House approves habeas reform bill as well as measures on grandparents visitation and highway safety

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The Connecticut House of Representatives on Tuesday approved bills that aim to make the highways safer, enhances the legal framework for grandparents seeking visitation rights with their grandchildren and streamline the process by which prisoners can claim illegal incarceration.
*Lawmakers have long struggled to balance the rights of prisoners to seek legal redress by filing habeas corpus petitions without bogging down the criminal justice system.
The bill approved by the House Tuesday does just that, said Rep. Gerald Fox, D-Stamford and chairman of the legislature\’s judiciary committee. \”This bill is a compromise,\’\' he said.
It would establish a screening process \”to weed out potentially frivolous petitions,\’\' Fox said. It also would set time limits for filing habeas claims. However neither provision would apply to cases where the prisoner is claiming his or her innocence. The new rules would also not pertain to the 11 men currently on death row.
\”All parties felt there was…a way to make sure we can focus on those claims that do have merit, that are potentially legitimate, and weed out those claims that seem to be bogging down the process and using up a lot of resources…where…in all likelihood nothing would come of it,\” Fox said.
Rep. John Hetherington, R-New Canaan, said the bill is \”a delicate compromise\” that both the chief state\’s attorney\’s office and the criminal defense bar can live with.
*Also clearing the House is a bill that would give grandparents a process for seeking visitation rights. Lawmakers were responding to a recent state Supreme Court ruling that denied a visitation petition to grandparents. The bill is the product of a task force on grandparents visitation rights chaired by Rep. Joseph Serra, D-Middletown.
*The House also approved a change to the \”move-over law,\” which requires motorists to pull away from emergency vehicles that are stopped on the side of any highway with three or more lanes. The measure that passed the House on Tuesday would amend the law to include highways with two or more lanes. It would also expand the law to cover tow trucks and the road maintenance trucks used by highway workers.
All three bills now go to the state Senate for consideration.
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