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Norman Needleman

Running for State Senator

46 CTNewsJunkie Reader Endorsements

Party: Democrat

CEP Status:



Marital Status:

Current Residence: Essex

Current Job: State Senator for the 33rd District & First Selectman of Essex

Previous Job: CEO Tower Laboratories

Previous Job:

Education: B.A., Adelphi University

What can be done to improve the business climate in Connecticut while COVID-19 continues to be a risk?
I have always committed to prioritizing the businesses that serve our communities and create jobs for our residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. We must continue to provide fact-based guidance and regulations for individuals and businesses which includes guidance and resources to keep the consumer population and the employee population healthy. We need to do more to ensure that businesses of all sizes are fully aware of the resources and financial assistance both from the federal and state level that is available to them during the pandemic. After the last recession, when banks wouldn’t or couldn’t loan small businesses the funds they needed to continue operations, the state created the Small Business Express program which has provided millions of dollars in assistance in the form of grants and loans. I believe the state should model a new program off of the success of the Small Business Express program to support the businesses most impacted by the pandemic.
With so much uncertainty ahead about COVID-19, how would you ensure that the people's business – both at the legislature and in all of our elections – will be conducted effectively, and with full participation, in the safest possible manner for the foreseeable future?
The uncertainty caused by COVID-19 brings with it the requirement that the state legislature and the election process proceed effectively and with full participation. Relative to the election process, the use of mail-in ballots and absentee ballots is essential to making certain that all eligible voters can cast their ballots safely. It is the responsibility of the state to make certain that the absentee ballot/mail in ballot process is clearly defined and communicated to all voters. It is also the responsibility of the state to provide resources to help communities fund the materials and personnel necessary to process absentee and mail-in ballots, and to safely staff polling places for those voters who choose to vote in person. The work of the state legislature can’t be delayed indefinitely…limited special sessions are not a long-term remedy to conducting legislative business. As the pandemic persists, it is clear that both chambers of the state legislature must adopt procedures that allow them to conduct full sessions safely, for an indefinite period. Conducting ongoing state business in remote sessions will be difficult, but resources should be allocated to ensure that the technology and security components are in place to make fully participative legislature sessions feasible and safe for all elected senators, representatives, and state support employees. These sessions should continue until conditions allow full in-person sessions to be conducted safely.
With higher education facing major changes because of the pandemic, what steps will you take to make sure that Connecticut’s residents have access to college and/or other job training that won’t leave them tens of thousands of dollars in debt?
I was proud to support a budget that included debt-free community college for Connecticut residents. This legislation not only helps our students gain the skills and education they need for the jobs of tomorrow, but it also provides a much-needed infusion of funds into our community college system by increasing enrollment and strategically capturing federal funds. I’m also glad to see that the Eastern CT Manufacturing Pipeline is received national recognition for its impact on employers, jobseekers and the community at larger and we should build upon and model other programs after its success. UConn and UConn Health are facing major revenue shortfalls due to the pandemic, through no fault of their own. I will continue to advocate at the federal level for increased support to shore up the loss of revenue so that the shortfall isn’t made up on the backs of students.
What specific legislation would you support to reduce racism in Connecticut?
I am proud to be one of the many voices in the state of Connecticut calling for legislation to address systemic racism within our state. I will support legislation that ensures and strengthens equal access to elements that are essential for the growth and development of inclusive communities including expanding economic opportunity by providing additional support for minority-owned businesses and getting more students involved in job-training programs.
What is one specific policy you support to help protect African Americans as an at-risk group during the pandemic?
The data is showing us that communities of color have been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic with data from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services showing that nursing homes with higher percentages of residents who are black or Latino had higher rates of COVID-19 within the facility. The state commissioned an outside group, Mathematica, to audit our nursing homes’ response to the pandemic and I believe we should do everything within our power to address their recommendations to help our state, communities of color and the long-term care industry prepare for a potential second wave.
Connecticut’s revenues will sharply decline as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and, unlike Congress, Connecticut has a balanced budget requirement. What changes would you make to balance the budget? (If you want cuts, be specific what will be cut. If you want to raise taxes, be specific about which taxes.)
Our Rainy Day Fund has reached $3.1 billion – the largest in state history and for the first time in 75 years we were able to make a large payment towards our state debt. The nonpartisan, economic think tank Moody Analytics, ranked CT as one of the states best positioned to withstand the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the combination of our Rainy Day Fund, promising preliminary revenue numbers, decreases in state spending and the potential for an additional federal stimulus bill I believe we need to wait for more information and I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure the budget is balanced in a fiscally and socially responsible manner.
What should Connecticut do to re-tool our public health for COVID-19 and the possibility of future pandemics, while also addressing other chronic illnesses that put people at risk every day?
Connecticut can use its experience with the COVID-19 pandemic to shape allocation of resources and preparedness for future pandemics. We have been relatively successful in limiting the impact of the virus, but we need systemic change in several areas to contain future pandemics. 1. Commit resources to developing a comprehensive and reliable, fact-based source of data on the incidence of pandemic infection in communities throughout the state. The data source should also include information sourced from surrounding states. Accurate data is vital to the development of fact-based response programs. 2. Coordinate the allocation of testing, treatment, and prevention resources among hospitals and healthcare providers. 3. Identify high-risk populations early in the pandemic, so that focus can be better directed toward those who most need help 4. Regularly communicate to the general population information on prevention, testing and treatment of pandemic illness. In the absence of reliable information from Federal agencies, the state should become the most authoritative and accessible source for definitive information. Relative to the treatment of chronic illnesses, it is essential that we make certain that those in need of healthcare services have access. In many cases, that will mean bringing healthcare to those who need it, rather than making them travel to obtain the healthcare they need.
How can Connecticut lower healthcare costs while also improving quality and access to care?
We have successfully addressed some healthcare costs by limiting the cost of drugs that treat chronic diseases. An example is the recently passed cap on insulin and diabetes implement costs, resulting in a savings of up to 70% for diabetes patients. The same coast cap mandates could be applied to drugs that treat other chronic diseases (cholesterol, cancer, asthma, high blood pressure). I believe the state should be doing more to make the healthcare market in Connecticut more competitive and reduce the “sticky pricing” of pharmaceutical drugs. One of the options that deserves to be explored further is having the Comptroller establish the ConnectHealth Plan, which is a “public option” health insurance program for CT enrollees.