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SUSAN BIGELOW

We’re three weeks into the short 2020 legislative session, meaning it’s a great time to check in on the bills that have caught my eye. In the past I’ve tried to show all different kinds of bills, from the good to the terrible to the strange.

But we’re at a point where trust in our democratic institutions, including our legislature, is at an all-time low. So this year I’m just going to focus on those bills I’ve found that I think are actual good ideas.

For instance, here’s a bill that addresses what might seem like a small problem, but could have a real and important impact on the lives of those affected. HB 5017 would make it possible for those who can’t afford feminine hygiene products to get them. And why not? A similar bill in the senate, SB 140, would provide free feminine hygiene products in middle- and high-school bathrooms.

HB 5056: An Act Concerning The Unlawful Dissemination Of Intimate Images would try to get a handle on the problem of explicit images of someone being shared online without their consent. The negative effects on the victims is very plain, so anything the state can do to crack down on this type of thing is a step in the right direction.

There are several bills that address issues that, in a sane and compassionate world, should never have been allowed to exist at all. One of these, HB 5057, would end the practice of making the incarcerated pay for their own imprisonment.

Another even more poignant bill, SB 89, would “prohibit disciplinary action against public school children for unpaid school lunch charges.” Punishing children for not being able to pay for school lunches only teaches that adults are cruel and greedy.

Three bills on rental housing caught my eye, speaking of injustices. One, HB 5118: An Act Requiring Landlords To Provide Security Systems And Lighting In Rental Property Hallways, is something that I shake my head to realize isn’t already done. Another bill raised by the Housing Committee, HB 5126, would boost tenant rights and create a specific ombudsman whom renters could contact to report issues of unsanitary or dangerous conditions. Tenant rights are too often ignored, and it’s good to see these bills raised.

The third housing bill, SB 108, would “establish a pilot program to enable certain families participating in the interdistrict public school attendance program to move to the town where their children attend school.” I love it. Desegregation on all levels!

Several other bills I like are related to government and elections. First, there’s HB 5278, which would provide no-excuse absentee voting, and SJ 17, which is a proposed constitutional amendment to allow early voting. Both necessary!

I always am interested in bills that strengthen ethics in government. SB 237 is a good example. This bill would define any action that would result in a direct monetary gain or loss for a public or elected official’s employer, their spouse’s employer, or their dependents’ employer, as a conflict of interest (Speaker Aresimowicz, AFSCME employee, I am looking at you). Another is HB 5283, which would require all municipalities to create a code of ethics. Are there towns that don’t have one? Oh no.

Lastly, there are two bills about the end of life. One, HB 5180, would allow for funeral homes to offer catering for funerals. The second, HB 5133, would authorize the use of the Penfield Reef Lighthouse as a columbarium, which is a storage place for cremated remains. Cool! Please have my funeral catered by Wendy’s and put my ashes in an old lighthouse in Long Island Sound.

I can’t think of a better way to end.

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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Susan Bigelow

Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.