Wrapping up the Session: On Booze, Pot, and Education Reform
Our team of reporters wraps up the legislative session
The end of the state legislative session is an emotional time for lawmakers. After weeks working closely together on legislation, and holding dueling press conferences to unveil bills that ultimately go nowhere, it comes down to a few frantic late nights, where - bleary-eyed and cloudy - they vote to send some bills on to the governor, while others sit on the shelf, waiting for their turn next year.
In some ways, this year’s session was like a baseball “hall of fame” class, filled with well-known players who had been waiting their turn for years to be immortalized. A repeal of the death penalty, Sunday liquor sales, election-day registration, legalization of medical marijuana, all perennial issues - found their way through the legislative process.
Although the mood of the marathon final night of the session was "rather pissy" according to Mark Pazniokas of the Connecticut Mirror, due to a lot of angling back and forth over pet bills, there were some accomplishments.
"The Governor needed two things to avoid a complete and total disaster," said Pazniokas, "A budget bill, which he got. The other was education reforms." In the end he got both of these passed in some form.
Senator Andrea Stillman joined us to talk education reform. She said "the bill that the legislature passed, overwhelmingly, is a real substantive bill that will put in place a lot of work for the Department of Education." She agreed that Governor Malloy initially put too much emphasis on the issue of teacher tenure, and that it was an issue that most people don't understand. "There are lots of really good things in the bill" she said ," the tenure issue became the focus... that was a product of the way the debate began."
What didn't make it through? Jobs bill and minimum wage. Christine Stuart of CTNewsJunkie.com said there isn't a lot for taxpayers to be happy about in this package.
Hartford city officials weren't happy either. Mayor Pedro Segarra was counting on the legislature to pass a bill to raise property taxes, which would bring 8 million dollars to the city to fill a 56 million dollar hole. WNPR's Jeff Cohen joined us to explain the complicated bill, which did not pass in the end. "Because Hartford's tax system is so strange there is a constant pull between the burden of taxes on the residential property owner and the commercial tax base," Cohen said. He said legislators are looking for a long term solution to the tax problem, "so they're not back here every year."