By the time this is published, Donald Trump will be president of the United States, and we’re all going to let him do it. Why? Because democracy, even when it’s awful, matters. So let’s take a look at our own local democracy in action, and see what the legislature here in Connecticut’s been up to.
The legislature convened on January 4, and ever since then members have been submitting their ideas for new laws. Some of them are good, a few are great, and plenty are just mediocre. But many, many more are repetitions of other bills submitted both this year and for many years beforehand.
The usual suspects this year are legion. There are many bills trying desperately to actually implement the state spending cap, which was approved by voters over two decades ago, and others would cut hated taxes like the estate tax, the business entity tax, and various hospital taxes. These never pass. Other bills that are always raised but never come anywhere near the floor for a vote are trying to gut or ditch the Citizens’ Election Program, slash legislator pay, impose term limits, eliminate public notices in newspapers, and somehow rein in “unfunded mandates” for special education.
So what’s actually new?
Quite a few bills, too many to name, take aim at state employees through their pensions, collective bargaining rights, and overtime pay. A good example is HB 5334, by the prolific Rep. Prasad Srinivasan, R-Glastonbury, which would “… require state employee collective bargaining agreements to be voted on by the legislature.”
There’s good news and bad news for stoners who don’t feel like driving to Massachusetts: HB 5539, sponsored by a slew of Democrats, would legalize it. The bad news is that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is dead set against the idea, so that likely won’t happen.
There are plenty of transportation bills. The specter of tolling returns in HB 5458, “An Act Establishing Electronic Tolls on Connecticut’s Highways,” raised by Rep. Henry Genga, D-East Hartford. Rep. Kurt Vail, R-Somers, raised HB 5389, “An Act Establishing the “Hartford Whalers” Commemorative Number Plate,” which I would totally buy. Lastly, Sen. Kevin Witkos, R-Canton, and Sen. Fasano, R-North Haven want to “study” CTFastrak in SB 255, continuing a long tradition of representatives who live nowhere near the Hartford-New Britain busway complaining about it.
There are some bills I’m glad to see. Rep. Matthew Lesser, D-Middletown, is pushing in HB 5809 to establish a Mental Health Community Investment Fund, for instance. Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven, raised SB 242, which would establish a panel to make recommendations about body cameras for police. Rep. William Tong, D-Stamford, in HB 5743, wants to increase the penalties for hate crimes — which may be a sad necessity in our times. Several bills want to prohibit “rolling coal,” which is when idiots modify their diesel trucks to emit more smoke and pollution, because killing the planet really sticks it to those smug liberals. Lastly, Rep. Fred Wilms, R-Norwalk, in HB 5400 wants the budget and implementer bills to actually be approved by committees instead of hurriedly rushed through in the middle of the night. I approve.
Some bills are about very specific things, such as HB 5661 from Rep. Eric Berthel, R-Watertown, “An Act Concerning A ‘No Left Turn’ Sign In Watertown,” and HB 5803 from Reps. Pam Staneski, R-Milford, and Rep. Charles Ferraro, R-West Haven, which, in its description, would “… require any person engaged in the business of renting bounce houses to register such bounce houses with the department of consumer protection and record the use of such bounce houses.”
Rep. John Piscopo, R-Thomaston, has been busy this year. He’s proposed HB 5022, “an Act Authorizing Bonds of the State for the Railroad Museum of New England In Thomaston;” HB 5044, “An Act Authorizing Bonds of the State For The Renovation Of The Thomaston Opera House;” and HB 5155, “An Act Concerning The Construction Of a Water Line on Jackson Street In Thomaston.” He also submitted HB 5005, which would implement the state spending cap. That might be difficult, seeing how much money is going to stuff in Thomaston.
Rep. Kelly Luxenberg, D-Manchester, in HB 5874 wants us all to get licenses … for our cats. I am really not getting licenses for my cats. No.
Lastly, and most ominously, Rep. Rob Sampson, R-Wolcott, raised HB 5571, which would “prohibit the governor or any municipality from restricting lawful possession of a firearm or ammunition during a civil preparedness emergency.” So when the nukes fall, you can have all the guns you want.
Very, very few of these will ever find their way out of committee. Still, it’s heartening to know that the creaking wheels of democracy still turn, even now.
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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