In a legislative session fraught with battles over the death penalty, medical marijuana, and contentious negotiations on education reform, it’s easy to overlook areas where everyone seemed to find common ground.
Lawmakers had no shortage of issues to fight about this year, but in between the partisan bickering there were moments of consensus.
For instance, bills helping veterans found broad support. No one voted against a bill allowing veterans arrested for nonviolent crimes to participate in pretrial diversionary programs a second time instead of going to prison. Another bill, aimed at combating fraudulent organizations posing as veteran charities, also passed the House and Senate unanimously.
Both sides of the aisle also lauded the passage of a bill increasing the penalties for vandalizing war memorials, making it a Class D felony.
This year’s bipartisanship extended into other areas as well.
Democrats and Republicans alike approved of a bill expanding the state’s Learn Here, Live Here program. The initiative currently helps students graduating from regional technical schools and state colleges make a down payment on a home in Connecticut. As of 2014, the program also will include any student who graduates from a private college in the state as well as medical schools.
Both parties also were on board with legislation requiring the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to post a map on its website showing where sewage spills may have contaminated a body of water. The goal is to give beachgoers the opportunity to check online before leaving the house only to find a swimming area closed.
Late in the session, a bill ensuring that best practices are used during police suspect lineups passed quietly through Senate without objection.
No lawmaker voted against a bill requiring state agencies to post their regulations online rather than publish them in the Connecticut Law Journal. It also creates an 11-member task force to implement the transition to online regulations.
Other bills passed with bipartisan support included:
• Legislation making it a crime if a parent or guardian knows a child under 12 years old is missing, but fails to report it to the police within 24 hours.
• A bill requiring school boards to keep a record of incidents when students must be restrained or put in seclusion.
• A bill allowing children separated from their siblings in foster homes to see each other at least once a week, as long as they live within 50 miles of each other.
• A bill requiring the Judicial Department to inform breastfeeding mothers that they can apply for a 10-month postponement of jury duty. It also requires the department to provide discreet accommodations for breastfeeding mothers.
• Legislation allowing students above the age of 16 to enroll in internships at manufacturing companies. The bill gets around hazardous duty restrictions on minors to increase the state’s manufacturing workforce.
• A bill establishing a “Pet Lemon Law.” Similar to car lemon laws, which allow someone who unknowingly buys a defective car to seek reimbursement, the bill will allow new pet owners to seek up to $500 from pet stores for veterinary fees if the animal they bought is sick shortly after purchase.
• Legislation expanding eligibility for the Alzheimer Respite Care Program, which compensates people, usually family members, who care for individuals with Alzheimer’s and related disorders.
• A bill requiring hospitals caring for babies to test them for critical congenital heart disease, unless parents object for religious reasons. The measure will take effect next year.