Sen. Somers: “… nearly 1500 people were not allowed to speak.”

February 17, 2021


Sen. Somers: “… nearly 1500 people were not allowed to speak.”


HARTFORD – Today, Republican House and Senate Ranking Members on the Public Health Committee held a virtual news conference in response to a shortened public hearing that took place yesterday on two immunization related bill proposals to eliminate the state’s religious exemption.


State Representative William A. Petit Jr. (R-22) and State Senators Heather Somers (R-18) and Tony Hwang (R-28) and their Republican colleagues cited three specific reasons for hosting the press conference. 


  1. Unhappiness that such a controversial and contentious issue was chosen to be discussed during a pandemic, rather than at a time when members of the general public could testify in person.
  2. Belief that any bill proposal brought in front of the committee should focus on the pandemic and other covid related issues.
  3. Lack of testimony and input from the Department of Public Health, Connecticut State Department of Education, Governor Lamont, Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, Senate President Pro Temp Martin Looney, and Democrat Speaker Matt Ritter. 


“Given the magnitude of these bills and impact upon thousands of school children, we owed it to every single person who signed up to testify the opportunity to do so, it is unfortunate that more than fifteen hundred people were not afforded that ability,” Rep. Petit said. “While I certainly believe and trust in the Science of vaccinations, this issue needs our thoughtful consideration to help those who are unsure as to the pros and cons of vaccination. Additionally, it was also very unfortunate that none of the leadership who feel this bill is essential to pass during a pandemic were there to testify on its behalf or anyone from the Department of Public Health and State Department of Education so we could at minimum review recently released data and the impact upon the children.”


“What we saw over the past 24 hours is a disregard for the deeply held traditions in Connecticut and the time-honored foundation of our country,” Sen. Somers said.  “The process the Democrat majority on this committee has voted on by prematurely ending a public hearing where nearly 1500 people were not allowed to speak does not honor the right to petition our government and to be able to have grievances and opinions be heard.”


State Senator Tony Hwang said, “I was really eager to learn and hear testimony today from all the impacted shareholders on this issue.  That’s what we do in a representative government that is for the people, by the people. No matter where you stand on this emotional issue, there’s only one loser in today’s public hearing process: transparent and representative government.  This 24-hour limit of a public hearing where only 430 out of nearly 2000 people on both sides of the issue were heard. Those people’s representative voices were denied.  This process, in my mind, is disrespectful and insensitive to the people it personally impacts.”