Latest Op-ed | ‘Legislative Power Play: Bypassing Process, Disregarding the People’ (February 2024)

February 9, 2024

*Update (Feb. 9, 2024): this op-ed was written in mid-January, when Governor Lamont and Majority Democrats were considering a special session to enact a sweeping ban on gas-powered vehicles.

Since that time, they withdrew the proposal. This withdrawal is a credit to the hard work of Connecticut residents, my colleagues, and me in creating pressure against this unpopular proposal. We must remain vigilant and engaged because Majority Democrats are looking to finally advance the ban during the 2024 legislative session.

 

Op-ed as published by the CT Examiner:

 

The 2024 legislative session is scheduled to begin on Feb. 7 and all 187 lawmakers in both chambers will begin deliberations on the future course of Connecticut. The second year of each state senator and state representative’s term is known as the “short session”—so created to accommodate the election cycle.

 

An oft-repeated falsehood is that somehow the “short session” is dedicated solely to budget items. It’s not true. The majority will do their best to cram just as many items on as many topics as they do each year. The process is a little different with “committees” advancing most bills rather than individual lawmakers, but, in practice, the results are the same.

 

Presently, the Democrats hold overwhelming majorities in both chambers, with a senate split of 24 Democrats to just 12 Republicans—granting them full control over the chairmanships of nearly all legislative committees. Consequently, they have the final say on which bills receive consideration, hearings, and votes, as well as when those decisions take place.

 

This immense advantage enables them to effectively sideline the minority party’s initiatives. Each year, I submit more than 100 new bills, ranging from safeguarding constitutional rights and advocating for additional government oversight to rectifying previous governmental overreaches. Unfortunately, a significant portion of these constructive and popular ideas are rarely even granted a conversation. It’s a major reason why our beloved state finds itself grappling with record debt, high taxes, exorbitant energy costs, and a reputation for hostility towards business interests, housing providers, and retirees.

 

Apart from the many bipartisan or less controversial bills that I’ve been able to pass, a significant portion of the bills I present annually are aimed at altering this course, paving the way for a new path true to an America with more freedom for individual citizens, and less power, control, and snatched taxpayer money for the government class. However, these ideas can only flourish under a renewed, strengthened, and principled Republican majority committed to advancing and manifesting our shared worldview.

 

I’ve done my best to exemplify a consistent and principled voice in our state government, remaining true even when the odds are bad, when the road ahead is difficult to make out through the fog of propaganda and talking points, and even if I must stand alone. I say that not to make a name for myself, but because it is what I believe in and what I know to my core as the best, most honorable, and most moral path for any society. Our American heritage was built upon the weighty deliberations of our founding fathers, who, after careful consideration, established a system rooted in representation, maximum individual liberty, and limited constitutional governance as the keys to our nation’s prosperity.

 

Anyone who studies history and is honest about it surely sees how our great country soared when we stayed true to those principles, and how the alternatives have been tried and tried again resulting only in failure or much worse. As a nation, we have drifted before, and we are drifting now. Even people who avoid politics can sense it. The future of our beloved state and nation hinges on the willingness of individuals who possess the knowledge and conviction needed to navigate these treacherous waters to get involved.

 

Meanwhile, an alarming trend emerges as more elected officials step into office, expecting ever-increasing power and authority compared to their predecessors. As a result, convention, rules, and respect for our representative system are at all-time lows.

 

As I write this, I am hearing that Governor Lamont and legislative Democrats plan to convene a special session at the end of January to revive their proposal to ban the sale of gas-powered vehicles. Our memory is still fresh from November when this misguided proposal was withdrawn due to overwhelming public opposition. It comes as no surprise that Connecticut residents overwhelmingly value their freedom to choose what type of car to purchase.

 

Nevertheless, Democrat leaders at the Capitol persist in their conviction that they possess the authority to dictate how ordinary citizens and small businesses should conduct their lives.

 

Holding a special session ahead of the regular session reveals their intent to surreptitiously bypass the legislative process which would require public hearings, committee votes, and multiple chances for debates and changes. This disregard for procedure epitomizes an abuse of power and flagrant violation of the letter and spirit that underpins our legislative rules.

 

The technical aspects of this issue are undeniably complex, deserving of thorough scrutiny rather than a subversion of power or a wanton dismissal of the principles we hold dear. As it stands, legislative Democrats already enjoy overwhelming advantages within the regular session. This would be beyond the pale.

 

I have already issued a statement calling out these shenanigans and urging a return to a thoughtful and fair use of our law-making process. The people of Connecticut deserve to be heard and respected. The majority holds a choice: either to honor their oath to our Constitutional system or to ignore the call for integrity and fairness.

 

By the time these words reach you, we will have our answer, and history will remember the stance taken by elected officials in this pivotal moment for our great state.

 

-State Sen. Rob Sampson