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OP-ED | State Reps Need to Grow Up and Model the Behavior We Expect From Our Kids

by | Apr 17, 2015 6:00pm () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Opinion, State Capitol, Hartford, Naugatuck

When I read that the Judiciary Committee spent most of Monday infighting over a nasty email instead of doing the people’s business, my head exploded. This is the kind of behavior one would expect to see in a middle school cafeteria, not at the state Capitol when important legislation that really matters to people’s lives is at stake.

To recap the situation briefly: On Saturday, Rep. Minnie Gonzalez, D-Hartford, sent an email to a woman lobbying for family court reform telling her that Republican Rep. Rosa Rebimbas of Naugatuck was “fighting for her pocket not for the people like you and others the [sic] are suffering. She is cold with no heart.”

As CTNewsJunkie’s Christine Stuart reported:

Gonzalez was referencing an exchange that took place between Rebimbas and a person who testified about her experience with the court system during a contentious nomination hearing for Chief Justice Chase Rogers. Self-represented parties and those involved mostly in family court matters complained before the committee about their struggles with the court system throughout a hearing that lasted several hours Friday night into Saturday morning.

Gonzalez ended the Saturday email saying, “always remember that every pig has his Saturday.”

The email was copied to many members of the Judiciary Committee, including Rebimbas herself.

I can understand being upset about getting unpleasant online correspondence. As a columnist and author, I’ve been barraged with vile emails and social media communications that have included the worst language available as well as quite a few threats.

If you’re a woman with an opinion online, chances are you’ve probably been called the C or W word more than once. It doesn’t make it any more pleasant, but you get used to it.

As I and so many other women have learned, the police can do little in these situations other than write up a report. I’ve got plenty of other horror stories of what it’s like to be a female author and columnist with the online presence that is necessary for your career, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make here.

My point is that despite everything, I continue to do my job. My multiple jobs, as a matter of fact.

Yet because of this one admittedly inappropriate email from Rep. Gonzalez, committee leaders spent most of the day Monday trying to broker an apology, when they should have been passing bills out of committee. Rep. Gonzalez eventually sent an apology, but apparently it was not up to Rep. Rembimbas’ specifications.

I also reached out to Rep. Rebimbas for comment, expressing my surprise that she appeared unable to continue her job the way I continue to do mine. I find this particularly astonishing since she is being paid to do this job with our taxpayer dollars, a fact I’m especially reminded of this week when those dollars left my bank account on their way to the state of Connecticut’s.

This is the response I received: “It was the Chairs’ decision to convene at 3:30 p.m. We had previously identified close to twenty (20) bills that would likely have been consentable by both sides. They chose to bring out a bill that clearly created questions and concerns for some members and was not a consentable item. They could have passed over that bill at any time, but chose not to.”

However, this isn’t the story that I am hearing from other sources at the capitol, who tell me that Rep. Rebimbas arrived late and refused to consider any legislation until she had an apology that met her approval.

I emailed to try an clarify this discrepancy in the story with Republican leadership and received this reply:

“Rep. Rebimbas stands by the statements she previously released,” and added, “We have a lot of work to do in the legislature, which is my main focus. The deplorable behavior that was demonstrated by a sitting State Representative speaks for itself.”

Yet another source with knowledge of the situation states: “The Democrats on the Judiciary Committee repeatedly reached out to Rep. Rebimbas during the day to see if they could run the business of the Judiciary Committee under the JF deadline on the day. And they repeatedly told us ‘no,’ not until she received an apology.”

This source also confirmed that Rep. Rebimbas didn’t arrive at the building until 1:30 p.m. despite the committee meeting being scheduled for 10:30 a.m.

If you look at the brief meeting minutes, you’ll note that a 17-minute break for caucus was called at 3:42 p.m. I am told by my source that during this time the Democrats asked if there were any bills that could be put through of the 42 waiting, and were told “no” by Rep. Rebimbas, after which the meeting resumed at 3:59 p.m.

And there you have it, taxpayers. Your legislature at work. Or not, as the case may be.

Does this sound more like a middle school cafeteria to you than the state Capitol? It sure does to me.

My latest young adult novel (BACKLASH, shameless plug) is about cyberbullying, and it has apparently inspired one middle-school reader to start an anti-bullying club at her school. Out of the mouths of babes, anyone? Maybe the General Assembly should call her to organize one in Hartford as well.

Rep. Gonzalez, before you send another email like that, remember that you are a public servant and young people look up to you. Trust me, I understand how enraging it is when you feel like you are the underdog fighting against a vastly more powerful political and economic structure and being disparaged for it. It happens to me nine out of 10 times I write a column. But when kids see you treating people people with disrespect, they’re going to think it’s okay for them to do it, too.

Rep. Rebimbas, if you have such thin skin, perhaps you should reconsider the idea of being in public office. If I stopped working every time I got a “disrespectful” or “deplorable” email or comment, I wouldn’t be able to pay my mortgage — or my state income taxes. You’re receiving my taxpayer dollars to work for the people, so for heaven’s sake, get on and do your job.

Teenagers, at least, have a neurological basis for their irrational behavior. What excuse do our lawmakers have for theirs? How can we expect young people to learn negotiation and conflict resolution when they see adults bickering and holding up important legislation because of schoolyard fights?

Sarah Darer Littman is an award-winning columnist and novelist of books for teens. A former securities analyst, she’s now an adjunct in the MFA program at WCSU, and enjoys helping young people discover the power of finding their voice as an instructor at the Writopia Lab.

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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Comments

(11) Archived Comments

posted by: Luther Weeks | April 17, 2015  8:26pm

Luther Weeks

I am not so sure of the analogy here.

I spend a bit of time at the LOB, am a blogger, and a condo board president.  There is a significant difference between an accusation on a blog post by someone too fearful to provide their real name, or a unit owner/citizen accusing a board member, vs. a fellow board member/committee member launching an ad hominem attack. That type of attack makes it difficult to do business while it has not been addressed.

In this case it could have been addressed by immediately removing the offender from the Committee. Maybe they each could have done better here but that was a way over the top email.

On the other hand, last year a ranking member, in a committee meeting, labeled anyone who would vote against a bill as ‘unpatriotic’ and then three members, not intimidated, voted against it - yet that was way milder and not directed at a single person.

posted by: DrHunterSThompson | April 18, 2015  11:05am

You’re letting Gonzales off way too easy here.  “Admittedly inappropriate” email? Serious?

Perhaps you are not aware of any of the back stories here? Dig girl, dig.  Then write.

Free gonzo lesson.
HST

posted by: NoNonsense | April 18, 2015  11:56am

Spot on, Sarah! It is absolutely deplorable that elected representatives act like children, in effect throwing a tantrum because somebody felt “disrespected”. But I have questions: how many people are on the Judiciary Committee, so that it was possible for one obstinate brat to hold up business for the day? Why could they not proceed without her? Would they have been stymied in doing their business if she had been out sick that day?

posted by: Sbuden | April 18, 2015  12:10pm

Spot on Sarah. Minnie’s only fault was hitting the ‘all to familiar’ reply all button. If you watch the video of Representative Rebmembas questioning of Chase Rogers she names a litigant for an email which was sent in to the Judiciary Committee a Month earlier.  No one else was named from that case.  Basically this representative put out a Judicial “hit” on this litigant. That was why Minnie was so angry.

posted by: whatsprogressiveaboutprogressives? | April 18, 2015  12:51pm

Dead on Sarah! As adults, many of us are the biggest hypocrites, telling our kids not to do “x”, then we ourselves do it, and sometimes craft a cunning excuse as to why it was necessary. I look at some of our our elected officials and how they support programs such as anti-bullying but yet are the biggest bullies to exist. Malloy, Obama, and most regressives especially. Them and their respective supporters will say something to the effect of: “It’s all part of the political game..” as if to justify it and that we’re suppose to just suck it up as fact.

posted by: bob8/57 | April 19, 2015  12:58pm

bob8/57

Nice column, well written, with salient points about behavior. Did Gonzalez go too far? Maybe a little. Did Rebimbas overreact? Yes, definitely. Politics is not for the thin skinned. Throwing hissies on the people’s dime should not be tolerated.

posted by: wakeupcall | April 19, 2015  7:28pm

You may not like how this played out, but Rep. Rebimbas did what the leadership should have done long ago and called Rep. Gonzalez out on one of her many fabricated “facts.”  People believe what public officials say, seemingly without question.  Throughout the public hearings around family court and judicial re-appointments, Rep. Gonzalez has blatantly made up facts to suit her arguments.  She has turned the public hearing process into a Springeresqe debacle.  The family court professionals refuse to engage in her theatrics.  The leadership refuse to curb her theatrics and bring some dignity back to the process.  Rep. Rebimbas asked for documentation of just ONE of Rep. Gonzalez’s unfounded statements and, when it was publicly shown to be a false statement, Rep. Rebimbas was rewarded with a death threat. Rebimbas is not the problem here.

posted by: GBear423 | April 20, 2015  2:33pm

GBear423

Great column, needed to be written!  Rep Rebimbas represents a lobby for GALs, that is what needed to be called out and Gonzales was calling her out to a constituent. Too much of this going on in Hartford. Should these Law makers recuse themselves when dealing with Legislation that directly affects their personal income??

This is not the first time Rep. Rebimbas has cried when so-called bullies pick on her.  Tom Foley said something to the effect “we have Foxes watching over the Hen House”, pointing out the inability of Legislatures with self restricting their involvement when conflicts of interest; Rep Rebimbas took exception to the term Hen…  really?  Grow up!

posted by: Sarah Darer Littman | April 21, 2015  4:55pm

I’m sorry wakeupcall “a death threat”? Hardly. It takes a simple Google search to learn that the phrase used is a central American equivalent to our expression “every dog has its day”  - which is hardly a death threat. You want to see death threats? You should read some of the things that get tweeted and emailed at me. But I don’t throw hissy fits and stop working. I report them to the police, who write a report and tell me they can’t do diddly squat, and then I keep on writing and doing my job. So please, spare me.

posted by: wakeupcall | April 27, 2015  9:17pm

Sarah, “Every pig has its Saturday” is a popular Nicaraguan saying,
which refers to slaughter of fattened pigs on Saturdays for the weekend
cooking pot.  Just FYI.

posted by: Sarah Darer Littman | April 28, 2015  6:24pm

Yes, wakeup call that might be the LITERAL meaning, but what is the colloquial meaning? See here: http://goo.gl/NEUlEP Have you ever studied foreign languages of did you just Google? Also, did it ever occur to you that not every culture has the same meaning? That maybe the Nicaraguan use isn’t the same as in Puerto Rico or Venezuela? One can get into real trouble by using literal translations. Like with the verb “baiser” in French. http://goo.gl/AMvQtR Also by assuming that all Spanish speakers are from a monolithic culture.

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