Friday, July 06, 2018

Rep. Sampson: Legislative Session 2018: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly


Like any other year, the legislative session in Hartford this year was a mix of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Good
Last year, my Republican colleagues and I achieved something nearly impossible and passed a remarkable and responsible budget plan through the legislature with the help of a few Democrats crossing over to join us, only to have it then vetoed by Governor Malloy. The result was a new “compromise budget” that included tax increases, expanded government, and cut education aid to the towns I represent – all things I vowed never to support. I voted no.

Fast forward to this year.  After a lot of effort from myself and likeminded colleagues, (many of us who were very upset at the previous budget and the Governor’s even larger cuts to our towns), we were able to pass a budget adjustment package that corrects many of the mistakes made last year. We were able to restore funding to the towns and fund the Medicare Savings Program, which helps over 100,000 seniors pay for medical care and prescription drugs. We also fully funded scheduled transportation projects with existing revenue rather than resorting to highway tolls or increasing rates for public transportation. Finally, we funded the Retired Teachers’ Healthcare fund, which has been promised to them for years.

We also managed to pass some other good policy measures. PA. 18-41 a bill I cosponsored, will help control rising drug costs. The bill increases transparency in the pharmaceutical industry, helping to lower costs. Although I am opposed to government interference in the free market, I believe this bill responsibly addresses a major issue faced by many, especially seniors living on fixed incomes.

Another bill I helped pass was P.A. 18-135, which cracks down on spoofing and those annoying solicitor phone calls we all receive. This bill would make such crimes a Class A Misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison, a $1,000 fine, or both.

Finally, the legislature passed P.A. 18-47, which expands eligibility for certain benefits to individuals with other than honorable discharge who suffer from PTSD, brain injuries or other trauma. These benefits include education and housing assistance, veteran status on identification cards, tax benefits, and more. These veterans put their lives on the line to defend our freedoms and way of life, and for many, their struggles do not end on the battle field, often following them home. Passing this legislation was the right thing to do.

The Bad
As the ranking member of the legislature’s Insurance committee, I have been committed to reversing many of the poor policy
decisions that have caused the problems we now face in the healthcare and insurance arena.  I am very proud that I was able to stop the implementation of one of the worst parts of Obamacare in Connecticut law, the “individual mandate,” which is basically a tax or fine for choosing not to purchase insurance. 

However, several other bad bills were passed that will ultimately raise insurance premium rates for consumers. Democrats will take credit this fall for passing a so-called “women’s health bill,” but the truth is the bill has little to do with women’s health since it really is nothing more than inserting Obamacare into Connecticut law on the chance that somehow these provisions are repealed by Republicans in Washington.  Another bill makes pregnancy a qualifying event for purchasing health insurance.  A sympathetic idea, of course, but it essentially forces all other insurance consumers to pay the additional premium to cover it.

The Ugly
Finally, we have the “ugly.”  Followers of my columns know that my biggest complaint about politics is the insertion of political gamesmanship into important public policy.

Perhaps the ugliest example from the 2018 session has been the majority party’s efforts to turn public safety into a political tool at the expense of real solutions. During a debate on gun control in the Judiciary Committee, I offered an amendment that would reverse the misguided $500 million bailout for the city of Hartford and instead would set those dollars aside for municipal grants for school resource officers – the first line of defense against an armed intruder. It also would have provided for additional mental health beds and resurrected the Statewide Firearms Trafficking Task Force – a genuine step towards getting illegal guns off the street sadly funded for only one year after the tragedy in Newtown.

Unfortunately, my colleagues across the aisle rejected this amendment on a party line vote, 19 yeas to 20 nos. and it never made it out of committee. I tried again during a debate on the House floor and this time my amendment was ruled out of order in a procedural move to prevent Democrats in the House from having to make this “hard” vote. 

I could list quite a bit more under each category and promise to do my best to keep growing the “good” and shrinking the “bad and ugly.”  As always, you can reach me at www.repsampson.com.

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