It’s finally come to this. The public is fed up, we’re not going to take any more of this nonsense from the government. Who do they think they are, a bunch of petty tyrants? Do they think they can just push people around? Have they forgotten who they work for? Well, we’re not going to take it anymore. News of what they’ve done is spread far and wide. Officials are squirming in the bright glare of the media spotlight. Voters are furious all over the country, and the people demand action.
So, for crying out loud, let that kid in Shelton go to his prom already. I mean, sure, we’ve spent decades insisting high school administrators run their buildings like prisons out of fear for the safety of our kids and the protection of the American way of life or something, but come on, teach, that was freaking adorable. Team Tate 4eva!
The state has seemed like an enormous high school this week, so it’s fitting that the improbably huge story is all about prom drama and teenage notions of fairness.
After all, this is the week in which the negotiations between the governor’s office and state employee unions took a turn into fear-mongering territory. Don’t have those concessions ready? Well, there’s a big, mean and horrible “Plan B” budget just waiting. You wouldn’t want the governor to actually have to use it, would you? “Plan B” involves massive layoffs, draconian service cuts and general misery. There’s probably a swarm of bees in there. At any rate, the first layoff notices started trickling out this week, leading to a lot of hurt, fearful and angry state employees. Whether this has had any effect on the negotiations is unknown at this time, but the threat of layoffs and other cuts has to be making the lives of employees miserable.
On the other side of the labor dispute, there have been several go-rounds of how awful Connecticut would become if this or that service were cut, but no one has done fear-mongering better than the unions representing prison employees. Potential prison closures, and other legislation aimed at decreasing inmate population through various programs, were the target of an aggressive ad campaign warning people that should prisons close, there would be “more criminals coming to a street near you.” Never mind that the prison population has been declining, and that positive re-entry programs are one of the best ways to combat recidivism. If prisons close, we’ll be subject to a wave of crime. “God forbid,” AFSCME Local 1565 President Luke Leone said, “we have something happen like what happened in Cheshire.”
Meanwhile, unions and the governor’s office continue to talk, though rumors are getting thicker on the ground and on the web the closer they get to a deal. “SEBAC says SHUT THE HELL UP” a furious Facebook poster admonished colleagues spreading rumors. “I am in the room and you are not helping.” Of course, every time a new rumor is posted or even hinted at, there are dozens of people waiting to tell us exactly how unfair, mean and bad for the state’s future it is. No wonder they wanted to keep a tight lid on the talks.
This is also the week where Republicans forced an eleven-hour debate on a bill that would prohibit employers from forcing their workers from going to meetings where politics and religion are discussed. The reason for the filibuster wasn’t that Republicans opposed the bill, though for some reason they did (“What do you mean we can’t tie up employees, prop their eyeballs open, and make them watch FOX News for two days straight? That’s anti-business!”), but rather because Democrats may or may not have promised that the bill wouldn’t make it to the floor if it was allowed to pass through committee before the deadline. Policy disagreements are one thing, but break some minor unwritten rule of the legislature and the opposition will talk for hours.
Then there’s Sen. Edith Prague and her remarks on the death penalty repeal bill. I’ll let you look that one up. You may need to turn safe search off.
Scare tactics, immaturity and the usual nonsense aside, this has been a surprisingly productive session for the legislature. The budget may be bizarre and potentially illegal, but if it holds up it’ll be a real change in the way the state handles taxing, spending and its workforce. Democrats, apart from the budget negotiations, are finally advancing some of the bills they’ve been pushing for years, such as in-state tuition for illegal immigrants and paid sick days. When the drama is done and the dust settles, this may end up being one of the most significant sessions in many years.
As for the James Tate incident, he’s been on national TV and has two Republican legislators drafting legislation that would, maybe, allow the kid to go to his prom after all. Who says the legislature can’t act quickly when it needs to? If the measure’s approved in time, he may yet get to rent that tux. Just wait until he finds out how horrible proms are.
Susan Bigelow is the former owner of Connecticut Local Politics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and cats.