The new session of the legislature is off and running, and with it has come the usual blizzard of proposed bills by members. This year’s initial crop is the usual mix of the good, the bad, and the weird.
There are themes that keep popping up every session, like repealing certain taxes or programs. For example, there are always a number of bills aimed at curtailing or entirely eliminating the Citizens Election Program, the public campaign financing system that’s been in place for the last few elections. Rep. Brenda Kupchick, R-Fairfield, wants to slash grants by half or more in HB 5350, while Rep. Mike Alberts, R-Woodstock, wants to save money by not funding unopposed candidates with HB 5353. Slashing grants is a bad idea, but not handing out state money to unopposed candidates makes sense.
Taxes are another theme. HB 5338, sponsored by Rep. Gail Lavielle, R-Wilton, is one of several trying to eliminate income tax on Social Security. This would definitely help senior citizens, though there’s little indication of where the money will come from. Fairfield Republican Rep. Laura Devlin’s HB 5292 and others want to repeal the much-disliked business entity tax; this decent idea comes up every session but never happens.
Many of the bills last session were about guns, and this session continues that trend. There’s the sensible SB 56 from Sen. Kevin Witkos, R-Canton, which would allow courts to order that someone being slapped with a restraining order also temporarily turn over their firearms to someone else, for example. Then there is Wolcott Republican Rep. Robert Sampson’s less sensible HB 5196, which would repeal the 2013 gun control law.
The most worrisome of the gun bills is Sampson’s HB 5200, which says that “if a person believes that deadly physical force is necessary to prevent or terminate an unlawful entry by force into such person’s dwelling, motor vehicle or place of business, or to prevent the commission of arson or a crime of violence by a trespasser, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that such belief was a reasonable belief.” This is basically the same language that appears in disastrous “Stand Your Ground” laws.
There are a few hot-button social issues in here as well. Rep. Al Adinolfi, R-Cheshire, wants parental notification of minors getting abortions in HB 5216, and Rep. Sampson wants to make sure that insurers don’t have to pay for gender reassignment surgery for transgender folks who need it in HB 5193. Rep. Sampson wins some kind of prize, I think.
Some bills have taken aim at the structure and function of the legislature itself, such as the numerous bills seeking a two-thirds vote for unfunded mandates. HB 5276, sponsored by Rep. Dave Yaccarino, R-North Haven, is one example of those. Others take the form of constitutional amendments. Rep. Christopher Davis, R-Ellington, is proposing one amendment requiring that a two-thirds majority for any tax increase, and another requiring the same for any new municipal mandates. All of these, of course, are ways of ensuring that tax increases and unfunded mandates never happen at all — which is a bad idea in the long run.
There are a few other amendments being proposed here and there. Rep. Aundré Bumgardener, R-Groton, and Rep. Devin Carney, R-Old Saybrook, among others, are proposing changing the constitution to ensure the special transportation fund is used only for transportation expenses. Rep. Johnathan Steinberg, D-Westport, wants members of the General Assembly to have four year terms, and Rep. Christie Carpino, R-Cromwell, wants the governor to be term-limited.
Then there are the bills about less consequential matters, such as the surprising number that have to do with wine. Rep. Alberts’ HB 5119 would allow brandy to be sold by farm wineries, Darien Republican Rep. Terri Wood’s HB 5349 would allow cheese shop owners to sell wine, Gales Ferry Republican Rep. Mike France’s HB 5297 would allow farm wineries to stay open later, and France’s HB 5328 is about better signage for the state’s Wine Trail.
There’s a bill that would allow hunting by bow and arrow on Sundays, a bill that would reverse a ban on selling coffee in high schools, and, my favorite, “An Act Concerning The Use Of Power Tools For The Performance Of Lay Equine Dentistry.”
So which of these are going to pass? Probably none of them, except maybe the wine ones and hopefully the horse dentist one. For bills that have a better chance, check out the legislation that the leaders of the House and Senate are introducing. The legislature may be made up of voices from all over Connecticut, but only a few of them really matter.
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.
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