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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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.