By Nathan Cheatham
As the Presidential election sweeps the country, Connecticut towns are gearing up for state elections. Among those preparing for re-election is state Senator Terry Gerratana, who may be challenged for the seat by another Democrat in a possible August primary.
Last month Gerratana announced her campaign for re-election to family, friends, and members of the New Britain Democratic Town Committee at the Pulaski Democratic Club. She hosted a fundraiser on April 19th, where she talked to attendees personally and spoke about a bill she was bringing to the Senate floor to help curb opioid addiction.
“Opioid addiction has escalated to epidemic levels in recent years, impacting every community in Connecticut,” said Gerratana, who is also Senate Chair of the Public Health Committee. “People with no history of drug abuse have found themselves sliding into addiction after receiving a prescription for opioid painkillers.”
House Bill 5053, an act concerning opioids and access to overdose reversal drugs, addresses the over-prescribing of opioid painkillers. The bill sets a cap on first-time painkiller prescriptions to a 7-day supply for minors and adults, except under limited circumstances and requires that doctors explain the risks of opioid use to minors before prescribing them. This bill also requires local emergency medical services to carry naloxone which can save the life of a person experiencing an opioid overdose. Gerratana helped pass the bill with unanimous support last Tuesday and has the support of Governor Dannel Malloy.
“This is a big step – and it’s an important action for families statewide,” said Malloy. “This is a devastating trend that is hurting families in so many communities across our country and here at home.”
Gerratana represents the 6th Senate district, which encompasses most of New Britain and Berlin, as well as some of Farmington. New Britain will be hosting the 6th senate district Democratic convention on May 23, where Democratic delegates will vote to endorse a candidate. This convention could incite a primary on August 9 if a second candidate receives 15% or more votes from the delegates. This could be a reality for Gerratana as Board of Education President Sharon Beloin-Saavedra announced her challenge for the Democratic nomination.
If Beloin-Saavedra does not receive the 15% of votes from the delegates later this month, she could petition herself onto a primary ballot but also hasn’t ruled out an independent run to the November election. As a former member of the New Britain Common Council, Beloin-Saavedra has served on the school board for 11 years. She has even recently contacted the Chamber of Commerce to discuss issues that directly affect businesses, like tax policy and business growth.
Though a Democratic challenger has arisen to Gerratana, both candidates are remaining amicable during their campaigns.
Speaking to the New Britain Herald, Beloin-Saavedra said she is, “not running against Terry Gerratana. I am running for the three communities [New Britain, parts of Farmington and Berlin] to be a very prominent voice at the Capitol.”
During her speech at her fundraiser at the Pulaski Democratic Club, Gerratana acknowledged her challenger within her party saying she thought it was “not so good in my own party but she has to do what she wants to do.”
Gerratana formerly served in the Connecticut House of Representatives from 1993-2003, where she assisted in passing the HUSKY children’s health care bill as co-chair of the Human Services Committee. From 2007- 2010 she served as a commissioner of the State Election Enforcement Commission. Long time resident of New Britain, Gerratana received her degree from Central Connecticut State University, and has worked with the Junior League, the Klingberg Family Center, and the New Britain/Berlin YMCA.
In 2011 she was urged to run against former New Britain Mayor Tim Stewart, to fill a vacancy by Donald DeFronzo who was brought into the Malloy administration to head the Department of Administrative Services.
In the past legislative session, which adjourned May 4th, Gerratana worked on two bills which could have effect to spur business growth in not just New Britain but all over the state. Senate Bill 1, an act concerning innovation, entrepreneurship and Connecticut’s economic future, which would establish a public entity named ImpaCT, that would be tasked to develop and implement a number of new initiatives helping start up businesses with loans. The bill passed the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee unanimously but no action was taken in the Senate.
In testimony, in opposition of the bill, Secretary Benjamin Barnes from the Office of Policy and Management said that the administration recognized the positive intentions of the bill, but was concerned with the fiscal impact given the state’s current economic status. Barnes explained that the new tex credits and additional bond expenditures included in the bill should not be entertained due to the poor status of Connecticut’s finances. The state has limited revenue and a growing need to cancel existing bond authorizations because of these limitations.
While Senate Bill 1 did not pass, it could be brought back up in a future legislative sessions. Senate Bill 2, an act supporting veteran-owned small businesses, which is also sponsored by Gerratana, passed the Senate and the House of Representatives and has support of the administration.
This bill would offer tax incentives for veteran owned businesses and make them more competitive in the government bidding process for state contracts. The bill passed unanimously between both houses of the General Assembly, and is heading to Malloy’s desk to be signed.
Gerratana’s achievements in the Senate will be the focus of her campaign going into the Convention later this month. Delegates will be voting at Angelo’s on West Main St in New Britain at 6 p.m. on May 23rd.