BUILDING SAFER COMMUNITIES BY FIGHTING GUN VIOLENCE
— U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy (D-CT) joined U.S. Representative John B. Larson (D-CT), Mayor Luke Bronin, and local community violence intervention groups to announce significant federal funding for the City of Hartford to reduce gun violence.
“Thousands of lives are lost to the epidemic of gun violence. It must stop. I joined Representative Larson, Mayor Bronin, Senator Murphy, & community violence intervention groups to announce millions in Bipartisan Safer Communities Act funding to help Hartford reduce gun violence,” said Blumenthal.
A nearly $2 million grant from the Department of Justice, made possible by the Blumenthal and Murphy-championed Bipartisan Safer Communities Act will allow Hartford Police and community violence intervention groups to expand their work reducing violence.
The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act provides $250 million in funding for community-based violence prevention initiatives, in addition to shrinking the federal “boyfriend loophole,” making it more difficult for people convicted of domestic abuse to own a gun. The legislation, passed in June, also incentivizes states to pass red flag laws that keep deadly weapons out of the hands of individuals determined to be a significant danger to themselves or others and increases funding for family mental health services and support after traumatic events.
— Blumenthal led a group of fourteen senators in urging the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to issue enforcement guidance and clarify the recently finalized Ghost Gun Rule. The rule regulates unfinished frames and receivers that are the core components used to construct ghost guns, which have become the preferred instruments for criminals and violent extremists and pose a severe threat to the public and law enforcement. Ghost gun companies have attempted to avoid the rule’s restrictions by claiming that they can still legally sell “nearly-complete” frames and receivers as standalone products, without tools and other materials to complete a ghost gun, without running afoul of the new rule.
“These companies have adopted the position that selling nearly-complete frames and receivers without the tools (commonly known as jigs) or instructions to complete them means that their products are not firearms under federal law,” the senators wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland and ATF Director Steven Dettelbach. “Of the 100 companies previously known to sell unserialized and nearly-complete frames and receivers, dozens remain engaged in that business.”
The number of ghost guns recovered at potential crime scenes has grown exponentially, jumping from 1,758 in 2016 to 19,344 in 2021 alone. That these firearms are untraceable only makes it more difficult for law enforcement to develop leads and solve crimes. Between January 1, 2016, and March 4, 2021, ATF attempted to trace almost 23,946 recovered ghost guns, but could only complete 151 traces.
In addition to these nearly-complete frames and receivers, the senators noted that many companies have also been selling standalone tools and equipment with directions to help purchasers complete the firearms. With these untraceable, dangerous weapons still accessible to those who wish to cause harm, the senators called for stronger enforcement of the rule.
“The final rule, however, is clear and unambiguous: a nearly-complete frame or receiver is a firearm. The rule does not cover only frames and receivers sold as part of a kit, but also frames and receivers that can be readily completed. Indeed, enforcing the rule only against sellers of kits would be a colossal loophole,” the senators continued.
“The Ghost Gun Rule was promulgated to stop the proliferation of ghost guns, mitigate the threat these firearms pose to our communities, and help law enforcement—at every level—do their jobs… It is now incumbent upon the Department and ATF to see that it is enforced—and enforced strongly,” the group concluded.
— Blumenthal joined U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA), U.S. Representative Grace Meng (D-NY), and twenty-four of their colleagues in a letter calling on President Biden to undo a Trump-era rule that weakened export controls designed to prevent computer files for the 3D-printing of firearms from being available on the internet and ending up in the wrong hands.
“We applaud your commitment to protecting the public from gun violence with a particular focus on stopping the proliferation of ghost guns,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter to the Administration. “As part of that priority, we believe transferring regulatory control of 3D-printed firearms and their technical data back to the State Department, or amending the Commerce Department’s current regulations to close existing loopholes, would help avoid the proliferation of these dangerous, untraceable weapons.”
ADDRESSING UNSAFE LIVING CONDITIONS AT BRANFORD MANOR APARTMENTS
— Blumenthal joined local officials to highlight the unsafe living conditions at Branford Manor Apartments and call for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to review and revamp their inspection and oversight process of federally subsidized housing units. Blumenthal and U.S. Senator Chris Murphy sent a letter to HUD on Tuesday to reiterate their call for an upheaval of the process.
In January of 2020, the Senators wrote to HUD to request changes to the inspection process in light of significant health and safety code violations at Section 8 housing facilities in Hartford, including Barbour Gardens Apartments.
“Branford Manor residence deserve safe, healthy living conditions—mold-free & well-maintained. My goal with Senator Murphy is action right now, holding owners accountable & HUD doing its job with real inspections & orders,” said Blumenthal.
STOPPING THE RAPID RISE IN YOUTH E-CIGARETTE USE
— Blumenthal joined experts and advocates to highlight the increasing rates of nicotine addiction among young people and the dangers posed by deceptive advertising.
According to the 2022 National Youth Tobacco Survey from the FDA, more than 2.5 million high and middle school students use e-cigarettes, with 1 in 4 reporting daily use. Disposable e-cigarettes, inexpensive and designed for single use, were the most commonly used e-cigarette device among young adults, and nearly 85 percent of youth users reported using flavored e-cigarettes.
Blumenthal is a lead sponsor of the Kids Online Safety Act which creates liability for platforms that allow advertising and promotion of tobacco products to minors. In response to the rapid rise in e-cigarette use among teens, Blumenthal introduced the Preventing Opportunities for Teen E-Cigarette and Tobacco Addiction (PROTECT) Act to establishes an e-cigarette prevention program for young adults at the Center for Disease Control.
HIGHLIGHTING CONNECTICUT’S SMALL BUSINESSES & MANUFACTURING INDUSTRY
— Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Murphy visited Kaman Air Vehicles Facility, an aerospace manufacturing company that has been selected to build a helicopter drone prototype for the United States Marine Corps.
“Great to visit the Kaman Air Vehicles facility to see their work on a military helicopter drone prototype. As a member of the Armed Services Committee, I’ll continue to champion legislation promoting the use of domestic drone tech to support our national defense & local economy,” said Blumenthal.
Blumenthal-led provisions to ensure that the U.S. Coast Guard purchases American-made drones were included in the Coast Guard Authorization Act, which passed the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee in September. The bill also authorizes $2.7 million to replace the foreign-made drones that the Coast Guard currently uses with American or ally-manufactured drones.
Blumenthal is also a cosponsor of the Drone Infrastructure Inspection Grant Act, a bipartisan bill which would authorize $100 million in competitive grants to use American-made drones to perform critical infrastructure inspection, maintenance, or construction projects.
Blumenthal and Murphy reintroduced the American Security Drone Act with Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) last year, which works to prohibit the U.S. government from purchasing drones manufactured in countries identified as national security threats. The bipartisan legislation was included in the FY2023 National Defense Authorization Act that will be considered by the U.S. Senate after the midterm elections.
— Blumenthal attended the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Women’s Business Development Council’s (WBDC) new eastern regional office. The event also celebrated a new grant opportunity funded through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which will support women-owned businesses in New London.
The WBDC supports small, women-owned businesses in Connecticut by providing access to training, mentoring, and financial opportunities.
“Fantastic to be at the Women’s Business Development Council in New London for the ribbon cutting for their new location. WBDC is a real force multiplier. I applaud their work & support their mission to foster equity while expanding exceptional entrepreneurship.”
— Blumenthal met with employees of New England Air Foil Products, a Farmington business that is a leading manufacturer of compressor airfoils for gas turbines for engines used in the aerospace, defense, energy and marine industries.
— Blumenthal attended the grand opening of Fuss & O’Neill’s New Haven office. Fuss & O’Neill is the largest engineering firm headquartered in Connecticut. The New Haven office will complement their Manchester headquarters and allow for an expansion of their civil engineering, planning, and design services.
— Blumenthal toured American GreenFuels in New Haven, the largest biodiesel production plant in New England. American GreenFuels, LLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Kolmar Americas, Inc., a Switzerland based renewable fuels manufacturer.
The New Haven based plant produces 40 million gallons of biodiesel per year, a renewable, clean-burning diesel replacement that spurs energy independence, creates green jobs, and improves the environment. The tour provided the opportunity to review the process of creating biodiesel and highlight American GreenFuel’s commitment to clean energy initiatives.
HELPING AVON PRESERVE HISTORIC TOWN RECORDS
— Blumenthal announced a $50,000 Save America’s Treasures grant from the National Park Services to digitize Avon’s collection of the town’s 19th century history.
“Thanks to all the history stewards who not only record but keep our written documents. Digitizing these artifacts—with the help of a $50K federal grant—will make them even more accessible. This is a great leap forward for Avon Free Public Library, CT history, & our historians.”
The Save America’s Treasures program is funded through the Historic Preservation Fund and awards preservation projects of national significance and projects involving collections of artifacts, documents, structures, and other historic treasures.
MEETING WITH CONNECTICUT’S UKRAINIAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY
— Blumenthal met with members of the Ukrainian American community to discuss the latest developments from the war with Russia and his new legislation holding Saudi Arabia accountable for siding with Russia.
The newly announced legislation comes after Saudi Arabia sided with Russia to cut oil production at last week’s OPEC+ meeting, supporting Russia in its brutal war against Ukraine, undermining global oil supply, and threatening higher gas prices at U.S. pumps.
“Let’s speed delivery of critical arms—especially air defense like NASAMS & AMRAAMs—to Ukraine instead of sending them to Saudi Arabia. Rather than aiding Saudis as they fuel Russia’s butchering genocidal war machine, let’s support Ukraine’s fierce fighters defending against it,” said Blumenthal in a tweet.
“We can no longer be careless & cavalier about transferring our weapons tech or our military leadership to countries that do not support our national interests. It’s long past time to pause weapon transfers & review outsourcing of military knowledge,” Blumenthal continued.
ENSURING SAFER STREETS FOR EAST HAVEN RESIDENTS
— Blumenthal joined East Haven Mayor Joseph Carfora to tour an unsafe pedestrian crosswalk in the Town Center that is in need of improvements. The crosswalk is utilized primarily by the residents of East Farm Village, a living community for low-income senior citizens. This project will help to slow traffic and make the streets safer for elderly pedestrian resident.
The Town of East Haven has applied for federal funding under the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) grant program to replace a traffic signal and crosswalk on a busy intersection. The SS4A grant program was established under the recently passed Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
URGING THE RELEASE OF HOME HEATING AID
— Blumenthal and Murphy joined a bipartisan coalition of thirty-one senators in sending a letter urging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to release funds for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) as swiftly and at the highest level as possible.
“Given the alarming increase in energy costs that is forecast for this winter, we worked to secure an additional $1 billion in emergency funding for LIHEAP in the recently enacted short-term CR. It is critical that this funding, as well as the significant base funding available under the CR, is distributed as quickly as possible so it reaches these households in time for the winter heating season,” said the lawmakers.
LIHEAP is administered by states and accessed through local Community Action Agencies. Eligibility for LIHEAP is based on income, family size, and the availability of resources. Senior citizens and those receiving Social Security Disability or SSI benefits are encouraged to apply as early as possible, but applications will be open to everyone through spring of 2023 — or until the funding is exhausted.
The senators wrote that the federal LIHEAP funding is a crucial lifeline that assists low-income households and seniors on fixed incomes in paying their energy bills and staying safe during the winter.
Earlier this month, Murphy and Blumenthal helped secure $1 billion in LIHEAP funding in the Continuing Resolution to fund the government. This will translate to an estimated $21 million for Connecticut’s LIHEAP program.
HOLDING PREDATORY FOR-PROFIT COLLEGE EXECUTIVES ACCOUNTABLE
— Blumenthal joined U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) in a letter to Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona urging him to use the Department of Education’s authority to hold executives and owners of predatory for-profit colleges accountable for scamming students out of a meaningful education and saddling them with insurmountable student debt.
Holding these executives personally liable would allow the Department of Education to recoup the federal funds spent to rescue students from the mountains of debt they are left with by the for-profit colleges that offer near meaningless degrees and no prospects for employment. It also would send a clear warning signal to current executives at for-profit colleges that the Department may hold them accountable if they continue to scam students.
“We urge you to use your clear statutory authority under 20 U.S.C. § 1099c(e) to hold school owners and executives personally liable for scamming students and taxpayers and recoup funds related to certain student debt discharges, including closed school discharges, borrower defense discharges, and other discharges premised on misconduct by for-profit institutions of higher education,” wrote the senators. “Despite the Department repeatedly finding that fraudulent for-profit colleges widely mislead students and misrepresented their costs, ability to transfer credits, and earning potential, their executives continue to take home huge profits. Too often, students are left saddled with debt and no career path while the executives at these institutions prioritize profits over student outcomes.”
ADDRESSING THE KIDS’ MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS
— Blumenthal joined Sound the Alarm for Kids in their online week of action to mark the one-year anniversary of declaring the kids’ mental health crisis a national emergency.
“It's been a year since pediatric health leaders declared the kids’ mental health crisis a national emergency & we are still failing our young people. Urgent action is needed to better help & support kids struggling with their mental health.”
“We must address this crisis. The constant barrage of addictive, toxic content being driven to young people by powerful social media platforms has only added fuel to the fire.”
“I’m proud to be leading the bipartisan Kids Online Safety Act, which will hold Big Tech accountable for their failures & provide kids & parents with the tools they need to safeguard young people's online experience.”
“Passing this legislation, along with increased funding for mental health resources & the newly implemented 988 Lifeline, are important steps to address this national emergency.”
“I’ll continue to fight for measures that combat this mental health crisis & make sure that children receive the care they need. With the help of initiatives like Sound the Alarm for Kids, we can & will save lives.”
INVESTIGATING THE PROPOSED KROGER-ALBERTSONS MERGER
— Blumenthal joined U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) in a letter urging the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate the proposed merger between Kroger and Albertsons, voicing concern about this transaction’s potential implications for consumers.
“We write to express our serious concern about the recently announced merger between Kroger and Albertsons and to ask for your assurance that this proposed deal will be carefully and thoroughly investigated by the FTC,” the senators wrote to FTC Chair Lina Khan. “As food prices remain elevated, too many American families are struggling to put food on the table for their families. These issues are worse for families in areas without access to affordable, nutritious food. And across the country, more than six million American children suffer from not having enough food.”
“Against that backdrop, last week the nation’s two largest grocery chains, Albertsons and Kroger, announced a proposed $25 billion merger. This merger raises considerable antitrust concerns. The grocery industry is essential to daily life, and Americans need the benefits that robust competition brings, namely lower prices, higher quality, and innovation,” the senators continued.
REQUIRING HUMAN RIGHTS VETTING IN SECURITY COOPERATION PROGRAMS
— Blumenthal joined U.S. Representative Sara Jacobs (D-CA), U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and twelve of their colleagues in a letter urging the leadership of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees to include their amendment requiring human rights vetting of security cooperation programs in the final FY 2023 NDAA conference agreement. The Members advocated for the House-passed provisions of their Upholding Human Rights Abroad Act that close critical loopholes in Leahy Laws and guarantee human rights vetting of U.S. security assistance, including Section 127e and 1202 programs, in order to prevent U.S. taxpayer funds from aiding human rights abusers.
“This provision would strengthen the U.S. commitment to human rights by increasing vetting measures to ensure that recipients of U.S. support have not committed human rights violations or violations of international humanitarian law,” wrote the Members. “To the extent that additional resources are required, we are committed to ensuring that the Department has what it needs to carry out this important function. This provision would help prevent civilian harm, ensure partner compliance with human rights, and improve intended long-term outcomes toward good governance, rule of law, peace, and human rights promotion.”
EVENTS AROUND CONNECTICUT
— Blumenthal attended the 100th anniversary celebration of Mystic’s Bascule Bridge.
“Mystic’s celebration yesterday of its iconic Bascule Bridge—100 years old—was joyous, proud, & moving. The Mystic River Bascule Bridge is going strong as ever, opening for all types of craft—thanks to workers, townspeople, Mystic Historical Society, & Chamber of Commerce.”
— Blumenthal joined a rally to save Sharon Hospital’s Labor and Delivery Unit.
“Rallying on the Green to Save Sharon Hospital, residents of the region delivered an unmistakable message: Nuvance cannot close labor & delivery services, compromise intensive care & put profits over patients. I’ll be fighting along side them, as we did to save Sharon Hospital before.”
— Blumenthal attended a rally for reproductive rights in northwestern Connecticut.
“Northwest CT rallying for women’s health care & reproductive freedom—standing strong in Kent on an exquisitely beautiful sun-filled day. We must trust women to make their own decisions about whether & when to have children, not politicians.”
— Blumenthal attended the Glastonbury Apple Fest.
“Glastonbury’s Apple Fest was packed with statewide crowds enjoying a pitch perfect fall day & hugely popular food, rides, vendors, & more. Apples & fun were abundant. Thanks to all organizers for your hard work.”
— Blumenthal attended the Partnership to End Human Trafficking Gala in Norwalk.
“Dedicated, enthusiastic supporters of the Partnership to End Human Trafficking gathered for a Norwalk gala last night. Human trafficking is a scourge—all too prevalent, often hidden in plain sight. PEHT is educating the public as well as empowering survivors.”
— Blumenthal visited Norwalk’s Lockwood-Matthews Mansion.
“Built starting in 1864, Norwalk’s Lockwood-Mathews Mansion is a gem—precious in architecture & artistry—saved from the wrecking ball by dedicated supporters, many of them gathered this weekend for the annual celebration. A tour of the Mansion is an educational feast of history & art.”
— Blumenthal attended the East Hartford Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
“A mighty, massive crowd for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s yesterday morning in East Hartford raised funds & sent a powerful message: We must do more for research & support in fighting this hideous, cruel disease. Their advocacy is making an undeniable difference.”
— Blumenthal attended the 300th anniversary celebration at the Church of Christ Congregational.
“Celebrating 300 years of worship & community service, the Church of Christ Congregational continues its moving tradition of welcoming all. As it did yesterday, the congregation, led by Senior Pastor Melanie Enfield, generously opens its arms & hearts.”