July 29, 2020

Senator Kasser Votes for Four Bills In Special Session

Absentee Ballot, Insulin Price-caps, Telehealth and Police Accountability

HARTFORD – State Senator Alex Kasser (D-Greenwich) joined her colleagues in a special session of the Connecticut State Senate to approve four new public policy initiatives that the public demanded. These four bills, which passed in the House last week and will be signed into law by the Governor, expand the use of absentee ballots during the COVID-19 pandemic, cap out-of-pocket costs for lifesaving insulin, continue telehealth medical consultations during the coronavirus crisis and improve police interactions with minorities.

“While I wish we had voted on dozens of bills to address all forms of injustice – Economic, Education and Environmental – I am proud to support these bills which advance our state in meaningful ways. The COVID pandemic has exacerbated inequities and impacted lives in devastating ways. We’re not through it yet, and there is more work to be done. But these new laws will improve the lives of many Connecticut residents – seniors and others who now rely on telehealth services, people who suffer from diabetes and for whom insulin is a life-saving necessity and people of color who have been the undeserving targets of police brutality,” said Sen. Kasser. “And though the Absentee Ballot bill we passed expires in less than 100 days and is limited to one election, this was a necessary action to ensure that every citizen can choose how they feel safe voting in the upcoming November election.” she added. “I’m proud that we have taken these actions to protect public health, safety and democracy in Connecticut,” Sen. Kasser added.

Highlights of the bills include:

Increasing Police Accountability
“We are so grateful for the service of our dedicated, professional police officers in Connecticut. This is not an anti-police bill, but rather a pro-human rights bill that codifies best practices and creates standardized training criteria so that all police officers in Connecticut get the training they deserve. There are many myths and misinformation circulating about this bill, as well as emotion and fear, but when the fear subsides and the facts emerge, we will see that this bill benefits police officers by improving morale, training and practices, as well as community relations and recruitment,” said Sen. Kasser. Highlights of the Police bill include:

  • Limiting qualified immunity so that if an officer knowingly breaks the law, violates someone’s constitutional rights and acts in a malicious, willful and wanton way that causes extreme harm, they can be held accountable. Without this change to current law, if an officer in CT acted in the same manner as the officer who killed George Floyd, they could not be held accountable.
  • Chokeholds, strangleholds and other tactics restraining oxygen and blood flow are banned, and officers will have whistleblower protections to report excessive use of force.
  • A new Independent Office of the Inspector General will conduct use of force investigations.
  • The Police Officer Standards and Training Council (POST), will include persons impacted by the judicial system and will establish standardized training so that every police officer in the state receives the best and most complete training,
  • POST will develop new crowd control policies, require implicit bias training, and ensure that police disciplinary records are subject to Freedom of Information Act requests.
  • Uniformed police officers must have their names and badge numbers readily visible.
  • Cities and towns can create civilian review boards, which will have subpoena power through their local legislative bodies.
  • Body and dashboard cameras will be mandatory for officers interacting with the public (and $4 million of state funding will help defray these costs).

Temporarily Expanded Absentee Voting
This bill allows Connecticut citizens who are concerned about contracting the coronavirus to vote by mail in the upcoming November election.

The global COVID-19 pandemic, which has infected more than 48,000 people in Connecticut and killed more than 4,400 state residents, has raised concerns about standing in line at the polls, or voting in a crowded polling location – especially for the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions, who are particularly susceptible to the coronavirus.

The bill also allows any person who is in line to vote before polls close at 8 p.m. to access Election Day registration at that polling location, as long as they meet all of the state’s voter eligibility requirements.

Capping the Price of Insulin and Related Supplies
The cost of insulin has increased by more than 1,000 percent since the 1990s. This bill caps a person’s 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 cost of not treating diabetes far exceeds the cost of providing insulin.

The bill continues the waiver of restrictions on online medical health care services (“telehealth”) until March, 2021. This will allow patients to continue to access medical care, mental health care and other healthcare services from their own home during the COVID-19 pandemic.