Matt has been the State Representative for 100th District, which covers Middletown, for the last 10 years. (He was first elected in 2008, when he was just 25!) Now, Matt is running for the State Senate for the 9th District, which covers parts of Middletown, Newington, Rocky Hill, Cromwell and Wethersfield. This is the seat being vacated by Paul Doyle. Matt is a Democrat and the primary vote for this seat is Tuesday, August 14th.
Whom we choose to represent us in state government is important. He or she determines whether our interests are served or ignored. He or she is our voice. I think the person we choose should meet two criteria. First, he or she should be responsive to the needs of constituents. Second, he or she should have the motivation and courage to show leadership on important issues facing average people, such as health care, education, jobs, and the environment.
Matt has provided outstanding constituent services during the 10 years he has represented Middletown. If you have lived in Middletown for while, you probably already know and like Matt. He is gregarious, approachable and one of the most dedicated elected officials you will ever meet. Matt is never too busy to talk, whether just to say hello or to listen to a concern. On more than one occasion, I have used a chance meeting with Matt, at a bookstore, or in some other venue, to discuss rising health care costs and what I thought could be done to control them. Most other elected officials would have just brushed me off. Not Matt. He listened. And, everyone I have talked to about Matt feels the same way I do.
Being responsive to the needs of your constituents, however, is only half of what’s required. We need elected officials who are willing to fight hard for legislation that helps average citizens. (God knows, special interests, with their legion of lobbyists, already have enough of a say.)
Matt has stood shoulder to shoulder with democrats on most issues, such as marriage equality and equal pay for women for equal work. What most impressed me, however, was that Matt was the author of numerous pieces of legislation that have helped thousands of ordinary citizens in the state.
I’ll give three examples.
- Most Americans take out loans for college. Many are poorly informed of their options when taking out loans and run into problems with their loan servicer while paying them back. Often these servicers act more like predatory debt collectors than loan counselors. For example, borrowers often have trouble getting billing errors fixed or getting correct information about repayment options. This happens because the industry is poorly regulated. Matt wrote a law requiring loan servicers in the state to be licensed and to provide a basic level of service, or risk losing their license, and that set up an ombudsman to whom borrowers could turn if they had difficulty. This law will make student loans less of a burden on thousands of borrowers in the state and is serving as a model for states around the country.
- Public school teachers can save for retirement through 403 (b) plans, which are similar to 401 (k) plans, but are for municipal workers. Municipalities rely on private investment companies to run these plans. A big problem is that these companies often restrict the investment options to expensive and complex funds even though most investors would be better served with low cost index funds. In addition, many of these investment companies are opaque about the fees and performance of their funds. After reading about this issue in the New York Times, Matt introduced legislation requiring that retirement plan providers in Connecticut clearly disclose fees and returns. This legislation also allows the state Comptroller to make available to local boards of education its 403 (b) plan, which does include low-cost funds. This law will make it easier for thousands of teachers in the state to save for retirement.
- Cancer and cancer treatment can affect fertility. Matt wrote a law requiring health insurers in Connecticut to cover fertility preservation procedures. This law is also serving as a model for other states.
We need strong leadership at the state level now more than ever given the leadership vacuum at the federal level. Matt is an extraordinary choice. If you are a registered democrat or even independent living in the 9th district, please cast your vote for Matt Lesser for state senate in the August 14th democratic primary. (If you are currently unaffiliated, i.e., an independent, or not registered at all, you may change your party affiliation or register, on line, at ct.gov/sots, up until 5 days before the primary.)