HARTFORD, CT — Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim was outside the state Capitol on Monday calling for a constitutional amendment on abortion, while Ned Lamont was down at the river criticizing the Trump administration’s freeze on fuel efficiency standards.
Both issues are ones the Democratic base cares about and the five Republican candidates for governor have largely ignored.
“I would be willing to support a constitutional amendment right here in Connecticut,” Ganim said.
He said there’s a possibility the U.S. Supreme Court could overturn Roe v. Wade. But it depends on exactly how that happens.
Abortion is already codified in statute as legal in Connecticut.
“State statutes are more vulnerable than any constitutional amendment would be,” Ganim said.
A constitutional amendment would need to pass the House and the Senate with a three-fifths majority to get on the ballot in the next statewide election. Otherwise it could pass both chambers with a simple majority for two consecutive years to get on a future statewide ballot.
Ganim said there are other states that have codified it in their constitutions.
He said it would give it more “long-term protection.”
Nine states have passed similar constitutional amendments including Alaska, California, Florida, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, and New Mexico. The Maryland legislature is considering such an amendment.
Women are a key demographic in the Democratic Party. National polling shows that hypothetical Democratic candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives will have a 12-point lead thanks to women.
The same July 25 poll found 66 percent of 1,177 voters nationwide say overturning Roe v. Wade would be a “bad thing.”
Lamont, who was standing Monday with Attorney General George Jepsen on the Connecticut River, said it was Jepsen who took the lead many years ago as a state lawmaker to codify it in statute.
“I will do anything I can to strengthen it,” Lamont said. “I will make sure the Trump administration doesn’t in any way challenge our women’s reproductive rights.”
He said he would ask his attorney general whether it’s “political posturing or necessary” before deciding to take action on a constitutional amendment.
Jepsen, who isn’t seeking re-election, said it depends on U.S. Supreme Court.
He said the SCOTUS could decide to leave the issue to the states. If it does then Connecticut’s statute would prevail and abortion would continue to be legal in the Nutmeg state.
“I wouldn’t rule out supporting a constitutional amendment,” Jepsen said. “But at this point it would be premature. It would be an unnecessary and inappropriate distraction from other issues that are out there.”
The other issue Lamont wanted to talk about Monday was fuel efficiency.
“I would hold the president’s feet to the fire,” Lamont said. “I would push hard for continuing electrification of our transportation system and that’s where the biggest source of pollutants are.”
Transportation emissions make up about 70 percent of air pollution in Connecticut, according to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
Connecticut is a downwind state, which means we breath air from states with less regulation. The Clean Air Act was designed to allow states like Connecticut to draft stronger pollution rules.
States’ attorneys general in Connecticut and California are already lining up to challenge the proposal to freeze the standards. They have to wait for the federal government to follow through with the new regulations.
“As a downwind state, Connecticut struggles to maintain our air quality,” Jepsen said in a statement. “Lessening standards for passenger cars and light-duty trucks nationwide will only exacerbate the problem.”
Asked if he would support a carbon tax, Lamont said he wouldn’t for the state of Connecticut.
“We’re too small to do something like that,” Lamont said. “But if they want to do something at the national level I’d be sympathetic.”
Lamont said he’s a businessman and what business wants is consistency in regulations.
“We must be the firewall when it comes to issues as critical as our emissions standards,” Lamont said. “It is particularly important to Connecticut as we see the Trump administration try and roll back our environment and fuel emissions standards.”
Polling nationally indicates that climate change and the environment are important issues, especially among millennials.
The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication recently found that a majority of U.S. voters are worried about global warming, including 88 percent of liberal Democrats, 76 percent of moderate/conservative Democrats, and 58 percent of liberal/moderate Republicans, and only 30 percent of conservative Republicans.