The legislature met early this week to finish up its business from this year’s session, and managed to get a lot done. Some of it was very positive and should help Connecticut move forward. Some of it was a bit less so. And some of it was, well . . . just ugly.
First, the good stuff. It turns out that the most important pieces of legislation to pass had nothing to do with the budget at all. The first was the Excessive Use of Force bill, which widens and empowers investigations of excessive force by police, requires body cameras for state police, and mandates that police departments establish guidelines for diversifying themselves. This bill, a longtime priority of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, is an important and necessary step toward making police relations with communities of color in our state more fair and equitable, and also toward holding police responsible when they cross the line.
Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven, one of the champions of the bill, spoke emotionally in support during the Senate’s debate about how he had to tell his son about the danger of just walking out of the house. “I recognize . . . what police officers go through because of the inherent danger of their jobs,” he said. “But there should be no inherent danger in walking out of your house being black.”
The other necessary legislation that passed was Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s “Second Chance Society,” which, among other things, reduces prison time for non-violent offenders.
So in a single day the legislature moved to bring more people out of the miseries of the prison system and to make life for people of color a little less dangerous and difficult. For that, they deserve our applause and gratitude, and I hope they continue to work to address the systemic racism that still plagues our state and our country.
That was the good.
The bad arrived in the form of the massive budget implementer bill, which contains not only the budget but loves to put all kinds of unrelated crap in the defense spending bill, for instance, because that’s something that few people are ever going to vote against. People complain, but the practice never stops.
And yet relying on tricks like this to pass legislation is lazy, and underscores just how weak the ruling coalition of Democrats have become.
Another low point was the establishment of statutory protections for transportation funding. This in and of itself is not bad, but what we really need is an amendment to the state constitution so that lawmakers will have to keep their hands off of that money.
Then there’s the ugly stuff.
Let’s start with the plain fact that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy