July 29, 2020

Senator Haskell Votes for Absentee Ballot Expansion, Insulin Price-cap, Police Accountability, and Telehealth Coverage Legislation

Special Senate Session Addresses Urgent Issues

HARTFORD – State Senator Will Haskell (D-Westport) today joined his colleagues in a special session of the Connecticut State Senate to approve a host of new public policy initiatives. These include expanding access to absentee ballots during the COVID-19 pandemic, capping out-of-pocket costs for lifesaving insulin, continuing telehealth coverage and improving policing in Connecticut.

The bills – which were approved by the House of Representatives last week – now head to Governor Lamont, who is expected to sign them into law.

“Since the COVID-19 pandemic cut short our traditional legislative session, I’m proud to have worked on legislation that will promote public health, and democratic participation,” said Sen. Haskell. “I’ve been talking about these issues with my constituents for months, and I’m proud to help deliver this real progress.”

Highlights of the bills approved today by Sen. Haskell include:

Expanding Absentee Ballot Access
This bill allows Connecticut citizens who are concerned about contracting COVID-19 at a polling location to vote by mail instead. Connecticut law only allowed state residents the right to vote by absentee ballot for six specific reasons:

  • If the voter is on active duty with the U.S. Armed Forces
  • If the voter will be absent from town during the entire time that polls are open
  • If the voter is ill
  • If the voter has a physical disability which prevents them from voting in person
  • If the voter’s religion prohibits them from voting that day
  • Or if the voter is working at the polls in a primary, election or referendum

This historic pandemic, which has infected more than 48,000 people in Connecticut and killed more than 4,400 state residents, has raised serious concerns about the public health implications of standing in line at the polls, or voting in a crowded polling location. This is especially dangerous for the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions, as doctors have warned that they are particularly susceptible to the virus.

The new law amends Connecticut statutes for 2020 only to allow for absentee voting due to “the sickness of COVID-19.” The bill also allows any person who is in line to vote before polls close at 8 p.m. to access Connecticut’s “same-day registration” procedure at that polling location, so long as they meet all of the state’s voter eligibility requirements.

Capping the Price of Insulin and Related Supplies
The bill caps the out-of-pocket cost of insulin at $25 per month, caps noninsulin drugs like glucagon at $25 per month, and caps diabetic equipment and supplies (such as blood glucose test strips, glucometers, lancets, and syringes) at $100 per month. The bill also authorizes pharmacists to prescribe and dispense up to a 30-day supply of ’emergency’ insulin if a person has less than a seven-day supply and would otherwise not be able to obtain any lifesaving insulin.

The bill continues the temporary waiver of restrictions on online medical health care services (“telehealth”) so that constituents can continue to safely access physical and mental health services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Health care should be accessible and convenient in the 21st century.

Increasing Police Accountability with the Public
Prompted by demands for police accountability at marches across Connecticut, this bill creates additional accountability for police departments and brings us closer to the promise of equal justice under the law. Highlights include:

  • Uniformed police officers must have their names and badge numbers readily visible on all outer garments.
  • Cities and towns can create civilian review boards, which will have subpoena power through their local legislative bodies(i.e. Board of Selectmen).
  • Body and dashboard cameras will be mandatory for any officer interacting with the public.
  • Chokeholds, strangleholds and other tactics restraining oxygen and blood flow are banned, and officers will have whistle-blower protections to report excessive use of force.
  • A new Independent Office of the Inspector General will conduct investigations after deadly force is used by law enforcement.
  • Changes in the membership of the Police Officer Standards and Training Council (POST), which provides certifications and training to police officers in Connecticut. POST will be reconstituted to include persons impacted by the judicial system and towns of various sizes.
  • POST will issue an annual report on police department efforts to recruit minority officers, and it will develop new crowd control policies, require implicit bias training, and ensure that police disciplinary records are subject to Freedom of Information Act requests.