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Susan W. Hatfield

Running for Attorney General

9 CTNewsJunkie Reader Endorsements

Party: Republican

CEP Status: participating


Age: 46

Marital Status: Married

Current Residence: Pomfret

Current Job: State Prosecutor, Connecticut Department of Justice

Previous Job: Registered Nurse, Yale-New Haven Hospital

Previous Job: Attorney, Hawkins, Delafield and Wood, New York City

Education: J.D., Stetson University College of Law; Master of Laws in Taxation, Georgetown University Law Center; B.S. in Nursing, American International College

If elected, what are your top priorities in terms of what you will try to accomplish in your first term as Attorney General?
My three top priorities: 1) Model Integrity, Fairness & Inspire Respect for the Law -- Our courts, the judicial process, and law enforcement officials are vital. They need a strong advocate. I will be inclusive and respectful of the many talented attorneys and professionals who work to enforce Connecticut’s laws and protect our rights every day. My team will engender confidence with state lawmakers, the media, and public. And I will engage our citizens so they better understand and appreciate Connecticut’s laws and legal institutions. 2) Support Economic Competitiveness -- I will promote a level-playing field for business through the fair and consistent enforcement of laws and regulations. I will establish an Office of Business Ombudsman to work with companies and avoid needless confrontation. I will end frivolous, “photo-op” lawsuits that chill job creation, cost needless tax dollars, and result in long-term economic harm. 3) Save Tax Dollars -- My team will be vigilant in the review of state contracts and bonding requests to root out waste and identify ways to achieve short- and long-term cost savings to the benefit of our overburdened state taxpayers.
The state has recently engaged with some other Attorneys General in litigation against the federal government. Are there any legal battles underway that you plan to drop? Is there any new litigation you are considering based on federal mandates?
I will not prejudge the veracity of current lawsuits, or consider new ones, until I have had completed a review of those currently filed, and have had the opportunity to carefully weigh costs vs. projected benefits. I will not engage in lawsuits and sacrifice state resources to command headlines. I have no interest in trying to score political points against the federal government or any other government entity. Rather, I will consider Connecticut’s involvement with any legal action based upon the rule of law, particularly when it involves defense of the rights spelled out in our U.S. and Connecticut Constitutions. I also believe proactive, clear communications and cooperation can bring about more positive results than a predilection to sue.
Thousands of homeowners in the north-central region of Connecticut are facing the loss of their homes to the crumbling foundation phenomenon. Do you have any new ideas on how to hold parties responsible for this or to ensure that an equitable share of the costs of replacing foundations is covered by insurers?
Through no fault of their own, homeowners in northeast Connecticut are at risk of losing the value of what for many is their greatest financial asset -- their home. Compounding the problem, municipalities are facing serious erosion of their taxable property, and area’s real estate market is suffering the consequences. This situation is more than an isolated or regional problem. It requires legislative action and participation by the federal government, banks and the insurance industry. I will work closely with all these groups to find a solution. I will also seek an investigation as to why the state did not protect homeowners with crumbling foundations when the issue was first discovered and reported in 2001. The legislature’s only response was to take action to protect insurance companies. We should know why government officials did not investigate the issue, despite warning signs, suggesting only that there was insufficient information to pursue legal action under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act. How is it that Richard Blumenthal, who would sue over virtually anything, chose not to intervene here, other than to request that the state Department of Consumer Protection investigate the issue? Those involved with the state insurance department should also be investigated to find out how much they knew about the problem before allowing statutory language to be changed in homeowners’ policies to exclude foundation coverage. And we should also be testing for the presence of pyrrhotite – the offending, natural mineral – as it may be present in bridges across the state. This past spring I joined U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, in asking the Malloy administration to restore $750,000 in state funds intended to assist Connecticut homeowners with crumbling house foundations. The money was instead swept into the state’s General Fund. The funds were meant to pay for testing under the Community Development Block Grant program -- essential to evaluate the scope of the crumbling house foundation problem. Diverting these state funds has slowed progress toward a comprehensive solution. The quicker we can assess the scope of the problem and identify potential remedies, the faster we can formulate a fair and equitable solution. Finding a way to mitigate the personal cost to homeowners and the impact on real estate in the region will take years to properly evaluate. This initial testing is a critical step.
Eversource has been the focus of a lot of consumer outrage following storm events and other outages. What can be done to hold this utility more accountable for its performance?
Whenever warranted, I will actively intervene in rate cases as attorney general to protect the interests of Connecticut consumers in all utility proceedings. I will also advocate reforms that can improve service delivery as well as contain rates, which unfortunately are the highest in the continental U.S. Relative to storm-related and other outages, no utility can guarantee the continuous flow of electric power, nor is such a guarantee required by law. Public utilities are liable for losses only if guilty of “gross negligence.” That’s because there are many causes of outages outside a utility’s control. Heavy ice or snow can cause wires to collapse. High winds uproot trees and cause branches to fall and short-circuit transmission and distribution systems. Electric transformers or high-voltage switchgear at times fail due to age or are damaged by animals. Motorists hit utility poles with cars and trucks. Yet, despite natural and unnatural causes, power flows to the average Connecticut consumer almost all the time. We’ve come to expect a continuous flow of electricity, and indeed, according to data, electricity is available to the average Connecticut customer 99.93% of the time. Smart consumers – business and residential – take actions to protect sensitive equipment by using surge protection to safeguard computers, expensive TVs and other such equipment, and uninterruptible power supply solutions to stop disruption of critical industrial and commercial processes. Connecticut’s sky-high utility rates are another matter. Consumers are right to be upset about this state’s electric rates. Customers in Connecticut pay on average about 17.3 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity, almost seven cents higher than the national average of 10.4 cents. That means a Connecticut resident using an average amount of power pays $51 dollars more each month than the national average – that’s $600 a year! Our businesses also face punishing costs versus other, competing locations. These rates hurt the state’s economic competitiveness, hinder business expansion, and exacerbate housing costs. Some reasons for higher rates are understandable. Connecticut and other New England states are at the “end of the energy pipeline” – we import much of our energy. We have no oil, natural gas or coal reserves nearby on which to draw. Nuclear power – first generated in the United States by the now-defunct Connecticut Yankee power plant in Haddam -- contributes less power to the state today than it has since its earliest days. Not long ago, nuclear plants, natural gas and oil-fired electric generating stations each supplied about one-third each of the state’s power needs. Today, just over 20% of Connecticut’s electricity is generated by nuclear power, while most is generated by burning natural gas. Only a negligible amount is supplied by solar and wind sources, despite heavy state subsidies and a utility requirement to buy excess solar power at a premium (an those extra costs are passed on to all consumers). Natural gas has the virtue of burning clean, so it helps alleviate concerns about greenhouse gas emissions. But it can be an expensive fuel, and the state’s growing dependence on this one source makes Connecticut especially vulnerable to inevitable spot market price spikes. What’s worse, the state’s nearly 20-year experiment with partial “deregulation” of electric power generation is an abysmal failure. Since the state effort to deregulate energy suppliers took effect in 2000, electric rates have risen here from 9.96 cents to 17.24 cents in 2016, according to an investigation by The Associated Press. In fact, nationwide, AP found that “deregulated” states pay 30 percent more for electric power than “regulated” states. Strict environmental regulations, transmission congestion, and other public costs – which include high state taxes and conservation subsidies -- have conspired to increase and maintain our high electric rates. Connecticut also has the most lenient “no shut-off” period – from Nov. 1 to May 1 – for electric customers in the country. Every ratepayer who does not pay their bill on time (or at all) makes electric power more costly for everyone else. Clearly, there are compelling needs for comprehensive reforms to bring more transparency to our utility bills, sanity to our rate-making processes, and stability to Connecticut’s spiraling energy costs. As attorney general, I will be at the forefront of these efforts.
Eversource and some out-of-state entities appear to be attempting to buy control of Connecticut's water resources, and some of our quasi-public water agencies have signed away large amounts of water to commercial interests with little regard to future water shortages. What can you do to ensure that Connecticut residents maintain control of public water supplies in perpetuity?
Water, like electric power, is an essential part of our lives. That’s why public water supplies are tightly regulated to ensure healthful quality and adequate supply. It is less important that water supplies be publicly owned than properly regulated; in fact, it is smart to engage the private sector in the management of public water supplies so long as they are good stewards. As noted in the executive summary of Connecticut’s new State Water Plan, adopted in July 2018: “Connecticut has long enjoyed plentiful water resources to meet its needs for drinking water, industry, environmental health, agriculture, energy, and recreation.” Unlike some other parts of the country, Connecticut residents are fortunate to have ready access to water and rarely need to deal with even short-lived droughts. The report further suggests application of a “Triple Bottom Line” to ensure a balanced approach toward water supplies -- that is, consider social, environmental, and economic impacts – rather than simply assessing the cost of extracting, using or preserving water for a given purpose. I agree with that approach, and will work closely with regulators to ensure that those charged with custody of our water supplies consistently act in the public interest.
If elected AG, are there any new strategies you will pursue in the fight against opioids?
This is the greatest public health crisis of our times. More than 1,000 Connecticut citizens died last year alone from opioid abuse, a three-fold increase compared to just five years ago. Half of those deaths came from prescription medicines. Social dysfunction often lies at the heart of the problem as well. The issue is complex, and a multi-faceted approach is needed, one that includes prevention, intervention, and community-mobilization. As a registered nurse, I worked for a decade with patients struggling with mental health issues. And as state prosecutor, I’ve seen firsthand how these substances can wreck lives, even as these drugs can help those in genuine pain. I will bring a special set of skills to bear as we work to tackle this issue head-on. I will pursue civil remedies and collaborate with criminal enforcement officials to address this crisis. Options may include revoking licenses of providers that dispense these drugs illegally, and the state should look to dedicate proceeds from seized assets toward educating children about the risks.