Mr. Greenberger goes to Hartford
While I have served as an elected official in Fairfield, I’ve never had cause to go to the state capitol in Hartford for business.
On Saturday, my State Rep, the honorable Tom Drew, called and said that a bill requiring insurance companies to pay for bone marrow testing was being heard in committee and Tuesday. As the bill’s author, he was going to speak on it, but he wanted them to hear from people who have dealt with the issue, and invited me along for the ride.
He collected me this morning around 10:30 and we zipped up to the capitol an hour away. Our reps tend to serve on either MWF or TTh committees then all five days while the full body hears and votes on bills and the budget. Tom, like his colleagues, uses the long drive each way to speak to constituents or do their other job, in his case that of lawyer.
Once we arrived, we collected lunch in the cafeteria and then headed up to his office so I could check things out for myself. The legislative building was built about 20 years ago and is an efficient design for government and well maintained so it has the proper amount of presence when you walk its corridors. And yes, what you see in movies and television is true: you really do a lot of your business in hallways and elevators. Heck, I even got to lobby someone from the DPUC on a cable issue before I got into the building.
He took me to the committee room just before the hearing began and explained that they allow the public to speak on bills prior to the legislators and speakers went based on when they signed up. The 19 committee members, from the State and the House, would be hearing 15 different bills over the next few hours. Over the course of the hearing, members drifted in and out and at its peak, only 13 of them were even present.
Tom had presented this bill before and it died last session but got a sense from his colleagues that this year might be different. He had also brought along Danny Lamos, who is fighting lymphoma and underwent a bone marrow transplant and is currently in remission but strongly believed in the bill. As it happened, the Senate had a mirror bill on the docket, and Danny had signed to speak for that one.
When he spoke, he read from a prepared speech, as did every other speaker before the panel. Me, I had bullet points only based on Tom’s direction so it’s a good thing I’m used to speaking in public.
Around 2, shortly after Danny spoke and while the committee heard testimony on a different bill, the Senate bill’s author, minority leader John McKinney (R-Fairfield), arrived. The committee chair broke precedent to allow John to testify and he brought along Tom so they spoke together. Then, continuing to take things out of order, it was my turn.
I sat the table, facing the committee members, who had now heard some of these facts twice in the space of 30 minutes. So instead, I talked about Robbie and his fight. More importantly, I spoke about his friends. College kids who are on tight budgets and could not have afforded the $50-75 per test and how several organized drives that found grant funding. I spoke about how the cost meant the difference between the global registry being 13 million today and many times that tomorrow.
Half way through the chairman interrupted me. He asked that I turn on the microphone which John had turned off out of habit. Fortunately, I was projecting and they had heard me well enough.
Afterwards, I was told I did well. As I left the room, a woman stopped and introduced herself. She had been with the group that funded the Fairfield U. drive this past summer and how pleased she was to meet me. She recalled the incredible work Denise Honeycutt, mother of organizer Marianne, did that day and all the wonderful things she heard about Robbie.
I continue to honor his memory and am more than happy to credit his friends for pulling together when needed.
With luck, this bill we be passed and signed by June.