NEWINGTON - State Rep. Kerry Szeps Wood is proud to represent the town - if only a small section, which she calls “a beautiful neighborhood.”
Newly sworn-in to Con-necticut’s General Assembly representing the 29th House District of Rocky Hill, Wethersfield and Newington, the Rocky Hill resident is paying particular attention to the town where the fewest of her voters live. She was elected by residents of Voting District 8, bordered by Griswoldville Ave. to the north, Culver and Deming streets to the west, Little Brook Drive to the south and Twenty Rod Road Park to the east.
The Rocky Hill native has introduced several Newington-focused pieces of legislation along with Sen. Matt Lesser of the 9th Senate District and State Rep. Gary Turco of the 27th District, which represents most of the town in the House of Representatives.
Among these are Senate Bill 18, for a Hartford Line train station; H.B. 5259, to secure a $500,000 grant to continue the town’s Downtown Streetscape Project; and H.B. 6592, which was created with the help of Newington Senior Center Director Dianne Stone - to establish a statewide senior center working group.
These are just a few of 17 different bills and counting that Wood has introduced, some on her own and others along with fellow legislators. As a member of the commerce, finance review and bonding, and veteran’s affairs committees, she’s working on several other initiatives.
There is a lot of excitement about H.B. 5007, a student loan reimbursement program Wood proposed to the Commerce Committee. It would allow the State Department of Economic and Community Development to pay student loans for private-sector employees in high-demand fields who commit to work and live in the state for at least five years. Funding would be accrued through a public-private partnership with companies, at no cost to the state.
“I have gone around the state in my professional career and worked with a lot of businesses and I’ve heard their difficulty in hiring skilled workers,” Wood explained. “We have a major hiring problem here for specialty skills.”
Architects, nurses and plastics engineers are just a few careers for which companies often have a shortage of desirable applicants. Wood’s plan could spur job growth in these areas.
“I thought, how can we as a state be attractive for new graduates out of college?” Wood said. “If we can say we’ll pay for your student loans, I think that puts us back on the radar for places people want to move. ... Some will put down roots and end up staying here and contributing to our economy long term.”
She also proposed H.B. 6186, to streamline the DECD’s ability to provide small business loans.
“The more nimble of these companies need the money in a very timely manner and our process has gotten very slow and drawn out,” Wood said.
She proposes putting the application online, since it’s currently only available in paper form. This bill would also require the DECD to respond to requests within 30 days, with contracts finalized by a maximum 120 days thereafter.
“I believe that timeframe will lead to business growth at a rate not happening now,” Wood added.
How to contact Kerry: 860-240-8585 or Kerry.Wood@cga.ct.gov
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.