Sen. Sampson: “Dear Democrats, Please Don’t Use Special Session for Political Games.”

July 16, 2020

Since the Governor declared public health and civil preparedness emergencies in March, I have been forced to watch a slow but nearly complete breakdown and discarding of the democratic process in Connecticut.

The regular legislative session was cut short, and while the lawmaking process was thankfully brought to a complete stop, there have been numerous attempts to make sweeping changes to state policy while avoiding the legislative process.

The Governor deserves some credit for his early handling of the Covid-19 pandemic but slowly but surely, he has continued to take increasing advantage of the crisis to move a more political agenda.

Aside from issuing over 60 executive orders, many of which reach far beyond protecting public health, he created a myriad of public-private partnerships which enjoy the power of an executive branch agency but have “immunity” from transparency requirements like FOIA.  He also hired a Covid-19 consulting firm at huge taxpayer expense in a state that is only treading financial water with borrowed monies.

Possibly more egregious, the Secretary of the State has taken this public health crisis and used it as a means to push her mail-in voting plan by cleverly utilizing the universal support for allowing Covid-19 to be added to the list of eligible reasons to obtain an absentee ballot.

Now the legislature is to be called into Special Session before the end of July.  At first, we were told just one bill to allow for “covid voting.”  Then it was two, and now they are talking about as many as four bills to be discussed.

More and more I fear we are moving away from doing the people’s business and focusing on the emergency policy we genuinely need and instead into the realm of political gamesmanship before the November election.

The “covid voting” bill needs to be simple and clear and stick to nothing more than what we all agree to – which is that Covid-19 should be made an acceptable reason for voting by absentee.

Unfortunately, as we get closer, the writing is forming on the wall. The bill will include a number of additional longstanding Democratic agenda items and sanctify the Secretary of State’s massive breach of protocol and authority.

She and Governor Lamont have taken it upon themselves, without legislative action, to violate the state constitution, and the will of the voters based on a ballot question voted on only a few short years ago, to send an absentee ballot application to each and every person on the voter rolls – at great expense to taxpayers, and with complete disregard for how many people are listed multiple times, already passed on, moved to another state, or are not properly listed at all.

Already, there are dozens of reports of people receiving multiple ballot applications, those of previous residents and all manner of irregularities. Couldn’t we have just done an ad campaign to make sure CT residents understand how to vote by absentee and shared the process? Of course, we could have – but that would not allow the chaos that we are currently witnessing.

You can see clearly how the politics works.  Take something that both Republicans and Democrats both agree on that has strong public support and then tack on your own agenda items that Republicans simply cannot abide by and voila!, now you have a wedge issue where you can claim Republicans voted against helping people vote.  I can hear it all now.

Even worse than this gamesmanship is the other proposition we are sure to face which they are calling the “police accountability bill.”

You can count on me to vote NO on this terrible proposal.  This bill seeks to decimate law enforcement as we know it, first by eliminating qualified immunity, and then by limiting police officer’s role in protecting and serving – instead attempting to reduce their ability to react as trained professionals, and even replacing them with social workers.  There are a handful of reasonable ideas in the language including my perennial proposal to eliminate the ability of the union contracts to supersede state freedom of information laws (funny how those who fought me tooth and nail on this are now proposing it themselves).  Unfortunately, that one good provision pales in comparison to the bad parts of this package.

Obviously, I oppose any racism and violence by anyone, including law enforcement and would gladly support a bill designed to prevent and punish such behavior.  Of course, there is nothing like that in the bill at all.  Instead, it is more regulations, more costs to our towns (aka defunding the police), and also an insult to the vast majority who do their job with honor and integrity.

What happened in MN is not a reflection on our local police.  I know many officers personally and know that they are absolute professionals and would be the first ones to condemn any racist or abusive behavior.

This is a bad bill and I am a hard no on it.

Of course, all this is happening largely as a distraction to the real issue at hand which is the incredible devastation looming regarding our state’s financial outlook.  Let me be the first to remind you that if the makeup of the state’s legislature remains the same with Democrats in charge, there will not even be a hint of spending reductions or cost cutting.  It will be just more taxes for the already over-taxed hardworking people I represent.  You can count on me to stay vigilant and stand against it.

State Senator Rob Sampson