OP-ED | 2012 Legislative Session: Winners and Losers
The hectic, productive and contentious 2012 legislative session’s a wrap, finally! That was an incredible amount of action for a short session. Now that everyone’s gone home exhausted, all that remains is to figure out the winners and losers. So without further ado:
Liberals — In a country where progressive reforms have been rolled back in many states, Connecticut has been busy outlawing the death penalty, allowing same-day voter registration, and making medical marijuana legal. Yes, the education reform debate left a bad taste in many liberals’ mouths, and the minimum wage and a few other bills didn’t make it this year, but on the whole what we’ve seen in Connecticut is two straight sessions of progressive advancement. Connecticut liberals haven’t had it this good at the state level in a long, long time.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy — He didn’t get everything he wanted, but the governor still had a very good session. “Over the course of the last 16 months we have pushed more change through these two chambers than has occurred in Connecticut in a long, long time,” Malloy said, and he’s right. Malloy still has to contend with low approval ratings and lingering hard feelings from the education reform debate, but his first two years have largely been a success.
Education reformers — It could have gone much worse. The education reform bill seemed to teeter on the brink, but in the end a compromise passed with near-unanimous support. More aggressive reformers might feel the changes weren’t broad enough, but they’re an excellent step. Now the challenge is to make sure that education isn’t put on the backburner again.
Unions — There was a distinct whiff of anti-union sentiment to the original education reform bill, but in the end the teachers unions were pleased with the bill that passed. Two other big pro-labor bills, one a controversial initiative allowing home- and day-care workers who are paid through state programs to bargain collectively and the other allowing the requirement of project labor agreements by public entities, passed. Unions may have had a disastrous 2011, but 2012 was an awful lot better.
Drunks — Sunday liquor sales. That is all.
Party harmony — Democrats in the House and Senate are pointing fingers at one another over the failure of two signature bills: the Senate’s jobs package and the House’s minimum wage increase. These aren’t the only cracks in the Democrats’ armor, though; the large Democratic majority felt plenty of strain over issues ranging from the death penalty and education reform to Sunday sales of alcohol and campaign finance reform. In a party this big there are bound to be splits and tensions, and they were definitely on display this session.
Republicans — Only sort of, though. Republicans didn’t win a lot of (or any) victories, but they seemed a lot more together this session than in previous years. Republicans made stands on issues that they believe are winners for them, like the busway, the death penalty, and medical marijuana, and they may be able to capitalize on irritation with Hartford out in a few marginally Democratic districts this fall.
Budget hawks — Remember last year when the budget was balanced and everyone felt good? What happened to that? This year, Gov. Malloy and the Democrats were embarrassed by an ever-increasing deficit and were forced to delay the implementation of GAAP — a key Malloy campaign promise. They also increased spending, which, in light of the deficit problems, looks like Democrats trying to have it both ways. Republicans were quick to pounce on spending hikes and what they said were some fishy maneuvers to close the gap.
Who do you think the winners and losers were?