Alberts Condemns Hasty ‘Budget’ Bill
Bill Reduces Sentences of Violent Crime Offenders; Penalties of Chronic DWI Offenders
State Representative Mike Alberts (R-Woodstock) condemned legislative Democrats Tuesday, May 24 for a hastily written budget bill that eliminates mandatory jail time for chronic drunken drivers while giving many inmates, including pedophiles and violent offenders, the possibility of early release.
Those provisions, and others, were secretly inserted into a large “implementer” bill—a type of legislation that powers the governor’s two-year budget plan. What’s more, Alberts contends many concepts included in the implementer bill focus more on state policy rather than the implementation of the state budget, as it is supposed to do. Alberts condemns the lack of transparency and calls this a tactic of inserting policy into an “implementer bill” as means to circumvent the committee process and public input. Some measures of the bill had previously failed in the more public committee process.
“To cover gaps in the state budget and hide unpopular public policy, the majority party, among other things, eroded the great work many anti-drunk driving advocates have done over the years,” Alberts said.
In enacted, offenders currently serving jail time could also be released if the corrections commissioner deems it appropriate. The provision was written into the 298-page budget implementation bill that covered changes affecting the judicial branch, public safety and criminal justice systems among others.
“With the passage of this legislation, the power to determine how a sentence will be carried out will now be in the hands of an unaccountable political appointee. Not only is this bad public policy, it’s also a cover-up and is just the wrong way to go about it,” said Alberts.
The drunken driving aspect allows repeat offenders to serve little or no jail time, regardless of the number of convictions, undoing current law for minimum sentences for repeat offenders. The jail time instead is subject to the total discretion of the corrections commissioner rather than state law or judge. Alberts said the bill, if enacted into law, would set Connecticut Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) standards at a new low with easier discretionary law behind the penalties for repeat offenders.
DWI convictions typically draw prison time after three offenses, depending on circumstances. There would be no mandatory time under the provision adopted in this bill for chronic drunk drivers.
Particularly of concern to Alberts was the provision included in the Democrat’s plan to give inmates—including sex offenders—an easy path to early release should they behave in prison. House Republican Leader Lawrence Cafero (R-Norwalk) pointed out the provision does not mean inmates must “earn” their early release with community service, drug counseling, completing coursework or other active measures. “Every time this legislation came up we were told unequivocally ‘earned release time will not apply to violent offenders – it will not apply.’ And we were told, by the way, that earned time would not just mean ‘good time,’ by virtue of breathing, to receive time off from a jail sentence. We were told our prisoners would have to earn it. They’d have to proactively go out… and earn it. Today we learn a whole different story. This provision can and will apply to violent offenders, in fact, violent sexual offenders, even pedophiles,” said Cafero.
Alberts supported an amendment that would make sex offenders ineligible for receiving “good time” credit. Majority Democrats, however, shot the amendment down.
“What do you say to a victim’s family? When a violent sex offender is rewarded and let out just for sitting in prison? What do you tell a mother who lost a child in a repeat offender drunk driving accident? What do you say to them?” asked Alberts.
The measure, H.B. 6650, was approved by a 93 to 52 vote.
To contact Rep. Alberts call 1-800-842-1423 or www.RepAlberts.com.