It took the General Assembly years to abolish the death penalty, legalize medical marijuana, and to allow Sunday liquor sales, but they did all of that in 2012 during a short legislative session. On Jan. 9, the General Assembly will convene an even lengthier six-month legislative session where they will seek to pass a two-year budget and hundreds of other bills.
Even though the state is facing a $2.2 billion budget deficit over the next two years, there’s no shortage of ideas being introduced by individual lawmakers.
The pre-filed bills available in the Senate and House clerks offices’ offer a preview of the debates lawmakers will have over the next six months. Some of those debates date back years, while others are new.
Next year, Rep. Stephen Dargan, D-West Haven, will introduce legislation calling for the names of gun permit holders to be made public. In 1994, in an attempt to compromise on a bill to strengthen the state’s gun laws, lawmakers negotiating the bill agreed to make that information confidential.
The Newtown shooting of 20 students and six educators reignited the debate about whether the information should be made public.
Dargan also introduced legislation that would allow the first responders to the scene of the second worst school massacre in the nation’s history to make claims under worker compensation laws.
The legislation would extend compensation coverage for mental or emotional impairment to any volunteer or paid first responder diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Unions already are spearheading an effort to obtain workers’ compensation for the first responders in Newtown.
Sen. Joseph Crisco, D-Woodbridge, will introduce legislation to amend the general statutes and require local and regional boards of education to include lock-down plans as part of the emergency response procedures. And Sen. Martin Looney, D-New Haven wants to strengthen the state’s gun laws by providing that persons prohibited from possessing firearms shall also be prohibited from possessing ammunition.
In legislation not related to gun control or Newtown, Rep. Lawrence Miller, R-Stratford, will introduce a bill to provide temporary parking permits for pregnant women wishing to park a vehicle in a parking space designated for persons with disabilities. Rep. Ernest Hewett, D-New London, wants to establish November as Native American month. And Rep. Linda Gentile, D-Ansonia, has revived her proposal to establish Ballroom Polka as the state polka.
Legislation to establish Ballroom Polka as the state polka died in 2009.
Peter Danielczuk, an Ansonia native known as “Connecticut’s Prince of Polka Music,” was behind previous attempts to get the bill passed. Written by the late polka songwriter and Windsor native Ray Henry in the mid 1960s, the Ballroom Polka is a standard for polka musicians and has a soft spot in the hearts of polka lovers in the Naugatuck Valley, according to the Valley Independent Sentinel.
There also is legislation seeking to undo some of the legislation the state implemented last year.
Rep. Chris Davis, R-Ellington, wants “undocumented immigrants” to pay the full price of tuition at public colleges and universities.
In 2011, the General Assembly passed legislation which would allow the children of undocumented immigrants pay the same rates as in-state students. Former Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell vetoed similar legislation, but Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed it into law and called it “common sense.”
“At a time when we need to be helping our state’s young men and women prepare for an ever-changing economy and compete with their counterparts in China, Japan, and elsewhere, helping to make a college degree more accessible and affordable for those students who choose to pursue one is critically important,” Malloy said after the Senate gave final passage the CT DREAM Act two years ago.
Also likely to raise some eyebrows is a bill that would require the state to borrow money to install metal detectors at the state Capitol. The bill proposed by Hewett calls for metal detectors to be installed both at the state Capitol and the adjoining Legislative Office Building.
There’s also legislation introduced by a handful of lawmakers to require impact statements on employment for every piece of legislation introduced. Already there is a fiscal note created for every piece of legislation that makes it through the committee process. The fiscal note considers both the state and municipal impact.
Lawmakers like Looney also are reviving attempts to establish a “defined benefit” retirement plan for low-income private sector workers. In past years, the unions have backed efforts to allow private sector workers to join the defined benefit pension plan administered by the state. Looney’s bill only calls for it to be offered to low-income workers.