Faith Vos Winkel. I'm an Assistant child advocate with the Office of the child advocate. I'm also a graduate student, about to graduate in May, in public policy.
And so I'm here practicing. I'm here to testify on behalf of Jeanne for four bills before you today.
And in keeping with your request, Representative Cardin, I'll be brief. You have our written testimony.
House Bill 5504, AN ACT CONCERNING A SAFE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT FOR YOUTH AND CHILDREN, we believe to be a very important piece of legislation.
Some advocates around the state have been working all summer to think about changing or modifying some of the bullying law that exists.
I staff the Child Fatality Review Panel and look at all child deaths in the state, near child deaths, and critical incidents.
Our bullying legislation was created out of the death of a 12-year-old boy who had committed suicide. We are now one of about 22 states that have bullying legislation as part of their law.
One of the things that we've learned since Jay Daniel's death is that bullying continues to be a significant issue. We have a particular concern.
In England, they've named the phenomenon of bullying as associated with suicide as bullycide, recognizing the significance of, the impact of bullying on kids.
And I've given you, you know, a lot of anecdotal and sort of learned articles around bullying and associated issues with bullying.
This particular piece of legislation, House Bill 5504, I think is the next step in our bullying, anti-bullying continuum to have environments where children are learning to be free from intimidation, to encourage respect of every child, and develop practices and policies that ensure safe learning for kids.
The ombudsman piece of this I think is a critical piece of it. We get, I mean, when we talked with the advocates around the state, I mean, everybody's getting a ton of calls around this issue.
I've met with large numbers of families who children have been bullied. I've talked with parents whose children have attempted suicide as related to bullies.
And we know, as we look at some of these kids who have completed suicide, that bullying is a feature there.
House Bill 5254, AN ACT CONCERNINIG THE MEMBERSHIP OF THE STATE PREVENTION COUNCIL, you know, just another wonderful piece of legislation to ensure that state agencies appropriate at least 10% of their budget towards prevention between now and 2020.
We all know and we hear regularly from the efforts you have made on behalf of kids how important prevention is.
And I think that was the testimony regarding Senate Bill 396. Senator Slossberg did a fabulous job just talking about the ability to, you know, present, and, in fact, eradicate lead poisoning for children, and what that will mean for kids.
And then the last bill is House Bill 5500, AN ACT CONCERNING SCHOOL READINESS FOR HOMELESS CHILDREN. You know, we have, at last count, I think Representative Truglia said yesterday, you know, almost 13,000 homeless kids.
And, you know, we know that early intervention and that type of prevention initiatives will go a long way. We know that some of these preschoolers who are homeless are starting school with delays.
And if we can, you know, get some competitive grants going for these kids and get them some intervention, you know, it's just another wonderful prevention initiative.
So I thank you for the opportunity to testify and would be happy to try to answer any questions that you might have.
REP. CARDIN: Thank you for that sobering testimony. I guess I'd be interested in talking with you and, given our time constraints of today, maybe after today about, you know, some of the outreaches that your agency has done with schools, school districts.
I find it interesting in your testimony how you say, well, how one school cited no or zero incidences, but it was their interpretation of law.
So hopefully after today, we can maybe get together and talk about how we can do some more outreach, maybe through the Superintendent's Association, and making sure that schools are a little bit more cognizant of what's going on there. Representative.
FAITH VOS WINKEL: That would be great. Sure.
REP. CARDIN: Okay. Representative Ruwet.
REP. RUWET: Thank you. You did great on your public policy. You should come over on this side, then you really learn about public policy.
FAITH VOS WINKEL: Thanks. Thank you.
REP. RUWET: But I am appreciative of your support for the Raised Bill 5500 on the school readiness for homeless children.
They sometimes say that, you know, things will keep coming around until they are accepted and look better and make sense.
So I just really want to comment, thank you for your testimony in support of that. And that's it.
FAITH VOS WINKEL: Thank you.
REP. CARDIN: Representative McMahon.
REP. MCMAHON: I just want to say, thank you for your testimony, and you have a beautiful first name.
FAITH VOS WINKEL: Thank you, Faith. I appreciate it. Thanks. Thank you very much for your advocacy.
REP. CARDIN: Oh, boy. Thank you, Representative McMahon. Representative Truglia.
REP. TRUGLIA: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
REP. CARDIN: Faith, one more question.
REP. TRUGLIA: It's not really a question. Thank you so much for your testimony. I appreciate everything you said. We really believe what you said.
But the bullying bill, the learning bill, my seven-year-old granddaughter said to me the other day, could you pass a law for me?
And I said what's that for? And she said could you pass a law that kids can't brag? So I said well, I don't know if I can. But at her age already, she's starting to notice that children are not always kind to each other.
And I think the Safe Learning Act is so important. So I appreciate your being here in the prevention bill and the children in homeless shelters.
I know Representative Anne Ruwet has been very instrumental in moving this piece of legislation forward. And we will be hearing from Mary McAtee about how we can make the bill better.
But the, many of the Departments have been working in the fall and winter to try to get something going for these children because we don't want to lose them.
And we will, if there's no support for them as early as, you know, when they're born, children enter kindergarten. So I appreciate your being here and testifying on those bills. Thank you very much.
FAITH VOS WINKEL: And thank you, thank you for your leadership on the children's issues. And thank you for being so kind to me.
REP. CARDIN: Thank you, Faith. Next, we're going to hear from Representative Green, and then what we're going to do after his testimony is alternate back and forth.
There's only three more on the Legislator/Agency Head, but at, at 10:06 or after Representative Green is done, we will start with the public hearing.
And the first person there is Jim Horan. Good morning, Representative Green. It's good to see you.
REP. GREEN: Good morning, good morning. It's good to see everyone. Good morning, Senator Meyers, Representative Cardin, and Members of the Select Committee on Children.
I would like to thank you for the opportunity to address you this morning to encourage the passage of the $100 million youth trust fund that is proposed, House Bill 5503.
I am requesting that the state commit to $100 million of the surplus funds for a youth trust fund, which would support the youth employment and learning programs administered, administered by workforce partners across the state.
Each year, thousands of Hartford youth, as well as other youth in the state, enter the workforce unprepared for the world of work.
Given the decline in summer youth employment, and learning program funds, and other options for young people to experience the work environments, I believe that this funding would aid in efforts to increase youth experiences in the labor market.
In Hartford alone, almost 600 interested youth applied for summer employment, but were not placed because of the lack of resources.
One of the programs for our youth, the Summer Youth in Learning Program, is a critical component that deals with the issues of preparing our young people for the future workforce.
In recent statements from the Connecticut Business and Industry Council, they indicate that Connecticut's economic future and quality of life depends on the skills of its workforce.
Our economy should have a continuous supply of capable workers, quote, CBIA. CBIA also suggests that workers need the skills in technology as well as the work habits that businesses are looking for.
In addition, CBIA recommends job training opportunities and apprenticeships. Connecticut's economic future truly depends on the efforts we undertake today to prepare our young people for the world of work.
There cannot be another day gone by in not investing in our young people. There cannot be another day gone by in not investing in financial resources from the state in assisting our young people.
The $100 million Youth Trust Fund is the vehicle to change the outcomes of our citizens and to strengthen the business climate of our state.
The cost-effectiveness of this program or this investment is clear. For every dollar spent to provide youth with the opportunity to work, there will be a savings of $5 to $8 in intervention costs in other areas. And I really do believe that I'm underestimating the cost savings in that area.
I would depart from my written statements just to say that we've heard a lot about early childhood, and school readiness, and really preparing our young people to be prepared for school and to be prepared as young people.
Let's not forget our teenagers. For some reason, we want to believe that when young people reach 14, 15, 16 years old that they should be forgotten.
I support all programs for preschool and early readiness. However, at a developmental stage of teenagers, something else has to happen.
And so what we need to do is we need to realize that, if our business community is telling us that our workforce is aging out, that our young people have to be prepared educationally and skill-wise.
We cannot just do that by thinking it's going to happen. In order for our businesses to meet their needs and in order for our young people to have some meaningful experiences, at the teenage years, I do believe that they need work experience.
This is more than just filling out a resume, and how to dress for a job, and what to expect on a job.
This is an opportunity for young people to learn the skills while on the job, to earn some money so that they believe that that is the appropriate way to earn money and avoid other options.
We cannot give up on our young people as they become teenagers. Sometimes we believe because of their physical size and because of their age that somehow, if we haven't done the work, we should give up on our teenagers.
I say that we should not give up on our teenagers. We should, in fact, encourage them to stay in school and to have work opportunities.
And that this fund will increase our, first of all, the state does not invest any money for youth employment.
So this money will be, I think, a bold step to make sure that we put money and to providing work experience opportunities for our young people.
A lot of questions will be asked, well, what do our young people need? Our young people need not only the educational skill development, but they need the experience of on-the-job training to assist them. And so that's why I believe that this is an investment.
If I were to look at the cost, and I take a conservative cost as to what it would cost a year to house a young person in a Connecticut juvenile training center, we've heard anywhere from $300,000 to $900,000 a year.
If I were to take the estimate of $500,000 for 40 youth in CJTS, that would be $20 million a year. That $20 million could be a better investment for hundreds of youth across our state to put to work.
And so I encourage you to consider this proposal. It is not, it sounds like a lot of money, but it's a good investment. It obviously is cost-effective. And it's something that I think the state has to put the direction in it to help our young people. Thank you.
I'd just like briefly to say that I also support the child poverty council legislation to work on reducing poverty, and I also support early childhood programs for young teenage mothers.
REP. CARDIN: Thank you, Ken. I appreciate your leadership in bringing this to our attention. I know you've been working in the off session on this and other children's issues.
I just want to say I will do what I can to help move this along in this Committee. And I'm sure you're well aware the, probably some of the bigger battles lie beyond the Children's Committee.
I think it's a unique perspective, and it brings to mind the work that you and I have tried to fight for in the Education Committee in trying to expand some of the technical schools or the VT schools that we have in our state and some of the services that they provide.
And, in addition, also I think that the Governor's proposal for consolidating some of the agencies that deal with workplace and labor development or recruitment, maybe we can, you know, put our minds together and try and tap into that proposal that the Governor put forward.
So I look forward to working with you on this. I know there are a couple of questions, and we'll start with Senator Meyer.
SEN. MEYER: Representative Green, there's a price tag in this bill of $20 million in the first year. And you said it would be $100 million.
Some years ago, Congress passed a law called the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act, CETA we call it.
Do you know if that program is still available, and we might get some money from the federal government that would come to the State of Connecticut to pay for the Youth Trust Fund that is proposed here?
REP. GREEN: I don't anticipate that we will get a lot of money for youth employment from the federal government. The federal government has now what they call the Workforce Investment Act.
And they are working with workforce development boards across the state to provide mainly summer youth job opportunities, some programming for out-of-school youth. What we anticipate from the federal government is an emphasis on out-of-school youth.
And even though we support programming for out-of-school youth, part of this proposal is to encourage in school, to encourage employment opportunities for those youth who are in school, as well as to try to meet some of the business needs.
And we don't anticipate that there's a lot of federal monies that will come down. The other concern we have is that the state does not invest any funds in youth employment.
And I believe that the state should take an initiative regardless of what the federal government does.
SEN. MEYER: Okay. So what you're saying is that this is going to be a state investment, and we're not, there's nothing in the federal government that's really available.
REP. GREEN: There may be some federal monies for out-of-school youth focused on out-of-school youth, and so there might be some additional funds. But, unfortunately, we can never depend on how much federal monies, what's the emphasis from the feds.
You know, they have criteria and sometimes they're not targeting the kind of youth that we're targeting, which is mainly in-school youth all-year-round employment.
SEN. MEYER: I serve on a taskforce that's looking for an alternative use of a Connecticut juvenile training school as we move on.
And I'd love to get your reaction to my proposal that training school be converted to a state vocational and occupational education center with job training and a residential element to it as well.
That the future of the state and the future of that institution, which is a very large institution, as you know, should be used for vocational and occupational education and job training and not, as some people have proposed, for a further state office building. Do you have any view on that?
REP. GREEN: I had not heard that. It almost sounds like a state concept of Job Corps, which the federal have, where you have some residential and some training. So it almost sounds like a state program.
I think that's an option that should be considered. I think that one of the, a couple of things that young people need is that they need the skill development and the training.
Sometimes those young people actually do need residential opportunities because to, unfortunately, a number of young people are in situations where they need living situations.
So that's possible. I had not thought of that as that option, but I think that all options should be considered for that site. As you have stated, it was quite an investment in terms of the building of that.
There are some good uses that I think could be made of that building, and that's one of the options that I think should be considered.
SEN. MEYER: Thank you.
REP. CARDIN: Representative Ruwet.
REP. RUWET: Thank you, Representative Green, for your ambition and certainly just go for it all. But I do, I guess my concern is since it is a trust fund, and there are existing work training programs out in each of our municipalities that are really under-funded and, you know, starving for, they know how to do it.
You know, the youth service bureaus for one, the Boys and Girls Club, all of those efforts that they do that are always under-funded.
Would you think that these programs that are existing would be able to apply for that, you know, for those grants, the grant opportunities under the Trust Fund?
REP. GREEN: Under this, under my concept of the Trust Fund, it would be managed by the workforce partners across the state. We have about five of them that cover the entire state.
And they already have programming through the Workforce Investment Act and through arrangements that they already have with federal monies, private monies, and local monies.
They already know how to distribute to various programs and regions. I would look for them to assist in figuring out what's the best way to spend some of this money in regions.
They have many collaborations with youth service bureaus, community-based groups, and other organizations. And I think it's just natural and logical that we utilize some of the resources and the strategies that we currently use.
And I really don't want to reinvent the wheel. I believe that the workforce development across the state have a good strategy. It's just a matter of them having more funding and more funding for in-school youth.
What they depend on a lot are federal monies and monies from private foundations. That's targeted. The state does not invest in youth employment opportunities. We don't have a state investment for that.
And what happens is that while the business community is saying that our young people are not prepared and the workforce is aging out, and then we have young people in Connecticut and particularly young people in urban areas and rural areas that are ready to work.
And I would like to tie in educational opportunities and training with skill development and real work experiences. And I think, for young people, that's the kind of strategy we have to have with them today.
It's not, it's not, we have to do more than just say you need to wear a suit and tie when you go in a job interview. You need to have a skirt or dress when you go to a job interview.
They need to have real opportunities because they like to learn by experience. And so this is where I think the connection would be a little better if we had the financial resources to support our businesses to train our young people.
REP. CARDIN: Representative Truglia.
REP. TRUGLIA: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Good morning, Ken.
REP. GREEN: Good morning.
REP. TRUGLIA: I know how hard you've been fighting for this issue. I was wondering, when you quote CBIA, have you met with them to see how they could be of help?
Because, you know, their statement certainly is positive, and we all know this, but financially or internship programs because there are so many businesses around the state.
And I remember many young people from, where I come from would have internship programs. They would go to school part time and then go to work part time.
Maybe we should really get a group together to work with CBIA to see how they could help us with this because that really sounds important.
REP. GREEN: Yes, we have made contact. I have not met with them. I have talked to CBIA representatives. They were at a press conference that we had a couple of weeks ago, and they have indicated that they support the concept.
We would like to have further discussions with them because, as you mentioned, Representative, there was a time, and it's still happening, the business community is still hiring people in internships and programming. So that is still happening.
What we're finding is that those are on limited cases now. It seems to be dwindling and not growing. And this investment would encourage businesses to do more of that.
And so what we're saying is that the business community needs some support and financial support to do this with our young people because they are doing this.
They are very interested in training and having our young people prepared, but, for everybody, finding ways to fund programs is very difficult.
And what I'm saying is this will be a targeted fund supporting businesses and supporting community organizations to connect young people with the businesses. And I believe they are more than willing to support this concept, and they're doing it now.
REP. TRUGLIA: Thank you.
REP. CARDIN: Thank you, Kenny, for your testimony.
REP. GREEN: You're welcome. Thank you.
REP. CARDIN: At this point, we're going to move to the public, public portion and then alternate back and forth with the last three people signed up on the first list.
Just a subtle and polite reminder that there's a three-minute limit for testimony. And as Committee Members, we'll try to limit our questioning so we can finish by 1:00. First on our list is Jim Horan, followed by Elaine Zimmerman. Good morning, Jim.
JIM HORAN: Good morning. Senator Meyer, Representative Cardin, and Members of the Select Committee on Children, I'm Jim Horan, Executive Director of the Connecticut Association for Human Services, a nonprofit that works to reduce poverty and strengthen families and communities.
CAHS is one of the 45 members of the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance. I'm testifying this morning in support of House Bill 5505, which would strengthen Care for Kids, Connecticut's childcare subsidy program.
Yesterday, Governor Rell issued a charge to the newly formed Early Childhood Research and Policy Council.
The group of 30 leaders from philanthropy, business, higher education, and government is to produce by November a comprehensive early childhood financing plan.
Last week, the Appropriations Committee heard testimony from the Commissioners of the State Department of Education and DSS on the same subject in the context of results-based accountability.
Legislators' questions made it clear that you want to do the right thing for children. The general public also sees a moral imperative in giving children every opportunity to reach their full potential.
This focus on investing in our young children is to be applauded, but children can't wait. House Bill 5507 asks you to begin now to restore funding to Connecticut's childcare subsidy program, Care for Kids.
When Connecticut enacted school readiness legislation, Care for Kids became an integral part of the patchwork to fund high quality, full-day programs that would prepare children for school success and meet the needs of families participating in full-time work.
However, as school readiness funding has increased over the years, funding for Care for Kids has decreased by 47% since 2002, compromising the sustainability and impact of both school readiness and Care for Kids.
Taking school readiness and Care for Kids together, the state is actually serving far fewer children in early care and education programs today than in 2000. And working poor families are getting the short end of the stick.
Care for Kids no longer accepts families at 75% of the state median income. The federal guidelines actually recommend 85% of state median income as a starting point, but the state now sets the maximum for participation at just 50% of state median income.
Also, we no longer reimburse providers at the 75th percentile of current market rates, as recommended by federal regulations. Connecticut providers receive payments of the 60th percentile of market rates surveyed over 5 years ago.
These policy changes have kept Care for Kids within budget by denying low-income families quality choices for the care of their infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. We look to you as the Legislative Body to address these inequities during the Session.
I just also want to say that we support House Bill 5254, AN ACT CONCERNING MEMBERSHIP OF THE PREVENTION COUNCIL AND STATE AGENCY PREVENTION SERVICES FOR CHILDREN, FAMILIES, AND YOUTH IN CRISIS.
It just makes sense to help families on the front end rather on the back end after they are already in trouble. Thank you for raising these bills and for this opportunity to testify.
REP. CARDIN: Thank you, Jim. Do we, we have a copy of your testimony?
JIM HORAN: Yes, you do. It was submitted this morning.
REP. CARDIN: Okay. Thank you. Any questions from the Committee? All right. Thank you very much, Jim. We appreciate it.
JIM HORAN: Thank you.
REP. CARDIN: Elaine Zimmerman followed by Dr. Zavoski. Good morning, Elaine.
ELAINE ZIMMERMAN: Good morning. Senator Meyer, Representative Cardin, Members of the Committee, my name is Elaine Zimmerman from the Commission on Children.
I'm going to take my time to speak on the prevention bill, Raised House Bill 5254, and I'll mention at the end the other bills that we think are really worthwhile today.
The prevention bill changes the culture of how we consider investing for children in our state.
It has the wisdom and vision to say that, by the year 2020, our state should invest a minimum of 10% of its dollars in prevention in what works, using data-driven decision-making, so that rather than investing in failure, we can invest over time in success.
We, when the state originally passed prevention legislation in 2001 and state departments that addressed children's issues, looked at approximately how much they spent on children's issues and prevention, it was deemed at that time that agencies spent approximately somewhere between 2% and 2.8%.
So this bill would say that we need to shift, and keep growing, and move from 2% to 2.8% to 10%.
We know prevention works. We know what to do with lead abatement. We know what to do with positive youth development, school readiness, positive youth development, anti-bullying, all essentially the issues that are before you, and yet we don't do it.
We don't bring these things to scale. We don't do what the research tells us. And we wait for the crisis and keep putting out the fire.
So this bill will shift it, and we'll say that, rather than putting out the fire, we need to use quality materials at the onset and not get burned.
I think that this is probably the most cutting-edge bill in terms of budget planning for the year and would truly recommend that this Committee move forward and lead on it.
You have examples of research-based prevention attached to my testimony, but I would like to just call your attention, after $7.3 billion when the budget analysis was done in 2002 of the agencies that addressed children, only $207.7 million went to prevention.
So if we were able to move this bill, we would be the first state in the country saying that for children, we're going to invest in what works and not wait until they fail.
The Commission also supports House Bill 5504 on bullying, House Bill 5500 to address homeless children, House Bill 5503 on positive youth development establishing a trust, House Bill 5507 to address the Care for Kids inequities, House Bill 5499 to address the teen mother issue and to ensure that there's childcare for teen moms in high school in Hartford, and Senate Bill 396, which you eloquently have heard on already in terms of comprehensive lead abatement.
REP. CARDIN: Thank you, Elaine. Thank you for your support of this measure. I know our colleague, Representative Truglia, has been one of the champions of this. And we appreciate it. Are there questions from the Committee? Representative Truglia.
REP. TRUGLIA: I can't begin to thank you, Elaine, what you and the Commission have done to help us move this along. I mean, I think we've been fighting for this for a number of years. And you've never given up. And I appreciate that so much.
Yesterday, when we had a forum on the social health index, there were several speakers who spoke about the importance of prevention.
And they hadn't really, that was really not the focus of the forum but they started talking about that. These were people who work in our prison system and in the judicial system.
And I asked them, you know, specifically about the importance of prevention, and they said it's all about prevention to keep our kids safe and to provide them the support in the beginning rather than have them end up in a prison system.
And it was interesting, Mary Mushinsky, one of our State Representatives, had said that the last testimony we had about Riverview and Nurturing Families, it cost about $2,000 a year to take care and help a parent at risk to make sure that that child gets help.
And perhaps that child now is at Riverview at over $400,000 a year. So it just makes such sense to start early on. It's so cost-effective. I don't understand why we don't have the courage to do this.
ELAINE ZIMMERMAN: Yes, thank you, Representative Truglia.
REP. TRUGLIOA: And the other thing is, you know, we do recognize that it's going to be realigning dollars. It's we're taking money from areas that we won't be needing anymore.
I mean, I remember one day saying to Commissioner Dunbar, I hope your Department we won't ever need again. You know, I mean, if we fight for this kind of prevention, maybe we won't need a department to protect our children or to have children in a prison.
And, you know, so I just want to say thank you because without the Commission on Children, many things in this General Assembly would never have happened. So thank you so much.
ELAINE ZIMMERMAN: Thank you. To piggyback on Representative Truglia's comments, we have a few recommendations for this bill.
One is that the Prevention Council include a goal to end, to prevent poverty, child poverty. That's not yet in the goals that are listed from the legislation.
Right now, it's children being healthy, prepared for school, succeeding in school, youth making good decisions, youth being ready for the workforce, housing, but it does not include to end poverty, to prevent poverty.
The poverty bill that was passed talks about reducing poverty, but we need to prevent child poverty, and the goals would be different. The policies one would do to reduce are not necessarily the same as to prevent.
So we would recommend that there be an improved nexus between the Poverty Council and the Prevention Council so there's not a counterpoint, and they're not unnecessarily pitted against each other just because of efficiency reasons.
And we would recommend, as Senator Harp and Representative Merrill are moving in leadership on results-based accountability, we would recommend that, as Departments incrementally shift in their budgeting and move towards 2% increases and 1% increases towards prevention spending, that they report what they've done to the Governor and to Appropriations.
So that the Governor, in her reporting every two years, would have the information of how Departments selected to realign their dollars to prevention rather than crisis, how they chose what they chose, and what trend they were trying to turn.
Essentially, it's taking prevention and using results-based accountability to shift our dollars.
There will be a period where this will cost something, but it's the equivalent to when we decided to invest in vaccine.
At a certain point, we invested in vaccine. It cost because we were still trying to address such things as polio, but at a certain point, the problem stopped. It will be like that with this, if we truly do this.
SEN. MEYER: Representative Truglia, you were eloquent this morning on the radio on prevention. I don't know if you heard yourself, but it was very good. You set a great tone for us in the state. Thanks.
REP. CARDIN: Oh, did Anne leave? Okay. Thank you, Elaine.
ELAINE ZIMMERMAN: Thank you.
REP. CARDIN: Dr. Zavoski followed by Liz Brown.
DR. ROBERT ZAVOSKI: Good morning, Representative Cardin, Senator Meyer, Members of the Committee.
My name is Rob Zavoski. I'm the President of the Connecticut Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and I'm the Medical Director of Community Health Services at a community health center here in Hartford.
I'm here to offer the Academy of Pediatrics' cautious support to Senate Bill 396, an act to consider eradication of lead poisoning.
Connecticut's pediatricians unequivocally support public measures to eradicate children's lead poisoning, and, therefore, applaud the stated intent of this bill.
Current state policy treats lead and children's exposure to lead as if it were an infinite problem in the state.
Pediatricians have and continue to screen children for lead poisoning and provide medical and costly educational treatment to those who are exposed.
Unfortunately, we continually test for high levels of lead rather than mustering the resources to deal with the problem once and for all. Connecticut's lead burden is a finite one.
Leaded paint, gasoline and solder have not been used for over a quarter century. The educational, intellectual, and social costs of lead poisoning are and will remain infinite for as long as we choose to continue to treat lead rather than preventing it.
If we as a state truly wish to solve this problem, which can be solved, we must find the political and financial will to do so.
The Connecticut Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics enthusiastically endorses legislation that will help find the sources of lead in our state and provide the resources to eradicate them.
Attached to my testimony is the American Academy of Pediatrics' latest policy statement on children's lead poisoning. It is comprehensive, well-researched, and offers recommendations for both providers and government.
There are other speakers here today who will follow me who will address specific portions of the Raised Senate Bill 396.
Connecticut's pediatricians cannot support legislation that continues to leave the burden of environmental lead to be borne solely by the current and future children of Connecticut, future generations of Connecticut's kids. Once exposed to lead, the benefits of treating children are very limited.
Therefore, screening and treatment without remediation dooms present and future generations to the continued morbidity from lead. It's time for Connecticut to get the lead out. Thank you for your kind attention.
SEN. MEYER: I have a question.
REP. CARDIN: Senator Meyer.
SEN. MEYER: Doctor, you say in your statement, and I'm quoting, unfortunately, we continually test for high levels of lead rather than mustering the resources to deal with the problem once and for all.
And that, that's a significant statement. And there's been an effort in the bill this year, unlike the bill last year, to go beyond screening and to try to deal with the problem.
Have you looked at this bill from that standpoint, and would you give us your assessment of whether or not this bill is at last dealing with the problem?
DR. ROBERT ZAVOSKI: We did not support the bill last year because we didn't think it did anything but minimal screening. And we are supportive of this bill. I think it does a lot more for eradication.
Our concern, my concern remains that a lot of the burden of the eradication is left to the landlords.
And as we heard testimony earlier today, it's not that landlords don't want to get rid of the lead, it's that they don't have the ability to do so, have the education to do that, or have the financial means.
Frankly, it's in the state's financial interest to assist them in finding the financial means. We're spending a lot of money every day on special education services, etc., for kids who have been exposed for lead poisoning. And we'll continue to spend that money for generations until we get rid of the lead.
And so from my point of view, both as a physician and as a taxpayer, I think we need to help these landlords out.
Many of them are blue-collar folks who are just trying to scrape by as best they can. And it's in our community interest to assist them in getting them in getting the lead out of the, out of the homes so that more kids don't move in and end up with the same problems.
REP. CARDIN: Thank you very much for your testimony. I think Liz is not with us this morning, okay.
Next, we'll hear from Commissioner Rodriguez, followed by Steve Ristau. Good morning, Commissioner.
COMM. EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: Good morning. Good morning, Senator Meyer, Representative Cardin and Members of the Committee.
For the record, my name is Edwin Rodriguez. I'm the Commissioner for the Department of Consumer Protection.
It is my pleasure to be here this morning to testify in favor of Senate Bill 46, AN ACT CONCERNING A CHILD PROTECTION REGISTRY, which was submitted for your consideration by Governor Rell.
Our agency's staff will be assuming the regulatory responsibility associated with this bill.
As we know, we live in a day and age where technology significantly and directly impacts our lives.
Much of what technology has brought us has been good, specifically the vast increase in our abilities to communicate with one another, whether for educational, social, or commercial reasons.
We love the speed in which e-mails allow us to communicate with our friends and business associates. We like the new goods and services that we can purchase over the Internet.
We cannot understand now how we would live before the advent of cellular phones and Blackberries.
It's a whole new world that gives us all sorts of new freedoms in how we conduct our business and personal lives. With freedom, however, also come obligations.
While we understand the sometimes freewheeling nature of what some of this new technology has wrought, our understanding as adults come from maturity of understanding how we can be marketed in our ability to ignore, discard, or otherwise reject that sent in our direction.
But children do not have the same understanding and maturity built on years of experience. We, therefore, have an obligation to protect them from commercial messages that are inappropriate to their age, commercial messages that solicit them to buy items they are already precluded by law from buying pornography, illegal drugs, firearms, or other weapons.
I applaud Governor Rell for proposing this initiative to protect Connecticut's children. Many in this room are parents or grandparents of young people in the age category this bill affects.
Your children and grandchildren have e-mail addresses. They have cell phones capable of receiving text messages.
You are already all too aware of the inappropriate commercial messages that they are getting through an electronic means of communication.
Under Governor Rell's proposal, you as a parent would have the option of registering those contact points, that's the e-mail addresses, the cell phone numbers, with the Department of Consumer Protection.
Schools will also have the similar ability to do the same for contact points associated with the school.
The Department of Consumer Protection has some experience in this area, as we are the agency that was responsible for the do not call registry.
We know how the implementation of that registry several years ago and host many issues that can be solved before something like this can be implemented.
While other states have already implemented this child protection registry or are seriously looking at them, Connecticut itself must work through the [Gap in testimony. Changing from Tape 1B to Tape 2A.]
--I have every confidence that we can move forward with this initiative and assist Governor Rell in ensuring that all our children are protected and not put in harm's way. I want to thank you, and I will entertain any questions you may have.
REP. CARDIN: Thank you, Commissioner, for coming and testifying on this. I have, and I can only imagine my colleagues probably have in the last 48 hours, received a number of phone calls and inquiries about this, most of them opposing it.
And, interestingly, many of these businesses or organizations are from out of state. And actually, I have an e-mail from one of them here.
It says, you know, the undo burden that this is going to cause the businesses and companies to monitor this, they're citing a Colorado piece of legislation that we might look at. Just some comments that I'd like to share with you.
And then, finally, I notice the bill does not, and I don't have the information in front of me, what the Governor's budget includes for this initiative. I don't know if you have those figures with you?
COMM. EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: Yes, the Governor's proposal has $100,000 to implement this initiative.
REP. CARDIN: And you feel that that's going to cover, given the computer of, I mean, the computer, and the Internet, and e-mail is everywhere. It's in schools, in homes, in businesses.
COMM. EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: Well, we have two states now, the State of Michigan and the State of Utah that has fully implemented a child protection registry.
In the State of Utah, they only do e-mails. In the State of Michigan, they do instant messaging, ID, cell phones, fax.
Whatever the parent decides that would expose children to inappropriate material, they would register in this registry.
Now as far as the cost, we know that technology is available. We know that technology has dropped in price significantly over the years.
What I foresee as the process, our expectation is for it not to be a burden on the business community.
As you recall, a few years ago, when we implemented a do not call registry in the State of Connecticut, we heard the same concerns about the business industry.
There were eleven other states in the country that also had some form of no call registry. And once we, Connecticut, went ahead with it, other states started to do similar implementation.
We know that with the Child Protection Registry, there are probably other six or seven other states in the country that are also entertaining similar legislation.
Now, I foresee that this will probably become something to a no call registry on the national level.
So, you know, our concern is that because the Internet has become more of an open forum, that when our kids are, you know, searching through Google for homework, they also have the advertisement being popped up that is inappropriate for that child.
This bill will prevent that, and it's a voluntary driven bill. That's the other thing that I want to make clear that, you know, this is not mandating for parents to register their kids' e-mail that this is a voluntary program.
REP. CARDIN: Okay. We're going to hear later this morning from CBIA that they do have some concerns about it, so I think that we're going to have to, you know, work with them to allay some of their fears.
Because, you know, I feel that it's a valuable idea and something we should pursue. And I'd like to work with your office, maybe looking at those other states that you just mentioned and how they're dealing with it.
Finally, of that $100,000, are you envisioning, is that within existing employees? Does the $100,000 cover one or two new employees to deal with this?
COMM. EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: No, well, actually, we wanted to do as much as we can within our own state agencies.
Obviously, we would deal with the Department of Information Technology. They have standards of protocol for protection of the integrity of data, such as firewalls. We would utilize their resources as much as possible.
We know that there are vendors out there that do have software that we would be looking at, that we could buy from them and implement it with a known state infrastructure.
REP. CARDIN: Any other questions? Thank you very much. We look forward to working with you on this.
COMM. EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: Thank you. I appreciate that.
REP. CARDIN: Steve Ristau followed by Hilda Slivka.
STEVE RISTAU: Good morning, Senator Meyer, Representative Cardin, and Honorable Members of the Committee on Children.
My name is Steven Ristau. I am President of the Governor's Prevention Partnership, a public-private venture with state government and the Connecticut business community.
And I must say as someone who spent 30 years in the nonprofit family service agency arena that I am fully supportive of the concepts presented by this ambitious, preventive, and early intervention agenda that's being presented to you on today's docket.
For the last 15 years, the Governor's Prevention Partnership has campaigned to advance preventative strategies to reduce drug and alcohol use among young people and to prevent violence among children.
We are a nonprofit corporation co-chaired by Governor Rell and David Fusco, President of Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, Connecticut operations, and comprised of leaders from the business community and government who are intensely consumed with protecting our youth.
In 2006, we'll raise and manage over $2 million in public and private funds to this cause, supporting effective programs directed at mentoring underage and high-risk drinking, youth violence and school success at the K-12 and college levels.
I come before you today to speak in support of House Bill 5254, AN ACT CONCERNING MEMBERSHIP OF THE STATE PREVENTION COUNCIL AND STATE AGENCY PREVENTION SERVICES FOR CHILDREN, YOUTH, AND FAMILIES IN CRISIS.
This concept is one that advances work begun in 2001 by the General Assembly, when it overwhelmingly voted to establish a state prevention council to mandate an annual prevention budget and to begin a long-term commitment to invest in preventing problems, not just paying to fix them after a crisis threatens the future of a young person.
By way of background, in 2001, we supported that legislation. We were subsequently asked by the Office of Policy and Management to work with the Commission on Children to conduct a listening tour across the state.
Our task was to find out what leaders across Connecticut thought should be done to address more effectively and more preventatively the myriad of issues facing youth.
We talked with over 120 leaders, individuals, and organizations across the state, and conducted a state survey of attitudes on prevention.
We documented our state's accomplishments and its challenges in advancing the cause of prevention. We learned many things. The following were the most important.
Number one, invest in policies, programs, and services that build and strengthen young people, not intervene after they have been severely hurt or damaged.
Number two, spend more money on such effective prevention strategies.
Number three, focus on outcomes, emphasizing evidence-based solutions and promising practices that can help young people. A note that prevention sciences is an emerging field, and in many cases, promising outcomes are all that we have available.
And, finally, number four, streamline and coordinate an often fragmented state government approach to serving youth and families.
I realize my time is short with you, and I want to refer to the rest of my testimony that outlines what has really been a decrease in prevention funding.
I think that despite the best intentions of lawmakers here in the General Assembly and at the executive level, our intuition, as well as research, demonstrates that if we invest more early on in youth, and as Representative Green mentioned, in adolescence, as they're preparing to join the workforce, we will save money in the long run. So I support this legislation.
We strongly agree with the concepts, and we're prepared to support the enactment of it, should you choose to pass this legislation. Thank you.
REP. CARDIN: Thank you very much. And we do all have your testimony. I appreciate the facts, and figures, and the graphs that you presented us. Senator Meyer has a question.
SEN. MEYER: Do you have the bill in front of you? Could we just look at it for a second? I'm looking at the bottom of the first page and the top of the second page, the new language that's being added.
And I just want to make sure I understand what 10% is. We're talking about allocating 10% of what for prevention programs? That's what I'm not sure that I understand.
STEVE RISTAU: I may have to refer to Elaine Zimmerman from the Commission. As I understand it, it's 10% of agency budgets who are involved in providing prevention or services to children and youth in our state. I'm not sure if it's actually 10% of the entire state budget or by agency.
ELAINE ZIMMERMAN: Senator Meyer, it's 10% of the 8 agencies that currently serve children, so it's 10% of that. By the year 2020, it would be an increase of $522 million over the current 2.8% level.
SEN. MEYER: So it's the agencies of the state that deal with children?
ELAINE ZIMMERMAN: Correct, eight of them that were required [inaudible].
SEN. MEYER: We're not talking about the entire state budget then?
ELAINE ZIMMERMAN: Correct. It's out of the agencies' budget comes to $7.3 billion, Senator Meyer.
So right now, it's $208 million that we are spending. If we move to 4% as stated, as proposed in this law, we would go to $292 million, an increase of $84 million.
And then by the close of this, when we reach 2020, we would be at an increase of $522 million, but, of course, that might sound large, but it's out of $7.3 billion.
SEN. MEYER: Right. Okay. The next question or comment I have relates to the membership of the State Prevention Council.
The drafters of this bill appear to make the government, its government representatives that comprise all of the membership of the state prevention council.
And I'm wondering if that's a wise decision. And that why are we not involving perhaps some other and broader minds than those of us that are in the government?
STEVE RISTAU: Well, Senator, we certainly would support the inclusion of others outside of government, not only leaders from nonprofit organizations who are doing this important work, but business leaders as well.
I know from our board, over half of our board are business leaders who are deeply concerned about the problems affecting our youth and are very committed to investing more upfront and could identify several of those who would be great, make great contributions to such an effort.
As I said in my testimony, we certainly would be very willing to either participate as a member of this council or to resource it, in a staffing role, if asked.
SEN. MEYER: Okay. I just don't see anything in the four corners of this bill that would permit us to put you on this or other representatives outside of the government.
Indeed, there is a catchall provision that says the council may expand its membership to include other state agencies. So it is totally government tuned, and I wonder if that is too narrow a perspective.
STEVE RISTAU: Senator, I read it the same way you do and support the direction that you're going in.
REP. CARDIN: Any other questions? Thank you very much. Next, we'll hear from Dr. Slivka followed by Dr., is it Menillo? I hope I got that right. And then followed by Paul Copes. Good morning.
HILDA SLIVKA: Good morning. Chairman Meyer, Chairman Cardin, and other Members of the Committee.
My name is Hilda Slivka, and I practice general pediatrics at Connecticut Children's Medical Center in Hartford.
And I'm also Director of the Ludd clinic there and co-Director of the Hartford Regional Treatment Center. And I am here to express my support for a bill brought to identify and treat young children poisoned by lead.
Many studies have supported the finding that young children exposed to lead can suffer with lower IQ scores. The crucial factor in the fight against lead poisoning is identifying the children who are being exposed to the lead.
The effects of elevated blood lead levels are often sub-clinical, unable to detect, and, therefore, blood lead level needs to be obtained.
It's important to screen all children for lead poisoning. Risk factors that outline which children need to be screened are well documented.
In Connecticut, which has greater than 25% of the housing stock built before 1950, none of our data conclusively eliminates any area of the state as being high risk.
Therefore, as per the CDC and the AAP recommendations, it's necessary to screen all children at 12 and 24 months of age.
Some feel that lead poisoning only affects those living in deteriorating housing stock. This is not the case. I met several children whose parents asked their medical providers for a lead test.
One such child from Avon had a lead level of 44, and that should be micrograms per deciliter, resulting in hospitalization and kelation therapy. That child seems to have learning deficits and mild hyperactivity.
His medical condition would have gone undetected if his parents had not voiced their concerns. Screening alone will not eradicate lead poisoning.
The State of Connecticut and other programs that are involved have done an excellent job of decreasing the number of children hospitalized for extremely high blood levels.
We need to focus on eliminating all levels of lead poisoning. And, therefore, mandated screening and rehabilitation of homes to provide a safe environment for these children is necessary.
Unfortunately, there are not sufficient funds available to correct housing units. The burden cannot solely be carried by property owners and homeowners.
A state-funded lead safe account needs to exist for the purpose of financial assistance for property owners who are willing to provide a safe home for children.
LAMPP is a model for such a program. With HUD funding for the three years, we've been able to complete low-level, low-cost housing rehabilitation in homes where children in Medicaid households have been identified with mild blood lead level elevations.
One of our participating cities in Hartford, we recently looked at 71 children with elevated blood lead levels between 10 and 19 in this program. Ninety percent had a decrease in their lead level.
These families had intense in-home education about lead, while their homes were going under repairs that help eliminate lead exposure. Hopefully, there will be no further poisoning in children in these housing units that are being repaired.
This is a very small investment for the long-term future of our children. With mandated lead screening as the means to find children who are being poisoned and the implementation of the crucial component that eliminates lead exposure, the State of Connecticut will be able to protect our most vulnerable population from a disease that is completely preventable, lead poisoning. Thank you.
REP. CARDIN: Thank you very much for your testimony. Representative McCrory.
REP. MCCRORY: Thank you, Doctor, for your testimony. I have a question. Right now basically, what percentage of kids are we testing between the ages of 12 and 24? What percentage do you think we are actually screening right now?
HILDA SLIVKA: Well, that actually is not, the data, is not conclusive. We know that Medicaid children, it is required that they get tested.
And according to DSS, the statistics on those children are between, somewhere between 70% and 75%. As far as the state screening testing, it is somewhere around, I guess, 48% are being screened.
REP. MCCRORY: The reason I ask is, I live in Hartford and, unfortunately, my son was diagnosed with lead-based poisoning at a very early age. I think he was like maybe two years old.
And I was fortunate to do all the things I needed to to get those lead numbers down by being a responsible adult.
I'm concerned that there might be a lot of other families out there that might not be aware their child has these problems.
And we know they cause problems later in life with special ed, you know, and brain developing, and all those things.
Are we getting the message out? How are we getting the message out that we need to get your child into screening as early as possible?
HILDA SLIVKA: Well, that's the concern we have that the message, we have tried multiple attempts to get the message out to the community, to providers.
And right now, there is a recommendation that all children get screened at one and possibly at two years of age if they are in high-risk communities, and we consider Connecticut high risk.
But that is not occurring, that's not occurring statewide. We have an excellent rate of kids who are enrolled in Medicaid. We still want to improve that though, but we're not getting all, we're not capturing all the children who should be captured and tested for lead poisoning.
REP. MCCRORY: With this bill, is there a dialogue that will come out attached to it, or are you just looking for increased funding for [inaudible]?
HILDA SLIVKA: Well, as far as screening, I think that people have looked at how much extra this would cost the state lab to run the lead screening. I'm not sure that as far as providers that there is any extra expense.
There's also in this measure and has been asked that insurance companies pay for the lead screening, that children are insured. And, in fact, that's never been an issue. I've never had a problem with insurance companies paying for a lead test.
REP. MCCRORY: Thank you.
REP. CARDIN: Thank you very much for your testimony.
HILDA SLIVKA: Thank you.
REP. CARDIN: next, we'll hear from Lisa Menillo, followed by Paul Copes.
LISA MENILLO: Good morning, Chairman Meyer, Chairman Cardin and Members of the Children's Committee.
My name is Lisa Menillo, and I am a practicing pediatrician here in Hartford and Director of the Lead Clinic at St. Francis Hospital. I am also the Director, along with Dr. Slivka, of the Hartford Regional Lead Treatment Center.
And I am here in support of Senate Bill 396. Although the paint industry knew of lead's toxic effects, it remained in our household paint until the very recent date of 1978.
And as you have heard before, but it's good to go over it again because that's why were here, lead is a poison. It affects multiple organ systems. It lowers IQs. It causes reading disabilities, failure to graduate from high school, and even delinquency.
Here in Connecticut, we live in a state rich with the history of when our country was young. Unfortunately, this also makes us a high-risk state when it comes to lead poisoning.
The Center for Disease Control gives each state clear guidelines for determining high-risk areas.
If more than 20% of the housing in a particular area is built prior to 1950, it's considered high risk. This is the national average. Connecticut has 35% of our housing built before 1950.
Our children here in Connecticut, as well as other New England states, are therefore at high risk, and universal screening is the CDC recommendation.
The AAP currently supports the screening of all children at 1 or 2 years of age, all children up to 72 months of age, if never screened before, and in other children when medically indicated.
There are some terms in the bill that I believe need reworking, such as describing a child whose chronological age is over six, but has a developmental age of six years or younger.
This is not a real meaningful term for practitioners, but I look forward to working further on some of the language.
Although the majority of my patients reside in substandard rental housing, lead poisoning does not discriminate against the more well to do homeowners, as we have heard.
We have followed kids living in colonial and Victorian-era restorations, country farmhouses, and even brand new housing where the source turned out to be decorative pottery.
Just within the last year, we had an 18-month-old child referred for a lead level of 24 micrograms per deciliter by his pediatrician.
As part of his full medical evaluation, the mom told us she was considered because at one year of age, her son was able to say words like, mama, dada, and bye-bye. But now, at 18 months of age, he seemed to forget these words he once knew.
He was referred to the Birth to Three Program where he qualifies for early intervention services and is being evaluated for autism.
The availability of early intervention programs is crucial, although there is no signature lead poisoning delay or disability. If any child is delayed, from lead or anything else, he needs the proper educational services.
I thank you for your efforts to advance the attainable goal of eliminating lead poisoning in our future.
Universal screening of Connecticut children, coupled with advances in increasing lead safe housing and appropriate early intervention measures for developmentally delayed children, will do much to help our children attain their potential. I thank you for your time and attention.
REP. CARDIN: Thank you, Dr. Menillo. Senator Slossberg.
SEN. SLOSSBERG: Thank you. Doctor, I just wanted to take the opportunity to thank you and Dr. Slivka for the work that you do and for your help with regard to this bill.
I look forward to working with you to refine the definition of developmentally delayed and have it make sense for practitioners in this area. So thank you again.
LISA MENILLO: Thank you.
REP. CARDIN: Thank you very much. Paul Copes, followed by Mary McAtee.
PAUL COPES: Good morning, Senator Meyer, Representative Cardin, and Committee Members. My name is Paul Copes and I am the Executive Director of Education for the Community Renewal Team in Hartford.
I am speaking on behalf of the Connecticut Association of Community Action, the Association of Connecticut's 12 Community Action Agencies, 9 of which operate early childcare education programs.
I am here today to speak to you in support of House Bill 5507, AN ACT CONCERNING ELIGIBILITY AND REIMBURSEMENT UNDER THE CARE 4 KIDS PROGRAM.
This program is often described as a way to help working parents afford needed childcare. However, it is more important for us to understand that this program is critical for providing high quality preschool education for three- and four-year-old children.
The program offers parents an opportunity to access quality care for their children, and it is also a critical source of revenue to providers of preschool children.
Unfortunately, the Governor's proposed budget does not adequately fund the Care 4 Kids program.
Quality early childhood education programs have been shown to improve child outcomes, reduce the achievement gap between white and minority children, and provide society a significant return on investment.
However, that investment is threatened today because of consequences of past closings of the Care 4 Kids program, reducing eligibility to 50% of state median income, and keeping Care 4 Kids reimbursement rates artificially low, lower than what the federal government recommends.
What's worse though is that with preschool programs struggling to keep their doors open, pay decent wages and maintain high quality, more than $28 million in Care 4 Kids funds were not spent despite a waitlist of over 13,000 families in 2005.
School Readiness and DSS Child Development Centers both rely on Care 4 Kids childcare subsidies that parents receive to fill the gap and adequately fund their programs.
However, with budget cuts over the years, the funding for Care 4 Kids has decreased significantly from its peak. Care 4 Kids was reduced by nearly 40% from Fiscal Year '02 to Fiscal Year '05.
The budget that was passed last year provided for increases in the per child rate for DSS Child Development Centers and School Readiness, which has helped.
However, the increase will not make up for the loss in Care 4 Kids subsidies, and many programs are still experiencing deficits.
Ever since the eligibility guidelines for Care 4 Kids were changed in 2003 to exclude non-temp families and those making more than 50% of state median income, CRT has experienced a deficit in its early childhood program.
Over the past three years, CRT has had an accumulated deficit for more than $443,000. Similar situations exist for many other providers.
And while increases in DSS and School Readiness funding will help reduce this deficit, it does not close the gap.
One reason for this funding gap is that many low-income working families no longer qualify for Care 4 Kids.
The other main reason is that Care 4 Kids reimbursement rates are low and are based upon the 2001 market rate survey.
Even if one of our families is able to receive a Care 4 Kids subsidy for their child, it is inadequate to meeting the actual cost of care.
In order to address these deficits and provide the opportunity for affordable high quality preschool for working families, Care 4 Kids should be funded at a level that will restore reimbursement rates to reflect the biennial market rate survey and be required to automatically update the reimbursement rate every two years commensurate with the market rate survey results.
Care 4 Kids should also be fully funded in order to restore eligibility to include all working families with incomes below 75% of the state's median income.
Connecticut's nationally recognized Early Childhood Education system is still heading toward a crisis.
The program deficits caused by the loss of Care 4 Kids subsidies will ultimately hurt the children and families we are trying to help. Connecticut already has the largest achievement gap in the nation.
Research shows that providing high quality preschool helps to reduce that gap. Low-income working families will chose high quality early childhood education when they are given the opportunity to be able to afford it.
Don't shortchange the low-income children who need quality preschool education the most. Fully fund the Care 4 Kids program. And I thank you very much.
REP. CARDIN: Representative McMahon.
REP. MCMAHON: Thank you very much. These are quite frightening statistics you have here. I want to welcome you, Dr. Copes. Here is someone who certainly knows education, so thank you for coming.
REP. CARDIN: Thank you very much for your time. Senator Meyer.
SEN. MEYER: Dr. Copes, I'm new to this program. Could you just describe to me the central components of the Care 4 Kids program, what exactly it's doing in the community?
PAUL COPES: Care 4 Kids enables working parents to afford quality care and enables them to bring their children to centers that provides a subsidy to centers to bridge the gap between actual cost of care, the parent fee.
And the state provides the subsidy to make up the difference between the actual cost of care and the parent fee. So there's a gap between what parents actually pay and what the actual cost of care is. And the state provides that difference.
SEN. MEYER: In other words, it's a daycare service.
PAUL COPES: It's a financial subsidy. Yes, it is a daycare service that's provided. Parents bring their children to childcare centers across the state, and these centers are operated from a ten-hour day, from 7:30 to 5:30 generally.
SEN. MEYER: Does it have an educational component?
PAUL COPES: Most definitely, most definitely. That's what it is. It's a preschool program. There's a recognized national curriculum. We have goals and outcomes, etc.
Our primary goal, in addition to providing quality care for the parents, is to prepare children for kindergarten, so that it works towards reducing that achievement gap that we hear so much about.
SEN. MEYER: Now are there teachers that are certified, or what are the, you know, what are competency of those people who are running it?
PAUL COPES: The teachers have qualifications at the state level and at the preschool level. They have to have a Care 4 Kids, I mean, a CDA certificate and an Associate's Degree.
SEN. MEYER: Thank you.
REP. CARDIN: Thank you very much. As long as it's quick, Representative Mushinsky.
REP. MUSHINSKY: Dr. Copes, what's the size of the waiting list right now?
PAUL COPES: The waitlist is probably still constant around 13,000 as it was. The problem is that there are children that could benefit from the program, but the funding is not there to permit it.
REP. CARDIN: Thank you very much. Next, we'll hear from Mary McAtee, followed by Kellyann Day.
MARY MCATEE: Good morning, Senator Meyer, Representative Cardin, and all the Members of the Committee. It's a pleasure to be here today.
My name is Mary McAtee. I am the Executive Director of the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness.
And I am here to provide testimony on House Bill 5500, AN ACT CONCERNING SCHOOL READINESS FOR HOMELESS CHILDREN.
And I hope you have my written testimony in front of you, but I wanted to depart for just a moment to acknowledge some work that's been done by many people, some of whom are in this room.
I want to thank Christel Truglia and Representative Anne Ruwet, who have been working with us since the end of last session to organize forums in the community to listen to parents and children about what their needs are in terms of assistance while they're in the shelters.
We also appreciate the work that the Children's Commission has provided because of their expertise in knowing what the childcare, child readiness side is.
We also are appreciative of the work that the Department of Social Services has done under the leadership of Deputy Commissioner Beaulieu. And I just heard this morning the childcare collaborator's testimony, so we're certainly appreciative of that.
And I personally am appreciative, and not to belabor this too long, but anything that I know about children and shelters I've learned from the people working in the shelters and from families themselves. So I want you to know that that's the basis of my testimony.
So, first, I want to let you know that we are in full support of the concepts contained in this bill, and we would be very delighted and happy to continue working with the Committee to make some changes that we think would be improvements. So let me go through it section by section.
In Subsection A, in addition to the Commissioner of Social Services and Child Day Care Council, we request that you add additional partners to the design and implementation of this program, including representation from direct service providers and families that rely on shelters.
You may not be aware that the DSS is the convener of an Interagency Working Group on Children in Shelters, which has been meeting throughout the fall and winter in response to a similar bill that was raised last session, but which did not receive funding.
This working group has broad representation from several agencies in the executive branch, including, that's three? Sorry, including DSS, DPH, DCF, DOT, DMR, DOE, OPM, as well as the Head Start Collaboration.
We've been part of that, the Connecticut Coalition, and we'd like to recommend that that interagency council be included, but if that's not possible, then at least the Coalition because we do have the ability to bring you expertise from the shelter side.
In subsection B, we support the recommendation that would allow parents and shelters to have access to full day childcare and to receive assistance with transportation costs.
However, our experience to date in Connecticut is that parents for the most part are reluctant to be separated from their children immediately upon entering the shelter.
Rather, their first priority is dealing with the circumstances that brought them to the shelter and pulling together the resources to get back on their feet.
Success in those endeavors depends in part on the mutual trust and cooperation that is developed by the family and the shelter case manager.
For Subsections C and D, I'll sort of collapse this, we support both of those principles, providing playgroups in shelters and home visitation, using home visitation services.
But we're concerned that the way it's currently outlined in the bill would really limit the effectiveness of the services in shelters and would dilute the impact of the money that you might be willing to spend on this program.
So the recommendations that the Coalition has, and I want to make clear that this is not the recommendations of the DSS working group, because we haven't gotten that far, but what for the Coalition is.
First of all, anchor the program in the shelters rather than in existing mainstream services. By that, I mean have a designated person, ideally full time, on the shelter staff who serves as a child advocate.
Define the role of child advocate as partner to the parent, one who will assist parents to understand the social, educational, and developmental needs of their children and to minimize the negative impact homelessness can have on children.
The role should be further defined as liaison and partner to existing mainstream services that will benefit the family and the child.
In this model, a three-way partnership can be formed, the family, the mainstream services, and the child advocate.
This approach mirrors the model used in Beyond Shelter, which some of you are familiar with. The Beyond Shelter housing coordinators do have defined job responsibilities, but in most cases are willing to do whatever it takes to help the family succeed.
My experience tells me that if we had child advocates, they too would go far beyond their job description. With day-to-day contact with children and their parents, the child advocate can become a positive, reliable, nurturing adult that children can get to know and trust on a day-to-day basis.
In addition, the child advocate, by earning the trust of the parents, will be able to assist them to being to use mainstream services as soon as possible.
REP. CARDIN: If you could finish up, Mary.
MARY MCATEE: Yup.
REP. CARDIN: Thank you.
MARY MCATTEE: We're happy to help.
REP. CARDIN: We appreciate your testimony. And I'll apologize again and again, but we have at least another 40 people, and we need to finish up before 1:00.
We have your testimony, and we appreciate the support that you've given on this and other issues. Any questions from the Subcommittee, or Committee, excuse me? Thank you very much, Mary.
MARY MCATTEE: Thanks so much.
REP. CARDIN: Kellyann Day followed by Trevor Hughes.
KELLYANN DAY: Good morning. My name is Kellyann Day, and I am the Executive Director of New Haven Home Recovery. NHHR provides emergency shelter to 18 single women and 13 families nightly, and we housed 85 families last year in safe, affordable, supportive housing.
NHHR has been providing emergency shelter for women and children for 16 years. I'm here today to advocate for service for homeless children and to talk to you about Raised House Bill 5500, AN ACT CONCERNING SCHOOL READINESS FOR HOMELESS CHILDREN.
There are a number of sections to this bill. The first section, Section A, requests funding for early childhood daycare, education services, and playgroups for children residing in homeless shelters.
I am in support of this section of this bill. A critical issue for homeless women who are working and or looking for work is the lack of quality, affordable childcare.
My only question with this section is what provisions have been made for continued care once the family leaves the shelter.
The second section, Section B, requests transportation for said childcare from the shelters to the daycare centers. I am also in support of this.
However, having extensive experience running a shelter for women and children, I am concerned that the women in the shelter will avail themselves of this service without a strong connection with staff.
The third and fourth sections, Sections C and D, request funding for home visitation services for the children enrolled in the childcare. The purpose of these services is to strengthen the skills of the parents and enhance the developmental needs of the children.
In addition, these services will assess and refer children to services such as healthcare, education services, parenting issues, mental health services, and nutritional services.
In these sections, I believe it would be best served provided by shelter staff, not as stated in the bill by Head Start staff and Nurturing Family staff.
As a provider of children's services in the shelter, NHHR has learned a few things, the first being the enormous pressure placed upon the mothers in the shelter.
They are in a position to look for housing, look for work, and maintain their family. It takes daily contact, both day and night, to engage these women and earn their trust.
While the case managers at the shelter are focused on the issues of housing and addressing the causes of these women's homelessness, there is often not enough time to focus on the children.
In some shelters, NHHR's shelter being one of them, additional resources have been secured temporarily by private funders to provide children services.
Our children's program, the Search Program has been operating for two years, and what we have learned is a few things.
Number one, the child population at the shelter is transient. At one point, the shelter is full of babies. But one month later, all the children are enrolled in school.
With funding for children's advocates located at the shelters, the services described in Section C and D will be provided for not only the preschool crowd, but the school-age children who are in desperate need of both educational and social services.
The program that we want run provides support and educational groups to parents on educational rights of their children. It provides an in-home advocate at the shelter to help them connect with teachers, special education programs, and Head Start programs.
It also provides an after-school program, staffed mostly by volunteers, and a summer fieldtrip program for all children and parents residing in the shelter.
In conclusion, please accept these recommendations. Please support services for homeless children, especially quality, affordable childcare as introduced in House Bill 5500.
And please support the creation of a system of services that include the input from shelters who are working with the parents and children on a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week basis.
And finally, please consider furnishing the shelters with child advocates to address the needs of not only the preschoolers, but all homeless children. Thank you to the Committee for the time today, and I'll be happy to answer any questions.
REP. CARDIN: Thank you, Kellyann. No questions from the Committee. Thank you very much for your testimony.
Next is Trevor Hughes followed by Matthew Prince. Trevor, I have 20/10 eyesight, and I can't even read that.
TREVOR HUGHES: I'll read it for you.
REP. CARDIN: Okay.
TREVOR HUGHES: Representative, thank you. Representative, Senator, Members of the Committee, good morning. My name is Trevor Hughes. I'm the Executive Director of the E-mail Sender and Provider Coalition.
We are a not for profit trade coalition made up of really everyone that works in the field of e-mail. We represent the people who built the hardware, the boxes that send e-mail, the software. We represent the senders and the receivers of e-mail as well.
We're based in York, Maine, and I drove down to speak with you this morning, and I'm happy to be here.
I'm here today to express strong opposition to Senate Bill 46, a bill creates what is purported to be a child protection registry.
Unfortunately, it's nothing of the such. It is in fact a great risk to children.
Now, if I was to put on my public policy hat and try to create the absolute worst possible solution for protecting children from e-mail, I would propose that we congregate confirmed children's e-mails in a single database.
And then that we demand pornographers and sellers of alcohol and tobacco and firearms to come and get those addresses, so as to suppress them against their lists.
And in the process of getting those addresses, hang on to them, so that on an ongoing basis, they can be suppressing them.
Members of the Committee, I'm here today to tell you that that's exactly what Senate Bill 46 proposes to do, proposes to create a centralized database of children's e-mail addresses.
And it requires any company that is selling anything that is illegal for minors to purchase, possess, view, own, or otherwise receive to come and scrub their lists against the registry.
There are grave security concerns associated with this solution. Fundamentally, what we will end up with are confirmed children's e-mail addresses in the hands of adult content companies, alcohol companies, tobacco companies around the United States, thousands of distributed versions of this database around the United States.
And while there may be great security, in fact, I will concede, and the speaker to follow me, Mr. Prince from Unspam Technologies, will talk quite strongly about the security around the registry itself. I will concede that security.
The fact is though that these distributed databases with every company that accesses the registry cannot be so guaranteed and is not secure.
It may be easy to dismiss my thoughts as those of an advocate, but I would encourage you to look at the top consumer cop in the country, the Federal Trade Commission.
The Federal Trade Commission has reviewed this idea three times and opined on it strongly. In 2004, they issued a report to Congress. I submitted it with my testimony today.
I just want to read very quick quotes for you on specifically the idea of a Child Protection Registry--
REP. CARDIN: I'm sorry. Before you read, and I appreciate you're finishing up, is, one, do we have your testimony just so we can follow what you're reading? We have a couple of things from the FTC. I didn't know if that's--
TREVOR HUGHES: I'll make sure it gets to you. I apologize. So the FTC has said quite clearly that such a registry would at best be ineffective, and at worst could cripple the e-mail system or actually facilitate more spam.
They said, furthermore, we conclude that any do not e-mail registry that earmarked particular e-mail addresses as belonging to or used by children would raise grave security concerns due to the security issues discussed.
Now, the FTC has opined on this strongly and understand the context in which their opinion is presented. They possess and run one of the strongest consumer protection efforts ever introduced in this country, and that is the do not call list.
If anyone in the country should be supportive of a Do Not E-mail list, it is the FTC, given the enormous mileage that they have gotten out of the 100 million plus people who have registered for the do not call list.
But in exactly a 180, that the FTC has said now three times, very strongly, that this is a terrible idea. Let's dismiss the FTC and say that they are Feds and got it wrong.
We can also look at leading online protection agencies, like Working To Halt Online Abuse. I've submitted a letter or a press release from Working to Halt Online Abuse. They work to protect children and adults from online harassment and abuse. They have expressed their concerns.
The Center for Democracy and Technology, one of the leading online privacy associations, they have expressed their concerns.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a leading online civil liberties organization, they have expressed their concerns, all with the same fundamental issue, and that is that a registry creates derivative versions of confirmed children's e-mail addresses around the country.
Let's dismiss all of those, and let's look at the two states that have actually passed registry laws to date--
REP. CARDIN: If you could finish up.
TREVOR HUGHES: I will. Thank you. Michigan and Utah has passed registry laws, and UNSPAM, the company that is run by Mr. Prince who follows me, has a contract in each state.
And the contracts in each state, UNSPAM and the states specifically recognize, and I quote, the state further acknowledges and recognizes that senders comparing their e-mail lists against the registry may extrapolate valid information on addresses that are listed on the registry, and that the vendor, that is UNSPAM, has no duty to ensure that senders will not misappropriate the data received.
Members of the Committee, I encourage you, if you hear that this is a secure solution, to look to the words of the two states that have passed the law and the vendor that supports those two states by providing registry services.
And they have recognized and disclaimed liability for the very security breach recognized by the FTC, by the Center for Democracy and Technology, by Working to Halt Online Abuse, and by my organization. I thank you for your time, and I would be very happy to take any questions.
REP. CARDIN: Well, first, I'd like to welcome you from the Pine Tree State to the Constitution State.
I think we've just figured it out. You're representing the E-mail Sender and Provider Coalition.
TREVOR HUGHES: Yes, that's correct.
REP. CARDIN: And I think, I would hope that we're all cognizant that there's, I'm not sure that there's anything secure giving the technology age out there. So I trust that my colleagues are aware that there's no 100% security in anything that we're trying to do.
We found that out with the do not call list. I think that there are a couple of questions from my-- [Gap in testimony. Changing from Tape 2A to Tape 2B].
--trade group that sends out e-mail advertisements?
TREVOR HUGHES: We represent companies in the e-mail industries, so yes, many of our members are senders of e-mail, but they represent the full breadth of e-mail communication.
So it is some e-mail marketing, transactional messages. It's everyone from the Fortune 10 down through, well, my local soccer league and my organization actually.
REP. MUSHINSKY: Okay. Because you're giving completely opposite testimony from some of the advocates. You both wish to protect and safeguard children while they're on the Internet, but you have completely opposite testimonies.
TREVOR HUGHES: Opposite testimony to who, sorry?
REP. MUSHINSKY: Well, the sponsors of the bill were also seeking to protect children from spam.
TREVOR HUGHES: Sure. So, intuitively, if I was to suggest to you that a do not e-mail list would protect children, if we created a do not e-mail list to screen against adult content and things that are illegal for a minor to purchase, given the strength of a do not call list, intuitively, it seems to make sense.
But, unfortunately, much like bicycles are different from cars, are different from airplanes and, therefore, require different safety standards in each of those modes of transportation, e-mail is different than telephony, is different from direct mail, and we need different solutions.
The technology involved with e-mail, the lack of accountability, the fact that messages can be bounced off of relays around the world, and that spammers can hide, the fact that we don't know if somebody is sending from Vancouver, British Columbia, or Croatia, or China, or Stanford is a real challenge in e-mail. And those technological differences make this a fundamentally flawed solution.
REP. MUSHINSKY: What we're trying to get at here is is your group just against restriction on e-mail, period?
TREVOR HUGHES: Absolutely not. In fact, we were supportive of the Canned Spam Act and remain supportive. And the requirements for membership in our organization actually exceed the standards of the Canned Spam Act.
We require our members to adhere to something that we call the E-mail Marketing Pledge, where they will require consent and opt in before they will send a message.
Moreover, we require our members to authenticate their e-mail messages, so as to avoid that impunity of anonymity that I described. They need to stand up and be accountable for what they are doing.
So we actually are comfortable with friction in the e-mail channel so as to drive better practices. This just is a bad solution.
REP. MUSHINSKY: All right. The final question is what is your solution, if you don't like the restriction? What is your solution to child exposure to adult spam?
TREVOR HUGHES: That's a great question, and there are many, many good solutions out there. I think, fundamentally, we need to look at the technology that's sitting on your desktop, and I would encourage you to do so.
All of the major Internet service providers, all of the major e-mail providers allow for filtering, allow for tools to block graphics from being sent to your e-mail inbox.
And, in fact, we have a federal law in place, the Canned Spam Act, that requires labeling on adult content. That labeling should result in filtering so that you don't see that in your inbox.
Now one of the problems with this proposal is the enforcement and the effectiveness, and I think we've seen that the labeling requirements in the Canned Spam Act have not worked as well as they could have.
But I think the filtering controls in your desktop as they stand today, from Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo!, those are very strong tools that parents should be availing themselves.
REP. CARDIN: Thank you very much. If you could submit your testimony, we would appreciate it, and we appreciate the other materials. And I guess you were somewhat introduced, Matthew, Matthew Prince followed by Peter Wolfgang.
MATTHEW PRINCE: Thank you, Co-Chairman Meyer and Cardin. My name is Matthew Prince. I am the CEO of Unspam Registry Services, and I am also an Adjunct Professor of Law at John Marshall Law School, and a proud graduate of Trinity College, just up the street, where some of the technology that we developed actually got its start.
Just like Mr. Hughes, I have a financial interest potentially in this piece of legislation. And that is, that we provide the services for the States of Utah and Michigan.
And more than anything today, more than advocating for the passage of this bill, or advocating against it, I'm here to lend myself and my company's experience, in Utah and Michigan, as a resource for the State of Connecticut as it considers this piece of legislation.
I can let you know how it is going in Utah, I can let you know how it's going in Michigan, and I can let you know what's happening in the six or seven other states across the country that are considering similar legislation.
Mr. Hughes is correct that if implemented incorrectly, this type of program could actually do more harm than good. This needs to be carefully looked at, carefully studied, carefully examined before you move forward.
And I can boil down Mr. Hughes' argument to one simple thing, and that is, collecting a big list of children's e-mail addresses is a bad idea. And I agree, I think that it is a bad idea.
And that's why, what's been done in Utah and what's been done in Michigan, what's proposed in this bill, and what's even clearer in bills like those coming out of Georgia is that this isn't simply a program for children, this is a program for anyone who doesn't want to receive this sort of material.
In other words, if you, as a child or an adult, don't want to receive pornography, or alcohol, or gambling, or tobacco advertisements in your inbox, you should have the right, as a citizen of the State of Connecticut, to say I don't want to receive it.
One of the problems with enforcing laws online is that it's very difficult to establish jurisdiction online.
The State of Washington realized this problem back in 1998 when they created what was called the Washington E-mail Registry.
That system has been in place without any of the fancy technology that we have in place to protect Utah and Michigan's list. Since 1998, there hasn't been a single incidence of abuse. But I'll tell you what it has done.
It's allowed the state to say, these are the addresses over which we have authority. These are the addresses over which our umbrella of protection extends, and courts have repeatedly affirmed that that is sufficient for them to then to be able to assert jurisdiction.
Without that, states like Connecticut can't bring the cases that protect their children or their adults' addresses from being out there.
And so the first thing that I would suggest to this Committee as you're trying to improve the proposal which is put forward by the Governor is to look to what Georgia's doing, to look to what some of the other states are doing in the next generation of these bills and extend the protection beyond just children, make it much less of a target rich environment, and that solves all of Mr. Hughes' concerns.
In terms of it being effective or ineffective, I'll tell you that when the do not call list was first proposed by the federal government back in 1991, the FCC issued a report saying, it won't work.
It's too expensive, no one will follow it, and it could actually be a security risk for the phone numbers that are on it. If that sounds familiar, that's a lot like what you will be reading in the FTC report that Mr. Hughes gave to you.
Unfortunately, it takes brave states like Connecticut, which was one of the first to pass the do not call list, in order to move forward and establish innovative consumer protection programs.
And the federal government sometimes follows what individual states do. The last thing that I'd like to emphasize is that this bill isn't just about e-mail.
In fact, if you have concerns about what Mr. Hughes said, I would simply take e-mail out of the bill. Look at what the real problem, the next tidal wave, what's coming to us next, and that is, our cell phones.
These things, which are in our pockets, which we give to our children in order to protect them, are starting to be inundated by these sorts of messages.
In the material that I submitted to you with some of the information, this is actually yesterday's New York Times talking about how video is going to start being sent to your individual cell phones. We all know what that video is going to start containing.
And what we need to do before this next tidal wave crashes down over the village, before we're inundated by another medium, is start to put up walls, put up barriers, put up protections that allow people to say enough is enough. I don't want to receive this material.
Self-e-mail is, unfortunately, is a superfund site. It's a mess. And the question before this Committee is who has the responsibility to clean it up.
This bill is self-funding in that it actually generates the funds necessary for the state to go out, to bring the prosecutions necessary, in order to go after the people who abused the e-mail system, who abuse instant messengers, and who send inappropriate material into our homes. I'm happy to take questions. I'm sorry for going over my time.
REP. CARDIN: Thank you. I think we have some work to do on this bill.
MATTHEW PRICE: Absolutely.
REP. CARDIN: Are there any questions from the Committee? If not, thank you very much--
MATTHEW PRICE: We're happy to be of a resource.
REP. CARDIN: --for coming back to Hartford.
MATTHEW PRINCE: I love it here. Thanks.
REP. CARDIN: Next, we'll hear from Peter Wolfgang followed by Peter Hutcheon.
PETER HUTCHEON: Good Morning, Chairman Meyer, Chairman Cardin and Members of the Committee. My name is Peter Wolfgang, and I am the Director of Public Policy for the Family Institute of Connecticut, an organization whose mission is to encourage and strengthen the family as the foundation of society and to promote sound, ethical, and moral values in our culture and government.
I am here today to ask you to support Senate Bill 46, AN ACT ESTABLISHING AN ELECTRONIC MESSAGE CHILDREN'S PROTECTION REGISTRY.
This legislation will create a communication protection service that would allow parents and schools to register electronic contact points such as e-mail addresses, mobile phone numbers, or instant messenger addresses to be off limits to advertising for adult advertising products, such as pornography, gambling, alcohol, and tobacco.
The percentage of children who receive inappropriate e-mail on a daily basis according to Symantec Corporation is 80%. The percentage of sexual solicitations of children received over instant messenger or chat rooms according to Pew Research is 89%.
Given these numbers, it is not surprising to learn that 93% of parents believe spammers should face enhanced penalties for sending inappropriate content to children. Clearly, there is a need for this legislation.
That need was met in a bipartisan fashion in states where similar legislation was proposed. A registry bill was recently passed out of Georgia's Senate unanimously.
In Utah and Michigan, the registry bill was passed into law unanimously. To be sure, some objections have been raised. You heard some here a few minutes ago.
The pornography industry, for instance, has called the legislation unconstitutional. But there is a precedent for creating such a registry.
In a 1970 case, Rowan v. U.S. Post Office, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously upheld the constitutional rights of parents with children in their household, who are under the age of 19, to register with the U.S. Post Office to prevent the delivery of adult matter to their mailbox.
What Georgia's and Michigan's registry laws do, and what Senate Bill 46 would do for Connecticut is simply extend that ruling to the online world.
It has been said that the proposed registry would be too difficult to establish, too risky to maintain, and too hard to enforce. But the same arguments were once raised against the do not call lists that are now law.
Senate Bill 46 will not conclusively solve the problem of spam or replace parents as the primary moral educators of their children, but it will give parents and schools a powerful tool for making the world safer for those children.
The Family Institute of Connecticut asks that you help those charged with protecting the innocence of Connecticut's children by passing Senate Bill 46. Thank you.
REP. CARDIN: Thank you very much for your testimony. Appreciate it. I apologize. It's written down as Peter Hutcheon, but it's actually Paul Hutch, you'll help me out with it, won't you. Paul followed by Betsy, followed by Jeanne Blake.
PAUL HUTCHEON: Good morning, Committee Members. My name is Paul Hutcheon, and I am the Director of Health for the Central Connecticut Health District.
We are the local Health Department serving the towns of Berlin, Rocky Hill, and Wethersfield. I am also the Co-Chair of the Legislative Committee for the Connecticut Association of Directors of Health.
I am here to present testimony in support of Raised Senate Bill 396. I have submitted written testimony, and I would like to make a few comments.
Local public health is all about promoting, preventing, and protecting the citizens of the state of Connecticut. We promote with the health programs that we offer, the educational programs that we offer.
We prevent disease and outbreaks that give rise to poor health. And we also protect citizens from health threats through code enforcement work, complaint investigations, and similar work.
Prevention is really a key component of local public health. And I think this bill, extending the testing, and extending the response really to children when the readings are between the levels of 10 to 20 will go towards prevention.
And we will begin to eliminate the hazards that are out there that are going to cause these problems in children. I think also this brings us in line with some of the national action that has been occurring.
Local public health really plays a critical role in the implementation of this bill. As you know, we currently enforce the lead regulations in the State of Connecticut. We are mandated to perform certain activities.
When a blood lead level between 10 and 20 is reported to us, there are certain actions that we take. When a lead level of 20 or greater is reported, there's a greater level of response by local public health.
There's a requirement for investigation, inspection, epidemiological investigations, and so forth. Our job really is to find out where is this lead, how did it poison the child, and how can we get rid of it.
This bill is going to add to what we do by likely causing us to do similar work for the reports that come in between 10 and 20.
So it's really an extension of the work that we're currently doing.
And that's the kind of involvement that we have. We're out there making inspections of properties. We're dealing with landlords and property owners.
We're bringing with us the inspection tools to measure paint, collect paint samples. We are ordering responsible parties to correct these conditions.
We are following up with those orders to ensure compliance, taking legal action against the property owners when compliance is not achieved. This type of activity will now be expanded into this new category of the 10 to 20.
We ask that you help us to do this work by supporting the resources necessary for us to do this work.
We have experienced reductions in our funding to local Health Departments in what's called the state per capita grant. Three years ago, that grant was cut 15%. We need that support.
We need that resource to support the staff at the local Health Department that's out there doing this work.
A couple of other comments on the bill itself. We're going to assume that these reports are going to be confirmed blood lead levels and not finger sticks. So we're going to be responding, if you will, to confirmed reports and not just finger sticks.
And there's an added administrative cost, certainly, to a local Health Department to follow up and to maintain the recordkeeping, and the tracking, and the other work that we do. I'd be happy to answer any questions. Thank you.
REP. CARDIN: Thank you for your testimony. Are there any questions? Senator Slossberg.
SEN. SLOSSBERG: I'd just like to thank you and the other local Health Departments for your support for this bill and for the work that you do on the frontlines.
And we do anticipate working on getting that state per capita grant up so that you will have the resources you need to do the work that we are so pleased that you do.
PAUL HUTCHEON: Thank you.
REP. CARDIN: Thank you very much for your testimony.
PAUL HUTCHEON: Thank you.
REP. CARDIN: Next, we'll hear from Betsy Morgan, followed by Jeanne Blake, followed by Erica Bromley. Good morning.
BETSY MORGAN: Good morning, Senator Meyer, Representative Cardin, and Members of the Committee.
My name is Betsy Morgan. I am the Director of the Middlesex Coalition for Children, an organization trying to improve the lives of children in Middlesex County.
I'm here to testify in support of House Bill 5254 on prevention. But instead of reading my testimony, I am going to take pity on the Committee and its schedule. And I want to do three things.
First, I want to ask you to read it instead of listen to it. Second, the eloquent testimony of Elaine Zimmerman, Representative Truglia, and others.
And third, I want to ask you both as a Committee and as individual Senators and Representatives to get strongly behind this prevention initiative, which in my view has the potential to greatly improve the lives of Connecticut's children. Thank you.
REP. CARDIN: Are there questions? Thank you very much for submitting your testimony and coming before us. Next, we'll hear from Jeanne Blake, followed by Erica Bromley. Hi, Jeanne.
JEANNE BLAKE: Thank you, Representative Cardin and Members of the Select Committee on Children. I am here to encourage you to support House Bill 5253, which would provide outreach and education to young people on the use and abuse of anabolic steroids.
For 25 years as a medical journalist, I have reported on the public health challenges facing young people. Young men and women use anabolic steroids for many reasons.
They want a shortcut to bigger muscles, thinking it will make them better athletes. They think sculpted muscles will make them look more attractive.
Anabolic steroids do build up muscle tissue, but they can also ruin your life. Currently, I am completing a film, Steroids: True Stories, which is an educational film that will be used in schools and by youth organizations.
And I'm writing the fifth in the series of Words Can Work booklets entitled Words Can Work When Talking About Steroids for Young People and for Parents.
The film profiles a young man named Craig. For five years as a teenager, Craig was addicted to anabolic steroids. It would certainly be better after all those years in television, I thought I knew three minutes.
It would be better for Craig to be here testifying, but I will do my best to represent his family's experience.
Craig and his family experienced many adverse effects as a result of steroid use. He grew freakishly large, and his heart, a muscle, began to harden. And even after doctors warned that he could die from a heart attack, he continued using the drugs.
His parent's home, the walls and doors bore the scars of his frightening flares of temper, known as roid rage. Here's what Craig's dad, Jake, a high school principal, says of those five tumultuous years when they couldn't figure out what was going on with their son.
Every single day, there was trauma, and it wears on you. When he used to come home, it was like fastening your seatbelt and saying, here we go again. What wonderful episode are we going to have today?
I've said this on numerous occasions. It would be easier if he were dead. It would be the easy way out. We wouldn't have to deal with this, but it's a cross we have to bear. We have to deal with it.
One night, Jake found a pill on the floor, and a colleague at school told him that the pill was a steroid. Jake looked it up on the Internet and his fears were confirmed.
Once Craig's parents had the information, they took action, insisting that their son seek professional help.
Finally, Craig admitted that he was destroying his own life and those who loved him. And it was not easy. It took tremendous effort on his part, with constant support from professionals and his family's love. But he quit using steroids. Today, he remains at a greater risk for heart attack, stroke, and certain cancers.
Young people and parents need the opportunity to learn about anabolic steroids, what they are, how they can harm a person, the effects on those around them, the law surrounding sale and possession of the drugs, and how difficult it is to give them up once you start using them.
This is certain. The people who are preying on our children, selling them steroids in the hallways at school, on the Internet, in the gym, and on the streets are not going to be the ones to tell them.
And then there's this. Children who are willing to cheat to gain a competitive edge will be robbed of the deep sense of satisfaction that comes with honest achievement.
A well-designed program that can teach children the consequences of steroid abuse and the benefits of building strength naturally, and I would hope that it would include reaching out also to parents, so they have the information, skills, and words to have potentially life-saving conversations.
It can save lives, and it can help keep families intact. I urge you to support the development and dissemination of such programs. Thank you.
REP. CARDIN: Thank you, Jeanne. And thank you for being in touch with me about this. Can you tell us a little bit about what Massachusetts is doing in terms of the work you've done up there and, you know, how they're being proactive on this issue?
JEANNE BLAKE: I can. We are currently in the process of planning a state steroid summit that will be, and the people that are participating in that are the Bureau of Substance Abuse Prevention for the State of Massachusetts, the Governor's Committee on Physical Fitness and Support, we believe we'll get confirmation within the next day or two, the Massachusetts's Drug Enforcement Agency, the Office of Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, the Massachusetts' Interscholastic Athletic Association, and Northeastern's University for Center and Support in Society.
Craig will speak there. A number of other young people will speak there. An expert on steroids will speak there.
And every person who's invited that attends, that will be coaches and representatives of youth organizations, both at the collegiate, elementary, middle school, and high school levels will leave with packages of materials, including the booklet of which I have given you an excerpt and a copy, we believe, of the film Steroids: True Stories.
And we think that this will represent a model for other states to follow.
REP. CARDIN: Has a story of Craig and, you know, we had an episode in, I believe, Senator Meyer's district, what was it, going back a year ago, where some of the students were caught buying steroids. They were actually out of state.
SEN. MEYER: They were in Mexico and there were students from Madison.
REP. CARDIN: You know, I would imagine that the stories of Craig and the young people, talking to young people, are some of the strongest ones that we could hear from talking to their peers.
What type of successes, other than Craig's, can you tell us about that are taking place in our neighboring state?
JEANNE BLAKE: Well, I think, because this film is just about to be completed, and we are awaiting, we're expecting the host and narrator to be a professional athlete, we'll be taping next week.
What I can call on is my experience with our previous materials on bullying and underage drinking. We have a film Alcohol: True Stories, hosted by Matt Damon.
Another program about young people and HIV, they all tell the true stories about young people and have been evaluated by Harvard Medical School and also by the University of Michigan, and the research is definitive, that, and I appreciate you're bringing this up, actually, none of us likes to be told what to do.
Young people want, particularly, to hear and will respond more effectively when they get these messages from their peers.
Young people believe often that adults are trying to scare them out of trying certain behaviors. And when they hear the true stories and are taken into the lives of young people who have suffered negative consequences, they are much more likely to believe them.
Also young people, we have a philosophy in the films that we produce that unless you can resonate with children on an emotional level, they won't internalize it into their brain matter.
So we believe that emotional true stories is really the way to go. And we never use actors either. So, you know, the true, powerful testimony from young people is something that they can remember. And we've found, and it's been proven scientifically to be effective.
REP. CARDIN: Thank you. Any questions from Committee Members? Thank you very much again, Jeanne, for coming down.
JEANNE BLAKE: Thank you, Senator.
REP. CARDIN: We appreciate it. Erica Bromley, followed by Darcy Lowell.
ERICA BROMLEY: Good morning, Senator Meyer, Representative Cardin, and Members of the Select Committee on Children.
My name is Erica Bromley, and I am the Director of the Manchester Youth Service Bureau and Co-Chair of the Advocacy Committee for the Connecticut Youth Services Association, the membership organization that represents Connecticut youth service bureaus.
There are currently 98 youth service bureaus serving 127 towns and cities across Connecticut. I am testifying in support of House Bill 5503, AN ACT ESTABLISHING A YOUTH TRUST FUND.
The purpose of the bill, providing employment and job training for youth in Connecticut, is an important step in helping Connecticut youth learn how to be self-sufficient, productive members of their communities.
Youth service bureaus also believe this is vital in the lives of the youth it serves, as well as all youth in Connecticut. Youth service bureaus are agencies mandated by Connecticut General Statute 10-19M and are operated directly by one or more municipalities.
YSBs are designed for planning, evaluation, coordination, and implementation of a network of resources responsible for the provision of services and programs for all youth to develop positively and function as responsible members of their communities.
Currently, many youth service bureaus directly provide job training and employment opportunities for youth of various ages and stages of job readiness.
Many other youth service bureaus collaborate or contract with the outside agencies to provide these types of programs.
Studies show that transition into adulthood is only strengthened by the presence of employment and employment skills.
And that low to moderate employment during high school, which is 20 hours or less, supports post-secondary educational outcomes.
Based on a study, the Department of Labor cited that 18 to 30 year olds work more weeks out of the year if they were employed at 16 and 17 year olds.
Individuals who worked 20 hours or less while they were 16 or 17 years of age were more likely than others to have acquired some college education by age 30.
A similar study from the Urban Institute of At Risk High School Sophomores suggests that working a moderate number of hours can be beneficial for future employment and higher future earnings ten years after completion of high school.
It is evident that youth need the opportunity to become employed, but also need the skills to acquire and keep those jobs. By providing these skills, we are creating more responsible, self-sufficient and responsible members of our Connecticut communities, and this is the goal of Connecticut youth service bureaus.
YSBs strive to help youth make smoother transitions into adulthood, and job training and employment opportunities are a great tool in achieving this goal.
Youth service bureaus have the knowledge and structure to implement job training and employment programs.
CYSA is in full support of House Bill 5503 and applauds the legislature for recognizing the importance of focusing on a more efficient transition from youth into adulthood.
CYSA would gladly provide any technical assistance, as YSBs have provided employment services for over 30 years, 35 years. Thank you.
REP. CARDIN: Thank you, Erica. No questions from the Committee. Thank you very much. Next, we'll hear from Darcy Lowell followed by Tim Calnen.
DARCY LOWELL: Good morning, Senator Meyer, Representative Cardin, and Members of the Select Committee on Children.
It's an honor to testify before you this morning in support of House Bill 5254, concerning prevention services for children, youth and families in crisis.
My name is Dr. Darcy Lowell. I am the Section Chief of Developmental and Behavior Pediatrics at Bridgeport Hospital.
I am on the faculty of the Yale Child Study Center and the Department of Pediatrics, and I've been working with high risk, very young children, birth to 6 years, and their families in greater Bridgeport for over 20 years.
As a pediatrician specializing in early development, I want to talk to you today about a potent neurotoxin and about the devastating impact it has on the developing brain. I am not talking about lead.
I am talking about toxic stress, the impact of environmental risks at a time when the brain is forming the neuronal connections, which will be the foundation for all future learning.
Let us begin with a quick review of the scientific knowledge about brain development. From birth to 8 months of age, the connections between the neurons in the brain increase from 50 to 1,000 trillion. And by 3 years of age, 90% of brain growth is complete.
We know now, definitively, that it is the quality of the nurturing parent-child relationship, which is most critical in the development of these connections.
Toxic stress can disrupt the architecture of the brain, leading to the development of faulty circuits and a fragile foundation, which is unable to adequately support higher levels of learning.
What is toxic stress anyhow? It's the result of many of those risk factors, which we see so commonly in our inner cities, extreme poverty, maternal depression, maternal substance abuse, domestic violence, homelessness, poor quality childcare, child neglect and abuse, among others.
These risks are cumulative and co-occur. Without early identification and intervention, there is long-lasting impact on a child's learning, social, emotional, and physical function.
I'm here today to say, unequivocally, that these devastating outcomes can be prevented. We need a multilevel approach, which I cannot elaborate on now, but it has to range from universal preventive strategies, like our quality early childhood education, to targeted, intensive, preventive services for our most vulnerable children, who will suffer from the most serious and costly outcomes.
School failure, serious emotion disturbance, foster care, incarceration, this can be prevented, and this is my focus today.
In greater Bridgeport, we've developed a new model, prevention, early intervention system called Child FIRST, which is comprehensive and family focused.
It targets the highest risk children and families. It provides intensive home-based assessment, targeted parent-child intervention and care coordination to ensure that children, and most importantly, their parents, are connected with needed services.
We now have a strong evidence base. We have done the research. We have done rigorous scientific research, which has been supported by SAMHSA.
At six-month follow-up, children and families served by Child FIRST intervention showed improvement in behavioral and emotional problems, parental stress, maternal depression, parent-child interaction, and language development.
And those in our usual care group got worse. Children served by Child FIRST were 3.5 times less likely to be involved with the DCF. They accessed almost 80% of needed services.
We know that identifying risks early can prevent serious consequences later on. We have the data to prove it. We have to act now. Thank you so much.
REP. CARDIN: Thank you, and I appreciate your testimony. I know Representative Truglia has gone back and forth between the Human Services Committee, and she appreciates your testimony also.
We should probably get you in touch with the speaker who's had a public, excuse me, a press conference yesterday and be a part of that plan.
I don't know if there are any questions from the Committee. If not, we do have your testimony and thank you for appearing before us.
DARCY LOWELL: Thank you so much.
REP. CARDIN: Tim Calnen, thank you, looking forward to your testimony on Senate Bill 396, followed by Catherine LeVasseur, followed by Mary Campbell.
TIM CALNEN: Representative Cardin, Senator Meyer, Members of the Committee, my name is Tim Calnen. I'm Vice President of Government Affairs for the Connecticut Association of Realtors.
I have the unenviable position of being the first speaker, I think, this morning to oppose Senate Bill 396, AN ACT IMPLEMENTING A COMPREHENSIVE PLAN TO ERADICATE CHILDHOOD LEAD POISONING IN THIS STATE, to oppose it as written.
By way of background, our 17,000 member Association has long been involved in efforts to create lead safe housing in Connecticut.
A Tolland realtor named Marilyn Cunley worked closely with the State Health Department and a focus group that comprised homebuilders, remodelers, realtors, health advocates, local directors of health, and so forth.
We've been involved in other focus groups like this. All of a sudden, this bill comes, and we didn't know anything about it until Senator Slossberg was kind enough to ask us to give our opinion on it, and considering the fact that we've been involved as an association for 18 years, and that we've lobbied in favor of liquid encapsulants to make lead less dangerous.
That we've pushed for federal funding from the CDC, both for the Department of Housing and the Department of Public Health to help them carry out their programs.
It was a disappointment to us that we found out about such a wide-ranging bill as this. It was pointed out several hours ago that this is something that could be prevented. Prevention is in the interest of all of us.
Well, guess what, lead paint poisoning is being prevented, has been prevented. Lead poisoning among children has declined a great deal, both in Connecticut and the United States. That's according to the, what they call Name Survey for the feds, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys.
And if you look on the Department of Public Health's website in Connecticut, their plan to eliminate lead poisoning by 2010 already reported a precipitous drop in elevated blood lead levels for Bridgeport, New Haven, and Hartford.
As I said, we wish to collaborate and cooperate with the sponsors and the Department of Health as we have for the past 18 years.
A couple of recommendations on this bill. It's a bill full of mandates. It's a bill full of unfunded mandates. And the first thing that struck me was that the Directors of Health send their person up here and say that they support this, knowing that it's going to add to their workload.
How's it going to add to their workload? By changing that trigger of 20 micrograms per deciliter to 10 as an action level for an epidemiological investigation, is going to cost the towns more money to send those health directors for an onsite investigation.
And in some cases, that epidemiological investigation includes the use of isotopic chemical analysis to prove that the kid's poisoning was gotten from the house rather than the Milford School or the Stanford School, or the clay that they were using.
You've got to find out, was it really the house, or was it the clay? Was it lead solder in the plumbing? Those are the isotopic analysis ways to prove the source of the lead poisoning.
This bill is far too broad in terms of unfunded mandates for the towns. I urge you to look very closely at Section 3D.
The other thing is, and I don't even have time in three minutes to counter everything by the eight speakers before me, but if you look at my written testimony, you'll see where the bill is too vague.
Even the definition of a child, whether he's sick at six or whether he's six at a another, later age developmentally disabled, that's pretty ambiguous.
There's no source of funding the lead safe account that I could figure out, unless it's from the proposed fees on the edifices and commercial, large buildings.
There's some nebulous thing about notification fees that each of the 169 towns could impose at their discretion. How much is that? Is that, you know, $50 per project, $100 per project?
But the funding is not clear at all, and it's clearly going to be an adverse effect on property owners and people who want to create rental housing in the state.
I think if you go back to your districts and talk to the average mom and pop landlord, they're going to say this isn't going to encourage affordable housing in Connecticut or lead safe housing. It's confusing, it's too vague, it's too costly, and it creates unfunded mandates.
SEN. MEYER: Are there any questions of Mr. Calnen? Yes, Senator Slossberg.
SEN. SLOSSBERG: Good afternoon, oh, we're already on to afternoon. Good afternoon.
TIM CALNEN: Good afternoon.
SEN. SLOSSBERG: I appreciate you being here, and, you know, I recognize, I have in front of me some of your testimony with regard to this.
I just wanted to clarify some of the points you have here, just, you know, so that people know what we're talking about, and also recognize that we're more than happy to continue to work with the realtors to address any concerns that you have remaining as we go forward.
And I don't think you were here when we started in this morning, but there was, you know, ample discussion--
TIM CALNEN: I've been here since at 8:00 a.m.
SEN. SLOSSBERG: --about that this is a piece of legislation that we expect to be continuing to evolve based on the testimony that the Committee hears today.
And we are going to continue to be working with the people who would like to be working with us to eradicate lead poisoning in our state.
One of the comments, you know, that you make in your testimony with regard to screening the entire universe under age six, that's actually not what the legislation says.
It requires, it does mandate universal testing, but it's for one, two, and three year olds, and then after that as clinically indicated, and that's actually the position that the American Academy of Pediatrics has taken.
And I'm sure that since you've been here since 8:00 a.m., you heard the testimony earlier that said that under federal guidelines, since we have 35% of our housing stock is pre-1950, the federal guidelines are that there be universal screening.
So we're trying to comply with that. The idea, I think that you've got a very valid concern with regard to are we, you know, what sort of a load are we adding to our local health directors?
What we're trying to do actually is pull back on the load of work that they have to do in some regards, make sure that we're doing effective work.
So that's why we put on language with regard to onsite investigations, which would, rather than doing what you're talking about the isotope investigation, would allow your local health director or their, you know, employee to go to a home and see if they can, in a very reasonable way, look around and find the source, and that would eliminate the need for a full-blown epidemiological investigation that we have right now--
TIM CALNEN: But, Senator Slossberg, the Directors of Health said that it adds to their workload. Paul Hutcheon came up here and said this bill does not reduce their workload. It adds to the workload of local Directors of Health and probably to the property tax burden of the taxpayers.
SEN. SLOSSBERG: Well, actually, not necessarily. If we are talking about a state per capita grant to help our local Health Departments to address that, that's actually not going to be affecting their property tax burden.
And I don't believe that that will be, yes, it will create more work for your local health directors, but again, we're talking about prevention of lead poisoning, so that down the line, we're going to end up spending less money on this.
I did just want to let you know though, and I take your point very seriously about money put aside for landowners.
I have somebody in my district in Milford whose child was, you know, lead poisoned from the home that he purchased, and it was from the soil outside the home. The child had been ingesting the soil, you know, playing and whatnot and had a very, very high level of lead poisoning.
And the local Health Department went out and did their inspection and they found out what it was. And the cost to fix this was very, very expensive because it was in the soil.
And one of the things that I would hope that this bill would do, and I would be happy to work with you in that regard, is to create this lead safe account, which will have, we're waiting for the fiscal analysis to come back, as to how much money we need to put in that account.
So we will be able to help those landlords who want to remediate, who want to make their homes safe for their children and for future Connecticut children. So they'll have the financial ability to do that.
So to the extent that that's, you know, that's a point you raise, I recognize that. It's actually, we're trying very hard not to create an unfunded mandate here at all to make sure that we've been responsible in the way that we've handled this.
I guess, I would just ask you, assuming, if you could assume that there was money attached to the provisions that we've talked about here, and I know that that's always a dangerous thing in this building.
But if you can suspend that for a moment and just assume that there is money attached to this, that there is a lead safe account that is funded to help landowners.
That there is financial help to our local health districts to take care of that, that our Department of Public Health's increased costs are going to be addressed, would you then be in support of this bill?
TIM CALNEN: I don't think necessarily we would. We might, but I'll tell you, there's more to it than just throwing money at the program, and I would urge the Committee to look at the legislative program review and investigations study on money that was spent under the former Department of Housing for lead abatement and did not achieve, and the results are shameful, and under DECD later.
It's more than just throwing money and telling a person they have to relocate while their home is being invaded.
The kid might have to now go to a different school system. That's more than just money, that's your quality of life, and sometimes these things are not necessary.
Sometimes it's not necessary for the Director of Health to order relocation and displacement of families. But I don't think that throwing money at the problem, just like in the eminent domain situation in London, is necessarily the solution.
SEN. SLOSSBERG: Yes. I think that if you take a look at the whole bill, and I would be happy to just sit down and do that with you again, that you'll see that there's not just money being thrown at this, there are comprehensive solutions to it.
And I think that also, again, we're trying to give the local Health Department some latitude, so that they do, what they currently do is require people to relocate, but actually give them the tools they need to actually address the problem.
While I think it's important to talk about quality of life, I don't think that there's anything more important than the health of our children.
And that's probably a more important quality of life issue than anything else we could be talking about. So I look forward to working with you on this.
SEN. MEYER: Are there any more questions on this? Yes, Senator Herlihy.
SEN. HERLIHY: Thank you, Chairman. Good afternoon, Tim. How are you?
TIM CALNEN: Good afternoon, Senator.
SEN. HERLIHY: Thank you for your testimony. Tim, I've purchased a few homes, not many, but at least a couple to three in my life.
And, but I haven't done any purchasing recently, and I'm curious. Are more and more individual families availing themselves to the right of having, that the home inspected for lead prior to purchasing it, are more and more individual families availing themselves to the right to have soil tested?
Or is the entire State of Connecticut dependent on any government-mandated system of protection? These are rights that individual families can employ. Is that correct?
TIM CALNEN: Yes. I have to believe, Senator, that more people are taking advantage of [Gap in testimony. Change from Tape 2B to Tape 3A.]
--that before the federal law Title 10 went into effect, Connecticut adopted a seller's property condition disclosure law that the Connecticut realtors supported and had questions the seller was supposed to answer or is required to answer, is there lead in the property, and if so where?
And then there is a general statement about consulting an expert for further discovery. And, of course, by federal law, it requires a ten-day period during which a homebuyer can get an inspection of the property.
Now, the message doesn't always get out as much as it should. We have, our realtors have to do it at the time of transaction and at the time of taking a listing, but I don't have any hard numbers to answer your question from. I would just have to think logic would dictate, based on--
SEN. HERLIHY: Well, let me stop you right there, if I may. Are there certain parts or neighborhoods that are more prone to lead poisoning?
TIM CALNEN: I would say so. And that's why we said on the universal screening, as you explained, in just the one to three year olds, rather than mandating it across the board, why not target the higher risk children? And I believe, in the Department's own website--
SEN. HERLIHY: Tim, with all due respect, I want to stay on point here because I don't want to take up too much time of the Committee.
But I am putting myself in the shoes of the most responsible and cautious individual that may exist, someone, because his home is built at a certain period of time or before a period of time, or someone who may be purchasing a home in a neighborhood that might be more prone to having lead poisoning incidents.
In hearing Senator Slossberg's testimony, it would suggest that that cautious individual would not only have to have their home tested for lead, but would actually have to have the soil outside their home tested for lead, based on the experience of her particular constituent.
And I'm just thinking to myself, that's a tremendous amount of responsibly to place on a homeowner. And I guess my concern is to what degree are we going to be testing?
Because if we are have had people inside the home testing for lead, that wouldn't have done anything for the situation that Senator Slossberg's talking about.
So these people and the costs associated with testing inside the house would actually have to be double or perhaps tripled.
I don't know what soil testing costs compared to testing lead inside a home, but it sounds to me as though we may be going into a whole other stratosphere of cost to actually ensure the safety of the child.
I mean, I can't imagine that there is anything that could be done based on the legislation before us that might have protected, in the case of Dr. Slossberg's constituent, on the base that we aren't mandating any soil testing--
SEN. MEYER: Senator, do you have a question or do you want to make a statement?
SEN. HERLIHY: I guess that was the statement I wanted to make that even if we apply all sorts of tests inside the home, in the case that was being discussed just recently, we're talking about actually conducting tests outside the home as well. So from a cost standpoint, I guess I just want that to be factored in as well. Thank you.
TIM CALNEN: The cost can't, obviously depends on how many tests you get and what types of tests.
SEN. MEYER: [inaudible - microphone not on]. There's nothing in this bill that regulates soil testing. Are there any other questions? Thank you.
TIM CALNEN: Thank you, Senator.
SEN. MEYER: I'd like to interrupt--
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Representative Tony walker has a [inaudible - microphone not on].
REP. WALKER: Good afternoon, my name's Representative Walker, and today, we had several kids from around the state come and talk to legislators about the youth learn work program, the employment petition that they're doing and the trust fund.
And I brought one of the young ladies here who would like to make a presentation to the Committee.
ALEXANDRIA DOWDY: Good morning, Senator Meyer and Committee. My name is Alexandria Dowdy, and I am from New Haven, Connecticut.
Given the impending declines in federal youth employment and learning program funds, the need to locate more resources for youth employment is critical.
We, the undersigned, request the state invest in the future of Connecticut's workforce and consider new funds totaling $100 million statewide over the next five years, expanding programming for youth to obtain year-round employment.
I hand over to you petitions of over 300 students from New Haven, Connecticut. We're asking you to support the youth fund.
SEN. MEYER: Okay. That's impressive. We appreciate that. And we've had some helpful testimony with respect to that fund as well.
And on behalf of the Select Committee on Children, I'd be happy to accept the petition.
ALEXANDRIA DOWDY: Thank you.
SEN. MEYER: Thanks very much. I appreciate you coming.
REP. WALKER: Thank you, Committee.
SEN. MEYER: Our next witness is Catherine LeVasseur, followed by Mary Campbell and Margaret Coffay.
CATHERINE LEVASSEUR: Good morning, Senator Meyer, Members of the Committee. My name is Catherine LeVasseur, and I am a student at Central Connecticut State University.
And I'd like to thank you for the opportunity to testify on behalf of House Bill 5254, AN ACT CONCERNING MEMBERSHIP OF THE STATE PREVENTION COUNCIL AND STATE AGENCY PREVENTION SERVICES FOR CHILDREN, YOUTH AND FAMILIES IN CRISIS.
I've submitted my testimony for you all, so I am going to try to keep it brief on the interest in time because I know that you have another hearing.
I'm not a prevention specialist or a public health specialist, but I am a youth who has grown up in the prevention community.
I've been involved with prevention since I was 14 years old and an 8th grader in middle school, when I would have to sneak down to my prevention council meetings because I was told I was too young to be a participant.
Apparently, I didn't let it stop me. And I am still involved with my local prevention council, my regional action council, the Governor Prevention Partnership, the Connecticut Coalition to Stop Underage Drinking, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
I can't begin to tell you what an impact all those organizations have had on my life and the opportunities that they've given me, and that's why I think this bill is so important, to give other youth the opportunity that I had to grow up safe, successful and drug free.
And to stop them from participating in risky behaviors before they are in crisis. And I'm more than happy to answer any questions you may have, but again, I wanted to keep it brief.
SEN. MEYER: Thank you very much. Are there any questions?
CATHERINE LEVASSEUR: Thank you.
SEN. MEYER: I appreciate your testimony. Next is Mary Campbell. Good afternoon, Ms. Campbell.
MARY CAMPBELL: Good afternoon. I've been here since early this morning as well. I'm Mary Wilford Campbell, and I'm here today to speak regarding Senate Bill 396 on the lead poisoning prevention.
And my background, being involved in this issue, actually started while I was a tenant. When I became involved in this issue, the first three or four years being involved in lead issues, I was not a rental property owner, which I am now.
In doing the research at the time then and things and getting involved, I ended up being appointed to the legislative taskforce at the time going on and ended up offering the minority report.
And the majority leaders appointed to the taskforce and the Health Department or the Health Committee's ranking senator, representative on the taskforce ended up signing onto my report instead of the majority one.
Just to point out that this is a complicated issue, and there's many things that go, are involved with doing a bill of this comprehensive a nature.
And I would urge as far as passing over it this year, rather than actually getting a better handle on all the issues involved and the different factors and stakeholders in this because I don't believe they're all addressed in this legislation.
And, for instance, under current Connecticut law, property owners have a property owner exemption to be able to work on their own properties, and also can do up a management plan, and present it, and work back and forth with the health director to have that be accepted, if it's proficient and adequate.
And I would not like to see that be undermined by anything in this and things of that nature. And also, when starting a whole new concept called remediation, on things of that nature, and a notification process involved in that for a property owner to be able to work on the exterior of their property more than ten square feet of disturbing it, giving five days notice, and pay a fee for the honor of doing so gets very complicated to even try to envision before doing maintenance work on your property.
It would be not only cumbersome for the Health Department to try to administer, but it would be undaunting for any property owner trying to gauge by whether as to when they can work on their property or not and everything else involved.
So, you know, things like that can be very well-intentioned a concept, but I really do think that a lot more work on all aspects of this should be entertained and delved into before going forward with it.
SEN. MEYER: Do you know if there's a law that, when we sell our homes, if we have to make a representation to the buyer with respect to lead or lead paint? I think we--
MARY CAMPBELL: Well, there are disclosure processes involved. And also when renting a unit, there's EPA disclosure forms and everything involving that where they tenant is given information on the property if it is now and something has occurred.
SEN. MEYER: Okay. So the owner or the landlord has to give disclosure with respect to any existing lead—
MARY CAMPBELL: Information that they have on it, yes.
SEN. MEYER: That he, the owner or the landlord has about it. Okay. Are there any questions? Yes, Senator Herlihy.
MARY CAMPBELL: Yes.
SEN. HERLIHY: Thank you, Chairman. And in terms of my personal experience with this, I'm not in real estate, I'm in insurance, so I don't know, but I'd be amazed, and I wish we had the realtors being represented instead of the Property Owner Association, but I'd be amazed if that condition wasn't placed on people that sell their property, whether they be a property owner or, you know, a residential owner.
I mean, there are so many conditions placed on this, I'm sure it is. I'm relatively novice to this area, but, I mean, I know that detection, especially today, you can actually detect inside a home and have a home that is under the lead poisoning threshold, only to learn outside the household, the soil for example, it's above the threshold.
And we have an experience where a constituent's child was poisoned in that fashion. Have you learned through your experience with the Association, Mary, that more and more people, more and more families are availing themselves to private testing with the growing concern with regard to lead poisoning?
MARY CAMPBELL: Well, there's a lot of factors involved, including the fact that when an owner does get, bring their property into compliance with—
SEN. HERLIHY: Let me just say, are more and more tenants—
MARY CAMPBELL: That there's an order to correct, and they're bringing into compliance, when it's brought into compliance as far as Health Departments are concerned, it's only into compliance as of that day. So, you know, they go through a tremendous amount of--
SEN. HERLIHY: Let me ask a more specific question. Are you aware, as a member of the Property Owners Association, that more property owners are being asked by the tenants to test for lead whether it be inside the home, as you would expect, but possibly even in cases that we've heard today, outside the homes, soil samples, that sort of thing?
Is the property owners, are the property owners being asked to do that more so and more so because of concerns that exist?
MARY CAMPBELL: Where usually I've heard of that occurring is more at times of, if a tenant becomes, well, they get information when they rent as far as information and an educational pamphlet from EPA or things or whatnot. But they don't usually end up asking an owner to do it. They usually call the Health Department.
SEN. MEYER: Okay. Thank you. I appreciate your concerns, Mrs. Campbell. Thank you. Our next witness is Margaret Coffay, followed by Margie Gillis and Eric George. Margaret Coffay's not here. Margie Gillis. Good afternoon, Ms. Gillis.
MARGIE GILLIS: Good afternoon, Senator, Committee Members. I'm Margie Gillis, and I'm a director of a research project at Haskins Laboratories, but I'm here today to testify in support of House Bill 5254 as a reading teacher.
And this act concerning prevention concerns me, and I'm very much in support of that. For 30 years, I have taught individuals of all ages how to read, ages 7 to 47, and each student I have had has had a strong desire to overcome the obstacles that prevented him or her from learning to read.
However, the ease with which this essential skill was mastered depended, in large part, on their age and their history of school success and failure.
It is a little known fact that children who fail to learn to read by the end of first grade have a one in eight chance of ever catching up. That means that as few as 12% of those children who don't learn to read by the end of 1st grade will reach their full potential.
That's because the school curriculum expects more each year, despite the fact that many children are promoted not having mastered the requisite knowledge and skills in the prior grade.
This year, Connecticut's reading scores from NAEP, the National Association of Educational Progress, reported a decline in 4th grade reading scores, with 85% of our minority and low-income children reading below proficiency.
And as someone stated earlier, our state has the largest achievement gap in the United States.
We've known for quite sometime, since the early '70s in fact, which learning behaviors in young children predict difficulty learning to read.
We've also known for quite some time that providing children with quality readiness programs will go a long way toward ensuring their success in school.
It is our responsibility, legislators, teachers, parents, caregivers, and citizens, to provide quality opportunities to of our youngsters by shifting the emphasis from crisis to prevention. Thank you.
SEN. MEYER: Good statement. Any questions? Thank you, Ms. Gillis. We appreciate it. Our next witness is Eric George. I saw him a moment ago. He's coming? We have a statement from him. Leonard Campbell. Are you the husband of Mary Campbell?
LEONARD CAMPBELL: Yes, I am. Good afternoon, Members of the Committee. First of all, I'm a member of the Governor's Advisor Report to the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program in Massachusetts. And I'm a past president of the Connecticut Property Owners Association. I'm here to speak in opposition to Senate Bill 396.
SEN. MEYER: We don't have a statement from you, do we?
LEONARD CAMPBELL: No, I'm sorry that I do not, but I will try to verbally keep it simple. Because, in my opinion, the lead poisoning percentages have gone down and are continuing to go down for one very good reason.
Because the word is out that lead poisoning is possible, and it is around the housing, not necessarily just the housing. So my urging to you, and there's nothing in this bill that does is that educate, educate, educate. Teach people where the lead is.
And in order to do that, you ought to put in this bill that when they do research on trying to find the source of lead that they use isotopic analysis to find it.
It is the only scientific method to find out where the lead in the child came from. And yet, the Health Department has steadfastly refused to do it.
And I would refer you to my own alma mater. One of my professors there has recently devised a very inexpensive way to do isotopic analysis. So the declaration by the Health Departments has been, oh, it's very expensive to do that. No, it's no longer very expensive to do that.
And secondly, unless you start to find out where it's coming from, you're never going to solve the lead poisoning problem.
And I thought it was excellent this morning that one of the poisoning somehow was identified as coming from the soil. I'm not sure whether the isotopic analysis was used in that case, but it must have been.
That's the only scientific way to pin it down. And, frankly, that's where a good deal of the lead is. It was leaded gasoline. It is in all of the soil next to the road. The lead doesn't go anywhere.
Once it's in the soil, it doesn't go anywhere, and so that's where a lot of it is coming from. So if they did isotopic analysis to pin down where the lead is really coming from, we could really do something about preventing it.
SEN. MEYER: Are there any questions?
LEONARD CAMPBELL: Are there any questions?
SEN. MEYER: Thank you, Mr. Campbell.
LEONARD CAMPBELL: You're welcome.
SEN. MEYER: Our next witness is Alyssa Whitbeck, followed by Virginia Shiller and Nichole Kane. Good afternoon.
ALYSSA WHITBECK: Good afternoon. My name is Alyssa Whitbeck, and I am currently a student at the University of Connecticut, completing my Juris Doctorate in Masters in Social Work, and I am honored to be interning at Connecticut Women's Education and Legal Fund this year.
CWELF is a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering women, girls, and their families to achieve equal opportunities in their personal and professional lives.
Throughout our 32-year history, we have worked to ensure that all students have equal access to education and job training, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.
I am here to urge you to support House Bill 5504, AN ACT CONCERNING A SAFE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT FOR CHILDREN AND YOUTH.
This bill will have a strong positive impact on Connecticut students and will have a particularly strong impact on young women and students that identify as lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender, or questioning by providing an accurate analysis of the climates in which students are learning and working towards improving those environments.
In the 2002 Bullying in Elementary Schools in Connecticut Study, principals and teachers were surveyed about the prevalence of bullying in schools.
According to the survey participants, bullying and aggression are commonly seen in elementary schools. Bullying incidents occur sometimes or more often in nearly nine out of ten elementary schools in our state.
A 2003 Massachusetts study found that in an initial survey of 3rd to 8th graders in 14 Massachusetts schools, over 14% reported that they were afraid of being bullied fairly often or more frequently.
Additionally, the U.S. Department of Education reported that 8% of all students report that they had been bullied within the last 6 months. And the bullying does not end there.
Studies such as the American Association of University Women's Hostile Hallways Report, published in 2001, and the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Educational Network's National School Climate Survey, published in 2003, focused on students' experience with a more specific type of bullying, one based on gender and/or sexual orientation, sexual harassment.
According to the AAUW Study, four out of five students has personally experienced one or another form of sexual harassment in schools.
The GLSEN study found that 75% of their sample of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender teens felt unsafe in school, due to homophobic words and actions that they encountered on a regular basis.
In Connecticut schools, during the 2003 to 2004 school year, there were 37,000 reported disciplinary actions gathered by the Connecticut State Department of Education. Of those, 857 were defined as sexual harassments.
In the effort to preserve your time, I would just ask you to look at the other studies that we cite in our testimony and really ask you to think about the way particular communities are impacted with bullies.
And the fact that kids are afraid to go to school, and that should be this place, other than their home, that they feel safest. So again, I urge you to pass this resolution. If you have any questions, I am more than happy to take them.
SEN. MEYER: Any questions for Madison. Whitbeck? Thank you, Ms. Whitbeck, very articulate. Our next witness is Virginia Shiller, followed by Nichole Kane and Phil Sherwood.
VIRGINIA SHILLER: Senator Meyer and Members of the Select Committee, my name is Dr. Virginia Shiller. I am a member of the Connecticut Psychological Association, Chair of the Association's Children and Youth Committee, a lecturer at the Yale Child Study Center, and a practitioner in New Haven.
My testimony in support of House Bill 5504, AN ACT CONCERNING A SAFE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT FOR CHILDREN AND YOUTH, will begin with an account of a conference I helped organize in January, 2005, along with many powerful partners such as the Commission on Children and the State Department of Education, entitled Developing a Culture of Trust and Safety, a State Forum on Bullying.
We put together a conference for educators and mental health professionals. We rented a hall that fit 500 people. We thought we would be happy if we got 250.
We could have had 1,000 people, 600 crowded into the hall, and while it was not the most educational part of the conference and most newsworthy part was that we gridlocked traffic on I-91.
This shows that your constituents are concerned about bullying. There is a widespread thirst for knowledge.
The 600 lucky people who gained admittance to the conference heard Dr. Garbarino, a nationally renowned researcher, report, among other things, that studies indicate that children who are repeatedly bullied demonstrate physiological reactions akin to those of victims of severe trauma such as rape. Really a startling report.
While there is solid evidence from research that home school programs can significantly reduce the incidence of bullying, to my understanding, there are few school systems in Connecticut that have implemented comprehensive programs.
As a practitioner, I often hear of schools intervening in unprotective ways. I think that House Bill 5504 is a very solid bill. It will really give the money to train people in good ways.
And in summary, I would say, or in addition, I'd like to say that Connecticut's Psychological Association also supports House Bill 5254, the prevention bill.
It certainly is a very smart bill in terms of slowly phasing in more money for prevention that we know is going to avoid having to put out fires the way I do in my office all the time.
SEN. MEYER: Do you think that the bill on the safe learning environment suffers from the fact that it never defines the word bullying, or do you think bullying is something that's easily understood what it is, and we don't have to worry about defining it?
VIRGINIA SHILLER: Well, I do think that it's important to define it. I don't know that that's the major flaw. I think that we have to recognize that there's a certain amount of training.
I think that a lot of administrators go in and say, okay, we'll deal with bullying, we'll suspend the kid for three days, and that will do it. That doesn't solve the problem.
Either it pushes the problem out in the community, or the bully just comes back and is angrier and picks on the kid again, and says, this time if you tell, you'll really get it.
Now, certainly defining the bullying is important, and there are more subtle forms of bullying that I don't think have been really clearly defined, excluding the tactic that many girls use.
So I think that's something to address, but certainly also money for training in the ombudsman would be very important.
SEN. MEYER: Do you want to take a crack, Dr. Shiller, doing a definition from your experience?
VIRGINIA SHILLER: I'll take a crack.
SEN. MEYER: Okay. And submitting it to the Committee?
VIRGINIA SHILLER: Sure. In writing or, yeah.
SEN. MEYER: Yeah, in writing. We're on a short timeframe.
VIRGINIA SHILLER: I'd be delighted to do that. Thank you for the invitation.
SEN. MEYER: Okay. Great. Are there any other questions? Yes, Representative Truglia.
REP. TRUGLIA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you so much for being here. I remember now. I went to that conference, and I was blown away when I walked in and saw so many people. It was absolutely fabulous, the interest and the concern.
And I am so glad that you're here to let this Committee know what you have experienced. Thank you so much.
VIRGINIA SHILLER: Well, thank you so much. And thank you for having supported this bill in the past and for having participated in our conference.
SEN. MEYER: Any other questions? Thank you, Dr. Shiller. Our next witness is Nichole Kane, followed by Phil Sherwood and Lauren Main. Ms. Kane, we don't have a written statement from you, do we?
NICHOLE KANE: No, you do not. Good afternoon. My name is Nichole Kane. I am a Hartford resident and the mother of two children in Hartford Special Education programs. I am here today because I have a son with severe developmental delays due to lead poisoning.
My son Chan is six years old. He is nonverbal, he has no language at all, and he has been in preschool for three consecutive years.
Other than considered teachers with no professional training or knowledge of what lead poisoning exactly is, and the wonderful people in the Birth to Three programs, I have received no help with Chan.
I've been involved with the Department of Children and Families, and still no help. As a matter of fact, they came to the conclusion that I was responsible for Chan's condition, and charged me with neglect.
I was shocked and appalled when I saw a front-page news article in the Hartford Current last year on lead poisoning. My previous address, 285 Martin Street in Hartford, was mentioned in the article.
This was where I lived with my two other children and where Chan was conceived. My shock turned into disgust when I learned the address had been tested by a worker in the Hartford Health Department and the residence failed more than once.
My family was in the Section 8 program through Hartford Housing Authority. At the time, I had no knowledge of any lead poisoning problems in the home.
Hartford Housing Authority inspected the home and passed the home. After leaving that address, I moved to another Hartford address. Chan was born one month after I moved in.
When Chan was approximately 18 months old, I noticed he was not as emotionally or mentally developed as other children his age. I was concerned and referred my child to Birth to Three on my own.
On a routine doctor's visit, I was told Chan had an elevated lead level, and I was referred to St. Francis Pediatric Clinic. Chan was seen at Connecticut Children's Medical Center and diagnosed with another problem.
I later learned Chan was poisoned by paint chips at our new residence. There are very lenient laws surrounding lead poisoning, and I am outraged.
Attorneys have told me, time and time again, that because of these laws and clauses in landlords' insurance policies that there is nothing I can do about this.
Chan has still not received any medication for his lead poisoning, and although he has made some significant improvements, he still has a long way to go.
The State of Connecticut has failed my family and continues to do so in many ways. Something needs to be done, and it needs to be done now. And I do support Senate Bill 396. Thank you.
SEN. MEYER: Any questions? Thanks for your testimony.
NICHOLE KANE: Thank you.
SEN. MEYER: Phil Sherwood. No?
AMY SALLS: I will [inaudible].
SEN. MEYER: Amy, do you want to speak on his behalf?
AMY SALLS: It's now good afternoon. I was going to say good morning. Senator Meyer and Members of this Committee, y name is Amy McLean Salls, and I'm the Project Coordinator of the Lead Action for Medicaid Primary Prevention Program, or LAMPP Program as it's known, and the Executive Director of the Connecticut Citizen Research group.
I am here today to testify in support of the Raised Senate Bill 396, AN ACT IMPLEMENTING A COMPREHENSIVE PLAN TO ERADICATE CHILDHOOD LEAD POISONING IN THIS STATE.
Of all the components of this bill, all of them are critically important to the fight against lead poisoning in Connecticut.
Having served on the taskforce that developed the plan to eliminate childhood lead poisoning in Connecticut, I am intimately familiar with the recommendations from the taskforce and see them represented in this bill.
I most heartily agree with the proposals to mandate blood lead screening for all Connecticut children at age one and two years and with the plan to create a lead safe account.
This account would be a separate, a non-lapsing account, within the general fund. Having worked with the LAMPP program for the last two years, I have seen firsthand how when given the opportunity to create safe environments for the most high-risk families, landlords and property owners are doing the right thing.
They do need help, and we are not only working with them, but we are also working with the families that they serve. This can be done, and we can stop lead poisoning if we put our resources together with the strategy.
The large majority of children in Connecticut that are at risk for lead poisoning due to lead-based paint are predominately in older housing stock.
While the greatest risk is for the children enrolled in HUSKY A, any child can be poisoned given multiple sources of lead and unknown actions that adults sometimes do.
It is imperative that Connecticut move into an early intervention and prevention strategy in dealing with lead poisoning. We can do this and I urge you to please support this bill and the strategies that work to end childhood lead poisoning by the year 2010. Thanks.
SEN. MEYER: Are there any questions? Amy, I want to just thank you for all this, just since you've given the Committee both last year and this year, and you've got a number of affiliations that make you very competent in this area. Thank you so much.
AMY SALLS: Thanks for your attention.
SEN. MEYER: Okay. Our next witness is Lauren Main. Is Ms. Main here?
LAUREN MAIN: Good afternoon.
SEN. MEYER: You don't have a written statement?
LAUREN MAIN: I do not, no. I am a mother of a six year old that has been poisoned by lead. The landlord, I'll be very brief, the landlord that I rented the apartment from originally assured me there was no lead in the apartment.
The window jams is where he got his lead poisoning. I then consulted Birth to Three who told me that because his lead level was not as high as they would like it to be, they would not help him. Sorry.
SEN. MEYER: It's okay. Take your time.
LAUREN MAIN: I then took it upon myself to have my son tested, neuro-psychologically tested because I wanted to see what damage was done to him. He was then diagnosed with semantic, pragmatic language disorder.
I went to the school system prior to kindergarten and was told that they wanted me to wait and see. I had two, at that point, two neuro-psych reports stating the same thing that he had this disorder from the lead poisoning.
They told me they would not do anything. The school system refused the help for my son. They wanted to wait and see how kindergarten went.
Kindergarten came and went. They continued to tell me they wanted to wait and see. I had no knowledge of what I could do in the school system. They did not give me any knowledge for PPTs and things like that. I didn't know what I could do.
I finally got into the school system in the first grade. I'm still fighting with the school system because he doesn't fall within any real disorder category.
They will not recognize the disorder that he has right now with semantic, pragmatic language disorder. If he had been tested originally, there is no mandate for testing any child.
I am not a typical mother of a child with lead poisoning. My husband and I are both college educated. I mandated, I went to the pediatrician and demanded that he be tested. They were not going to test him.
Had I waited any longer, God knows where this child would be right now. We have to have mandatory testing for these children, and we have to get the school and educational people have to be on line with what lead poisoning can do to a child.
When I went to the school for my first PPT, they asked me for information on what lead poisoning does to children. They didn't know. They had no knowledge of it, and they don't know how to handle these kids.
We have to educate the people that are educating our children on lead poisoning. They need to know what's going on, and how to handle these children, and how to educate them.
I'm at this point with the school, trying to find my own tutor for my son because the school doesn't know how to handle him, and they won't help him. I thank you, and I support the bill.
SEN. MEYER: Thank you, Ms. Main. On behalf of the Committee, we are sorry for what you are going through. And hopefully, this bill will stop this kind of thing from happening again if we get it passed. Yes, Representative Truglia.
REP. TRUGLIA: Just a comment. We do have a bill that she [inaudible - not speaking into microphone] to expand it, especially to children at risk.
SEN. MEYER: Okay. Let me tell everybody here that we have the following witnesses left. Kyra Nesteriak is next, Laura Lee Simon, Ms. Fernandez, Ronald Kraatz, and Dr. Vivian, I can't read the last name, it looks like Crane.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Cross.
SEN. MEYER: Okay. The Clerk of the Committee tells me that we have a problem, a legal problem, and that is that we're going to have to stop this particular hearing at 1:00 pm, in about five minutes.
And, therefore, those of you who we don't reach, and then maybe there's going to be several of you who we're not going to reach, will be invited to come back after the next public hearing, which is going to start at 1:00 p.m.
So I just regret having to give you that news, but that's what I've been informed is our procedure.
Some of the Committee Members are saying that, Mr. O'Conner, wherever you are, where's, that we can finish this in an expedited way. So without wasting any more time, let me call Kyra Nesteriak.
KYRA NESTERIAK: Thank you. Good afternoon, Senator Meyer, Representative Cardin, Members of the Committee. My name is Kyra Nesteriak, and I am Government Affairs Manager for the Connecticut Business and Industry Association.
I would just like to very quickly comment on Senate Bill 46, AN ACT ESTABLISHING AN ELECTRONIC MESSAGE CHILDREN'S PROTECTION REGISTRY.
The business community believes this measure to be well-intentioned and agrees with the need to keep certain material out of the hands of minors, and we support the concept of the bill.
We do have one minor concern that as more and more businesses do business via e-mail, there could be the potential situation where a business believes they are abiding by the law.
They believe they have accurate age verification, and then they are found to be in violation of the law. So we would just like to see an additional protection added in there that would help address this situation.
We would suggest language. I don't have it with me at this point in time, but we'd be more than happy to get language to the Committee and work with the Committee.
And I know that this is the Governor's bill, and we have had conversations with the Governor's office, letting her office know that as well.
But we do support the concept of this, and we'd be, as I said, more than happy to work with the Committee just to see if our minor concern can be addressed. Thank you.
SEN. MEYER: Thank you. Are there any questions or comments? Yes, next.
KYRA NESTERIAK: Thank you.
SEN. MEYER: Thank you. Next is Laura Lee Simon. Good afternoon, Ms. Simon.
LAURA LEE SIMON: How are you?
SEN. MEYER: Nice to see you again.
LAURA LEE SIMON: Nice to see you too. Good afternoon to all the Members of the Committee. I am Laura Lee Simon. I am Chair Emeritus of the Commission on Children.
I am trustee and past Chair of the Connecticut Public Broadcasting, Connecticut Chair of the National Crime prevention Council's six-state initiative to embed prevention in state policy and practice, and a number of other responsibilities that relate to children.
SEN. MEYER: You're a joiner.
LAURA LEE SIMON: I'm a worker. I wish to lend my enthusiastic support for Raised House Bill 5254, an act concerning the prevention council.
My wholehearted support for this legislation is predicated on over 50 years of work to promote programs, budgets, services, coordinated systems, and public policies to serve children and their families.
I have had lifelong opportunities to observe the critical need to move upstream in order to prevent crises before they happen, recognition of the need to address the physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development of our children.
Indeed, the ecology of their lives, their families and all the institutions in their communities that impact their lives has been accelerating over the last few years.
And, in fact, the very idea of prevention has reached a tipping point. There is now a large and growing body of well-documented data based research, as well as empirical evidence with which you are all familiar.
We know from recent research about the brain's development and that there is a profound connection between neurons and neighborhoods.
The results of serious social and economic policies that address children's heath, safety and learning, pre-natal through young adulthood, persuade us that it is timely to focus on prevention as an investment policy for the growth of both children and [Gap in testimony. Change from Tape 3A to Tape 3B].
Policies for children ensure a lasting impact on both the social and economic prosperity of our state's future. In 2001, there was a Harris poll of Connecticut residents, the first of its kind in the nation.
It clearly demonstrated that our citizenry understands what prevention means, whether it's vaccinations, or after school programs, or school readiness programs, or bullying, or mentoring or more and are very, very enthusiastic about supporting them.
So your bill, the support for your bill before you, will improve the prospect that this will happen by expanding the mandate and the membership of a newly organized and energized prevention council.
It will more effectively assure that children are given priority in determining our state's commitment to them as we prepare all of our children to lead productive lives. Thank you.
SEN. MEYER: Thank you [inaudible] contributions for so long. Yes, Representative Mushinsky.
REP. MUSHINSKY: A quick question. I've worked with you on Prevention Council and also on the Child Poverty Council, and I know OPM has a problem with too many councils doing parallel work.
For that reason, I was thinking of recommending in testimony, combining those councils or the best features of both councils because working on child poverty is an angle of prevention, working on child poverty reductions as an angle of prevention that reaps benefits. So what do you think of the possibility of combining those two councils?
LAURA LEE SIMON: Well, I certainly think it makes eminent sense. Prevention is clearly the path to go to deal with the issues of poverty, and clearly, our at-risk children are, deserve first attention.
But certainly, the idea of approaching it from the point of view of prevention is critical. I think that's terrific.
SEN. MEYER: Thank you. Any other questions? Yes, Representative Truglia.
REP. TRUGLIA: Thank you. No questions, just thank you for your dedication to the Children's Fund for over 50 years. I've known you now for 18 years, and you've always been there for the children. Thank you
LAURA LEE SIMON: Thank you, Christel. I appreciate that.
SEN. MEYER: Okay. Our next witness is Sonia Fernandez.
SONIA FERNANDEZ: Hi. Everything has been said before me, so I'm just going to make it very, very brief.
We often say that our children, our future of our country relies on our children of tomorrow because of the way that they may learn to read and write and do math.
Well, as I sit here before you, I can honestly say that our future looks very bleak, very dark, if we don't do something about lead poisoning today.
We all know that we need a very healthy environment in order to be able to read and write and learn the things that we need to learn in order to have a bright future of tomorrow.
I ask you to please support the Senate Bill 396. Lead poisoning, as well we all know, really does damage to a child's brain, and it prevents the child to develop normally and healthy.
I ask you to please again to support this bill. I am a Coordinator to the Lead Safe House for Bridgeport Hospital and Bridgeport Community Health Center, and I've seen firsthand what a safe home can do to a child's health. It improves it.
By supporting this bill, we can have environments that are safe for our children, and maybe, just maybe, our future won't look so dark. Thank you. Any questions? Sorry.
SEN. MEYER: Thank you for that message. Ronald Kraatz, followed by Dr. Vivian Cross.
RONALD KRAATZ: Thank you, Members of the Committee, for hanging in. I am Ronald Kraatz, Director of the LAMPP project at Connecticut Children's Medical Center. LAMPP is a program to remove lead hazards in housing for low-income children.
We are funded by federal grants to the Department of Social Services, and we work with the Department of Public Health and Economic and Community Development in 11 community partners and cities and a statewide program, the CRT Home Solutions Program.
I speak in favor of Senate Bill 396. I will address 2 elements of the bill, the lead safe account in Section 8 and the environmental interventions in Sections 11 to 14.
My experience with the LAMPP program shows the importance of financial assistance for removing lead hazards from low-income housing. Our target population of Medicaid enrolled children live in the lowest cost and lowest quality housing in the state.
Their families struggle to pay rent. Their landlords struggle financially to maintain the housing. Lead is on the windows, the rear porches, the siding, the trim work, the walls.
LAMPP on average has provided $7,000 per housing unit to make the units lead safe. Owners, on average, have provided another $2,000 per unit in sweat equity, or cash, or loans.
Connecticut needs an ongoing fund to support such efforts. A lead safe account, adequately funded, would ensure continued progress and protection for low-income children.
The proposed changes to environmental laws in Sections 11 to 14 reflect what we know today about effective lead hazard control. These changes are consistent with the federal lead in housing regulations.
Allowing remediation in addition to abatement would reduce costs significantly, perhaps 20% to 30% in cost savings. Remediation allows what is termed interim controls in the federal rules and the use of lower cost contractors to do the work.
Research has shown that these interim controls are as effective as abatement methods in controlling lead dust over a three-year period.
Lead-safe work practices are already required in housing with federal assistance. Requiring lead-safe work practices in all Connecticut housing would eliminate the tragedy of families or contractors poisoning children as renovations take place. I thank you for attention to these important matters.
SEN. MEYER: [inaudible -- not speaking into microphone] Thank you [inaudible]our last witness is Dr. Vivian Cross.
VIVIAN CROSS: Good afternoon. I'm glad that you saved the best for last. Thank you. You can tell that I'm an educator, with visual aids. But I just wanted to thank Senator Slossberg and all of the legislators that helped to put together the bill, Senate Bill 396.
I am really excited about the possibilities of this bill, and as I look at the results, the evaluation results that came back from the November 17 roundtable forum on childhood lead poisoning, 100% of the participants reported that the roundtable forum provided information to help them to better understand educational issues related to young children who suffer long-term effects of childhood lead poisoning.
I'm thrilled that the bill includes the educational component, which includes the state Department of Education.
There's a move on in regards to cooperation between the state Department of Public Health and the state Department of Education in regards to educating teachers.
In the packet, there's not enough time, but I have a letter from a preschool teacher that teaches children ages three through five. She's also a teacher who came over to my house yesterday and handed me this document to bring to you.
It's in the packet. She's very concerned because there's a lot of things that she does not know about lead poisoning, but she sees the results of it in the three and four year olds that she teaches.
The parent that came forth and testified this morning earlier is a parent of this teacher, who was very, very frustrated in regards to issues regarding her child, her two children that became lead poisoned.
I have had the opportunity to speak with the School Readiness Council and other groups in regards to looking at how we can better be well-informed about childhood lead poisoning.
As I talked with the School Readiness Council Members, who are in charge of Head Start across the state, many of them came to me, and they said we've got to do something about this.
And many of them started thinking, I wonder if I have lead in my house. We really have to get the word out.
And when we start looking at No Child Left Behind and academic success, the challenges and barriers due to lead poisoning are incredible that our children face.
And I just want to quote what Dr. Herbert Neidleman said in 1992, which still stands true.
Few educators have thought about the state of the brains that children bring to the classroom or about the formidable challenges that ordinary kinds of learning present to children exposed to lead.
Get the lead out. Goal, Connecticut children unleaded. Free at last. Pass the bill to eradicate childhood lead poisoning.
SEN. MEYER: Thank you, Dr. Cross. That concludes this hearing. Now, this Committee will very quickly lead into another public hearing. Dr. O'Connor? Where is he? Rod. You've got a five-minute recess.
[Whereupon, the hearing was adjourned.]