With local elections just ahead, Rep. Gregory Haddad shares plans for UConn's future

The annual UConn Slutwalk: A March to End Victim Blaming was held on Friday, Oct. 7, 2016. State Representative Gregg Haddad and Connecticut Senator Mae Flexer attended and spoke to participants after the march about what they've done legislatively to protect sexual assault victims. (Zhelun Lang/The Daily Campus)

In addition to voting in the 2016 presidential election, Connecticut residents will have the opportunity to select state and federal legislators on Nov. 8.

All 151 seats of Connecticut’s House of Representatives are up for election this year, with Mansfield Town Council member Mark Sargent challenging sitting state Rep. Gregory Haddad, D-Mansfield, for control of the 54th assembly district. Deputy majority leader Haddad was first elected in 2010 and currently serves on the Appropriations Committee, Government Administrations and Elections Committee and the Higher Education & Employment Advancement Committee.

Haddad attended the University of Connecticut’s 2016 Slut Walk, a student-led march to end rape culture on college campuses, with state senator Mae Flexer of the 29th senate district on Oct. 7. Prior to the event, Haddad said he became involved with affirmative consent law after speaking with a student survivor at a Revolution Against Rape meeting several years ago.

This interest materialized in May of this year when an affirmative consent bill, co-sponsored by Haddad and Flexer, passed in the Senate and the House. The legislation requires university disciplinary boards in Connecticut to determine if there was “unambiguous and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity” when trying sexual assault cases.

Haddad has also been involved on campus through his support for affordable textbook initiatives. This has resulted in legislation, also co-sponsored by Flexer, mandating all state colleges establish pilot programs to analyze the need for open-source textbooks on campus.

UConn’s pilot program resulted in the creation of an open-source chemistry textbook that has saved almost 2,000 students about $600,000 total this semester alone, according to a press release by the Connecticut House Democrats.

“We looked for model legislation around the country and decided that a pilot program should be designed to inform faculty members about the availability of free online textbooks made a lot of sense,” Haddad said. “That is the first hurdle and the easiest hurdle to overcome. We can certainly employ programs to raise the awareness of free textbooks among faculty members but there are still shortages of good textbooks for some disciplines.”

If he is reelected to office, Haddad said he plans to continue supporting environmental issues by pushing forward with a constitutional amendment to protect publicly held open space and further commit himself to improving education in the state. In Sept., a Superior Court judge gave the state six months to fix Connecticut’s “irrational and unconstitutional” system for funding K - 12 schools, according to Fox News.

“What we’ve tried to do over time is come up with a formula that works to provide funding to towns that recognize the need in their individual district as well as the resources they have to meet those needs,” Haddad said. “In truth since the economy turned sour on Connecticut the General Assembly has not been using the formula, we’ve generally been giving each town what they got the year prior so that’s led to a system where some towns are not getting what they ought to get, and some are getting much more.”

Haddad said he also intends to continue supporting legislation that would allow college graduates to refinance their student loan debt and increase the number of students on UConn’s Board of Trustees.

“I think it’s an issue of general fairness, as the university is funded more and more through tuition over state funding I think it makes sense to give students more of a voice,” Haddad said.

A bill that would have doubled the number of student Board of Trustees members from 2 out of 20 to 4 out of 22 was vetoed by Gov. Dannel Malloy in March of 2016 despite passing 180-1 in the Senate and the House, according to the Hartford Courant(http://www.courant.com/education/hc-uconn-students-board-of-trustees-0309-20160308-story.html). Malloy is also president of the Board of Trustees.

Haddad and Sargent will host a debate Oct. 26 at E.O. Smith High School in Mansfield.

Kimberly Armstrong is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at kimberly.armstrong@uconn.edu.