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Roraback visits Gilbert students

WINSTED — State Sen. Andrew Roraback (R-30) visited The Gilbert School’s senior political science class on Thursday, Jan. 12.Roraback, who has served in the state senate since 2000, is running in November for a congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Chris Murphy (D-5).Roraback discussed issues facing the state and listened to students’ opinions on a range of subjects.In the beginning, Roraback decided to step away from the podium in front of the audience in order to move closer to the students.“I always thought that elected officials needed to bridge the gap between government and the people that we serve,” Roraback said. “I find that one of the easiest ways to do this is to forgo a podium when I talk to them.”Roraback said he wanted students to understand the importance of both state and federal government in their lives.“Often its easy for people to think that what happens in Washington and Hartford doesn’t have any effect on them,” Roraback said. “They think that the work that happens in both places is not relevant to what is going on in their lives. But it is important, and it does impact everyone’s lives.”Roraback asked the audience for their opinions about proposed legislation that would allow towns to put surveillance cameras on top of stoplights.Student Joseph Bessette said he is in favor of the legislation.“It may reduce the amount of people running red lights, which in the end would stop accidents and carelessness,” Joseph said. “It may also stop drivers who text on their cell phones.”Student Brianna Brady said the legislation is “kind of creepy”.“How does the camera know when someone runs a red light?” Brianna asked. “Will it take pictures of everyone standing at the light?”Roraback said the city council in Albuquerque, N.M., faced similar legislation.“The leaders on the the city council then asked themselves why they should be making the decision when they could ask for the people’s opinion with a referendum,” Roraback said. “Maybe we should ask the people in the state for their opinions on this issue.”Roraback told the class he is opposed to the legislation.“I’m against cameras at stoplights because, to me, it represents a Big Brother aspect that bothers me,” he said. “It bothers me about the growing ability of the government to track my whereabouts and what I’m up to. The idea that I’m driving down the road while the government tracks me with a camera at a red light, that doesn’t sit too well with me.”“Anyone who is in favor of cameras on stop lights should read the book ‘1984’ by George Orwell,” Board of Education Chairman Susan Hoffnagle added.Roraback changed the subject to a discussion about online gambling.In late December, the U.S. Department of Justice issued an opinion that online gambling did not violate federal laws.“Some members of our state government believe that online gambling may be a way for the state to get some money,” Roraback said. “We need money in Connecticut because the state is in a bad way financially. We’re looking for any opportunity to make money.”Roraback asked the audience if they would approve of legalizing online gambling in Connecticut.“It doesn’t seem very honest to me,” student Brianna Brady said. “Online gambling seems rather shady to me.”Student Cody Farkas disagreed.“I think its a good way for the state to earn money,” Cody said. “It’s the person’s choice to gamble or not.”Roraback said he is against legalizing online gambling because it would encourage gambling addiction.“Who can, in their mind’s eye, picture someone late at night, alone, getting out their credit card and maxing it out while they gamble at home?” Senator Roraback said. “They could easily gamble away their family’s finances.”Roraback added that any legislation to legalize online gambling with the state would have to be approved by the Indian tribes that own Foxwoods Casino and Mohegan Sun Casino.“The state signed a compact with both tribes that states that there will be no online gambling allowed in the state unless both tribes agree to it,” Roraback said. “In exchange, the state gets 25 percent of all slot machine revenues. If the tribes agree to opening up online gambling, I assume they would want the biggest piece of the action. Why would they want to give something up unless they get something better in return?”When asked about his opinions on marijuana by an audience member, Roraback said that he was against marijuana decriminalization, but in favor of legalizing marijuana for medical usage.“Before we pass any bill, we have a public hearing where people come to the capitol to let us know what they think,” Roraback said.A student asked Roraback if he would change his mind if the state could tax marijuana sales.“The state thinks about everything money wise because we are in such a bad financial situation,” Roraback said. “In my opinion, the best way for the state to make money is to attract businesses to Connecticut. If more businesses come to the state, it would bring good jobs. If good jobs come to Connecticut, then it would earn a lot of income taxes for the state. To have a state that makes money from online gambling and taxing marijuana sales, that doesn’t seem like the kind of society I would want to promote.”An audience member asked Roraback whether or not he was in favor of the death penalty.“I happen to be against it because of a lot of the moral reasons that are personal for myself,” Roraback said. “I recognize that the majority of people in the state are for the death penalty. I respect that, and I don’t try to change their minds.”Roraback then discussed a meeting he had last year with Doctor William Petit.Petit is the lone survivor of a home invasion in 2007 that killed his wife and their two daughters.“If the death penalty could bring back his family, I would be for it,” Roraback said. “I’m comfortable with my position on the death penalty, but it’s not always easy.”Roraback ended his talk with a plea for the students to register to vote when they turn 18 years old.“It’s not for me to tell you how to think or what to think,” Roraback said. “All I ask you to do is think. And think towards a view of your futures.”

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