I was asked a great question today. “What were the worst bills passed that people don’t really know about.” That is actually a difficult question, considering there was some really horrible legislation passed over the last two years and I can't tell what people have actually heard.
I do get a sense that some issues are under reported by the look of surprise on a constituent's face when we speak. Here are just a few I think have big consequences.
- Early Release Program. The budget is actually implemented through many bills, but it is presented in its entirety. The Governor’s budget increased spending a time when we couldn’t afford it. As a result, we were retroactively taxed and taxed on many goods and services. But more importantly, there were bad policies outlined in the budget to save money. Most notably is the Risk Reduction Earned Credit program to let prisoners out of prison early with good behavior. Only under Republican pressure did the Democrats amended the bill to disallow participation for individuals convicted of murder, aggravated sexual assault in the first degree, and home invasion. Unfortunately, many other violent criminals and sex offenders qualify for early release, despite Republican attempts to keep them behind bars. This bill was particularly troubling to me because it was stuck in the budget with no opportunity for victims to testify at a public hearing. Now we have already begun to hear stories of re-offenders creating more victims of violent crime in Connecticut. A bipartisan approach would probably have resulted in a law that allowed nonviolent offenders an opportunity for early release.
- Election Day Registration. In 2014, Connecticut citizens will be able to register to vote on the same day of the election. Unfortunately, many safeguards to eliminate voter fraud have been eliminated. In addition, the Democrats would not allow an ID be required to register to vote, even if an ID were provided free of charge to those who are not eligible for a driver’s license. In addition, any vote that is found to be fraudulent after the election is still counted! This bill is touted as part of the continuous efforts to increase voter turnout, like the effort to remove absentee voting requirements from the State Constitution, and let the Secretary of State and the Legislature decide these rules. My belief is the voting issues were included in the state constitution to safeguard voting rights. My advice to residents of Connecticut – Voter fraud will be rampant in 2014 so, be ready.
- All Payer Claims Database. It doesn’t sound interesting, but I think this one will haunt us. The bill requires insurance claim information be collected into a state database. The up side is we will have a health database we can use to asses public health across the state. The bad news is that there are those in the state who will use the information to influence your care, like pressuring your doctor to practice medicine in a certain manner or pressuring you to lose weight or stop smoking. I don’t think the state should be that involved in your health-care. The other issue is now all of our personal health information will be one central database just ready to be hacked. I tried to separate identity information from the data and add means for citizens to opt-out of the program, but my efforts were defeated on a mostly a party-line vote.
When I have my next opportunity to write, I will cover the best bills that I believe people don't know about!