Longtime State Senator Edith Prague, D-Columbia, has decided not to run for reelection and thus bring to an end an 18-year career in the state Senate.
Prague has represented the 19th Senate District since 1994. Her district serves Columbia, Franklin, Hebron, Lebanon, Ledyard, Lisbon, Marlborough, Montville, Norwich and Sprague. (Bozrah will be dropped from this district as a result of redistricting.)
After suffering a minor stroke Christmas morning, 86-year-old Prague returned to work in January 2012, but she is heeding the advice of her doctor, who is concerned about the level of stress campaigning entails.
“She gave me a fair warning,” said Sen. Prague.
Former state Rep. Joan Lewis, D-Coventry, spoke to the passion and dedication Prague has demonstrated in her job.
Lewis ended her fourth term as state representative after losing to current state Rep. Tim Ackert, R-Coventry in November 2010.
As state representative, Lewis served constituents in Coventry, Columbia and Vernon. She also worked with Sen. Prague during Lewis’ 17 years on the Coventry Town Council.
At that time, Sen. Prague was serving Coventry as state representative.
Lewis remembers Sen. Prague’s “energy and enthusiasm” about issues in the state legislature. Sen. Prague has been “an outspoken advocate for the people,” said Lewis.
During her time as a legislator, Prague has been an advocate for senior citizens and aimed to improve access to affordable health care for all citizens.
Prior to her time in the state Senate, Prague was a state representative for eight years and served as commissioner of the former state Department on Aging – during that time, she established a statewide health insurance program, originally called “HICAP” and now operating under the name “CHOICES.” The program provides counseling services to seniors with questions about insurance coverage.
Sen. Prague is currently serving as assistant president pro tempore of the state Senate and is chair of the aging and labor and public employees committees. She is also vice chair of the appropriations committee and a member of the public health committee.
Rep. Ackert has been working closely with Prague since beginning his first term in November 2010. Although they are from two different parties, he has a great deal of respect for Sen. Prague and the work she has done in the legislature.
“We may have disagreed on our philosophies, but never on our philosophies for our constituents,” said Ackert. For example, the pair has been a “voice” for Columbia regarding the minimum budget requirement law, which Town Administrator Jonathan Luiz testified against in February.
The law requires school districts to allocate at least the same amount of funding that was in the budget the previous year.
Columbia failed to meet the MBR requirement; the budget is $158,723 less than the prior year. And so, the town is required to come up with the remaining funds by June 31, the end of the fiscal year.
Thus far, no action has been taken on the measure, so the town faces a possible financial penalty, which would be double the amount of Education Cost Sharing Grant funding the town would typically receive.
Rep. Ackert said Sen. Prague’s retirement will give her an opportunity to take time for herself and spend more time with her family. “I care about her health — I truly do,” he said.
Sen. Prague said the highlight of her legislative career came Wednesday, when Bill 5312 passed in the Senate – it makes changes in the state employee health benefits statutes to correspond with employee concessions in the state employee collective bargaining agreement.
It has also passed in the state House of Representatives.
“That’s what serving in state government is all about, improving the lives of people in this state,” Sen. Prague said.
She said she is proud of her record in the state legislature and is “sad to leave” her position. She said if she didn’t have a stroke in December, she would have run for re-election.
“I’m grateful to the people of my district that they gave me this opportunity,” she said.
Those who have known and worked with Sen. Prague predict she will continue to be a presence in the legislature.
“I’m sure that Edith Prague will find a way to be engaged in the causes she believes in,” said state Rep. Gregory Haddad, D-Mansfield.
Haddad has known Prague for many years; he worked as her campaign manager before he was elected to the state legislature in November 2010.
“She is going to be missed by many people,” said Haddad.
State Senate President Pro Tempore Donald Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn also praised Sen. Prague’s dedication and he also foresees her continuing as an advocate. “Helping others is what keeps Edith going,” he said.
“I’m going to miss Edith tremendously because she’s such a fighter for working men and women and their families, for senior citizens and for those who need a tireless champion,” said Sen. Williams. “There’s no one else like Edith. She has loved every minute of her time in public service.”
U. S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, also expressed admiration for Sen. Prague’s public service. “Edith has been a giant on the landscape of Connecticut for many years,” he said in a prepared statement. “We are a better state because of her commitment to investing in our people, which she realized is the true strength of the state she loves so much. Job well done.”
Sen. Prague earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Eastern Connecticut State University and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Connecticut.
She is widowed and has four children and nine grandchildren.
Posted May 11, 2012
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