The chance to help repeal the death penalty and advance other important civil liberties issues drew more than 200 people to the state Capitol on Feb. 29 for the ACLU of Connecticut's second annual Lobby Day.
The session was preceded by a news conference at which relatives of murder victims called for repeal of the death penalty.
After an introduction by ACLU-CT President Andy Schatz, lobbyists Betty Gallo and Joe Grabarz of Betty Gallo & Company, advised the participants on how to talk with their legislators and explained the four key issues on the ACLU of Connecticut's legislative agenda this year. They are:
Abolition of the death penalty. The state House and Senate passed repeal of the death penalty two years ago, only to have the bill vetoed by then Gov. M. Jodi Rell. If another repeal bill is passed, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has said he'll sign it. A close vote is expected in the state Senate.
Legalization of marijuana for medical purposes. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia already allow the compassionate use of marijuana for medical purposes and a poll last year found that 79 percent of Connecticut residents support it. A bill legalizing marijuana for medical purposes passed the state Legislature in 2007 but Rell vetoed it. Malloy, however, supports the legislation.
Prohibition on the use of traffic cameras. Another push is on to allow red light cameras in Connecticut, a form of taxation by citation that violates constitutional rights and has been shown to be ineffective at improving safety. The ACLU-CT is preparing to fight this measure, once again.
Strengthening and enforcement of laws against racial profiling. Since 1999, police departments in Connecticut have been required to report each occasion when they pull a car over, including information about the race of the driver. Compliance has been poor but a review of the available data by The Hartford Courant has shown that people of color are more likely to be ticketed for a given offense than a white person. The ACLU-CT wants to make sure the data is collected and analyzed.
After the lobbyists' presentation, participants dispersed to lobby their state representatives and senators at the Capitol and in the nearby Legislative Office Building.
"We were excited by the turnout and the enthusiasm," said Isa Mujahid, field organizer for the ACLU-CT. "The participants have done great lobbying and we look forward to doing this again next year."
-- Feb. 29, 2012