16-hour days filled with discussion and compromise

Newsletter Volume 2 • Number 52

Weekly Newsletter Delivery

A day in the life of our Democratic state representatives

It’s scarcely past 7 a.m. and a crisp 39 degrees on a recent April morning, but Greenwich State Representative Steve Meskers (D-150) is already on the phone as he drives toward the capitol building in Hartford for a full day of legislating. Although he’s one of three local Democrats heading that way, he prefers to drive alone.

“I use the time to respond to constituents, follow up with colleagues, and plan the day,” he explains. State reps. Rachel Khanna (D-149), and Hector Arzeno (D-151) also head out before traffic congeals. April is a busy time. The clock is ticking on this year’s legislative session, with only a few weeks left to push bills toward a vote.*  

At 9 a.m., Hector joins the regular gathering of the Early Childhood Caucus, a group of like-minded legislators intent on helping parents who need affordable childcare so they can go to work. Rachel attends a news conference marking Food Insecurity Day, because one in 10 CT residents struggle with hunger, and she was co-sponsoring a bill to address that. Steve meets with a professional firefighters’ association concerned about toxic chemical exposure on the job.

Left to right, Representatives, Steve Meskers, Rachel Khanna and Hector Arzeno at the state capitol.

These kinds of interactions are essential to what state lawmakers do, Rachel says. “So much of legislating is the conversations. You can’t be effective if you’re not willing to talk to people, find out their needs, and be open to different perspectives.”

By lunchtime, the House speaker has gaveled the House into session. So many bills have been queued up for debate during the days our reps chronicled, each session takes hours to wade through. Hector huddles with other members of the “moderate caucus,” Democrats who are advocates for fiscal responsibility and good governance, to discuss other issues. As bills come up for a vote, they are notified so they can participate.

Rachel runs into a gauntlet of lobbyists sharing information on bills they are promoting, as she is on her way to a caucus room. Lobbyists often know the latest details about certain bills, and whether they’re a nonprofit advocating for school meals, or the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, “they can clue us in on the priorities of constituencies they represent,” Rachel said.

Steve Meskers stays on the House floor, advocating for a bill to create a working group that would develop an economic development and tourism plan for the Mystic Seaport area. “All good bills require compromise and concession to get done,” Meskers reasoned. “You have to accept the good, and reconcile yourself that it’s not perfect.”  That bill eventually passed, and a bill Hector supported for Early Childhood Education passed too. “The Connecticut House works well because we have a good bipartisan relationship,” Hector said.

But those aren’t the only relationships that matter, Hector says. A key climate bill that passed handily in the House, which he worked on closely, died in the state Senate, because even though Democrats hold the majority there, perspectives between chambers can differ. “Conversation and interaction between the House and Senate is also a relationship that has to be managed,” Hector explained. “Sometimes we don’t agree on priorities.”

Those late sessions horsetrading in April meant our representatives were pulling long hours. “A 7 or 8 p.m. finish was normal,” Steve said. “I would get home around 10 or 11 at night.” By early May, just days before the session’s end, floor votes continued past midnight.

Our first all-Democratic delegation to the state House brought home the bacon during their tenure. Now they’re running for re-election. Consider helping them get there.

*Each rep chronicled a different day in April for this story.

For a few months, you can breathe easier in Greenwich

Greenwich kicked off its first quiet summer on May 24, the last day gas leaf blowers may be used during the summer season. The new rules were passed by the town legislature in January, and cap a 32 year quest by Greenwich residents to restrict the use of the noisy and polluting machines.

While the break from gas leaf blowers is a welcome chance for some to enjoy the sounds of nature, it’s also a helpful step in improving our air quality. Fairfield County has earned an F grade for ozone pollution from the American Lung Association, making it the worst in the eastern half of the country.

Gas powered lawn equipment is a big culprit. The principal emissions of gas leaf blowers, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds, are the main contributors of ground level ozone, which are linked to asthma attacks and premature deaths, and are especially risky to children, the elderly, and pregnant women. According to a recent study, gas-powered lawn and garden equipment in Fairfield County produced more than 360 tons of nitrogen oxides in 2020.

By reducing our use of gas powered leaf blowers for a few months, we are also reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. In 2020, gas-powered lawn and garden equipment in Fairfield County produced more than 136,000 tons of carbon dioxide, the leading contributor to climate change.

So from May 24 to September 30 this year, you can breathe a little easier. To print and share a flyer about the new rules, download it here.

Honor victims and survivors of gun violence on National Gun Violence Awareness Day. Wear orange. Noon, Greenwich Town Hall.

Greenwich Pride 2024. 1:00 p.m. at Greenwich Town Hall. Join this family-friendly day of fun to celebrate our LGBTQ+ Greenwich community.

Meet fellow Democrats and learn about our plans at our monthly meeting on June 12 at 7:30 p.m. in the Town Hall Meeting Room.

Our next book talk is with authors Louise Story and Ebony Reed who have just published Fifteen Cents on the Dollar, How Americans Made the Black White Wealth Gap. Refreshments provided, space is limited. Sign up here. 7:00 p.m., Sorokin Gallery, 96 Greenwich Ave.

Join Democrats from every corner of the state for this annual dinner bash featuring House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries. Write “Greenwich Table” in the Additional Information field to be seated together. RSVP

Greenwich Democrats gathered in Old Greenwich on Monday to march in honor of our fallen soldiers at the Memorial Day parade.

Volume 2, Number 52 • May 30, 2024
Paid for by the Greenwich Democratic Town Committee.
Greenwich Democratic Town Committee P.O. Box 126 Greenwich, CT 06836