State House, Se­nate can­di­dates square off in de­bates

Opi­oids, pen­sions and tolls cause some sparks to fly

Greenwich Time - - FRONT PAGE - By Han­nah Dellinger

GREEN­WICH — Only a cou­ple of sparks flew when Repub­li­can state rep­re­sen­ta­tives run­ning for re-election faced off against their Demo­cratic chal­lengers at a packed de­bate at Green­wich Town Hall.

Can­di­dates vy­ing to rep­re­sent the 150th and 151st Dis­tricts gave their takes on the opi­oid crisis, fund­ing state pen­sions, global warm­ing and tolls dur­ing the de­bate hosted by the League of Women Vot­ers of Green­wich.

The only com­bat­ive mo­ment in the pol­icy-heavy dis­cus­sion on Wed­nes­day night came when the can­di­dates fielded a ques­tion from the au­di­ence: “Should I be wor­ried about checks and bal­ances at the state level, con­sid­er­ing what is hap­pen­ing na­tion­ally?”

As Laura Kostin, the Demo­cratic can­di­date for the 150th District, be­gan an­swer­ing, Mike Bocchino, the Repub­li­can in­cum­bent in the 151st District, said over her, “This is the state of Con­necti­cut.”

“You’re not the mod­er­a­tor of this de­bate,” Kostin coun­tered.

Bocchino replied, “Just re­mind­ing you what we’re run­ning for.”

Opi­oid crisis

Stephen Meskers, Demo­cratic can­di­date for the 151st District, said opi­oid ad­dic­tion is a hor­rific, grow­ing prob­lem.

“We need to rein back overuse and over-sale of opi­oids,” he said. “We need to rein in the ridicu­lous, ag­gres­sive sales pitch of phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies to push opi­oids.”

His op­po­nent, Bocchino, said he has worked with Green­wich Po­lice Chief James Heavey and med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als from Green­wich Hospi­tal to form leg­is­la­tion to com­bat the scourge of ad­dic­tion.

“We passed leg­is­la­tion to make sure Nar­can is avail­able in all am­bu­lances and for the po­lice depart­ment,” Bocchino said. “We also passed a bill that only al­lows doc­tors to pre­scribe seven (opi­oid) pills at a time in­stead of 30.”

He cited a data­base that tracks pre­scrip­tions as an­other ac­com­plish­ment of the state leg­is­la­ture.

Ed­u­ca­tion is the most im­por­tant tool in fight­ing the spread of ad­dic­tion, Bocchino said.

Kostin agreed more ed­u­ca­tion about the dan­gers of drug use is nec­es­sary.

“When I was young, they scared us straight,” she said. “They put us in jail cells as kids.”

The lack of a stan­dard of care for treat­ment cen­ters in Con­necti­cut is an­other ma­jor road­block to re­cov­ery, she added. She also be­lieves all in­surance com­pa­nies should be re­quired to cover ad­dic­tion treat­ment.

Fred Camillo, the Repub­li­can in­cum­bent in the 150th District, said that a boy he used to um­pire for lost his life to ad­dic­tion a few weeks ago.

“He was a good kid,” Camillo said. “His mom said to me, ‘Fred­die you gotta do some­thing.’”

The state has made strides in fight­ing ad­dic­tion, but more needs to be done, he said. He said he’s open to look­ing at so­lu­tions that are prov­ing suc­cess­ful in other coun­tries.

“We have to think out­side of the box,” Camillo said. “These are our kids, and we’re los­ing them for no good rea­son.”

Pen­sions

Tout­ing his back­ground in fi­nance, Meskers delved deep into the state’s un­der­funded pen­sion prob­lems, say­ing it is the sin­gle big­gest prob­lem Con­necti­cut faces. The so­lu­tion re­quires cre­ative think­ing, he said.

The state is in a dif­fi­cult po­si­tion with pen­sions be­cause of poli­cies from Democrats, Bocchino said. Con­necti­cut is ob­li­gated to fol­low through with its prom­ises to its workers, he said.

Kostin said that she heard a lot of blame and not a lot of so­lu­tions from the other can­di­dates. Pro­pos­als such as tap­ping into the lot­tery pro­ceeds that have al­ready been pro­posed shouldn’t be cast aside, she said.

Go­ing for­ward, the state should de­fine its ben­e­fit model and not al­low pen­sion hag­gling from unions, Camillo said.

Climate change

Global warm­ing is a prob­lem, Meskers said, but fight­ing climate change is more of a fed­eral is­sue than a state is­sue. Con­necti­cut can pre­pare for the ef­fects of global warm­ing, he said, but he’s not sure what real im­pact can be made at that level of gov­ern­ment.

En­ergy drives the econ­omy, Meskers said, and his fo­cus as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive would be on grow­ing jobs.

Bocchino, who serves on the leg­isla­tive En­ergy and Tech­nol­ogy Com­mit­tee, said he has worked on bi­par­ti­san ini­tia­tives to pre­serve the environment.

“Both par­ties un­der­stand the im­por­tance of clean and re­new­able en­ergy and a healthy environment,” he said. “We have to start invit­ing busi­nesses along those lines to Con­necti­cut.

“One of those com­pa­nies is Tesla.”

Bocchino said he wants the state to be­come a place for com­pa­nies that are lead­ing the way in en­vi­ron­men­tal sciences.

As a coastal state, Kostin said Con­necti­cut needs to do more to pre­serve its beauty.

“At the (Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Town Meeting level), I’ve worked very hard to ed­u­cate my­self on all is­sues my district is fac­ing,” she said. “I’m proud of my record on en­vi­ron­men­tal mea­sures.”

Kostin said she voted for the town’s ban on plas­tic bags and would sup­port a ban on plas­tic straws as well.

Camillo said he wrote a bill that ex­panded re­cy­cling in Con­necti­cut and voted for bills pro­mot­ing so­lar en­ergy.

“We’ve taken some good mea­sures so far,” he said. “But we’ve got to do a lot more.”

Tolls

The Repub­li­cans both said they do not sup­port adding tolls to the state’s high­ways, while the Democrats showed sup­port for tax­ing trucks and out-of­s­tate drivers only.

All the can­di­dates said they are open to pub­lic and pri­vate part­ner­ships de­signed to fund the up­keep of the state’s trans­porta­tion in­fra­struc­ture.

Bob Luckey Jr. / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

The League of Women Vot­ers of Green­wich state rep­re­sen­ta­tives de­bate at Green­wich Town Hall on Wed­nes­day.

Kostin

Meskers

Camillo

Bocchino

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