Livvy Floren is no moderate and it’s time for a change

Bill-Gaston-Greenwich-VoicesPassing through town recently, Lowell Weicker, a former governor, U.S. senator and Greenwich first selectman, bemoaned the self-destructive lurch to the right by the GOP, the political party he once called home.

No better example of this lurch away from Yankee Republicanism can be found than GOP State Rep. Livvy Floren, who is now running for her eighth term in Hartford and faces a strong challenge from Greenwich Democratic nominee Marc Abrams.

Floren is widely regarded as embodying the old- fashioned virtues of silk-stocking, Republican moderation championed by Weicker. However, a closer look at her actual voting record on issues vital to working families demonstrates a hard line, doctrinaire conservatism.

Five years ago, in a bombastic op-ed opposing paid sick leave legislation, Floren raged, “Democrats use businesses as cash laden piñatas at which they blindly flail their anti-business sticks … forcing businesses to take on the burden of paid sick leave could result in the loss of that business.”

Over the objections of Floren and the howls of corporate lobbyists, Governor Malloy and the Democratic legislature passed its first-in-the-country paid sick leave law in 2011. Three years later, rather than shutting their doors, most businesses in our state have discovered that paid sick leave makes sound economic sense.

According to a survey of state employers by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, more than three-quarters of Connecticut businesses now support the paid sick leave law, reporting improved morale, healthier workforces and stronger productivity. Since 2009, scores of towns and cities, including New York City, have passed or adopted paid sick days legislation. At the federal level, President Obama made a historic call for paid sick leave in his last State of the Union address.

Floren’s virulent opposition to paid sick leave is not the only issue on which she is out of touch with her constituents and the concerns of the business community. So too is her steadfast opposition to raising the state minimum wage — now the highest state minimum, thanks to Governor Malloy and the state legislature.  Floren, however, voted against wage increases in 2013 and 2014, despite poll after poll showing broad-based support for such raises, including among Republican voters.

Even after Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum as well as the CEOs of McDonald’s and Subway endorsed higher minimum wages at the federal level, why hasn’t Floren taken the hint? What is so “moderate” about forcing workers to accept wages so low they are forced to rely on taxpayer-funded government assistance (i.e. Medicaid, food stamps, housing assistance) to make ends meet?

Furthermore, what is “moderate” in proposing the elimination of the state’s earned income tax credit (EITC)?  Governor Malloy and the legislature implemented the state EITC for the first time in 2011. However, in their draft budget, Floren and the Republicans proposed elimination of its entire $121-million budget, which would have dealt a blow to thousands of struggling working families. The cruel irony is that the federal EITC has long had a Republican pedigree. President Reagan called it “the best antipoverty, the best pro-family, the best job creation measure to come out of Congress.”

What is so “moderate” about Floren’s sponsorship of a draconian bill (SB 5324) that would have required voters to produce a government-issued photo ID as well as proof of citizenship in order to vote? Such legislation represents a cynical attack on voting rights that has nothing to do with eradicating supposed voter fraud and everything to do with suppressing voter turnout among minority, poor and elderly, constituencies that traditionally vote Democratic.

In January, Floren announced her plans to retire, saying “it is time to do something else,” only to reverse course two months later and run again. Her constituents in the 149th District, however, may decide that seven terms for this career legislator is quite enough for this spectacularly misnamed “moderate.”

 

Bill Gaston is a member of the Greenwich Democratic Town Committee, but the opinions expressed here are his own.

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