PREVENTING FRONTOVER CHILD DEATHS
— U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), a member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, announced legislation to prevent child deaths due to frontover incidents. The Standards to Prevent (STOP) Frontovers Act would require all new vehicles to come equipped with cameras, sensors, or other technology to improve drivers’ front visibility and perception of kids, pets, and other objects that may be in front of their vehicle and avert crashes. The new legislation comes after recent demonstrations by investigative reporters have shown blind zones in front of some cars to be as large as 16 feet, obscuring children from view and putting them at risk of being run over, leading to deaths and injuries.
“This mandate for front-facing devices like cameras or sensors will save lives,” said Blumenthal. “Tragic frontover incidents are needlessly killing or severely injuring kids, and we must act. This commonsense measure requires car manufacturers to install technology like cameras or sensors in cars to detect kids or pets in front of the car. Congress mandated similar rear visibility standards to put a stop to backover incidents, and now backup sensors and cameras are standard car safety features. I’m proud to lead the STOP Frontovers Act to require a similar front visibility and perception standard and help bring an end to these tragedies.”
The legislation announced by Blumenthal would require the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to issue a new Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) that requires vehicles be equipped with technology that enables drivers to detect and accordingly respond to objects in front of their vehicle to reduce death and injury resulting from frontovers. The measure directs NHTSA to begin the rulemaking process for the standard within one year and issue a final FMVSS within two years. It also requires NHTSA to formally define the term “frontover” to standardize its definition and allow for more accurate data collection. In addition, the bill directs NHTSA to update its Non-Traffic Surveillance data to more accurately count frontover injuries and deaths to provide critical and more accurate information to the Agency and the public about the prevalence of frontovers.
While Congress mandated in 2008 that NHTSA issue a rule to establish rear visibility standards in response to countless backover accidents, no such front visibility standards currently exist. Front visibility technology, such as cameras and sensors, is offered by some manufacturers, but usually only on expensive, upgraded models or for an additional fee.
Blumenthal has been spearheading efforts to prevent frontover child deaths. In August, Blumenthal called on NHTSA to address child deaths due to frontovers, including public releases of data to understand the scope of the issue and inform solutions. The text of the August letter to NHTSA can be found here and NHTSA’s response, committing to releasing data and working to address this issue, can be found here. In September, NHTSA released new data on non-traffic incidents, which encompasses frontovers. Blumenthal released a statement following the NHTSA data release, reiterating his commitment to introduce legislation and pressing for rapid remedies.
ENHANCING HEALTH & SAFETY IN PUBLIC HOUSING
— Blumenthal joined Hartford officials to announce a $250,000 federal grant for the Housing Authority of the City of Hartford (HACH) to install carbon monoxide detectors, enhancing health and safety for residents of several public housing developments.
The funding awarded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will be used for the purchase of carbon monoxide and smoke detectors at Percival C. Smith Towers, Betty Knox Apartments, and Kent Apartments.
“Carbon monoxide is a silent killer. The Hartford Housing Authority is taking steps to save lives & prevent harm from this pernicious, insidious gas. Through this federal grant they will be able to install detection systems in public housing developments & keep people safe,” said Blumenthal.
— Blumenthal joined Danbury officials to announce a $250,000 federal grant for the Housing Authority of the City of Danbury to install intercom systems and surveillance cameras at two senior housing complexes, Wooster Manor and Putnam Towers.
The funding awarded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will increase the security of residents by allowing them to screen visitors before granting them access to their building.
STANDING WITH WINDHAM HOSPITAL WORKERS ON STRIKE
— Blumenthal and U.S. Representative Joe Courtney (D-CT) joined local leaders in standing with employees from Windham Community Memorial Hospital’s technical support, service, and maintenance union who are protesting inadequate pay, rising health insurance premiums, unfair working conditions, and the ongoing patient care crisis.
Over 200 members of AFT Local 5099, the union representing the allied health professionals, conducted the two-day strike following last month’s informational picket and strike authorization vote. The decision also comes after last month’s strike by its sister union representing over 100 Windham Hospital nurses. The two unions and Hartford HealthCare (HHC), which owns the 130-bed acute care facility, have not yet come to an agreement to resolve the issues.
“Nobody cares more about their patients than nurses & health care workers. They deserve fair pay, fair hours, & fair treatment. Proud to stand with union members at Windham Hospital as they call out unfair labor practices & demand change,” said Blumenthal.
BREAKING THE CYCLE OF RECIDIVISM
— Blumenthal and U.S. Representative Jim Himes (D-CT) announced two federal grants for Career Resources, Inc. (CRI), a workforce development non-profit that supports Connecticut’s returning citizens.
A $3.98 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration will support CRI’s Pathway Home Program, a statewide comprehensive pre- and post-release workforce training and placement program designed to connect returning citizens to the workforce system before their release and maintain continuity of services upon their re-entry into the community.
Additionally, CRI received $747,000 through the U.S. Department of Justice to implement the Bridgeport Reentry Housing Initiative, a community based program to support returning citizens in finding housing.
“Thanks to federal funding, Career Resources, Inc. can continue to build on its fantastic work to break the cycle of recidivism. Their game-changing efforts to aid those re-entering the workforce are key to successfully transitioning back into the community,” said Blumenthal.
ENCOURAGING THE SAFE DISPOSAL OF DRUGS
— Blumenthal joined East Hartford town officials and first responders to highlight National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, which will occur Saturday, October 29, 2022. This national event, spearheaded by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), provides a safe and convenient means to dispose of prescription drugs, while also educating the public about the potential misuse of unwanted medications. Municipal police departments across Connecticut will serve as drop-off sites, accepting unused tablets, capsules, patches, and other forms of prescription drugs.
Drug overdose deaths increased by 11 percent between 2020 and 2021 and are now the leading cause of unintentional death for Connecticut residents. Unused prescription drugs in the home pose a serious risk of ending up in the wrong hands, leading to potential misuse.
According to a report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a majority of people who misuse a prescription medication obtain the medication from a family member or friend.
PROTECTING SAME-SEX MARRIAGE
— Blumenthal joined LGBTQ+ advocates to urge passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, a bipartisan measure which would enshrine marriage equality in federal law and repeal the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act.
The push for passage comes after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, eliminating the right to an abortion and signaling that other rights, like the right to same-sex marriage, are under threat. In July, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Respect for Marriage Act, and the Senate will vote on the bill in November.
“We need to enshrine marriage equality into federal law. With the overturning of Roe v. Wade, other fundamental rights like same-sex marriage are in grave danger. I proudly stood with LGBTQ+ advocates to support passage of the Respect for Marriage Act,” said Blumenthal.
PROMOTING AN INCLUSIVE WORKFORCE
— Blumenthal and Connecticut Department of Aging and Disability Services Commissioner Amy Porter visited the Advance Auto Parts Distribution Center in Enfield to highlight the company’s success in employing individuals with disabilities and fostering an inclusive workforce. After touring the facility, Blumenthal and Porter met with employees and discussed a new grant to support the careers of individuals with disabilities.
With nearly 430 employees, 5% of whom are persons with a disability, the distribution center in Enfield focuses on providing both professional installer and do-it-yourself customers with automotive aftermarket parts. The company has an active partnership with Viability, a state contractor and non-profit company based in Springfield, MA, which helps connect individuals with disabilities to employment opportunities.
Last month, Connecticut was one of ten states awarded a U.S. Department of Education, Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) grant to support individuals with disabilities in making informed choices about preparing for, securing, and sustaining employment. The $13,943,946 grant will help other employers around Connecticut promote a diverse, inclusive workforce.
FOSTERING FUTURE-READY KIDS
— Blumenthal attended the ribbon cutting ceremony for the KidStrong Center, a child development training center in Danbury focused on mental, physical, and character development. KidStrong utilizes a science-based curriculum to develop future-ready kids by reinforcing skills such as confidence, teamwork, and good sportsmanship. This is the second KidStrong location to open in Connecticut, following the Fairfield facility which opened in 2021.
BREAKING GROUND ON THE CT NATIONAL GUARD’S NEW BASE
— Blumenthal joined Governor Ned Lamont and U.S. Representative Joe Courtney (D-CT) at the groundbreaking ceremony commemorating the start of construction on the Connecticut National Guard’s new Putnam Readiness Center.
The readiness center, the modern-day term for what was previously referred to as an armory, will provide the Connecticut National Guard with a state-of-the-art base of operations to train for federal mobilizations and respond to emergencies in northeastern Connecticut. Its creation is part of the state’s broader goal of having facilities strategically located in each of Connecticut’s eight counties that can be used to quickly respond to and meet emergency needs, particularly during severe weather events and natural disasters.
FIGHTING FOOD INSECURITY AMONG STUDENTS
— Blumenthal and U.S. Representative John B. Larson (D-CT) attended the ribbon cutting ceremony for Goodwin University’s newly expanded Ann B. Clark Co-op. Managed by a group of faculty, staff, and students, the co-op provides free food and other essential goods to students at Goodwin and local magnet schools.
Named after Goodwin’s Provost Emerita and working in partnership with local organizations such as Connecticut Foodshare, Stop & Shop, ShopRite, and Highland Park Market, the Ann B. Clark Co-op helps prevent hunger from getting in the way of students’ education. In addition to fighting food insecurity, the expanded co-op now also offers access to clothing, personal hygiene products, diapers, and home goods.
HIGHLIGHTING PROGRESS IN CLIMATE RESILIENCY TEN YEARS AFTER SUPERSTORM SANDY
— Ten years after the devastating impacts of Superstorm Sandy, Blumenthal joined state environmental leaders at UConn Avery Point to highlight Connecticut’s progress and challenges in addressing the increasing threats of climate change. The event, hosted by the Connecticut Institute for Resilience & Climate Adaptation (CIRCA) in partnership with the Connecticut Department of Housing (DOH), featured discussions on the state’s progress in addressing climate change and what remains to be done as climate challenges intensify in the decades ahead.
INVESTIGATING TESLA’S MISLEADING ADVERTISING OF DRIVING AUTOMATION SYSTEMS
— Blumenthal and Edward J. Markey (D-MA) issued the following joint statement after reports of an investigation launched by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) into whether Tesla misled consumers, investors, and regulators by making unsupported claims about its Full-Self Driving (FSD) system’s capabilities:
“We have long sounded the alarm about Tesla’s misleading marketing practices, which overstate the real capabilities of its vehicles and put drivers and the public at grave risk. We are encouraged by the reports that the Department of Justice is investigating these issues. We will continue pressing for oversight of Elon Musk and Tesla to avert driver confusion and prevent deadly crashes—and for accountability if any misconduct is uncovered.”
Blumenthal and Markey have long pushed for autonomous vehicle (AV) technology safety. In August 2021, Blumenthal and Markey sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), calling for the agency to launch an investigation into Tesla’s advertising of driving automation systems. The full text of the letter can be found here.
In February 2022, Blumenthal and Markey sent a letter to Tesla Co-founder and CEO Elon Musk following numerous reports of dangerous braking flaws in Tesla’s Autopilot and Full Self Driving systems and amid several federal safety investigations, voicing serious concerns with the implementation of the company’s technology. The full text of the letter to Musk can be found here.
In June 2022, Blumenthal and Markey issued a joint statement applauding the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for upgrading its investigation into Tesla’s Autopilot system from a preliminary evaluation to an engineering analysis after identifying additional crashes at first responder sites.
EXAMINING REPORTS OF RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION AT THE AIR FORCE ACADEMY
— Blumenthal led U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) in writing U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall (USAFA) following news reports that the United States Air Force Academy scheduled one of its most important training days of the year, the Commandant’s Challenge, on Yom Kippur. According to local news coverage, the challenge designed to foster teamwork, leadership, and character was scheduled on the most solemn of Jewish holidays. In their letter, the senators expressed concerns about the Academy’s efforts to protect the religious liberties of cadets, airmen, and guardians.
“The scheduling of such an important Academy event on Yom Kippur was unnecessary and suggests a fundamental disregard for Jewish cadets and their first amendment rights,” wrote the senators.
The senators also expressed concern about reports of a Jewish cadet seeking guidance from a senior cadet in her chain of command and being told the problem was her, “being Jewish.” The junior cadet was also reportedly encouraged to, “try Christianity” and attend bible studies. According to the senators, these reports of prejudice, along with the scheduling of Academy activities in conflict with Jewish religious observances, may indicate, “institutional concerns that we strongly feel must be examined.”
ADDRESSING UCONN’S SUSTAINABLE ENERGY CONFERENCE
— Blumenthal joined Connecticut’s clean energy leaders and stakeholders at the University of Connecticut sustainable energy conference, ‘Navigating Climate Change & Energy Security in the Northeast – The Next 5 Year’. The conference featured discussions on energy efficiency, grid modernization, and technologies related to decarbonization and clean energy transition.
CONSTRUCTING THE NEW CONNECTICUT RIVER BRIDGE
— Blumenthal highlighted Amtrak’s announcement that it will be entering into the procurement phase in early 2023 to select a contractor for the construction of a new Connecticut River Bridge. The bridge replacement will allow for better reliability and decreased delays for travelers due to trains traveling on more modern infrastructure. As part of a more than $500 million investment from Amtrak, the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT), and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Amtrak intends to award the contract in late 2023. Construction is expected to start in early 2024.
“Necessary improvements to Connecticut’s rail infrastructure are on the way,” said Blumenthal. “The Connecticut River Bridge is an essential part of the Northeast Corridor’s busy rail line, and in dire need of repairs. I have proudly fought for federal support of Connecticut’s rail to make these types of upgrades possible and to improve rail service for the traveling public.”
The Connecticut River Bridge, first built in 1907, is located on the Northeast Corridor (NEC) between the towns of Old Saybrook and Old Lyme and is used by Amtrak, CTRail’s Shore Line East, and freight trains. The project will involve building a two-track, electrified, and resilient movable bridge structure equipped with new track, signal, catenary, power, communication, controls, and security features. The new bridge structure is expected to have a useful life of 150 years. As part of the project, the selected contractor will also perform any environmental mitigation required by the permitting/NEPA process.
PAUSING ARMS SALES TO SAUDI ARABIA
— Blumenthal and Yale Professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld published an op-ed in Foreign Affairs calling for a pause in U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Earlier this month, Blumenthal and U.S. Representative Ro Khanna (D-CA) introduced bicameral legislation to stop U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia after the country sided with Russia to cut oil production at a recent OPEC+ meeting, a move that will support Russia in its brutal war against Ukraine and undermine global oil supply.
“The United States cannot continue to tolerate these shortcomings, jeopardizing its own interests to cover for Saudi recklessness. Saudi leaders believe they can push the United States into a corner, forcing it to accept their terms for a partnership that does little to advance U.S. interests. Such arrogance, presumption, and deceit have shattered the trust the United States once placed in the Saudi regime. A pause on arms sales would send a strong message to Riyadh that it must regain Washington’s confidence,” Blumenthal and Sonnenfeld wrote.
REPLACING HARMFUL LEAD PIPES
— Blumenthal joined U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and twelve of their colleagues in writing to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in support of steps they have taken to develop and implement the Biden Administration’s historic Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan. In light of EPA’s decision to draft Lead and Copper Rule Improvements (LCRI) in accordance with Executive Order 13990, the letter emphasized the need to strengthen and enforce the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR), including requiring water systems to replace often century-old and deteriorating lead pipes over the coming decade. The group also urged EPA to ensure that lead in school and child care center drinking water is prioritized, with emphasis on disadvantaged communities and communities with the highest cumulative impact of lead exposures.
“Our constituents deserve to know what is in their drinking water and to test for pollutants easily and regularly from their own taps. We strongly encourage EPA to approve scientifically developed and peer-reviewed user-friendly, at-home kits to test for contaminants in water systems. Such test kits should be inexpensive, fast-acting, and easy to use, akin to the at-home health tests that proliferated during the pandemic. This is critical to tackling the challenges of lead pipe replacement and ensuring LCR compliance nationwide. We share EPA’s commitment to safe and healthy lives for all Americans and we look forward to working together to address this public health issue,” the senators wrote.
— Blumenthal, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), and U.S. Representative Jahana Hayes (D-CT) joined the Administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) at the Wheeler Family Health & Wellness Center for a roundtable discussion on the expansion of HRSA’s Pediatric Mental Health Care Access (PMHCA) program through the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. The roundtable included employees, representatives from the Connecticut Department of Children and Families, pediatricians, and other federal and state officials. Wheeler Health is one of three PMHCA hubs that provides pediatric mental health teleconsultations for primary care doctors in Connecticut.
— Blumenthal attended Naugatuck’s Frosty’s Fall Festival.
“Naugatuck’s Frosty’s Fall Festival has tons of artful, useful, beautiful craft creations & other impressive items. Great for Thanksgiving & Holiday gifts. Head over to 6 Rubber Ave to enjoy the broad array—& really nice people. Thanks all.”
— Blumenthal joined Governor Ned Lamont and local officials at the tenth anniversary celebration for Connecticut Electric Car Charging Systems.
“Exciting celebration of 10 years for CT Electric Car Charging Systems—so important for saving energy & our planet. Congrats & thanks to Ed Ingalls & his team for their guts, grit & vision. They’re shaming the EV skeptics—putting chargers in homes & businesses all over CT,” said Blumenthal.
— Blumenthal joined the opening ceremony for a new community center in Bridgeport.
“A wonderful new community center in Bridgeport—opened by DACCT, LEAD, & the Mosaic Coalition. The Dominican American Coalition of CT, & Latinos for Education Advocacy & Diversity, are invaluable partners along with the Mosaic Coalition.”
— Blumenthal attended the CT Hospice Gratitude Gala.
“Deeply grateful & proud to be honored at CT Hospice Gratitude Gala. CEO Barbara Pearce has led an extraordinary revival of this internationally renowned caring facility, w/help from staff, doctors, nurses, board members & more. A miraculous turnaround for an inspiring institution.”
— Blumenthal attended the annual Lyme-Old Lyme VFW Dinner.
“An inspiring celebration of service at the annual Lyme-Old Lyme VFW Dinner this weekend, a great turnout reflecting strong support for Post 1467. Proud & thankful to join you!”
— Blumenthal joined the 100th anniversary celebration for the Lebanon American Club.
“A Grand Banquet in Danbury to celebrate 100 yrs of service by dedicated members of the Lebanon-American Club. My remarks for the Congressional Record, presented this weekend, barely capture all the tremendous caring & giving of this wonderful community. Congratulations & thanks!”