PIACT Legislative Spotlight: Sen. Lesser, D-9

May 24, 2021

Sen. Matt Lesser, D-9, is the deputy majority leader in the Connecticut state Senate. He represents the 9th district, which includes the communities of Cromwell, Middletown, Newington, Rocky Hill and Wethersfield. Sen. Lesser is the chair of the Insurance and Real Estate Committee, and he is an ally of PIACT.

Lesser graduated from Wesleyan University with a degree in history. Before being elected to the state Senate, Lesser served as a state representative for the 100th District in Middletown from 2008-19. From 2015-19, Lesser was the chair of the House Banking Committee. He also worked as an intern at the Brookings Institution Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy.

Recently, we sat down virtually with the senator to learn more about him. He shared his experience with insurance outside public service, his thoughts the PIACT priority legislation to allow for continuing-education credit rollover, as well as what he sees as a big influence on insurance that most Connecticut residents are unaware of.

What made you first decide to run for office?

I was active in my community, but never really wanted to run office—I was asked! Folks couldn’t find anybody to run for mayor, so out of desperation they cold called me. I was shocked and certainly flattered—but I politely declined. In passing, I said I might be interested in something a little lower down on the totem pole. And, that November I was elected to a local land-use board. I found that I loved serving my community in elective office and the rest was history.

What is your experience with the insurance industry outside of chairing the insurance committee? What experience (if any) did you have in the insurance industry before running for office?

I’d served on the insurance committee for a few years before being appointed chair—and I’d worked with the financial services industry (including the insurance industry) as chair of the Banking Committee. I’m a huge believer in insurance, I joke that I am probably the most over-insured person in Connecticut!

You worked hard to get PIACT’s legislative priority regarding CE credit rollover addressed this session, and it is, ultimately, going to be dealt with through regulation by the Connecticut Insurance Department. Can you talk about that process of addressing this issue and why you think it is important to allow for rollover credits?

We need laws—but you don’t need a law to solve every problem (although that might be news to some legislators!). Sometimes, you just need to have a conversation with the right person. When I asked why continuing-education credits weren’t rolling over, the Insurance Department agreed with me that it didn’t make any sense. They agree to simply change their procedures for Professional Insurance Agents going forward.

What insurance issue may most Connecticut residents be unaware effects them and their insurance policies?

The incredibly powerful role of a private organization, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, in regulating the U.S. insurance industry is unique—not just in the U.S., but anywhere. It’s poorly understood by legislators, let alone the general public.

What legislative achievement are you most proud of?

I wrote the Student Loan Bill of Rights (which we are updating this year). It was the first comprehensive law in the country to regulate the student loan industry at the state level and protect borrowers. Since we passed it, it’s become a model for similar legislation across the country.

What is your favorite memory of your time in public service?

Honestly, any time I can help a constituent. It’s one thing to talk to lobbyists and legislators, but any time I can solve a problem for a real person I work for is a great day.

Bonus question: If you weren’t a legislator or in politics, what career would you want to pursue?

Dream job is definitely a food writer!

Katherine “Kat” Slye-Hernandez, Ph.D.

Katherine “Kat” Slye-Hernandez received her Ph.D. in political science from the State University of Albany, Albany, N.Y., in May 2020. She also has her Master of Arts from SUNY Albany and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and History from Elmira College, Elmira, N.Y.

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