As of Jun 13, Gov. Ned Lamont has signed 56 bills into law ranging from the early voting to road safety — with many more to come.
Common Sense Laws or Intrusive Bureaucracy from the Powers That Be?
Connecticut was recently ranked as having the best drivers in the nation, but that didn’t stop our government from giving the ability for municipalities to start installing speed and red-light cameras to enforce traffic laws. The bill is currently sitting on Gov. Lamont’s desk, which he is expected to sign into law.
The idea of more government surveillance came with mixed reviews. Ron Goralski, chairman of Bike Walk Farmington, testified that, “Connecticut needs automated enforcement for speeding and red lights because motorists need to be held more accountable when they are endangering the safety of others.”
While NAACP state conference president Scot X. Esdaile recognizes the importance of “traffic safety measures” he opposed the legislation “due to its potential impact on marginalized communities and the erosion of civil rights.”
The legislation also requires the Connecticut Department of Transportation (DOT) to conduct a study on whether to allow bicyclists to treat a stop sign as a yield sign, a red light as a stop sign, and the canceling of turning right on red.
It also calls for the DOT to conduct a public awareness campaign about the dangers of driving while under the influence of certain over-the-counter and prescription drugs with an emphasis on opioids and cannabis.
Additionally, the bill requires the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to force Connecticut drivers to watch a safety video upon every other license renewal.
Sounded Too Good to be True
The state got its wish, joining 46 other states that provide some form of early voting starting in 2024.
The governor signed the legislation June 7 that changes the state Constitution to allow voting 14 days early for general elections, seven days for most primaries and four days for special elections and presidential primaries. Every municipality in the state will be required to establish at least one early voting location, but has the option for more.
The recently signed state budget includes money to help municipalities to cover the costs. However, the funds are only enough to help pay for one early voting location and there is a chance some communities will receive nothing.
During the June 6 debate on the state budget, Rep. Gale Mastrofrancesco (R-80th) pointed out that $1,800,000 was appropriated to the Secretary of the State to provide grants to each municipality to implement early voting. She also noted that it is unknown how the money will be dispersed and that it is possible that some municipalities could receive little to no funding.
The idea of voting, when it is convenient, may have a negative impact on municipalities with large minority populations. Massachusetts has offered early voting since 2016 (17 days before state biennial elections and 10 days before presidential or state primaries); but according to a 2021 MassVote report, the effort has shown to disenfranchise less affluent communities resulting in significantly lower voter turnout.
The report showed nearly 90 percent of voters in wealthy towns cast ballots in the 2020 election, while less affluent and more diverse cities saw turnout as low as 55 percent. To make matters more difficult, the Bay State has also struggled to strike a balance between convenience, obeying the law and staying within local budgets.
The War Against Highway Mayhem
Some Connecticut motorists have either forgotten how to drive — or they think ‘Wrong Way’ signs are optional. According to the CT DOT, wrong-way crashes in Connecticut have tripled in 2022, including 13 that resulted in 23 deaths compared to four wrong-way crashes in 2021.
To reverse this trend, Gov. Lamont signed a bill on Wednesday (June 13) directing the DOT to install wrong-way driving alert systems on at least 120 “high-risk” highway exit ramps.
The governor issued a press statement on Wednesday saying, “It is shocking how quickly the number of wrong-way driving incidents has accelerated over these last couple of years, and we need to do more to prevent them” and that “this is an issue that we cannot take lightly.”
The bill also directs UConn to test and analyze the use of directional rumble strips that alert a driver through vibration and sound that they are driving the wrong way and the DOT to pilot the use of “variable electronic message sign” along the highway to alert motorists of a potential wrong-way driver.
The Office of Fiscal Analysis reports that inconsiderate and dangerous drivers have cost the state $20 million in bonding for DOT to purchase and install advanced wrong-way driving technology.
Another Critic of Local Control
The Commission on Connecticut Development and the Future met on Monday (June 12) to review policy recommendations relating to land use, affordable housing and infrastructure.
During a conversation about municipal affordable housing plans, Rep. Roland Lemar (D-96th) expressed his displeasure about plans several towns have submitted.
Connecticut law requires towns and cities to submit plans to the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) once every five years and to post them online. The plans must show how each municipality intends to increase affordable housing developments.
There is no penalty for failure to comply and to date, there are 25 towns that have not submitted a plan including West Hartford, Norwalk, Bridgeport and East Hartford.
Rep. Lemar sarcastically said, “As much as we’ve heard about how local towns know best and local communities know themselves best how to handle this” and that “the state of Connecticut has provided a significant amount of funding to help communities develop local affordable plans.”
He also called the plans they did receive “not up to par with what the legislative standard was and what we envisioned,” adding, “Towns do need a lot of help and guidance on this” — meaning keep on the lookout for more ways the state wants to trample on local control.
Hartford BOE’s PSA For School Choice
During the public comment period at the Wednesday (June 14) Hartford Board of Education meeting, Dr. Maya T. Bowen, education chair, from the Greater Hartford African American Alliance, called out the board for their lack of transparency in handling roughly $3.3 million that was to be used to tutor 4,500 students to combat the learning loss that resulted during the pandemic.
Dr. Bowen said only 810 students in the district took part in the program and she asked the board why there was a “modality change from [tutoring taking place] after school to in school.
She also wanted answers as to why all 4,500 weren’t tutored and why they opted for classes to be administrated online. She noted that “our students did not do well in an online platform” during the pandemic, and asked why they “choose a modality that has not already produced success” instead of having instruction done on campus.
As of writing this newsletter edition, the board has yet addressed Dr. Bowen’s concerns.
For more information on the K-8 achievement gap in the state, check out Yankee Institute’s new study that shows that simply increasing school funding will do little to solve the problem
Click HERE to read.
This Week on Yankee Institute’s Podcast Y CT Matters
Listen to Sen. Ryan Fazio (R-36) give a breakdown on the 2023 Legislative Session. He discusses the biennial budget, tax cuts, fair share housing, the benefits of the 2017 fiscal guardrails, pushing back on other ‘bad’ bills and the importance of localism and civic engagement.
Click HERE to listen