Democratic lawmakers in the House Thursday decided there wasn’t enough support for Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s bail reform proposal to raise the bill.
House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, said there’s not a “comfort level” with the proposal to allow all non-violent offenders charged with misdemeanors to get out of jail on a promise-to-appear.
“There’s unanimous support for the concept and the principle,” Sharkey said Thursday outside the House chamber. However, legislators didn’t feel like they were part of the process and were unaware of the content of the bill, he added. There also was no attempt to make it a bipartisan bill.
“A bipartisan approach is necessary to ensure that this reform receives the support it deserves,” Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said Thursday in a statement.
House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said the concept that people are sitting in prison because they can’t post a small bail amount is something that has bipartisan support. But when it gets to specific individuals and what crimes are covered “that’s where we want to pause and take a look at it.”
The legislation wasn’t available for most rank-and-lawmakers to read Wednesday night.
Malloy did offer a compromise on Tuesday when he removed a piece of the bill that would have treated 18- to 20-year-old defendants as juveniles. However, it wasn’t enough to make lawmakers feel comfortable with the proposal.
On Wednesday, Republican lawmakers pointed out that of the roughly 400 pre-trial inmates facing a misdemeanor or lower charge, 83 were arrested for assault, 39 were arrested for threatening, and six were arrested for reckless endangerment.
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said 77 percent of those inmates have three or more prior convictions and 60 percent of them have one or more prior felony convictions.
“The whole purpose of setting bond on somebody is for two reasons. One, to make sure they come back to court,” Klarides said. “And two, they’re not a danger to the community. If those two things are okay then they won’t put a bond on somebody, they’d just release them on their own recognizance.”
Klarides said the numbers the governor’s office have been putting out on a daily basis are misleading because the offense they are in court for today may be a low-level misdemeanor, “but how do you not look at the other convictions?”
Sharkey, who isn’t seeking re-election, said they will leave it to Malloy to decide how to proceed.
“It’s hard to get things done in an election year,” Malloy said.
He said things that were being said about the legislation weren’t true but they were a “scary proposition for folks.”
Malloy opined that if it wasn’t an election year then they would have passed the legislation.
“I don’t agree that that’s a good excuse, but I understand it,” Malloy said.
Malloy dismissed the conclusion that this wasn’t a bipartisan bill. He said bail reform was bipartisan less than a week ago until it wasn’t. He said he wishes it had come up for a vote earlier in the legislative session, but he can’t compel that.
“I think we’ve started a substantial in-state dialogue and a substantial national dialogue,” Malloy added.
The decision not to raise the bill does leave an approximately $15 million hole in the state budget.
In addition to acknowledging bail reform will have to wait until next year, Malloy also line-item vetoed $22.5 million from the $19.76 billion 2017 budget. He vetoed $20 million in municipal aid earmarked for regional efficiencies, $1.73 million for the Connecticut Humanities Council and $775,000 for Federally Qualified Health Centers.