HARTFORD, CT – With the Black Lives Matter flag flying atop the state Capitol, Senate Democrats are looking to seize the moment and the momentum by calling for more than police accountability and absentee ballots to be addressed during a July special session.
“Nothing for me is off the table in this discussion,” state Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven, said.
Winfield, who is the co-chair of the Judiciary Committee, has been leading the drive for quick passage of pass criminal justice and police accountability legislation. While no drafts of the language have been released yet, legislators are looking to:
• decertify police convicted of misconduct;
• ban “no-knock” warrants;
• reform arrest policies in order to curb unnecessary detention, and;
• increase the power of civilian review boards.
He acknowledged that they are really trying to push people out of their comfort zones to pass legislation they might not have been comfortable with passing in a “normal” time.
“If we can’t do it in this day and time, then we’re never going to do it,” Winfield said.
But police accountability isn’t the only issue Senate Democrats are hoping to tackle.
Sen. Doug McCrory, D-Hartford, said they also want to take up exclusionary zoning, minority teacher recruitment, and inequality in healthcare.
“These are issues we’ve been talking about for 25 years,” McCrory said. “This is nothing new.”
McCrory said the conversations they’re having about housing is not new.
Connecticut’s exclusionary zoning laws essentially prohibit affordable housing from being built in suburbs and rural towns.
“This is not something new. We all know these facts,” McCrory said.
Winfield said he doesn’t understand how people in Connecticut are allowed to live completely different lives from the majority.
“How have we allowed it that people in our state get to live lives that are completely unrecognizable when you really understand what the lives they live are to the majority of the state,” Winfield said. “I don’t think this is easy. I’m under no false pretense that this is easy, but living the life that people have to live because of policy we’ve done is not easy. It’s not acceptable.”
Winfield said Connecticut needs to start getting comfortable with “being uncomfortable.”
Sen. Marilyn Moore, who co-chairs the Human Services Committee and wants to make sure the healthcare disparities are addressed in a special session, said “this is not a stunt.”
She said they are committed to doing as much as they can in a special session.
“It’s not the same world that we left here in March,” Moore said. “And the people in the street are not going to allow us to do anything more than go back in here and correct some of the wrongs.”
She said if there’s a second wave of COVID-19 in August or September, “what are we going to do about these health workers?”
Moore said it’s a lot to consider, “but we can get done whatever we have the will to do.”
The Senate Democrats released a 14-page list of issues they want to tackle.
House Majority Leader Matt Ritter said he’s open to expanding the agenda for a mid-July special session.
“I agree that there’s momentum right now, and the more we can get done the better,” Ritter said.
Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano said he’s not opposed to expanding the agenda for special session.
“I think there’s a lot of commonality,” Fasano said.
However, the Senate Republican caucus has not been at the table for any of the discussions about new legislation. Fasano said Republicans are working on their own and hope to find agreement on some of these issues.
Gov. Ned Lamont is not as willing to expand the call for the special session. He’s willing to address police accountability and absentee ballots, but he says the rest should wait for the regular session.
“I plan on calling the General Assembly into special session during the month of July to address the issues of police accountability and expanding access to absentee ballots. There’s still more that we need to do in addition to those issues to address the complex and difficult problems of racial and economic inequality. I look forward to working with legislators and other stakeholders on those issues during the next regular session.”