July 1, 2022
In This Issue:
From Paddi's Desk
CT Agency Corner
Municipal Roundup
Inside Scoop
This Day in CT History

This week the stars have lined up to tell a very interesting story of an amazing woman who many readers haven’t thought of in years. So as the Supreme Court has now officially made its ruling on the perennial issue of Roe vs Wade, and the talk of activism is burning a trail across the country, I happened to stumble onto a Showtime series called The First Lady

The show focuses attention on three former first ladies from three different times in history – Eleanor Roosevelt, Betty Ford and Michele Obama. It’s really a terrific TV series, well written and has some great talent – Jillian Anderson as Eleanor Roosevelt, Michelle Pfeiffer as Betty Ford and Viola Davis as Michelle Obama. 

Why do I bring this up now? With talk of "what’s a country to do now?", some have revised the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the US Constitution for women as a long awaited, long-term solution to the hotly discussed actions of the SCOTUS last week. Its fascinating that as the wife of a moderate Republican (President Gerald Ford), Betty used her White House Office and powerful voice as the first lady to advocate and energize women’s across the country in the mid-seventies on a campaign to enact changes to the Constitution to protect women’s rights in a variety of ways.

I think it’s even more fascinating that even I thought it was a done deal! Fifty years ago on March 8, 1972, the U.S. Senate passed the Equal Rights Amendment, following the lead of the House of Representatives and paving the way for it to become the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Yet the ERA was never added to the Constitution - because Congress also set a deadline. It said 38, or 3/4 of the states, had to ratify the proposed amendment by 1979. It later extended the deadline to 1982. So when in 2020 Virginia became the final state needed to ratify the ERA, it was almost 40 years too late.

Or was it? That’s what’s behind the most recent discussions happening in thousands of women’s organizations at this moment. Once three quarters of all states adopted the amendment, controversy again raised its ugly head. Five states have tried to rescind their ratification, though it's not clear from the Constitution experts if this is possible. Law suits have been filed, and (now here’s a surprise) the Justice Department under Trump advised that because the deadline had passed, Congress needed to go back to the drawing board. But in 2021, the House of Representatives passed a joint resolution to remove the deadline, which President Joe Biden says he supports.

So what’s the problem then? The saying - for every action, there’s a reaction - is what’s been the struggle for many. In 1973, Activist Phyllis Schlafly stepped up as an opponent to the ERA believing that "Since the women are the ones who bear the babies and there's nothing we can do about that, our laws and customs then make it the financial obligation of the husband to provide the support, this is exactly and precisely what we will lose if the Equal Rights Amendment is passed."

She further argued that women would lose financial support from their husbands under common law rules, the ability for women to fight in combat, equal treatment for co-ed bathrooms, the then growing awareness and ability to “love who you love”, and a host of statutorily mandated equality measures now in place under case law or state law for women.

But in fact all of these things did happen anyway so why do we need it now? The vast majority believe it's the principle of having it in the Constitution, like other principles that are foundational to what we are as a people. But principles with good intentions can backfire. A constitutional scholar recently was reported to say that "The Supreme Court's rule that race should generally be ignored and be treated equally across all factors has actually prevented policies that could help to reduce the racial gap," he said. It was their belief that the ERA, as currently written, could cause the Supreme Court to treat sex the same way, with a kind of "sex-blindness," they said, "prohibiting policies that are intentionally designed to open up opportunities for women."

I personally believe that rather than wring our hands about what SCOTUS did, let’s just do something. In the famous words of First Lady Betty Ford – “Being ladylike does not require silence.” After all it’s important to our country, our view of an open and free world, our communities, and our families. It’s important not only for our daughters BUT our sons; our granddaughters AND our grandsons to do this once and do it right. 

It’s ironic that Betty Ford died on July 8, 2011 at the age of 93 and in a week on July 8, 2022, 11 years late, we will be talking about one of her most fierce passions. It is interesting that as one of her first acts as America’s First Lady she hosted her own press conference in the White House State Dining Room on September 4, 1974. During the press conference, she spoke about her support of the Equal Rights Amendment and her goals as first lady: “I would like to be remembered in a very kind way; also as a constructive wife of a President."

Thus began her journey as an active and outspoken first lady. So - Let’s make it happen. Let’s finally pass the ERA and do it for Betty. 
New Laws Effective July 1

It's that time of year again. Below are some short summaries of new laws that will take effect today, July 1st:

Increase in Minimum Wage
Connecticut's minimum wage will increase to $14 an hour, from $13. This is part of a gradual schedule of increases passed in 2019, taking the minimum wage from $10.10 to $15 an hour on July 1 of next year.

Abortion Safe Harbor Law
This session, the General Assembly passed a bill that strengthens CT's existing abortion protection laws. The new laws authorize APRNs, nurse midwives, and physician assistants to perform aspiration abortions. The abortion safe harbor laws that are going into effect are designed to protect CT providers and people seeking abortions in CT from lawsuits in other states

Police Body and Dashboard Cameras
As part of the 2020 Police Accountability Act, all sworn officers and members who perform police duties will be required to wear body cameras.

New Requirements for CT Dept. of Education Around Children's Mental Health
The CT Dept. of Education will provide grants to local boards of education to hire and retain school social workers, school psychologists, counselors, marriage/family therapists and nurses, over the next three years. This is just one part of the expansive HB 5001 that was passed this year aiming to tackle children's mental health issues.

Captive Audience
SB 163 was passed this session, with an aim to protect employees if they refuse to attend an employer's meeting when union-related, political or religious topics are expected to be addressed.

Catalytic Converters
Public Act 22-43, which Gov. Ned Lamont signed into law on May 17, takes aim at the recent rise in catalytic converter thefts by establishing new requirements for businesses that purchase these parts.

Solitary Confinement
For the second year in a row, Connecticut lawmakers passed a bill to limit the Department of Correction’s use of solitary confinement on those in the state’s prisons and jails.
The new law will prevent the Department of Correction from placing minors in solitary confinement. The law also requires the solitary confinement be the least restrictive environment necessary for the safety of incarcerated individuals, staff and facility security.

School Air Quality
Local school officials will now be required to conduct inspections of HVAC systems in each public school every five years. To help make improvements in school air quality, towns and cities will be able to apply for part of $150 million in grants through the Department of Administrative Services.

Diesel Tax Increase
The state’s diesel fuel tax will rise July 1 to 49.2 cents per gallon, a nearly 23% increase from the current 40.1-cent rate, the Department of Revenue Services announced in early June.

No Credit and Debit Transaction Fees at State Agencies
The Department of Motor Vehicles, Department of Consumer Protection, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, and the Department of Public Health are among the state agencies that will wave credit and debit transaction fees at least for the fiscal year starting July 1.
In a historic vote Tuesday, the towns of Litchfield, Morris, Goshen and Warren will merge into a single school district. This process has been taking shape for years with the culmination of a vote that required each town to pass the measure to make it official. The new district will be Regional School District 20, which will replace Region 6 and Litchfield Public Schools. This new district will not include the local elementary schools, but will include grades six through twelve for these four towns. The votes were pretty overwhelmingly in support except for Morris (283-228). Superintendent Chris Leone offered brief comments after the vote, “Today was a historic day for these four towns, for our state, regardless of the outcome,” but was praised unanimously by town leaders and committee members for his work in getting information about the plan to local voters. 

Morris First Selectman Thomas Weik, a Wamogo graduate, said a merger is the best thing that could happen to two districts that have been dealing with declining enrollment for years. The merger is projected to yield $13.8 million in savings over its first five years. William Davenport, Co-Chairman of the temporary regional school district study committee offered these comments, “Chris Leone is the man,” Davenport said. “None of this would have happened without him.”
State Senate Round II

These last few weeks, the focus of this blog has been on the upcoming election season specific to local elections here in CT. We are now just a few short months away from a November election cycle that takes us across CT with important races all over the state! Local government has become increasingly important and the State Senate in Connecticut faces an influential election cycle this November. As we focused on some new faces in open races last week, this week brings us to some younger names and electeds that are running for re-election during an exciting time. Ready to take a summer vacation from Greenwich to Killingly? Me too! With a rush of newly registered voters in the state and a total of 2.2 million registered voters who will likely be bombarded by phone calls, mailers, and door knocks these next few months, let’s take a look at a few important races.

Hop in your car for a trip to Greenwich to check in on Senator Ryan Fazio, a Republican being challenged by Trevor Crow in district 36. Senator Fazio won a special election in 2021 by just under 500 votes, a hotly contested three-way race that brought Senator Fazio to Hartford for the short session. He faces off against newcomer Trevor Crow from Greenwich. Senator Fazio has quickly made a name for himself and has a significant following. Why is this race particularly important? Senator Fazio has quickly become a name people are talking about across the state and he flipped the seat back in 2021 which was previously held by Democrat Alex Kasser.

Bouncing up the road, we end up in the Middletown/Rocky Hill area as Senator Matt Lesser faces off against challenger Lisa Marotta. Marotta is the Mayor of Rocky Hill and is one of the few Mayors running for a Senate seat. Lesser has a winning history in this district, taking the last two election cycles by around 7,000 votes each victory. The 9th Senate district has a lot of towns represented with Cromwell, Middletown, Newington, Rocky Hill, and Wethersfield residents. It is also one of the more politically diverse areas with Rocky Hill, Cromwell, Newington, and Wethersfield being represented by Republican town leaders. Senator Lesser is an extremely active candidate and given his recent election history representing this seat, should be able to pull a lot of votes his way. 

Another interesting race in the State Senate takes us over to Eastern Connecticut. Senator Mae Flexer has held her Senate seat for a few terms and has had comfortable victories in just about each one. Last cycle, the margin was interestingly closer as she took the win with over a 1K vote differential. That was different from other parts of the state as we saw several towns voting in what felt like a referendum against President Trump. Senator Flexer is another hard worker on the doors and voter contact and faces off against Susan Witkowski. This district represents Brooklyn, Canterbury, Killingly, Mansfield, Pomfret, Putnam, Scotland, Thompson, Windham.

These races for Senate are important because the incumbents who are running for re-election are younger members of their party. They can certainly be considered a significant part of the future of their respective parties but as we know, they have to win and maintain a streak of winning to make it so. 
July 1: Concerns Over Prison Unrest Produce the State Department of Correction

Today in 1968, the Connecticut General Assembly voted in favor of consolidating the state’s prisons into a single organization, creating the State Department of Correction. Previously, every prison in the state had been independently managed, with its own Board of Directors, administrative staff, and policies for inmate behavior and rehabilitation.

This sweeping reform of the state prison system was brought on by several factors, including the obvious benefits of reducing costs and eliminating redundancies. In addition, a marked increase in prison unrest over the previous decade had legislators concerned that individually operated prison facilities might not be able to deal with full-scale riots. In 1960, 400 inmates staged a massive riot at the State Prison in Wethersfield that caused “tremendous” damage to the facility and was described in local newspapers as “the wildest eruption of the [Wethersfield] institution’s 132 year history.” To quell the violence, local firefighters and policemen and over 100 state troopers were called in to aid the overwhelmed prison staff.

As the new agency’s name implied, the Department of Correction also placed a renewed emphasis on prisoner education, treatment, and rehabilitation. From day one, the agency began implementing statewide standardized, comprehensive programs for adult education and, when needed, substance abuse treatment. With the creation of the new Department of Correction on July 1, 1968, Connecticut became the first state in the country to consolidate all functions related to state prisoners — from booking and incarceration to rehabilitation and parole — under a single, centralized state agency.

The original article from the CT Humanities Council can be found here.
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