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Senate President Pro Tempore

Martin M. Looney

Representing New Haven, Hamden & North Haven

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Senate Democrats Announce “A Just Connecticut” Agenda

HARTFORD, CT—Today, Senate Democrats announced “A Just Connecticut,” the first of four legislative agendas for the 2019 legislative session. The series of bills outline the policy proposals from Senate Democrats to reform the state’s criminal justice system, strengthen gun safety protections, and expand voting rights.

“Although Connecticut has made great strides in the fight for criminal justice reform, there is more we need to do to move our state toward a more just and equitable society,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven). “Together we can provide a second chance for those with minor transgressions, protections to those filing restraining orders, legal representation for the children of immigrants, and defendants with additional materials to prove their innocence. Our aspiration as a nation is to be both just and compassionate, and this legislative agenda will help move Connecticut toward that goal.”

“Connecticut is a leader in the nation at protecting our families from gun violence,” said Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk). “No background check or registration is required with ghost guns which opens the door for criminals to more easily obtain deadly weapons. By banning ghost guns we are taking another important step to close a dangerous loophole in our laws.”

“Our justice system has failed many people of color in our society,” said Sen. Bradley (D-Bridgeport). “We have the opportunity to right some of the wrongs with how our justice system works and focus on reform. We also have the opportunity to keep our residents safe from the epidemic of gun violence gripping our nation and expand voting rights so everyone’s voice can be heard. I’m excited to get to work on this important legislation.”

“In case anyone has any doubt about what a ghost gun is, I invite you to Google it. The very first site that comes up, ghostguns.com, says it specializes in selling unregistered weapons that are ‘combat-tested’ and ‘mission ready.’ Any reasonable person should be shaking their head and asking, who’s buying untraceable, unregistered ‘mission-ready’ guns, and why? What is their ‘mission’?” said state Senator Alex Bergstein (D-Greenwich), who is vice-chair of the Judiciary Committee where this bill will be heard. “If these questions cause deep concern for you as they do for me and my fellow Democrats, we need to do something about it. Whether we own guns or not, whether we have children or not, whether we are Democrats or Republicans or subscribe to any political identity, combat weapons in the hands of civilians who are not responsible gun owners is a major threat to our public safety – which is why we’re taking action.”

“Too many residents of our state still cannot exercise their right to vote,” said Sen. Flexer (D-Killingly). “With limited voting hours and absentee voting only available to a select group of residents we need to reform our voting laws to make it easier to vote. Dozens of other states already have expansive early voting and it is long past time Connecticut does the same.”

The legislative proposals in the “A Just Connecticut” agenda include:

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Senate Bill 654: An Act Concerning A Right to Counsel for Immigrant Children
To ensure children of immigrants are represented in issues regarding their well-being.

  • In FY 2018, there were 971 filings initiated in Connecticut for juvenile deportation proceedings. Largest represented countries of origin were Guatemala (309), Honduras (152), and Brazil (152). 716 of those individuals, or 78%, were not represented by counsel.
  • California; Washington; and Denver, Colorado have allocated funding for legal representation of immigrants.
  • New Jersey recently allocated $2.1 million for legal representation of immigrants.
  • The bill would establish a new program to provide legal counsel to undocumented minors. Roughly $800,000 a year would be needed.

Senate Bill 689: An Act Concerning Tolling Temporary Restraining Orders (SB 689)
To continue a temporary restraining order after the person alleged to be a threat is released from jail or custody.

  • It is possible that a restraining order is issued when the alleged abuser is in jail, or that the alleged abuser is arrested and in jail during the days prior to the hearing. If there is no hearing, which can be complicated by the alleged abuser’s arrest, then the restraining order can expire.
  • The bill would toll (delay) the time between issuing the restraining order and the hearing by one day for each day that the alleged abuser is in custody of law enforcement.

Senate Bill 653: An Act Concerning Open File Disclosure in Criminal Cases
To require prosecuting officials to automatically disclose certain pieces of evidence in criminal cases.

  • Adoption of automatic discovery, so that overworked defense attorneys do not need to make requests for the most common document requests. State Attorneys will be required to disclose certain materials.
  • Ensuring all materials in the state’s possession, not just the prosecutor’s, is shared with the defendant.
  • Requiring all materials with the ability to prove innocence or lessen the penalty of a crime be shared with the defendant before being asked to enter into a plea bargain.
  • Discovery standards that are uniform across the state, and do not vary by judicial district.

Senate Bill 691: An Act Concerning Expungement of Criminal Records
To create a system of expungement of criminal records for offenders that have remained crime-free for a significant period following the end of his or her sentence.

  • There is a strong correlation between housing and employment and the like hood that a convicted person will reoffend. The sad truth is that a person’s criminal record makes it unfairly more difficult to acquire housing and employment.
  • The bill would automatically expunge (destroy) or erase (seal and prohibit public access to) certain criminal records if an offender does not re-offend within a designated number of years from release

VOTING RIGHTS

Senate Joint Resolution 14: A Resolution Proposing an Amendment to the State Constitution to Allow for Early Voting
To amend the Constitution of the State of Connecticut to allow for in person voting for a period prior to election day.

Senate Bill 266: An Act Concerning Ballot Access for Students on College and University Campuses
To provide polling locations on college and university campuses for students to make it easier for students to vote.

GUN SAFETY

Senate Bill 655: An Act Concerning Ghost Guns
To ensure the sale of firearms adhere to serial number requirements and to close loopholes contributing to the illegal possession of firearms.

  • Without a serial number, law enforcement cannot run a search on a gun, making it impossible to determine chain of custody.
  • Bill would close loopholes by banning guns that do not have serial numbers and prohibit the sale of any materials or services that permit the construction of guns outside the regulated marketplace.

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