Name calling in a weekend email from a Hartford Democrat brought the Judiciary Committee to a halt on Monday only hours before the committee’s deadline to complete its business.
Rather than convening on schedule at 10:30 a.m., committee Democrats and Republicans spent most of the day in caucus trying to broker an apology, finally convening around 3:30 p.m. with less than two hours left before their deadline.
The brouhaha was over a Saturday email from state Rep. Minnie Gonzalez, D-Hartford, who told a woman involved in the family court reform movement that Republican Rep. Rosa Rebimbas of Naugatuck was “fighting for her pocket not for the people like you and others the [sic] are suffering. She is cold with no heart.”
Gonzalez was referencing an exchange that took place between Rebimbas and a person who testified about her experience with the court system during a contentious nomination hearing for Chief Justice Chase Rogers. Self-represented parties and those involved mostly in family court matters complained before the committee about their struggles with the court system throughout a hearing that lasted several hours Friday night into Saturday morning.
Gonzalez ended the Saturday email saying, “always remember that every pig has his Saturday.” The phrase appears to be a reference to a Central American tradition of slaughtering pigs on Saturdays.
And then she added, “P.S. Ribimbas [sic] I hope y enjoy.”
The email was copied to many members of the Judiciary Committee, including Rebimbas, who declined to comment on Monday.
Gonzalez sent another email around 2 p.m. Monday.
“Dear Representative Rebimbas, On Saturday, my emotions got the better of me on an issue that I, and my constituents, care deeply about. It was inappropriate for me to include other people in an email that should have remained between us, and for that I apologize,” Gonzalez wrote.
But it wasn’t enough to repair the damage that was done.
Leadership on the committee tried to shrug it off and move on.
After the Judiciary Committee’s 5 p.m. deadline, co-chairman Rep. William Tong, D-Stamford, said he was already working to make sure the legislation that had been on the committee’s agenda finds another way to become law this year.
“I don’t have the luxury of dwelling on what happened today,” Tong said.
He declined to blame Gonzalez for the lack of business on the final day.
“It’s regrettable we didn’t do business today for the people of the state of Connecticut,” Tong told reporters after the 5 p.m. deadline.
Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven, was unhappy that the committee was unable to pass S.B. 1065, which would hold police officers liable if they stop the public from recording their activities.
“What’s important to think about is the bill that we died on, and what’s going on around this country,” Winfield said, referring to the widely publicized eyewitness video of a white South Carolina police officer shooting and killing a brown-skinned man fleeing after a traffic stop less than week ago.
The committee was poised to forward legislation that would protect individuals who captured police activities on video. Now that bill, along with dozens of others regarding civil rights and the judicial system, will have a tougher route to becoming law.
In order to keep alive the bill, which has been a priority for Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, for several years, lawmakers will have amend it as a concept onto another germaine piece of legislation. It’s unclear whether such a vehicle exists at the moment.
There have been several incidents in New Haven where police have confiscated recording devices from members of the public.
“We could have said we are going to have this bill come out of committee and we’re going to work on it, but we chose to do something different than that and I think that’s a tragedy,” Winfield said.
The agenda included 42 other bills.