(Updated 4:15 p.m.) The House will reconvene for a special session Thursday, and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy revised his criminal justice reform package late Tuesday afternoon making it more likely to pass.
Malloy has been holding almost daily press conferences since the end of the regular session to promote his Second Chance 2.0 legislation, which would eliminate bail bonds for nonviolent misdemeanor offenders and allow 18- to 20-year-olds to be tried as juveniles.
It’s the latter part of the legislation that has caused most lawmakers to withhold their support for the legislation.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been reluctant to give younger people the ability to have their cases decided in a juvenile court that’s not open to the public.
Republicans have filed more than 45 amendments on the bill.
Last week, Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, told Malloy that if he agreed to drop the changes to the juvenile court system, he could get the legislation passed.
“Republicans and Democrats agree that the poor should not be kept in jail simply because they are poor,” Fasano said. “If Gov. Malloy truly cared about helping the poor who get stuck in jail because they can’t afford to pay small bonds, he would drop the ‘raise the age’ portion of his proposal which has raised serious concerns amongst Republicans and Democrats alike.”
Late Tuesday afternoon that’s exactly what Malloy did.
In a statement, Malloy said he spoke with Democratic leadership over the weekend and agreed to pursue only the bail reform portion of the legislation.
“On a typical day there are approximately 350 prisoners in our state’s jails who are charged only with a non-violent misdemeanor, but who are too poor to post even a small bond,” Malloy said Tuesday afternoon. “The vast majority of these defendants will spend a month or two waiting for their cases to be resolved in court and will then be released directly from court. It just doesn’t make sense.”
He said the bail reform portion of the legislation is critical to reducing spending in the 2017 budget, which is currently sitting on his desk waiting for his signature.
“If we are able to reform our bail system in Connecticut, we will allow the closure of another Connecticut prison — a closure that both Democrats and Republicans have agreed should happen,” Malloy said. “Failing to find these savings would mean that additional painful budget cuts will be necessary in order to bring our budget into alignment.”
House Republican Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said she’s still waiting to see the new language before reaching a conclusion about the legislation.
“While this announced change to the proposed legislation may amount to its only chance for passage, House Republicans have yet to see and details,” Klarides said Tuesday afternoon. “Apparently, the changes were worked out with Democratic leadership. There were no votes for the drafted bill prior to today from House Republicans in advance of the planned Thursday special session, and we await language.”
Earlier this month, House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, said that it was largely up to the governor to convince his members that this was a good legislation.
Sharkey said his lawmakers need to understand the legislation better before they vote, and if it’s good legislation then it will get a vote.
Administration sources believe they have the votes to pass the bill, but House leadership wasn’t certain Tuesday morning when it looked as if the juvenile justice reforms were still part of the package.
A spokesman Sharkey said the House will reconvene at 1 p.m. Thursday to pass the bond package that authorizes $358.6 million in new general obligation bonds and cancels $894.9 million in previously authorized bonding.
“We will caucus the Second Chance legislation and see what the status is,” Larry Perosino, a spokesman for Sharkey, said Tuesday morning.
In the Senate, the vote on the original proposal was expected to be a tie that will be broken by Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman in favor of the legislation. It was immediately unclear if the new revised bill will have more support.