Bacchiochi on Criminal Justice, the Legislative Process

It’s been a difficult time to serve in the General Assembly, a year when most of the bills coming before us are bills that I strongly oppose. For example, as I wrote in last month’s column, I opposed the Governor’s budget because it held the largest tax increase for middle class families in history. On top of the tax increases, the budget had few reductions to the size and scope of state government. We did not make real changes to the structure of a government that is completely unsustainable.

The next most offensive bill that took our time was the Governor’s Criminal Justice implementer bill. (An implementer bill is the language that makes the budget work.) The criminal justice implementer allows for early release of offenders, with a goal to reduce the prison population, decrease recidivism and save money. I have been a strong supporter of early release for non-violent offenders. But this bill, which I tried my best to change and amend, will allow early release for inmates who have been charged and convicted of rape and aggravated assault against a minor. This is terrible public policy.

I also voted against a bill that will allow undocumented, illegal residents to obtain the in-state tuition rate at our state universities. What passage of this bill achieves is that legal residents, children of Connecticut parents who have paid state taxes for years – may be bumped from a coveted in-state tuition spot, to be replaced with a person who is living in this country illegally.  Connecticut tax dollars subsidize in-state tuition rates, and I have always believed the in-state tuition rate was a small reward for living in the state and paying state taxes here.

Shamefully, we spend hundreds of hours debating inconsequential bills. These are feel-good bills that really shouldn’t be addressed by the state legislature, but we do them anyway. For example, we recently spent hours debating whether or not schools should be allowed to charge fees for extra-curricular activities. This is clearly a local issue and should be left to the duly elected Boards of Education. When the bill was contested, the proponent offered to allow town’s to opt out of the legislation with a written plan. My question is why we would spend about three hours, which apparently costs the state about $3000 in daily operational fees, to discuss something that in the end has no meaning.
And so it goes each day.

The good news for Connecticut residents is that we are reaching the end of the legislative session.  After nine years, I have determined that the less we do in Hartford, the better off you are in the northeastern towns I represent. My goal is to fight tax increases, reduce the size of government and fight to keep government out of issues we have no right to be in.

If you have questions, concerns or would like to know more about state government, please contact my office at 1-800-842-1423 or visit my website at www.RepPenny.com. I’d like to hear from you.

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