Fasano Applauds Bipartisan “Second Chance Society” Criminal Justice Law [Courant]

July 10, 2015

Hartford Courant

During a ceremonial signing ceremony, Gov. Dannel Malloy hailed his “Second Chance Society” initiative Thursday that calls for reduced penalties for drug possession and intends to help convicted criminals to reform their lives.

Malloy had signed the actual bill on June 30, but the signing ceremony was held in the Capitol’s ornate Old Judiciary Room to thank Republicans, Democrats, and staff members who worked for numerous hours on the details of the bill.

The bill and its previous versions had been controversial regarding the penalties for drug possession near schools. The final version “reduces the enhanced penalty for drug possession near schools or day care centers from a two-year mandatory prison sentence to a Class A misdemeanor with a required prison and probation sentence,” according to the nonpartisan bill analysis.

The measure passed by 23 to 13 in the state Senate with Democrats Paul Doyle of Wethersfield, Gayle Slossberg of Milford, Joan Hartley of Waterbury and Dante Bartolomeo of Meriden voting against it. The bipartisan bill received the support of Senate Republican leader Len Fasano of North Haven, who has criticized Malloy strongly on the state budget and recent tax increases on businesses and individuals.

On Thursday, though, Fasano stepped to the microphone to praise the bipartisan support of the Second Chance legislation.

“This is what happens when you have conversation and you exchange ideas across party lines,” Fasano said. “Drug addiction is a health issue, not necessarily a criminal issue. When you look at it in that light, you then begin to solve a problem that is facing not only our cities, but our suburbs as well. This bill is a wonderful step forward.”

He added, “This is a great, great example of what happens when you have these conversations.”

The bill passed in the state House of Representatives by 98 to 46. A series of Democrats, including Cathy Abercrombie and Buddy Altobello of Meriden, Anthony Guerrera of Rocky Hill, John Hampton of Simsbury, David Kiner of Enfield, and deputy majority leader Michelle Cook of Torrington voted against the measure. Hampton had been harshly criticized by his Republican opponent during the 2014 election campaign for a committee vote that he had cast on an earlier version of the bill, and he barely survived a close electoral battle to regain his seat.

Malloy thanked the 10,000-member Connecticut Business and Industry Association, the AFL-CIO, the ACLU of Connecticut, and various commissioners who helped on the issue.

“I think that this is an important moment in Connecticut as we join a few other states that have taken this issue on in making sure that we better prepare those who run afoul of the law to be actually contributing members of our society,” Malloy told the crowd. “That includes assistance with housing, which is in this bill; assistance with job location, which is in this bill, a clearer delineation of pardon and parole procedures and a more activist pardon and parole board, which is in this bill; changing of sentencing requirements, which is in this bill.”

Malloy handed out pens to legislators and former gubernatorial legal counsel Luke Bronin of Hartford, who helped craft the measure before leaving the governor’s office. After signing the bill, Malloy said, “It is done.”