In this particularly difficult summer, it is my hope that this letter finds you and your families well. I am writing to provide some information about two of the summer’s biggest issues: The special session where we passed the police accountability bill and the recent controversies surrounding Eversource’s rate increases and Tropical Storm Isaias response.
On July 24, the House of Representatives met in Special Session to discuss a variety of topics, the most controversial being Police Accountability. HB 6004, An Act Concerning Police Accountability, addressed this by mandating policy such as increased mental health screening for police officers and requiring body cameras, but also removes qualified immunity and limits vehicle searches, which can tie the hands of officers during something like an Amber Alert.
The bill was passed 86-58, without my support.
I was very disappointed that, with limited debate and remote voting, the bill was rushed through and did not address corrupt or ineffective police officers remaining employed and rehired. I felt that debate and compromise were overshadowed by emotion. We had a chance to create legislation that supported both the interests of the general public and the police, but instead passed a bill that will have consequences for our public safety and the ability of our policemen and women to do their jobs.
This topic will inevitably be brought up again, likely in another special session before the summer is over. I hope that the General Assembly can negotiate and compromise on changes to the legislation that will alleviate some of its effects and allow our police officers to safely continue to protect and serve.
This summer also shed light on some serious problems with Eversource. As I’m sure you noticed in your recent electric bills, the delivery rates significantly increased as of July 1. While Eversource cites that this is mainly due to increased use in the pandemic, it is actually because of an increase approved by the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) based on legislation passed in 2017 without my support. The increase is meant to supplement the Millstone Nuclear Power Plant.
Due to public outrage, the rate hikes were suspended pending review from PURA. On August 24, PURA hosted a hearing on these rates to ensure that Eversource is not over-collecting revenues in the short term at the expense of ratepayers. A decision will be released in the near future.
Also, many of you have called and emailed about Eversource’s response to damage caused by Tropical Storm Isaias. Some residents were without power for over a week, which is unacceptable. Given the notice of the storm, Eversource should have been ready and able to handle the storm damage.
However, Eversource categorized the storm as Level 4, a lesser categorization than United Illuminating, the other large electric provider in our state. As such, PURA will be holding a hearing to evaluate whether the utilities’ response met regulatory and statutory requirements, and whether civil penalties should be applied.
While a date for this hearing has not been announced, PURA is currently accepting public comment on this topic at email@example.com.
The Legislative Energy & Technology Committee also hosted a public informational hearing on Thursday, August 27 to address both the utility rate increase and storm response, so that the Committee can determine if legislative action is warranted. That hearing is viewable by visiting CT-N.com.
If you have questions about these hearings or the Police Accountability Bill, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at Lezlye.Zupkus@housegop.ct.gov.