Meeting in special session, the Connecticut House of Representatives yesterday voted on an eclectic range of bills, with the most controversial centering on police reform and voting changes. Protesters outside the Capitol included unionized nursing home workers and teachers; police; self-designated representatives of Black Lives Matter; and the ACLU.
The session began with Representatives testing technology and working out technical bugs. Most representatives connected to session electronically from their offices in order to maintain social distancing.
Around noon, legislators unanimously passed House Bill 6001, “An Act Concerning Telehealth”. The bill will extend through March the changes to telehealth regulations Governor Lamont made through executive order as a response to COVID-19.
Starting Thursday afternoon, lawmakers debated House Bill 6002, “An Act Concerning Absentee Voting and Reporting of Results at the 2020 State Election and Election Day Registration.” The bill would allow voters to apply for an absentee ballot based on health fears related to COIVD-19 and make other administrative changes to election day registration requirements. After long delays due to technology issues, the House passed the bill 144-2, with two Republicans opposing it.
House members then took up House Bill 6003, “An Act Concerning Diabetes and High Deductible Health Plans,” concluding with a vote of 142-4 at 8:00 pm. The bill requires insurance plans to expand coverage related to diabetes; caps the monthly cost of insulin at $25; and covers emergency insulin prescribed and dispensed by pharmacists. It also establishes a working group to study the possibility of implementing a program to refer people with diabetes to federally qualified health centers.
“An Act Concerning Police Accountability,” House Bill 6004, was by far the most controversial bill of the session. Both parties caucused for several hours Thursday night to make some changes to the original draft bill.
The updated bill was called in the chamber around 11:00 p.m. on Thursday evening with most of the same provisions of the original draft bill, including the most controversial section related to police immunity. Republicans attempted an amendment which would have removed those sections that would impose personal liability on individual police officers, but the amendment failed.
The bill also highlighted existing law that would require municipalities to defend police who are sued individually, unless the officer was found to engage in “willful and wanton” misconduct.
Municipal officials worry about potential additional costs that could be imposed on towns as a result of this new language.
House Bill 6004 passed the House 86-58 just after 9:00 on Friday morning.
The four bills will move next to the Senate, which is scheduled for session on Tuesday.