HARTFORD, CT — The Black and Puerto Rican Caucus has a wide ranging list of priorities this legislative session from finding funding for Puerto Rican families displaced by the hurricane last year to increasing the number of minority teachers in schools and ensuring better medical care for the incarcerated population.
The caucus has 24 members at the moment. One of its members, Rep. Angel Arce, D-Hartford, said he planned to resign. The comment came after the Hartford Courant reported about an exchange Arce had with a 16-year-old girl. Arce has not submitted his resignation yet to the Secretary of the State’s office so he’s still a sitting state representative.
Asked about Arce, Rep. Christopher Rosario, who chairs the caucus, said “The caucus has never taken a position on individual members.”
The House is expected to vote on the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Andrew McDonald to chief justice.
Rep. Minnie Gonzalez, D-Hartford, was the only Democrat on the Judiciary Committee to vote against McDonald’s elevation to chief justice. She’s also a member of the Black and Puerto Rican caucus, but did not attend the press conference Monday.
Rosario said the caucus didn’t take a position on McDonald and each individual lawmaker will have to make up their mind.
In the meantime, the caucus is still generally supportive of revenue increases, such as tax hikes on the wealthy or legalizing the sale of recreational marijuana.
“Supporting our middle class families and creating opportunities for everyone is something we fully support as a group,” Rosario said. “Pay equity, earning a livable wage and protecting women’s healthcare are all priorities we champion. Additionally, securing the support that displaced families from Puerto Rico need is extremely critical to many of our members.”
Rep. Brandon McGee, D-Hartford, said they will also be looking at how inmates are treated by the Department of Correction.
“We want to take a closer look at what’s happening in the Department of Correction,” McGee said.
He said he doesn’t believe the quality of care was given to all inmates.
McGee said they received some information about one of the inmates at a hearing in February, but weren’t able to receive all the information they wanted from the Department of Correction.
The Department of Correction recently announced that effective July 2018 it would end its contract with the University of Connecticut Health Services and bring inmate medical care back into the department.
The decision was based on a report by a consultant, but Correction Commissioner Scott Semple said during an Appropriations Committee hearing that they won’t be releasing the report to the General Assembly or the public. The report was done by A Health Adventure, Inc.
McGee said they are also looking at legislation that would give employers who hire formerly incarcerated inmates a tax credit. And they’re looking at providing more housing options to the previously incarcerated. He said while the population faces many challenges finding and securing housing is one of the most difficult.
Last year, the caucus was successful in getting a debate on legislation that sought to hold police accountable following events in which excessive or deadly force is used.
However, the bill was tabled after more than an hour of debate.