Maroney discusses initiatives for 14th state Senate district
State Sen. James Maroney, of the 14th District, has a number of issues he plans to tackle over the next two years.
Maroney, along with other state officials, was sworn in Jan. 9 in Hartford.
His planned initiatives include efforts to push computer coding instruction in the public schools, and to help returning veterans secure jobs in advanced machining.
Maroney refers to the CS4RI program in Rhode Island, which he wants to duplicate in Connecticut — a CS4CT program.
“CS4RI (Computer Science for Rhode Island) is a state initiative to bring high quality computer science learning experiences to all students,” according to a CS4RI website. “It represents a partnership between Rhode Island state government, the Rhode Island Department of Education, K-12 schools, higher education, private industry, and non-profits across the Rhode Island.”
Maroney said that in Rhode Island a goal was set to teach computer coding in all the public high schools, and that in two years the state went from offering it in under half the high schools there to now offering it in almost all the high schools.
Maroney said he recently took part in a roundtable discussion at Yale University with educators and people in the computer industry to discuss the idea.
“We’re really looking at a two-prong approach,” Maroney said. “One is looking at K-12 and then also looking at workforce development, post-secondary.”
Maroney got interested in computer coding when he was a state representative from 2013 to 2015. He learned that companies were leaving Connecticut for other states because Connecticut lacked a workforce skilled at entry level computer coding.
“I think it’s a pressing issue when you look at the fact that they are predicting two million open coding jobs in the next 10 years across the country and we already have 7,000 open jobs in the state,” Maroney said, “and some companies have left our state because we don’t have the coding talents.”
He said he is struggling with the idea of mandating coding in high schools, but noted that it’s actually already a state mandate. There already is legislation that requires computer coding but it was not put into the state’s regulations, and so isn’t enforced, Maroney said.
Maroney has been named chairman of the Aging and Veterans Affairs committees, and has three veterans initiatives planned. One he calls military to machinist. He says there are 13,000 open advanced manufacturing jobs in the state, and there are programs available at the state’s community colleges that train in these areas, as well as welding, IT and tool and die making. But there needs to be a program that connects the dots between the veterans, the classes, funding for the classes and the available jobs.
“It’s not going to cost us any money,” Maroney said. “It’s just reorganizing existing resources to make them easier to access and marketing them to make sure people know they are there.”
Maroney also wants to open more spots in the Alternate Route to Teacher Certification (ARC) program for veterans, and provide more supportive employment for veterans with disabilities, such as post traumatic stress disorder.
Maroney has also been named a member of the state Senate Regulations Review Committee and vice chairman of the Public Health Committee.
Among his list of planned initiatives, he said he is also interested in opportunity zones, of which there are 72 in the state, including two in West Haven, where federal tax credits are offered for projects on those properties.
“I’d like to layer state benefits on top of the federal benefits,” Maroney said.
Thousands of opportunity funds have been developed across the country, and Maroney said he wants to make sure Connecticut’s sites are appealing to investors.
“2019 is going to be biggest investment year,” Maroney said. “So this year we should see a lot of money coming in.”
He plans to convert his list of initiatives from a Word document to an Excel spreadsheet so he can track progress.
The 14th state Senate District had been represented by Democrat Gayle Slossberg since 2005.
When Slossberg announced she would not seek another term, Maroney said he would run, as did several Republicans.
Following a Republican primary, Pam Staneski, the 119th District state representative, won the GOP backing to run against Maroney.
It wasn’t the first time she and Maroney faced off in an election: It was the third.
Maroney, a lifelong Milford resident, represented the 119th Assembly District from 2013-15. Then Staneski took it from him.
Staneski had run for the 119th seat twice before, first in 2004 against longtime incumbent Democrat Richard Roy, then in 2012 against Maroney. Maroney took the win that year by 470 votes, beating Staneski 5,998 to 5,528
Staneski ran for the seat again in 2014 and that time pulled ahead of Maroney by 151 votes, 4,423 to 4,272.
Maroney won the November race against Staneski for the state Senate seat with a vote of 21,926 to 20,888, according to the Secretary of State’s website.