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OP-ED | Connecticut Becomes More Liberal in 2014

by Susan Bigelow | Jan 3, 2014 12:59pm
(18) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Civil Liberties, Equality, Opinion

The New Year has rung in some new laws and rules on issues ranging from gun rights and the minimum wage to immigration control and transgender rights, and for good or ill, Connecticut is becoming a more liberal place in 2014.

The change that likely will end up affecting the most people is the raise in the minimum wage. This is something Democrats, especially those on the left, have long been pushing for at the state and national levels. The wage rose to $8.70 on Wednesday, and by Jan. 1, 2015, the wage will be $9. Democrats, including Gov. Dannel P.  Malloy, claimed the wage hike will lift people out of poverty. Well, it certainly won’t hurt, but as Malloy critic Jonathan Pelto points out it won’t actually raise most above the poverty line.

The other new laws that have gotten a lot of attention are all about gun control. Citizens with assault weapons and high-capacity magazines must now register them with the state, and a new registry of people convicted of weapons offenses now exists.

These laws may or may not keep massacres like Newtown from happening; this is the kind of law that’s going to be very hard to measure. One thing I’m sure of, though, is that ridiculous stunts like sending banned gun magazines to the governor and other officials as some sort of “message” will continue throughout 2014. Nice work, gun rights activists.

A law that didn’t get much attention is a change in the rules for how local authorities deal with civil immigration detainers. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) uses detainers to hold people who are detained by law enforcement for another 48 hours beyond their scheduled release while ICE decides whether to take the person into custody. This is the sort of thing that lends itself to abuse, and the ACLU says often constitutes illegal imprisonment. The rules change prohibits holding anyone who isn’t deemed a threat, and also prohibits holding anyone who is kept in custody past the 48 hour mark. This is a win for Latinos, who often are held illegally, and for immigrant rights activists.

Another change in criminal justice rules is the requirement that interrogations be videotaped or otherwise recorded in order to be admissible. The law only applies to felonies and there are some exceptions, but otherwise this is a positive step forward for due process and the rights of the accused.

Lastly, though this had nothing to do with the legislature, the Insurance Department quietly directed all insurance companies operating within Connecticut to cover treatments related to gender transition for transgender people. This means services like mental health counseling, hormone replacement therapy, and various surgeries are now actually covered.

For someone who isn’t trans, this isn’t huge or earth-shattering. But for the thousands of Connecticut residents (myself included) who are, it’s a huge deal. These things aren’t cheap, and most insurance policies have very specific exclusions for transgender people. For many, this puts the cost of medical transition and mental health counseling out of reach. Both of these things can literally be life savers. This new rule change, which has now happened in five other states in addition to Connecticut, does a lot to undo discrimination in insurance that dates back to the Reagan era.

All of these changes mean that, at least at the governmental level, Connecticut is becoming more liberal in 2014. Wages for the poorest are slightly higher. The state is more tolerant of LGBTQ people, immigrants, and prisoners, while being less tolerant of gun owners.

Is this a good thing? Again, that depends on who you are, and where you fall on the political spectrum. I think by and large it’s good. I think we could be more friendly and open toward business while raising the minimum wage. The two don’t have to be opposed to one another. We can raise wages while making it easier to run a business here. I’m not bothered by assault weapon bans, though offender registries always have a potential for abuse or injustice. The liberalization of laws concerning transgender people, immigrants, and prisoners makes the state more just and fair, however, and that’s the kind of state I want to live in.

So welcome to a slightly more liberal Connecticut this January. We still have a long way to go toward making the state welcoming to everyone, but we’re making a bit of progress.

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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(18) Comments

posted by: ConnVoter | January 3, 2014  5:30pm

Susan, I recognize that you’re transgendered and you obviously agree with the Insurance Department’s directive.  My question is, however, why should my insurance policy cover these procedures?  Gender transition is a procedure sought by a remarkably small percentage of the population, yet our state government is now insisting that all insurance contracts provide coverage for those who choose it.

Once you answer that question, you’ll realize the biggest problem with Obamacare that no one is talking about:  the federal government is insisting that every insurance contract include provisions to its liking.  Why can’t 10 of my buddies from my cycling club and I, all of whom are very healthy, opt out of certain federally mandated requirements?  I should have the right to make those choices by myself.  I’m an adult and a taxpayer.  Yet, a policy that omits contraceptive coverage or other “Essential Health Benefits” would violate the law.  Why?  It makes no sense.  I should have every right to choose my own coverage to my liking.  Because I can’t, my insurance is inherently more expensive than it needs to be, and that’s inherently unfair.

posted by: wmwallace | January 3, 2014  11:41pm

Welcome to everyone but the taxpayers. Maybe if things become more liberal, then you will get your wish and those who pay most of the taxes will move, than you can foot more of the bill for you socialist agenda

posted by: Jesterr72 | January 4, 2014  7:01am

You think gun control laws make you SAFER???  Liberals keep ignoring facts and history.  Read this:
http://tomohalloran.com/2013/08/14/18-little-known-gun-facts-that-prove-that-guns-make-us-safer/
CT will become less safe as time goes on because of the misguided Democrats running our State. Count on it.

posted by: Lady Jane | January 4, 2014  11:13am

CTvoter, why should I have to pay for your prostrate surgery? Women don’t have prostrates, so why do I care if your surgery is covered? Why should you have to pay for a hysterectomy? We pay for those surgery because a doctor determined that the surgeries were necessary to save your life and the same thing is true for transsexuals, a doctor had determined that the surgery was necessary. I don’t know about you but I don’t want a popular vote, I don’t want an insurance company telling what surgery is necessary, I want that left up to my doctor and me. From what I understand the AMA and the APA both have said that it is necessary for them to have the surgery.
You say that you do think you should be forced to have insurance, but when you don’t have insurance what you are actually doing is asking the government and me to subsidize. Suppose you had a bicycling accident and you need to go to the emergency room and you cannot pay for it and declare bankruptcy. The hospital has to cover the cost and is reimbursed partly by the state and part of the lost is also shared by the hospital by increased which increases rates, causing my insurance premiums to go up for cover your medical cost. From what I have read, around $800 of my insurance premiums goes to cover the uninsured, why should I have to pay for you?
Those who argue that they only need catastrophic because they are healthy, studies have shown by having annual physicals and catching cancer and other major diseases early saves tens of thousands of dollars later and the person has a better chance of surviving.

posted by: Susan Bigelow | January 4, 2014  11:46am

Because that’s not the way insurance works, ConnVoter—we pool risk. Otherwise the healthy will have cheap policies—right up until the moment they get sick.

posted by: ASTANVET | January 4, 2014  4:25pm

Susan, respectfully - that is not how insurance works - yes, it is pooled risk, but the choice (fee will/pro choice/freedom/liberty) is in the decision to CHOOSE to indemnify certain things over others.  You shouldn’t have to pay for my prostate exam, if you are a woman - i shouldn’t have to pay for your mamograms.  the “pool” is from all people who are interested in covering that specific risk - odd ball things are going to be expensive as are pre-exisiting conditions because that increases the risk… You all choose force over freedom - you all choose chains over liberty.  You want to force someone into decisions about school, guns, health insurance… etc… CT is indeed more liberal (i.e. less free) and I don’t think that is something to celebrate.  I don’t like calling progressives “liberal” because that has the root of “liberty” in it…which is farthest from your aim.

posted by: Salmo | January 5, 2014  3:43pm

And this is a good thing, why???

posted by: justsayin | January 6, 2014  9:39am

Susan actually on certain policies pool risk, individual plans do not you are evaluated and accepted based on your information. That is why the HSA market for individual plans was a good option. That is being taken away because they need healthy to pay for the rest and all the “better, required” coverage they mandated.

posted by: ConnVoter | January 6, 2014  10:40am

Susan, insurance is about pooling risk, but by including me in a pool for which there’s a 0% risk that I’ll require the services that I’m paying for, you are basically saying, “this is no longer insurance,” it’s something other than insurance.

Forcing everyone to pay at least in part for a surgical procedure(s) that they’ll never, ever, ever require is ridiculous.

Lady Jane, why on Earth would you think that I’m male?  Other than that, I agree with everything you said.  Your decisions on your surgeries should be made in consultation with you and your doctor.  If you want your insurer to help you pay for them, however, they need to be covered by your policies and your premiums.  If they’re not, you’ll need to open up your wallet for the entire cost.  That’s how insurance works.

posted by: justsayin | January 6, 2014  1:23pm

Susan, you continue to paint CT residents with a broad brush of your biased perception. Not fair. Insurance companies should not be mandated for elective cosmetic surgery. more liberal does mean better, that has been proven time and time again.

posted by: Lady Jane | January 7, 2014  11:38am

ConnVoter you are right, I shouldn’t have jumped to the conclusion that you are a man.
But I glad that you agreed with me that insurance companies should cover what is medically necessary. Because as a social worker I know that the AMA and APA have said the transsexual healthcare is medically necessary, that providing healthcare coverage including surgery improves the quality of their lives and is medically necessary. It is not cosmetic surgery. Doctors provide hormones to all types of patients, not just transgender patients and all types of patients get therapy not just transgender patients, to deny transgender people treatment that is provided to other patients just because they are transsexual is discrimination. The same thing is true for their sex surgery; it is not one surgery but a whole series of operations that urologists and oby/gyn do every day on ordinary patients.
Let’s leave the decisions on what surgeries are necessary to the doctors and not the insurance companies or to popular vote.

posted by: ConnVoter | January 7, 2014  1:56pm

Jane, the question isn’t the coverage.  Coverage is defined by an insurance contract between an insurer and an insured, and a premium for that coverage is defined by the events that it includes.

If the insurance contract doesn’t include an event, the event isn’t covered.  It’s as simple as that. 

My main complaint with Susan’s comments in her column and below are that she thinks that *all* insurance contracts should cover gender transition. 

*I* think that my insurance coverage should never, ever include gender transition because I don’t want to pay for it—not for myself and not for anyone else.

The government should get out of the business of deciding what is included in every insurance contract.  By over-including provisions in each insurance contract, even for insured who will never require them, inherently makes each premium more expensive than it needs to be.

posted by: CB44NU | January 7, 2014  5:45pm

I’m new to CT News Junkie. I was hoping a web-site that advertises “the usual media offerings just aren’t enough” would live up to the hype. This is the first article I reviewed, and I must know, are all CT News Junkie columnists this fair and impartial? I thought news journalists were supposed to report the facts and not let their own personal opinions get in the way of reporting the facts. Isn’t that’s how one builds credibility? When you mix your own personal opinions and beliefs with the facts, what are we to believe? As someone else previously touched on, I guess I missed the vote that elected Susan Bigelow the voice of Connecticut and determined that CT becoming more liberal is a good thing and is “making progress.” You state “making the state welcoming to everyone.” I already live in CT and am feeling less and less welcome every day.

posted by: gutbomb86 | January 7, 2014  10:13pm

gutbomb86

@CB44NU - you must be very new to websites and/or newspapers if you don’t see that this post is clearly marked as “op-ed” in the headline and categorized as “opinion” ... as well as the use of the word “columnist” in Susan’s short bio at the end of the story.

Also, just reading the subject matter should have clued you in that this was written as an opinion.

Typically a news story will include the most important “5 Ws” - the key “who, what, when, where and why” facts - all in the first sentence and everything afterward is arranged in what’s called an “inverted pyramid,” if I’m not mistaken, with the least important facts at the end of the story. This post is clearly not written as a news story and, to belabor the point, it is clearly labeled as opinion.

But hey, you say you’re new here but you feel that it was immediately appropriate to begin criticizing the publication. Seems like a lot of conservatives like to immediately attack the publication if they don’t have a clue as to how to respond to a topic that makes them uncomfortable.

posted by: JamesBronsdon | January 7, 2014  10:58pm

CB44NU, welcome to the party. Not all commenters are pedantic and condescending. Many have some very intelligent things to say. Some who are filled with vitriol you will just learn to avoid and not waste your time with.

posted by: gutbomb86 | January 8, 2014  1:31am

gutbomb86

Yes, James - that’s precisely how I perceived CB’s comment and many of yours as well. And yes, I also perceive the act of reading your comments and complaints as a waste of time as well.

posted by: justsayin | January 8, 2014  10:11am

Gut I am not uncomfortable, the issue is insurance. Insurance is pro-active and re-active. It is not there because you do not like something or feel you need something about yourself changed. If someone wants to go down that path great that is their personal decision. Just do not expect the rest of us to pay for it. Elective surgery for any reason is just that.

posted by: docaltmed | January 10, 2014  9:01am

Gender Identity Disorder, the diagnosis associated with transsexuals, can be a life-threatening problem. Gender identity, like sexuality, is not a choice; it is something that we are born with. The current research points to hormonal alterations during fetal development as the starting point for this.

The range of treatment required to support a person with GID vary. Some need counseling. Some need counseling and hormone therapy. Some need surgeries as well. It is up to the individual, in consultation with their doctors, what to do.

I’m a doctor; a fuller explication of my perspective can be found here: http://www.averyjenkins.com/?p=16

and here:

http://www.averyjenkins.com/?p=567