State Senator Norm Needleman is the owner and CEO of Tower Laboratories and is the First Selectman of Essex. He is Chairman of the Energy and Technology Committee and serves on the Finance Committee and Transportation Committee.
Senator Needleman brings Democrats and Republicans together to find common-sense solutions to our most challenging issues, from finding new approaches to clean energy generation to supporting legislation to clean our lakes and rivers. It’s why he is endorsed by the Independent Party. He believes in Connecticut, and believes it is our responsibility to make it better for our generation, and for our children.
1. What is the most serious problem currently facing the state of Connecticut? Why is it the most serious problem? What would you do to help solve the problem?
The most serious problem facing Connecticut today is the economy. Thankfully Connecticut has seen nine consecutive months of job growth, but we’ve only recovered approximately 90% of the jobs lost during the depths of the COVID pandemic. We’ve got to continue to focus on growing our economy, through good paying jobs, a robust housing market and investing in education. I will work to continue supporting our workforce pipelines, which provide workers with the training and skills they need to enter new industries and bolster their careers while simultaneously creating a pool of skilled workers for our local businesses. We also need to make sure that the structures that support our businesses sector and workforce are robust including ensuring that we have affordable and accessible childcare, affordable healthcare and a housing market that meets the needs of our workforce.
I will also continue to work to reduce some of the red tape that impacts business ownership and development in Connecticut. In 2021, I helped lead the passage of a bill updating the Transfer Act. CT was one of only 2 states with a transfer statute, which was deeply cumbersome for businesses, hindered real estate development and was bad for the environment as it didn’t deal with issues of contamination until a property was transferred rather than in real-time. I also advocated for the state to use $195 million in ARPA funds that we received from the federal government to support the Unemployment Trust Fund, which directly supports businesses and their workers. We need to preserve our Main Streets and our core local town economies for the benefit of all residents.
2. If elected/re-elected, which issues (excluding the one you have described in Q1) would be your primary focus during your term?
Energy affordability is one of the most direct issues facing families and businesses. I’m committed to continuing my work as Chair of the Energy and Technology Committee to reduce costs for ratepayers while balancing grid reliability and helping our state continue its necessary transition to a clean energy future.
Our electric sector was deregulated in the late 1990s, while many thought this would lead to lower costs and better service, our experience has shown that deregulation has been an abject failure. This became especially evident after tens of thousands of CT residents lost power for days after tropical storm Isaias. In response, I crafted the bipartisan Take Back Our Grid Act, that requires increased staffing, ensures customers receive $250 to compensate for spoiled food, and requires PURA to create low-income rates for our neighbors most in need. The electric utilities have been held financially accountable, with record-breaking fines, which were returned to customers as credits on their bills. After the shocking power grid failure in Texas, I focused on grid reliability. Championing legislation addressing resiliency through energy storage systems and requiring the Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security and electric companies to make plans to maintain reliable emergency/backup power for critical infrastructure.
In September, Eversource was required to reduce costs slightly; due to our state’s foresight in ensuring we utilize nuclear energy on top of natural gas. In 1979, Connecticut imposed a moratorium on new nuclear facilities, citing issues of long-term storage options for spent fuel. Only two reactors remain operational, generating nearly 40 percent of our electricity, demonstrating that we need nuclear in the mix as baseload power, especially to contain costs as we move to a green energy future. I worked with Congressman Courtney to add funds to the federal budget to determine how to deal with spent fuel and passed the first bill in 43 years to slightly expand our nuclear options by exempting existing facilities from the moratorium. With the incredibly volatile natural gas market, the more we shift away from its use, costs will likely fall and more renewables will support the grid.
3. Why are you running for this position?
I founded my pharmaceutical manufacturing company over 40 years ago and have over 300 employees working for me. I’ve always known that I wanted to take my skills from the business sector to serve my community.
I have experience at the state and local levels, including two terms as State Senator and more than a decade as First Selectman of Essex, in addition to serving on the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Economic Development Commission, the Valley Shore Emergency Communications Board and the Board of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce.
These experiences have been vital in informing the work I do in bringing people together to create common-sense solutions for some of the most complex issues facing our state. I’ve been crossing the district and back to hear from people directly and know what issues are most important to them. I’ve been working to help as many constituents as I can since my election, and every vote I take has the well-being of the 100,000 people I represent in mind. Sometimes that means making tough decisions, but it’s for the greater good throughout the state. Public service is my way of giving back to the communities that have given so much to me and my family for decades. And it’s the honor of my lifetime to serve as your State Senator.