Wood discusses 2012 legislative session
"For a short session we passed a lot of bills," Wood said to the 60 or so people gathered in the center's dining area.
Bills discussed included: education reform, elections and voter reform, abolishment of the death penalty, forced unionization, storm response, Sunday sales and changes to Connecticut's liquor laws, and medicinal marijuana.
Wood voted in favor of education reform, and building upon the legislature passed in 2012 is one of her top priorities, according to the Connecticut Industry and Business Association.
The new legislation will create 1,000 new seats in preschool programs designated for high-need, low-performing communities; add $50 million to the Education Cost Sharing grant to Connecticut public schools, with $39.5 million designated to the 30 lowest -performing districts; and increase funding to state charter schools from $9,400 to $11,500 per pupil in the next two fiscal years.
"It's something called money follows the child," Wood said. "If Tommy goes from his public school in New Haven to a charter school, I firmly, strongly believe that state funding should follow Tommy to the charter school and not stay in the previous public school."
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Wood also discussed weather response. Over the last few years, Darien has experienced several tremendous storms, two of which occurred last fall, leaving residents without power for several days or a week. The legislature passed laws to improve storm response. Wood was in favor of better storm response, and said she believes the Legislature members all supported the bill.
The bill will increase cooperation and training between utilities and municipalities, increase the tree-trimming program and enact performance standards that utilities must meet or face penalties.
"These are things that, as a Legislature, I think we do well, when we work together on things that improve public safety for a majority of the citizens of the state," Wood said.
Regarding election and voter reform, the Legislature passed a law allowing same-day registration. Under this legislation, Connecticut residents can register to vote on Election Day and cast their ballots. Wood voted against this legislation.
"A number of us felt that this opened up so many opportunities for fraud," Wood said. "There are already difficulties maintaining voter registration."
Wood also discussed the death penalty Tuesday. Connecticut became the 17th state to abolish the death penalty in 2012. The vote was bipartisan, though Wood voted against the repeal for several reasons -- most importantly the 2007 Cheshire home invasion where a mother and her two daughters were killed.
"Dr. William Petit (husband and father of the victims) was very much opposed to the repeal, and I just felt we needed to honor the significant tragedy that his family suffered," Wood said, adding that a Quinnipiac poll released about 10 days before the vote showed 67 percent of residents favored the death penalty.
Darien resident Nancy Kapuse wanted to know why no one asked her opinion on the death penalty.
"If they're going to do something like that there should be some way of notifying people," Kapuse said. "Nobody asked me if I wanted that. Why should we keep these people alive, so they can kill someone else?"
Kapuse also questioned how the passed legislation would affect the two men in the Cheshire case.
Wood said that the law would not affect those who received the death penalty prior to the law being passed, meaning the men would still receive the death penalty.
"But there is some discussion that they may be able to skirt that," Wood said.
The Legislature also passed a law regarding the sale of liquor on Sunday. Indiana and Connecticut were the last two states in the country prohibiting alcohol sales on Sundays.
"So now, come 10 o'clock, we can buy whatever we want on Sunday," Wood said, laughing.
The law allows for alcohol to be sold on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and also permits package stores to offer fruit, cheese, crackers and olives.
Wood has put a bill forward for next session that would allow for cheese stores to sell select amounts of wine and beer.
"Because I know our local cheese store is such a gem," Wood said. "I don't know if you all know Darien Cheese and Fine Foods. We're so lucky. They're so terrific and they would like to be able to sell a few imported beers or Connecticut artisan beers, and we've got a bill going forward that would allow them to do that. I think a lot of people will be in favor of that."
Medicinal marijuana, the last law Wood discussed, was one which she voted in favor of.
"I voted for this one because I think it's very powerful when you hear testimony on the floor of the House, when you hear of someone who has lost someone to cancer or some other debilitating disease and the only thing that would bring them comfort was marijuana," Wood said.
"Yes, it's illegal to smoke marijuana. It does go against federal laws, but I just felt it was the humane thing to do."
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