The governor said he plans to call lawmakers into a special session in July to addresses several issues, including police accountability and expanding access to absentee ballots.
This comes after the Connecticut Senate Democratic Caucus announced proposals Friday, on Juneteenth, to address police accountability and systemic racial inequities.
They said the proposals are intended to reform criminal justice and police accountability policies, provide more economic opportunities, address educational inequality, reform health care, and address housing, the environment and access to voting.
“I plan on calling the General Assembly into special session during the month of July to address the issues of police accountability and expanding access to absentee ballots. There’s still more that we need to do in addition to those issues to address the complex and difficult problems of racial and economic inequality. I look forward to working with legislators and other stakeholders on those issues during the next regular session,” Gov. Ned Lamont said in a statement.
Senate Democrats said they also had a Black Lives Matter flag flown above the State Capitol for the first time to recognize the movement and the holiday, which marks the end of slavery in the United States.
One of the proposals is to establish Juneteenth, June 19, as a state holiday.
Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Gen. Gordon Granger led Union troops to Galveston, Texas to make the announcement that the Civil War was over and enslaved people were free, two and a half years after the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation.
“Our message to the people of Connecticut is simple: we hear you and we will take action,” Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven) said in a statement. “There are moments in our history that pass us by and there are moments that turn into movements. We will not let the voices on our town greens and our streets be ignored and we will ensure this movement transforms the laws and policies of Connecticut.”
On June 11, Senate Republicans issued a statement on police accountability reforms and said they hope all lawmakers and members of the public can come together to “have conversations about ideas related to not only police accountability, but also other deep and complex issues such as health equity.”
“We want to talk about ideas like restricting chokeholds and other neck restraints. We have reached out to lawmakers on the other side of the aisle to continue our dialogue on these issues. But we also need a deeper conversation that involves public input. If we want to get this right, we need more than just legislators making decisions,” a statement from Senate Republicans said.
“We need to hear from the public and understand all perspectives. While some changes may be able to be accomplished in a special session, we cannot ignore that a special session in the middle of a health pandemic will not allow for the usual public hearings or the extensive examination of multiple issues that needs to take place. Only during a full legislative session will the public be able to have their voices heard completely through public hearings and the committee process. We are supportive of working together with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to tackle certain issues that can be addressed now, but we also acknowledge that more significant reforms need to be developed when the public is at the table with all perspectives deeply engaged,” the statement goes on to say.
Senate Democrats said some of the proposals include banning chokeholds and “no-knock” warrants, giving power to an inspector general to investigate cases of police misconduct and use of force and to decertify police convicted of misconduct.
“In addition to looking at policies involving chokeholds and neck restraints, we also strongly believe that Connecticut needs a nonpartisan Inspector General to oversee investigations outside of the Attorney General’s office. When examining sensitive issues, one must ensure that politics in any degree or fashion is eliminated. We need an investigator to ensure that the public is confident that politics are far removed from any outcome. No artificial wall in the Attorney General’s office will effectively insulate such an important role from politics so long as the Attorney General can hire and fire,” Senate Republicans said in a statement last week.
Other proposals from Democrats include requiring police to intervene if another is engaging in brutality or misconduct, to provide better and more frequent anti-bias training for police, to ensure all Connecticut police are equipped with body cameras and to reform arrest policies “to curb unnecessary detentions and custodial arrests.”
They have also proposed providing more power to Civilian Review Boards when reviewing an investigation and to charge anyone who calls 911 to make false accusations against someone based on race, gender or religion.
One proposal is to provide increased access to absentee ballots for voters and election workers concerned about their health and safety during the coronavirus pandemic.
Economic proposals include creating “renaissance” investments in affordable housing, retail and social services programs that are focused on the education, health, and economic development for residents of the neighborhoods; to provide additional support for minority-owned businesses, and to get more students involved in job-training programs.
Proposals to address educational inequality include addressing the racial diversity of teaching staff, expanding access to “high-opportunity school districts, addressing educational disparities and ensuring the history of Native Americans is taught in public schools.
Health care proposals are meant to address health disparities by race and ethnicity, strengthening COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, addressing health disparities amid COVID-19, expanding telehealth services used during the COVID-19 pandemic, capping insulin costs and providing patients access to emergency insulin supplies.
Another proposal is to expand data collection and reporting by race, gender and more to expose health disparities and better guide health policies.
Another is to increase protections and strengthen procedures for nursing homes.
Senate Democrats said they also want to address “junk” health insurance policies and to ensure protection, including workers’ compensation, for everyone injured on the job, especially those impacted by COVID-19.
“For too long the United States has only been willing to address the symptoms of racial inequity,” Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk) said in a statement. “With this bold agenda, we are standing up and tackling the underlying causes of inequality and systemic racism. I have joined numerous marches and demonstrations in Darien, Norwalk, and throughout the state and I heard over and over about the need for real change. Today we take the first step of turning those calls into tangible action."