In an unusual move, the Democratic-controlled state House of Representatives strongly rejected a controversial that had been passed the previous day by the Democratic-controlled Senate.
It is rare that the House ever calls a bill and votes it down on the House floor. Instead, the normal way is that the bill is not called at all – to avoid any embarrassment of a bill going down in flames.
That did not happen Thursday as a bill to ban the sale of genetically modified lawn seed was rejected by 103 to 37 on a bipartisan basis.
House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey said it was the first time that he had called a bill as the speaker, voted against it, and watched it voted down on the House floor. He also never spoke once to the bill’s chief proponent, Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams.
“I’ve never, ever been consulted about this bill by anyone in the Senate,’’ Sharkey told reporters after the vote. “The advocates wanted a vote on the bill, so I felt it was most important to have the vote and avoid the distraction that was going to inevitably occur if we kept it on our calendar for days or weeks. … Rather than prolong that, we felt it was important to just go ahead and have the vote, get it done, and move on to the important things we have to do this session.’’
When asked if he was concerned that any of his bills will get bottled up now in the Senate, Sharkey said, “I’m not worried about that at all – just as I believe the Senate is not worried about their bills getting through the House. We work cooperatively together.’’ Continue reading
State Sen. Toni Harp will be sworn in as New Haven\’s first female mayor on New Year\’s Day.
The ceremony will be at 12 noon at Hill Regional Career High School, which was designed by Harp\’s late husband, Wendell.
Harp\’s seat in the state Senate will be filled in a special election that will likely take place by late February, said Senate Majority Leader Marty Looney, a New Haven Democrat.
After Harp steps down, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has 10 days to call for a special election. That election would then be held 46 days after Malloy\’s announcement – meaning it would likely be mid-to-late February.
\”The new senator will most likely not be in place for the start of the session\’\’ on Wednesday, February 5, Looney told Capitol Watch. Continue reading
Five months after the Newtown massacre, the state Senate debated Thursday over a bipartisan bill designed to improve the emotional and mental health of children in an attempt to avoid another tragedy.
The measure is designed to detect behavioral problems at an early age and then begin early intervention to prevent the issues from worsening. Some supporters of the bill say that finding the proper care for children can be difficult in a long-running battle that often involves clashes with insurance companies and sometimes-slow diagnoses by pediatricians.
After a detailed debate that ended shortly before 5:30 p.m. Thursday, the measure was placed on the \”consent\’\’ calendar and was later approved by 36 – 0. Continue reading
The state Senate on Wednesday passed a bill that would outlaw price-gouging following major storms.
Senate Bill 320 cleared the chamber on a vote of 31 to 5 over the objections of some lawmakers who say the measure is not needed. It now goes to the state House of Representatives for consideration.
Similar bills were approved by the Senate in both 2011 and 2012 but each time, they died awaiting action in the House.
Sen. Paul Doyle said the bill is \”very narrowly tailored\” to help consumers. \”I think it\’s a sound piece of legislation,\” said the Democrat from Wethersfield.
Oregon is poised to become the latest state to permit undocumented immigrants to obtain state-issued drivers licenses.
The Oregon House on Tuesday gave final legislative approval to a bill that would let undocumented Oregon residents apply for special cards. The cards, which would be valid for four years, that would permit them to legally drive in the state. Gov. John Kitzhaber is expected to sign the measure today.
Three other states–Washington, Illinois and New Mexico–permit undocumented immigrants to obtain licenses. Utah issues drivers permits.
Connecticut would join those states if a bill currently pending in the General Assembly is approved. Advocates, including Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, are backing the measure. Earlier this week, the Republican leader in the House, Rep. Larry Cafero, said he is open to the idea, provided there are safeguards against abuse.
The top Republican in the Senate, John McKinney, “is still studying the issue,\’\’ his spokesman said Tuesday.
As top Democratic lawmakers launch a final push for a bill that would permit undocumented immigrants to obtain a Connecticut drivers license, the Republican leader in the House said he is open to the idea.
Larry Cafero, R-Norwalk, said he is \”intrigued\” by the proposal and would consider backing it provided several \”safeguards\” were added.
\”I\’m very interested in it,\” Cafero said of the bill. But, he added, \”just like everything else in this place, I have to see the language.\’\’
Cafero met Monday with Rep. Juan Candelaria, the New Haven Democrat who is a leading champion of the idea, along with members of the group Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut.
\”The fact of the matter is, we have a lot of people residing in this state and they drive — this isn\’t a state known for its mass transit — and they\’re driving without a license and without insurance…it\’s a matter of pubic safety,\’\’ Cafero said.
But before he can fully embrace the measure, Cafero said he\’d like to see protections put in place to guard against fraud and abuse. Cafero said people seeking licenses should undergo a background check conducted by the state to ensure they are who they say they are.
Cafero also said the licenses obtained by undocumented immigrants should contain a special notation to make sure they aren\’t used to register to vote. And they should have a be valid for a shorter period, perhaps three years, than a conventional license.
As reported earlier this month, a bill that would give undocumented immigrants the right to obtain a state-issued driver\’s license died on the legislature\’s transportation committee.
But advocates are continuing to press their case. They will bring a group of high-powered supporters, including mayors of some of the state\’s largest cities and House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, to the Capitol Monday in hopes of winning passage of the bill this year.
Supporters say allowing immigrants without the proper documentation to obtain a license will improve public safety, lower insurance costs, help law enforcement and generate new revenue for the state. Several states, most recently Illinois and Maryland, have enacted similar laws.
The proposal, which is being promoted by a group of religious leaders called Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut, or CONECT, already has a powerful ally in Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney of New Haven. In addition to Sharkey, those expected to attend Monday\’s event include the mayors of New Britain, Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport.
The state Senate voted unanimously Thursday to approve the nomination of Democrat Edith Prague as the commissioner of the newly created Department on Aging.
The department\’s creation has been part of a 20-year odyssey that has been closely tied to Prague. A former potential candidate for lieutenant governor, Prague had previously held the same position two decades ago under then-Gov. Lowell P. Weicker, Jr.
When Weicker was trying to merge Prague\’s department into the much-larger Department of Social Services at a time of a huge state budget deficit, she objected. When Prague refused to cut her budget, Weicker fired her in a public clash. Continue reading
It failed to win passage in 2011 and 2012, but a bill that codifies the public\’s right to videotape police officers cleared a key legislative on Friday.
Senate Bill 237 was approved by the judiciary committee by a vote of 27 to 17. It would allow citizens to tape the public actions of police as long as that taping does not interfere with the officer\’s duties, hamper an investigation, violate a victim\’s privacy or endanger public safety. Citizens barred from taping would be permitted to sue.
Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, said those caveats are enough to satisfy him. \”That\’s a pretty hefty list of exceptions,\’\’ Kissel said. \”I think it\’s good public policy….as long as you\’re not interfering in any way, shape or form with what our law enforcement officers are doing to protect the public.\”
The legislature\’s transportation committee bill deadline has come and gone and a proposal that would permit undocumented immigrants to obtain a state-issued drivers license failed to win approval.
But Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, a leading advocate of the bill, isn\’t giving up hope. \”It seems to me to make sense,\’\’ the New Haven Democrat said. \”There are a whole host of policy arguments in favor of it.\”
Looney and other supporters say permitting undocumented immigrants to obtain licenses will make the streets safer because more drivers would be trained; they would also be required to carry insurance. As many of as 54,000 undocumented immigrants would qualify if the legislation is approved. Connecticut would be the fourth state to enact such a law, after New Mexico, Washington state and, most recently Illinois.
Looney said he is currently working to find a bill on a related topic that could be amended to include the proposal. \”We\’re looking for a vehicle now,\’\’ he said.
Meanwhile, proponents will hold a rally at the Capitol on April 29 in an effort to galvanize support for the proposal. A public hearing on the bill in New Haven in early March drew more than 2,000 people–including members of the clergy, urban leaders and immigrants. The overwhelming majority of those who attended spoke in favor of the bill.