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Norwalk Lawmaker Fights for Minority Businesses

HARTFORD, Conn. – State Rep. Bruce Morris, D-Norwalk, and others spoke out Wednesday against a proposal made by Gov. Dannel Malloy during the first Minority Business Enterprise Day at the State Capitol.

Morris, vice chair of the legislature's Human Services Committee, was joined by Teresa Younger from the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women , Ted Hsu of Minority Business Enterprise, Steve Harris from the African-American Alliance and business owners as they discussed ways to improve opportunities for minority-owned businesses and women-owned businesses.

"As legislators, we must continue to champion the cause for women-owned and minority-owned business," said Morris, according to a statement.

"The state's expenditure for human services, which now makes up 29 percent of the state budget, could be reduced over time, if we could level the playing field and increase the number of qualified minority business doing business with the state of Connecticut."

Morris spoke out against Malloy's proposal to cut continued funding of a disparities study approved during the 2011 General Assembly session. The study, which is supposed to be completed by Oct. 1, seeks to bring to light abuses of Connecticut's minority set-aside laws.

Among the abuses:

  • Many women-owned firms are proxies for white male-owned firms using wives, daughters, relatives and employees.
  • Many "front companies" are created by white male-owned firms deploying their minority employees as a means to divert state contracts.
  • Half of Connecticut agencies failed to meet goals of the Minority Business Enterprise.
  • Racially ethnic minorities are 29 percent of the state's population but minority-owned firms were awarded less than 1 percent of state contracts in 2010.

The group gave its recommendations for remedying the abuses:

  • Separation of minority business enterprise's from women-owned enterprises for the purpose of defining a Minority Business Enterprise.
  • Completion of the study by the set date and implement recommendations.
  • Increase of penalties for creation of "front companies" to felony violations.
  • Addressing that Connecticut exempts a large number of contracts from the state supplier diversity goals, amounting to $7 billion over the past 10 years.

"We have a duty to make sure that minority and women-owned businesses are included in our economic success strategy of the future," Morris said in the statement. "We have laws on the books that serve a good purpose but we need better monitoring to make sure they are followed."

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