Now without an opponent, Floren is eager for new term

Now unopposed, State Rep. Livvy Floren says she's eager to get back to work in Hartford– Ken Borsuk

Now unopposed, State Rep. Livvy Floren says she’s eager to get back to work in Hartford– Ken Borsuk

In what has been a rather unusual political year for her, state Rep. Livvy Floren (R-149th) says she is as focused as ever on her upcoming eighth term in the state legislature.

Ms. Floren started out this year announcing her retirement from politics after seven terms in Hartford, only to change her mind when she said her constituents urged her to reconsider. Then she found herself in a race against an aggressive challenger in Democrat Marc Abrams, only to have that challenge suddenly end when Mr. Abrams ended his campaign last week (see related story on page one). Now that her return to Hartford has been assured, Ms. Floren told the Post this week in an interview that she is eager to get back to work.

“I am in it to win it and I always have been,” Ms. Floren said. “I am so excited to be the state representative for my district. I love the job. I love everything about it.”

Mr. Abrams ended his campaign after blog posts were made regarding past accusations of sexual harassment and threatening, charges he has strongly denied. Mr. Abrams ran an aggressive campaign against Ms. Floren, raising eyebrows among many in town as he said her past votes for voter ID laws and against same-sex marriage were proof she was an on the extreme side of the Republican Party and not the moderate she claimed to be. Ms. Floren did not seem ready to shed many tears over his departure.

“I think the system was well served because the institution can’t tolerate a demeanor and attitude like that,” Ms. Floren said. “Anger and bullying and attacks are common political ploys, but they’re not mine.”

In her eighth run for office, this was only the fourth time Ms. Floren had a Democratic opponent, and she admitted that she had never seen a race like this one before.

“And I hope I never do again,” Ms. Floren said with a laugh. “It’s interesting because I’ve had three other opponents, all of whom I have the utmost respect for. Those races never got impolite, but this was over the top.”

Ms. Floren said she was sad to see all of this happen because it was another sign, to her, that civility is disappearing, not just from politics but from society in general. But she said she’s not going to let this change her as she prepares for the start of her eighth term in January.

“My takeaway is what it always was — I’m running on my record,” Ms. Floren said. “I’m a very, very positive person. I’m an optimist, but I do worry a lot. Madeleine Albright said that, and she’s right. I’m just going to do my best, which I do each and every day. I work across the aisle and I stick to issues that matter to the people.”

When she returns to Hartford next term, Ms. Floren said, she hopes to retain the same committee assignments she has now. She is currently ranking member of the General Bonding Subcommittee, serving on the state’s bond commission as part of that, and is also on the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee and the Committee on Aging. However, with new leadership coming to House Republicans, Ms. Floren said she is not sure yet what she will be assigned to.

One area that Ms. Floren said she fully expects the state to take action on next year is mental health. As part of the comprehensive, bipartisan reform of gun laws in the wake of the Newtown massacre, many said that not enough was done to address issues with the state’s approach to mental health. Ms. Floren, who voted in favor of the new gun laws, which are considered the second toughest in the country, said she was eager to see the state take action in this area, too.

“Everybody who was there and went through the whole writing of that legislation and worked hard on gun safety and school security knows that not enough was done about mental health,” Ms. Floren said. “That was on all of our minds and hearts, and it’s been the focus of the Sandy Hook Commission, and Gov. Malloy just issued a press release about the increase of mental health for children. He’s got a whole plan figured out. We need to focus on early diagnosis and early intervention, but there also has to be follow-up and coordination. The sticking point will be around where is the money going to come from and how we’re going to best use our resources, but we’re all on the same page. We know something must be done.”

Ms. Floren said she believes this will actually work well in coordination with another initiative she supports, universal pre-K throughout Connecticut. While some municipalities in the state already have it, Greenwich is among those who do not, and it has become an area of bipartisan support in Connecticut as a way to close achievement gaps.

“I think this is something that will be adopted,” Ms. Floren said. “We will find the money and we will find the resources and the facilities. Where there is a will, there is a way. We may see new models of delivery being introduced, but we will get this done.”

Education spending isn’t something Ms. Floren wants to see just at the pre-K level. Ms. Floren was also a strong advocate of Wright Tech in Stamford to provide vocational training to students, allowing them to be better prepared for the workforce, something she said will be a boon to the state economy by having trained workers for available positions. That’s a statewide priority that she says will continue to be addressed, and Ms. Floren said she also wants to see continued investment in the state university system.

Ms. Floren said she will continue to advocate for bonding at the state level, saying it allows for deferred maintenance projects like school construction and infrastructure improvements to happen at a time when the market allows for money to be borrowed at advantageous rates. However, she is also quick to point to her fiscally conservative views for state government by saying that the money has to be spent correctly to allow for long-term projects that pay off as investments down the line and that she wants to continue to see government made more efficient and responsive to the people.

Another area Ms. Floren will be focused on in her next term is the evaluation of the state’s whole tax structure already under way, with committee recommendations set to come in January 2016. That will include the kinds of incentives and low-interest or interest-free loans the state provides. Ms. Floren said she wants to make sure they are tracked and are truly cost-effective. She also says the economy can be boosted in the state by avoiding new taxes, bringing down energy costs and eliminating what she calls “nuisance and extraneous” fees for opening a new business, like the business entity tax and others.

Ms. Floren also has her eye on the state’s highly regarded health care exchange, which is being held up as the model of how effective the Affordable Care Act can be. Ms. Floren voted against the creation of the exchange but has since come around as a supporter. She said improvements continue to be needed, though, and she wants to see elimination of the disparity  between low premiums and high deductibles, especially when it comes to younger people. Solving that, she feels, will encourage more people to sign up. Ms. Floren said she also is concerned about how many insurers will remain with the program.

“It needs tweaking,” Ms. Floren said. “There are always unintended consequences. I want us to study it quickly and get it right, because people can’t be left without health insurance. Everyone wants to have affordable access.”

Issues like the environment and transportation also are going to be on her mind, but no matter what issue comes up in the next two years, Ms. Floren said, she will be just as eager for it as she was when she was elected to her first term.

“Every day is new and different, and it all depends on what they throw at me,” Ms. Floren said. “Whatever it is, I’ll tackle it.”

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