Sen. Sampson on 24-hour Public Hearing Time Limit

February 15, 2021

Senator Rob Sampson offers the following statement ahead of Tuesday’s public hearing on removing a citizen’s right to refuse vaccines based on their religious beliefs.

In the 2020 Session the hearing on this same issue drew a record-sized crowd to the capitol. This year, the Public Health Committee Chairs, Senator Daugherty Abrams and Representative Steinberg, announced that they will end the hearing once it reaches the 24 hour mark regardless of the number of people who have yet to testify.

“Since the Governor’s first emergency executive order, I have been sounding the alarm that the majority party would use this pandemic as a means to push their political agenda. Not only have they continued to use the Governor’s expanded authority offensively, but also by eliminating people’s ability to participate in their government.

“Ahead of the first day of session, I went on the record stating that I did not want to hold this legislative session only online. A virtual session could not possibly allow every Connecticut citizen’s right to have access to the law-making process.

“So far this session, we have seen Democrat committee chairs

  • provide minimal notice ahead of important policy discussions
  • pack agendas for hearings prohibiting the chance for fruitful discussion
  • stifle debate either by cutting off commentary and questioning mid-hearing
  • – and now this arbitrary 24 hour time limit.

“Putting a time limit on a public hearing, aside from flying in the face of the purpose of even holding these important events, will force legislators to choose between asking follow up questions on testimony OR allowing as many members of the public to testify as possible.

“These virtual or Zoom sessions are an affront to the access to government our lawmaking process requires. Guilefully applied time limits on public hearings only add insult to injury when it comes to disenfranchising our public from participating in the lawmaking process.

“As of this writing, nearly 15,000 people have signed a petition asking that this hearing be postponed until it can be done in person allowing every voice to be heard.  Almost 1300 people have already signed up to testify – which given the usual three minute time limit and not including any Q&A, would amount to nearly three full days of testimony.   Do those individuals who do not get their chance within the first 24 hours lose their voice in our state government?

“This complete disregard for the public’s participation is disgraceful and unacceptable.

“Connecticut citizens, regardless of party affiliation or position on this legislation should be appalled.  I encourage you to be engaged in this legislative session and remind the rest of the state government that they work for you. Stand with me and demand your voices be heard.”