In an unusual legislative maneuver Saturday, the House of Representatives voted on legislation for no other reason than to demonstrate support for it, then immediately tabled it for the session.
The action was taken for the benefit of Rep. Antonio Guerrera, D-Rocky Hill. On Friday, Guerrera found himself at odds with Democrats from urban communities over a proposal to give towns the ability to nix state plans to place elderly and sick prison inmates in nursing homes in their communities.
The legislation was a response to privately run nursing home housing inmates that the state allowed this year in Rocky Hill. Residents of the town see the facility as a public safety threat.
But after Guerrera successfully amended the language into a legislative vehicle Friday, Rep. Toni Walker, co-chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, abruptly ended the debate by motioning to have the bill sent back to committee.
Walker, a Democrat from New Haven, and other lawmakers from cities objected to the bill, as a “not in my backyard” issue, and said every community has a responsibility to care for the state’s “frail population.” Following an hour of negotiations, Walker withdrew her motion and the bill was tabled.
On Saturday, the bill was brought back and House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz took the unusual step of removing the amendment adopted the previous day. In the absence of passing the bill, Guerrera wanted a roll call vote on the concept to send a symbolic message. After a short debate, the amendment passed 106-30. As soon as the votes were tallied, Aresimowicz tabled the bill.
“I wanted to show them how bad this nursing home facility is,” he said after the vote. “. . . I wanted to show them the numbers, how upset people are. You just can’t go somewhere and do that.”
In addition to many House Democrats, every Republican supported Guerrera’s legislation. House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero said he that understood that under the legislation any town could presumably reject a facility to house elderly inmates, leaving leaving the state with nowhere to put them. But he said there should be a process of public input. He said there was no public input in Rocky Hill.
Cafero also acknowledged that there are cost savings associated with housing the inmates in private treatment facilities rather than prisons. On Friday, Walker stressed that the state was in a tight fiscal situation. Cafero said the state is inconsistent when it decides what things are worth spending extra money.
“Oh, wouldn’t it be nice if we were that consistent? Wouldn’t it be nice if we kept saying ‘Good idea but it doesn’t fit in the budget.’ But guess what folks, we break that rule every — hour,” he said. “. . . We break that every hour in this place.”