The 2013 legislative session has finally come to an end. From early, emotional and tense debates over gun control to sneaky budget practices to the groan-worthy legalization of Keno, there have been plenty of highs and lows. So who came out on top, and who’s limping home with their tail between their legs?
Gun control supporters — The governor and legislature’s response to the horror of the Newtown massacre was the most sweeping reform of gun laws in the nation, and a refreshing counterpoint to a depressing lack of action on the federal level. The bill got bipartisan support, too, which was especially impressive in the face of withering criticism from the right.
Undocumented immigrants — Drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants is a good thing. Somehow the DMV needs a year to come up with a “program” for actually doing this, which is not so good. A mysterious person did very nearly sneak language into the mammoth budget implementer bill that would have moved the effective date for this legislation up to July 1, 2013, which is mostly just weird. The language was rapidly removed. Nice try, anonymous legislation troll!
Food purists — Well, foods with genetically modified ingredients in them will be labeled, as soon as four other states, including one sharing a border with Connecticut, pass similar laws. I’m not looking forward to finding out what’s really in my Fritos.
Voting rights — Next year we get to vote, not on actually expanding voting days and the ways in which we can vote, but on allowing the legislature to do these things. The reason has to do with the state constitution, but hopefully the upshot will be early or no-fault absentee voting for 2016.
Minimum-wage workers — They’ll get a much-needed raise, to $9/hr.
Republicans — They took a number of principled stands, benefited from increasing public disenchantment with the legislature, and may pick up a few seats next year. Republicans are also winners here because they don’t have anywhere to go but up.
Freedom of information — The legislature, at the urging of the governor and Newtown families, blocked access to what had been publicly available photos and other records of homicides. It’s a bad precedent to set.
The firearms industry — They are very unhappy with the new gun control laws, and at least one has already decided to relocate. Sooner or later, they’re all going to head south. The Connecticut River valley’s heritage as the cradle of the American arms industry isn’t enough of a tie to keep them in the increasingly gun-unfriendly northeast.
The spending cap — Everyone says the cap matters, but whenever times get tough the legislature and governor are more than willing to find a way around it. That’ll teach the public to try and rein them in!
Campaign finance reformers — Campaign finance is being “reformed” by allowing more money to flow into party and candidate coffers. The heart and soul of the 2005 law is being eroded, a little at a time. When’s Rowland going to run again?
The economy — It’s still lousy. In fact, it’s the only state economy in the nation that shrank last year. And yet precious little was done about it this session. Republicans are sharpening their knives.
Problem gamblers — It’s great when the state makes money from people who are addicted to cigarettes, gambling, or both. We really don’t need Keno. Allowing it was a poor decision.
Taxpayers — Sure, the legislature didn’t actually pass any new taxes this year, but they didn’t bother stopping an increase in the gas tax that has been pending since 2010. Plus electric rates will be going up. Lucky you.
Gov. Malloy — He largely got his way on some of the bigger issues, though it may cost him dearly next year. The 2014 campaign is going to be a bruiser, no matter what.
Gun stores — During the run-up to gun controls being passed, gun stores did a lot of business. Every time I drove by one, the parking lot was crammed full. They’re looking at a bleaker future, now.
Democrats — Liberal Democrats scored a number of wins, like the minimum wage hike, gun control, GMO labeling, and licenses for undocumented immigrants, but the party mostly looks like it’s been in power too long. Funny budget math and the culture of corruption unearthed by the Donovan scandal and the Braddock trial gives the party a black eye. They’re lucky the Republicans are so weak in this state.
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.