With a substantial voting record to point to, state Senator James Maroney, D-14, is seeking a second term representing the 14th Senate District in Hartford. The district consists of Milford and Orange and parts of West Haven and southern Woodbridge.
One issue that his opponent, Republican Mike Southworth, has been calling him out for is his support for the Police Accountability Act. “Senator James Maroney turned his back on our local police officers,“ reads one mailer Southworth sent out recently.
But Maroney disputes that notion. “Everyone agrees on 85% of the provisions of that bill,” he said. People for the most part support the funding included in the act, including $4 million for body cameras for many police departments, including West Haven, Southworth’s hometown. Providing more training in de-escalation and bias is generally accepted, as is the ban of chokeholds, Maroney said.
The act makes it a crime for officers not to intervene if they see someone commit a crime. What police departments objected to was changes to qualified immunity that protects police from lawsuits. Critics maintain that the act opens the door to frivolous lawsuits and exposes the municipalities to unnecessary legal expenses.
In a phone conversation with this reporter, Maroney explained his support for the bill, saying the law sets a high bar by requiring courts to prove “willful,” “wanton” and “malicious” acts on the part of the officer before they can be sued. If found guilty, they need to refund the municipalities.
Yale educated, Maroney is a small business owner who runs a college consulting business in Milford. Even though this year’s legislative session was cut short by the pandemic, Maroney authored and co-authored a number of bills during his first term, in an effort to broaden educational opportunities; and to help generate investor interest for the recently named “Opportunity Zones” in under-performing areas.
Opportunity zones were created as part of the recent federal tax reform act, he explained. Investors can realize significant capital gains tax relief by investing in these projects, he said. The opportunity zones are designated by the Internal Revenue Service, based on considerations such as income level and unemployment. There are 72 of them in Connecticut, including two in West Haven. Maroney supported that concept by creating a website and a point person for Opportunity Zones in Connecticut, providing potential investors easy access to information; he also arranged a seminar a year ago, which was attended by some 400 investors.
“We were one of the first states to do this,” he said in a phone conversation. The act he authored passed the Senate with unanimous support.
As a co-chair of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, he authored a bill establishing the Military to Machinist Program, which helps veterans gain the skills they need out of The Workplace in Bridgeport, which assists them in making the transition to civilian jobs. At the same time it helps the manufacturing industry with access to a highly trained work force, he said.
As co-chair of the Aging Committee, he helped create an elder abuse registry; also an act that requires healthcare professionals treating adults to have proper training to recognize the signs of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Maroney is cross-endorsed by both the Working Families Party and the Independent Party. His three legislative priorities, if elected on Nov. 3, would be workforce development; access to childcare and suicide prevention education, he said.
His opponent, Mike Southworth, a Republican, is a professional firefighter in West Haven where he recently served as president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1198. He also is an active member and former leader of Elks Lodge 1537 in West Haven and helps coach a Milford Babe Ruth Fall Softball Team.
Having seen the effects of the pandemic first hand, and the strain it has put on the supply chain and healthcare systems, Southworth pledged to “work with healthcare experts to develop a long-term response plan for future outbreaks.” He also pledged to put people over politics and parties.
Southworth wants the state to leave public education in the hands of local school boards to determine their own plans. “Every community is different and a general plan from Hartford could hinder education or put some of our kids at undue risks,’ he wrote on his website.
By Bettina Thiel – Orange Town News Correspondent.