The Day – Lamont comes to Groton, signs bill to help military families
Governor Ned Lamont came to Groton Monday morning to sign a bill to help military families settle in the state.
Lamont joined military and political leaders as well as military family members at the Submarine Force Library and Museum at the Naval Submarine Base. After the bill signing ceremony, he discussed the COVID-19 pandemic at a press conference.
The new state law will allow spouses of military personnel with certain professional licenses from other states to use those same licenses in Connecticut.
Subbase Commander Capt Todd Moore said the legislation would help military families make a more comfortable transition to Connecticut. He emphasized how important military families are to the mission of the US military.
“There isn’t a submarine that goes up and down this river that isn’t filled with family drawings and family photos,” Moore said.
Connecticut’s Executive Director for Military Affairs Robert Ross expanded on Moore’s point, noting that keeping military families happy is a matter of national security. If military personnel come to work worried about their families, “it has an impact on readiness,” Ross said.
“We want you in our schools, we want you in our neighborhoods, we want you in our workplaces,” he added.
Ross and Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz presented US Department of Defense statistics demonstrating the economic hardships military families face. As Ross said, “you can’t increase your military salary enough” to support an entire family.
About 35% of military spouses who work do so in occupations requiring state certifications or licenses. About 90% of military spouses are women. Among military spouses, the unemployment rate is around 16%, eclipsing the national rate.
State Representative Holly Cheeseman R-East Lyme said she, Ross and others “have worked long and hard on this bill to provide military spouses with the opportunity to continue their careers in their job”.
“In my opinion, the permit harms so many people,” she continued. “It harms women, it harms minorities, by creating barriers to entry.”
The new law will come into force on October 1. The state departments of public health and consumer protection will issue the required licenses or credentials to spouses of active duty members in Connecticut “if that person has safely practiced under license from a other state for at least four years, meets examination requirements as defined in state laws, and performs necessary background checks, ”a statement from Lamont’s office read.
Both departments are still allowed to refuse requests if it is deemed to be in the best interest of the state.
More than 20 professions are covered by the new law, including nursing, physiotherapy, accounting, interior design, hypnosis, and locksmithing.
Lamont said the bill is intended to ensure that people who move to Connecticut are able to continue working, calling it “heavy as hell” to get re-certified.
“What we’re doing here today is keeping this the best secondary base in the world,” said Lamont. “Part of it is how we treat military spouses. Part of that is about making Connecticut a great place to work.
Lamont answered journalists’ questions on the wearing of masks, the possibility of vaccination warrants and vaccine reminders. He said there were no plans to require state employees to be vaccinated.
He has maintained a position he held during much of the pandemic, which involves letting private businesses, whether restaurants, concert halls or whatever, decide whether customers should wear masks or provide proof of vaccination.
Lamont did not say if he had made a decision regarding the wearing of masks by children in Connecticut schools. He mentioned that guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state’s Department of Public Health say that “everyone in schools is better off wearing a mask.”
“How this is applied, we will find out over a period of time,” he continued. “It’s early August and school starts at the end of August, we always try to give people at least a few weeks notice so people can plan ahead.”
Acting Department of Public Health commissioner Deidre Gifford said the state was in conversation with various vaccine suppliers about booster shots due to the proliferation of the delta variant.
“We’re seeing an increase in our cases in Connecticut, so it’s clear that we haven’t reached the collective immunity stage with respect to the delta variant,” she said. “We all need to get vaccinated.
When asked why Lamont avoided aggressive mask warrants and other measures in contrast to his early response to the pandemic, he pointed to vaccination rates, saying about 75% of the state’s residents are fully vaccinated, including 90% of people aged 65 and over.
Data collected in the state since Friday shows 1,245 new cases of COVID-19 have been detected among 39,189 tests, a positivity rate of 3.18%. Hospitalizations had increased from 32 to 148. As of Monday, Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London had nine cases and Westerly Hospital had two.
As of March 2020, New London County has recorded 23,072 cases of COVID-19 and 451 deaths related to the disease.