Courant Op-ed: One-Party Democratic Rule Stifles Connecticut – Time to Open the Dialogue

December 15, 2014

By State Senator Len Fasano | Hartford Courant

Does one-party rule exist in Connecticut? Some, including Democrat state Sen. Beth Bye of West Hartford, say it does not. As someone who has witnessed the results of Democrat majority rule over the past four years, I respectfully disagree.

With the Democrats controlling the General Assembly and the governor’s seat, we have seen one-sided policy decisions pushed into law and Republican alternatives pushed aside. As a result, Connecticut has not only been led down a path that heads straight toward “permanent fiscal crisis” — in the words of the governor’s budget director — our state has also lost sight of many valid policy solutions.

It is true that about 80 percent of the time, Republicans and Democrats vote similarly on bills that make it to the floor of the Senate. This number is accurate, but it is also misleading. Here’s why:

  • This percentage omits the hundreds of Republican proposals that Democrats never call for a vote to avoid taking a stand on difficult issues.
  • This percentage doesn’t tell us how many Republican bills are killed while in the committee stage of the legislative review process.
  • This percentage does not include the 259 Republican amendments that have been rejected by the majority at a rate of 99 percent over the past four years.
  • This percentage also fails to acknowledge what happens when a Republican idea does manage to garner Democrat support — it gets taken over by Democrats who slap their own names on what was once a Republican amendment.

In the current system, the bills that make it to the floor of the Senate are usually bills that are sensible updates to the law, so we vote similarly most of the time. The ideas that differ vastly from the majority are the ones that never make it that far.

The high percentage of on-the-floor agreements also fails to shed light on the stark differences in policy between Republicans and Democrats represented by the remaining 20 percent. What does that 20 percent include?

  • Republican votes against the Democratic majority when the governor wanted to implement the largest tax increase in state history.
  • Republican votes in opposition to the Democrats who wanted to raise the sales tax to 6.35 percent.
  • Republican votes against the majority when they wanted to tax nonprescription drugs and clothing under $50, votes that were eventually embraced when the Democrats decided to reinstate the tax exemptions on these items.
  • Multiple Republican votes opposing the governor’s plan to allow more criminals out of prison early with very little oversight.

Arguably, it is those policy decisions that have placed Connecticut near the bottom in a number of unflattering state-by-state comparisons.

While Republicans have voted often with Democrats on common-sense legislation, we have also strongly opposed many of the policy choices made by the majority. We have offered alternative solutions, but these have been pushed aside. A prime example is that the state budget, which was crafted behind closed doors by only Democrats without Republican input.

It’s time to put an end to one-party rule by making an effort to listen the other side, working together on solutions and cooperatively addressing our most difficult policy decisions. It’s time to give Republican ideas a fair chance by allowing our proposals to be heard and voted on in the form in which they are filed.

Although the legislature and governor’s seat still remain in the hands of the Democratic Party, there is an opportunity for Connecticut lawmakers to work together and open the dialogue to more bipartisan conversations.

Our state faces serious financial calamity. Now is the time to start listening to new ideas and working across the political aisle. We owe that to Connecticut’s taxpayers and our future generations.