HARTFORD—State Rep. John Rigby today ripped legislative Democrats for a hastily written budget bill that eliminates mandatory jail time for chronic drunken drivers while giving many inmates, including sex offenders, the possibility of early release for “good” behavior while behind bars. 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, Rigby contends many concepts included in the implementer bill focus more on state policy rather than its budget. Even worse, in a clear lack of transparency, Democrats used this particular implementer bill to circumvent the committee process.
The drunken driving aspect allows repeat offenders to serve little or no jail time, regardless of the number of convictions, subject to the total discretion of the corrections commissioner. Rigby said the bill, if enacted into law, would see Connecticut set a new standard for going easy on DWI convictions.
“This legislature just sent an awful message to the people of this state by, among other things, eroding the work others have done to get tough on people who drink and drive,” Rigby said. “They just gave a political appointee the authority to determine how a sentence will be carried out.”
Rigby was particularly shocked by the Democrat plan to give inmates—including sex offenders—a bright path to early release should they behave well while in prison.
“Under this bill, pedophiles will be allowed to have time taken off their sentence for being a model inmate,” said Rigby, who saw Democrats shoot down an amendment to remove convicted sex offenders for the pool of inmates eligible for “good” time credit. “How do we explain that to a victim’s family?”
Democrats approved H.B. 6650 by a 93 to 52 as they deflect criticism over bogus savings in their $1.6 billion union concession package and scramble to balance their controversial “balanced” budget.
“Citizens of this state want transparency in government,” Rigby said. “I’m willing to bet a lot of people I represent will be disappointed as they learn more about what was passed here today.”
DWI convictions typically draw prison time after three offenses, depending on circumstances. There would be no mandatory time under the provision adopted in today’s bill. Lengths of potential mandatory sentences wouldn’t change, but the commissioner could sentence offenders to serve that time at home.
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.
Many of the controversial proposals slipped into the bill were concepts presented in a different light during previous committee meetings or were concepts that died during those meetings.