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OP-ED | Plenty of Forgettable Bills in New Session

by | Jan 18, 2013 10:18am () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Opinion, State Capitol, Bridgeport, Guilford, Southington, Stratford, Thomaston, Westbrook, Wolcott, Woodbridge

Susan Bigelow The legislative session is off and running at last, and members are rushing to propose new laws. Thus far, the focus has been squarely on gun control and school safety in the wake of Newtown, but there’s plenty more going on beneath the surface. Sadly, some of the many, many bills being raised should stay out of sight.

For example, there are several bills out there being proposed by Republicans that would make it harder for the legislature to pass a budget. HR 5256, raised by Rep. Laura Hoydick, R-Stratford, is one of these, and it would mandate a two-thirds majority in order for the budget to pass. In theory this sounds nice, since it would be great if budgets were actual consensus documents that involved at least a little input from the minority, but in practice this bill is a recipe for gridlock. There also are a bunch of GOP proposals to bring the very thing that ruined California for a generation, initiative and referendum, to Connecticut. This is the dream of the powerless minority, to take legislation directly to the people, but the consequences would be an utter disaster. Fortunately for us there’s no way it’ll happen, not any time soon.

Then there are the attempts to turn the clock back and overturn bills passed in the past few years. Sen. Art Linares, R-Westbrook, wants to get rid of paid sick days legislation that was enacted during the productive, contentious 2011 session. Several bills would trim down or rid the state altogether of the public campaign financing system. Rep. John Piscipo, R-Thomaston, wants to see the state ditch California emissions standards. Rep. Rob Sampson, R-Wolcott, would like to see the death penalty return. None of these things will be happening any time soon.

There’s also the usual tilting at windmills. Rep. Jack Hennessey, D-Bridgeport, wants the legislature to pester Congress about a constitutional amendment to overturn the “Citizens United” Supreme Court decision. Sen. Ed Meyer, D-Guilford, wants to scrap the idea of an upper and lower chamber and create a unicameral legislature like Nebraska’s. Rep. Sampson wants to make Connecticut a Right to Work state — next to impossible in Connecticut’s relatively labor-friendly climate. Then there’s Sen. Joseph Crisco, D-Woodbridge, who is proposing “An Act Concerning a Single-Payer Health Care System.” I wish, Senator; but it’ll never happen.

There are bills that seem petty, like one that would establish “Beautiful Connecticut Waltz” as the “second state song,” whatever that means. There’s also a bill to establish an official state polka, but fortunately this seems to be a different category so they won’t conflict. There also are bills that seem a little off-the-wall, like a proposal by Sen. Joe Markley, R-Southington, to do away with mandatory fluoride in the water supply. What does he have against teeth?

Then there are bills that just seem mean, like one proposed by Rep. Cecilia Buck-Taylor, R-New Milford, requiring anyone on cash assistance to submit to drug tests. The very premise reeks of suspicion and stereotyping, as does Sen. Markley’s bill aimed at preventing cash assistance from being spent on “adult entertainment” or booze. If some state legislators still stubbornly believe that people taking cash assistance from the government all run out to get high when their checks come and then spend it all on strippers and cheap beer, then it’s no wonder poverty is so rampant in this state.

Hidden in all of this noise are bills that won’t get much press, but are smart ideas that are at least worth considering. For instance, Sen. Markley raised a bill that would allow consumers to cash a check at a bank without a fee, and an ambitious bill to try and reform the state’s generous but crushingly expensive retirement benefits plan for state employees. His idea would have new employees enroll in a defined benefit contribution plan instead of the current system, which is a fancy way of saying that employees would have more choice over their retirement options, rather like what happens in most of the private sector. It may be a good idea, as some economists suggest, or it may not be. But it deserves at least some consideration.

The members of the legislature produce so many bills that it can be very hard to keep track of them. It’s worth the time of every voter to go to the General Assembly’s website, hover over “House” or “Senate,” and click “members” to look up their legislator. Click on his or her list of bills, and find out what your voices in Hartford are saying.

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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(9) Archived Comments

posted by: RedGreenBlue | January 18, 2013  7:48pm

The point of a defined contribution pension plan has little to do with providing more employee choice.  In such a plan, the employer makes a contribution of a specific percentage of wages for each participant (such as 8 percent of covered income) rather than promising a specific retirement income based on the participant’s earnings and years of service.  So when the employee retires, he or she does not get a guaranteed benefit of so many dollars a year based on his or her final average wages or salary and years of service but rather whatever what has accumulated in his account will buy.  In other words, the employer passes the investment risk to the employee. In traditional defined contribution plans, the participant has no say in the investment choices.  More recently, some plans have begun giving the participants some choices in investment selection, much like most § 401(k) plans.  Typically, defined contribution plans work out better for younger employees than defined benefit plans would, though there’s no telling whether that will remain the case.  Such a plan will not necessarily give the employee any different payout options.  To reiterate, the crucial difference is that the employer bears no investment risk; once it has made its annual contribution for the participant, it has satisfied its obligation under the plan, even if the investments go bust.  In a defined benefit plan, the employer has to come up with the specified retirement payments even if the investments go bust—in other words, its contribution obligations are not capped.

posted by: Susan Bigelow | January 19, 2013  12:05pm

Thanks, RedGreenBlue, that’s a great summary!

posted by: SocialButterfly | January 19, 2013  8:58pm

The forgetable bills are leading Connecticut to be “a forgetable state.”

posted by: CitizenCT | January 19, 2013  10:28pm

Shouldn’t any one receiving cash assistance be required to pass a urine test since I had to pass one to earn it for you?

posted by: Noteworthy | January 20, 2013  7:26pm

So anything a Republican proposes is sure to bring on gridlock, is mean, insensitive, and wrong. Since you write from the edge of the left wing - let me add a demo/libertarian view:

1. A two thirds majority on the budget wouldn’t bring gridlock, it might just bring honesty and integrity because it would truly be a bi-partisan budget; balanced; and rooted in reality not made up numbers and magic suggestion boxes.

2. Direct democracy would be a good thing since the democracy we have is so one sided, and rarely listens in any case. When a long time sitting senator lies to your face about cutting the budget, you have a problem Houston.

3. Some things that were passed already, should be revisited and refined. EITC, sick days and more should be up for discussion. This is not a bad thing.

4. Drug testing - what are you afraid of, or better yet, perhaps you should get out more. There is a lot of drug use by those on public assistance and it’s been going on for a long time. This is not a stereotype, this is reality. To make blanket assertions to the contrary is an opinion wholly unbased in real world experience. Want to know the going rate for food stamps? 50 to 60 cents on the dollar. I have no idea about the strippers.

posted by: Joebigjoe | January 20, 2013  8:28pm

No CitizenCT

The privacy rights of the mentally ill and non-producers in society are greater than the law abiding hard working healthy people.

posted by: SocialButterfly | January 21, 2013  11:06am

CitizenCt: “These are Pres. Obama deficit spending votes” that allowed him to be sworn in today, and “Obama would never require a urine test from his taxpayer-paid voting block.”  Only in America!

posted by: Joebigjoe | January 22, 2013  6:37pm

We’re screwed, done, toast, put a fork in us, etc etc

I heard on the radio earlier that in the State of CT when someone goes to an office to conduct business around unemployment, medicaid, disability, that the state employees are required to provide a voter registration document, and when someone says they don’t want it they have to note that “such and such a person rejected it.”

Who do you think these people will vote for? Yep we’re done.

Whatever happened to personal civics. I have no issue with someone going to those offices and seeing some voter registrations on the wall that they can take, fill out and even hand in on the spot if they wish, but this is ridiculous. People need to be responsible for themselves and not babied and hand held into the Democrat party.

posted by: SocialButterfly | January 23, 2013  12:31pm

It’s easy for Democrats to be devious politicians, as the Democratic National Committee is a morally corrupt organization. A bad act to follow.

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