Marie Lopez Kirkley-Bey is the State Representative from the 5th Assembly District in Hartford.
The eighth-term Democrat serves on the Appropriations, Legislative Management, Banks, and Screening Committees, and she is the first woman of color to hold the positions of Deputy Speaker and Deputy Majority Leader. Marie is also a member of the Human Services Committee of the National Conference of State Legislatures and the National Black Caucus of State Legislatures. She is a former officer of the Connecticut Legislature’s Black and Latino Caucus. During her first five terms in the General Assembly, she was spokesperson for the City of Hartford’s Legislative Delegation. At that time, the Hartford Delegation consisted of eleven members – nine in the House and two in the Senate. As spokesperson for the Hartford Delegation, she was the liaison with the Governor’s Office and House Leadership. In 2007 Marie was re-elected as spokesperson for the delegation.
Marie served four years on the Hartford Court of Common Council, where she chaired the Council’s Housing Committee. Marie also worked for the Democratic National Committee as the Connecticut and Rhode Island Coordinator for President Clinton’s National Health Care Initiative. Marie was elected State Director by the Women’s Legislative Lobby (WILL) and continues to serve in this capacity.
Marie, a life-long resident of Connecticut, was born in New Britain and has lived in Hartford for the past 41 years. She has three children, seven grandchildren and three great grandchildren. Her 91-year-old mother lives with Marie. Marie, a former welfare recipient who lived in public housing, worked at Aetna Life & Casualty for 22-1/2 years, where she began at an entry-level job and worked her way into management. She then did consulting work for various nonprofit organizations before entering the public sector. She is currently the Executive Director for the Johnson Stewart Community Center in the Northeast section of Hartford.
Quality of life issues, especially for those who are neediest, are most important to Marie. She also works extremely long hours on matters affecting children and seniors. During this legislative session, she is concentrating on quality education, the criminal justice system – especially pardons, and summer youth employment. Over the past three years, Marie worked to acquire $9 million and the current budget contains another $6 million. In addition, Marie is attempting to work with various agencies to provide permanent housing for mothers and children in shelters. The better educated people are, the better chance they have to become self-sufficient and never return to the welfare rolls. She believes passionately that a mind is a terrible thing to waste.
She was very proud to have played a major role in crafting Connecticut’s Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) legislation. The original bill established a safety net for families on assistance and included legislation to provide immigrants with specific benefits. The program has changed dramatically from the initial version introduced in 1996, and Marie continues to work to provide support for families in need. As we work for the reauthorization of TANF, we must be realistic in what we enact as legislation for the women remaining in the system: we must balance work requirements with the demands of motherhood and the need to raise successful, nurtured children.
Her negotiation skills were truly tested during the negotiations for Adriaen's Landing, the Six Pillars legislation and acquiring additional monies to close the budget deficit of the Hartford School System. Marie is extremely proud of getting the contract compliance piece inserted in the Adriaen's Landing Bill, which is a $670 million project to rejuvenate downtown Hartford. The main purpose of the contract compliance legislation was to ensure that Hartford-based minority contractors and laborers be employed during the entire life of the project. To ensure the minority contractors weren’t excluded, Marie played a key role in the negotiations of the Project Labor Agreement (PLA). After many meetings with representatives of the Capitol City Economic Development (CCEDA), Trade Union Representatives, Minority Contractors, and the Hunt/Gilbane General contractor, a precedent-setting agreement was produced that set aside $10 million for non-union minority contractors. To date, non-union minority contractors have received contracts in excess of $210 million because of the PLA. Minority Union contractors can bid on or enter into joint ventures for any portions of the remaining contracts.
To ensure that Hartford residents were properly trained, Marie worked to create the Construction Jobs Funnel to provide classroom and on-the-job training for all qualified candidates. Skill assessments are provided for every applicant. The program also offers remedial training and counseling for addiction problems, and other types of assistance are provided if warranted. If candidates fail to qualify, they can agree to adhere to the stipulations of the evaluation and are encouraged to reapply for the training. To date, more than 900 individuals have graduated and are working on construction projects throughout the state. Marie is currently on the Board for the Permanent Jobs Funnel to ensure that Hartford residents are hired for meaningful jobs at all businesses, hotels and the Hartford Convention Center.
Marie has traveled to several locations for the National Conference of State Legislators NCSL) as a panel member due to her expertise with regard to Welfare Reform. As a former member of the Human Services Committee for the State of Connecticut National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL) and NCSL, a great deal of her time is spent attempting to have individuals understand the true plight of Welfare Moms. Having lived the life herself, she can truly relate to the stigma attributed to women who find themselves down on their luck at some point in their life. I will never forget how it felt to be judged by the source of my income and not the quality of my character. During that time of my life I was a negative statistic. Today I am called The Honorable. My value system has never changed – just the source of my income. Thousands of former welfare recipients have gone on to tremendously successful careers. The permanent way out of poverty is getting education.