By Betty Gallo
The 2006 legislative session was not marked by big battles
or high profile victories but we did have a few smaller victories. We were
successful in stopping some legislation that would have infringed on our civil
liberties. On the other hand, the General Assembly failed to pass two important
measures that would have translated into meaningful protection for vulnerable
Connecticut citizens. The Public Health Committee never voted on legislation to
require all Connecticut hospitals to provide emergency contraception in
emergency rooms, SB 445: An Act Concerning Emergency Health Care For Sexual
Assault Victims. And though we were able to get HB 5597: An Act Concerning
Discrimination, anti-discrimination legislation based on gender identity and
expression, out of the Judiciary Committee on a vote of 28-8, the bill was
never called for a vote in the House. We did some important education around
these issues and expect that we will be able to pass legislation in these areas
Freedom of Speech
Parts of last year's campaign finance legislation posed a
threat to freedom of speech. ACLU of CT supports the public financing of
political campaigns but questioned the constitutionality of the total ban on
lobbyists' and contractors' contributions and solicitations; and, the access to
public financing for minor and petitioning party candidates. We were also
concerned about the severability clause in last session's bill. ACLU of CT was
worried that under that severability clause, a potential ACLU of CT lawsuit
might derail the new campaign finance law. We met with legislative leadership
to urge them to address these issues. We also coordinated with the major
advocates for campaign finance informing them of our concerns and worked with
them to get legislation to change the severability clause.
There were several bills
introduced on campaign finance and Renee Redman, Legal Director of ACLU-CT,
testified before the Government Administration and Elections Committee to our
concerns. Up to the final days of the session it looked like there might not be
any legislation passed this session amending last year's campaign finance bill.
But on the last day of the session, an agreement was worked out between all
four caucuses and SB 66: An Act Concerning The Severability Of The Provisions
Of The Campaign Finance Reform (Public Act 06-137) passed both houses. There
was little discussion of the bill's provisions. It passed the Senate on a unanimous
vote and the House on a vote of 122-23. The Governor signed the bill on June 6th.
The bill changed the
severability clause to eliminate provisions of the law that would have caused
the state‘s campaign finance rules to revert to the system that was in place
before the passage of the new law if the court imposed an injunction on any
aspect of the public financing system for 72 hours. The measure eliminates the
72-hour trigger and makes the campaign financing law inoperative only if a
court (1) holds any of the program's provisions unconstitutional and (2)
permanently bars expenditures from the fund. If a court declares the act
inoperative, existing law and the bill both specify that the laws in effect
prior to the act's passage become effective.
Freedom of the Press
This bill, HB5212: An Act
Concerning Freedom Of The Press (Public Act 06-140) was championed by Rep.
James Spallone (D-Essex) and a number of newspaper publishers. ACLU of CT
supported the legislation but, at the hearing, requested an amendment to the
bill protecting a criminal defendant's rights under the 6th Amendment of
the U.S. Constitution and Article 29 of the Connecticut Constitution. Such an
amendment was added to the bill in the House. The House passed the bill and
sent it to the Senate where it was amended and passed on unanimous vote. The
House then took the bill up again on the last day of the session and passed it on a vote of a 136-11.
The Governor signed the bill on June 6th.
The bill as it passed
prohibits judicial, executive, legislative, and other bodies with the power to
issue subpoenas or compulsory process from compelling the news media to testify
about, produce, or disclose (1) information obtained or received in confidence
in gathering, receiving, or processing information for
potential communication to the public; (2) the identity of the information's
source; or (3) information tending to identify the source.
With some exceptions, the
bill also protects from a subpoena, non-confidential information the media
possess as a result of gathering, receiving, or processing information for
potential communication to the public and the identity of its source. The
exception is for information (1) necessary to a pending investigation,
prosecution, or civil action; (2) not otherwise available; and (3) of interest
to the public. In criminal prosecutions, the bill also provides that it cannot
be construed to deny or infringe an accused's constitutional rights under the
(1) 6th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution and (2) Article 29 of the
amendments to the Connecticut Constitution. Both of these constitutional
provisions give the accused the right to have compulsory process to obtain
witnesses in his behalf.
We worked to kill
legislation that would have enabled local municipalities to install cameras to
photograph motorists who violate traffic light and speeding laws. The
legislation also allowed towns to keep part of the revenue realized from the operation of those cameras. Judiciary raised legislation on this issue,
HB5210: AN Act Concerning Enforcement Of Speeding And Traffic Control Signal
Violations. Roger Vann, ACLU of Connecticut Executive Director, testified
against the bill stating our concerns about privacy. He presented research that
showed that such cameras do not reduce accidents. The bill's supporters
included several local mayors and police chiefs as well as the manufacturers of
the cameras. We aggressively lobbied the members of Judiciary and the committee
killed the bill on a vote of 21-16. We thought the issue would resurface on the
floor of one of the chambers but no such amendment was ever introduced.
ACLU-CT led the opposition
to the release of adoption records without the birth parents' and adoptee's
permission where the birth parents were given assurance at the time of the
adoption of the confidentiality of
those records. At the beginning of the session we were the only group
lobbying this position, though we had numerous people speak to us in private
about their opposition. One of the things that made advocacy on this issue so
important was that birth mothers risked giving up their privacy if they spoke
about their concerns. We became their
The Children's Committee raised SB4: An Act Providing
Adult Adopted Persons With Access To Information In Original Birth
Certificates. (Public Act 06-71. The Governor vetoed the bill on May 31st.) We
successfully lobbied the members of the Children's committee to make the
opening up of the records only apply when the adoptee reaches the age of 18 and
only to those adoptions that took place after October 1, 2006. But then the
bill was sent to the Judiciary Committee. In Judiciary, Sen. Andrew McDonald
(D-Stamford) offered an amendment that would have made all birth certificates
available, both retroactively and prospectively, on January 1, 2007, but would
allow a birth parent to register their objection with the Department of Public
Health and block release if the objection was filed before December 15, 2006.
He offered the amendment as a favor to Sen. Bill Finch (D-Bridgeport), an
adoptee and a fierce supporter of the bill. We lobbied the committee against
the amendment, pointing out that there was no way that birth parents would even
know they had to raise an objection by January. That amendment died on a vote
of 4-31. The bill only effecting adoptions that took place after October 1,
2006 passed Judiciary on a vote of 35-3.
The Senate passed this bill on a vote of 27-7. When it
went to the House it was amended to allow access to the birth records to
adoptees at age 21 instead of 18. The bill then passed the House on a vote of
79-64. The Senate passed the bill again but the Governor vetoed the bill. The
major concern she expressed in her veto message was that this bill could affect
the adoption of children already born but whose adoptions do not take place
until after October 1, 2006.
Governor Rell introduced a
bill, SB 60, implementing the national REAL I.D. Act. It included the limits on
immigrant driver licenses that we have fought in the past. We met with Sen.
Ciotto, Senate Chair of the Transportation Committee. He assured us that his
committee would not take up the Governor's REAL I.D. bill and it died in
Committee without a vote. We were very vigilant in reviewing amendments
screening for any measure that would limit immigrants' access to driver's
licenses. No such amendments were filed. ACLU of CT is also in touch
with the Department of Motor Vehicle about the cost to Connecticut of
implementing the REAL I.D. Act.
Some of the other issues
that ACLU of CT worked on this session include:
Legal Director Renee Redman
served on the state's Human Trafficking Task Force and the ACLU closely
followed the legislation implementing their recommendations. SB153: An Act
Concerning The Interagency Task Force On Trafficking In Persons (Public Act
06-43; signed by the Governor on May 8th) passed. It creates a felony crime for
the trafficking in persons. It applies to those who coerce others to engage in prostitution
or work. It authorizes the state to charge traffickers with racketeering and to
seize property related to the crime when there is a pattern of such activity.
It allows people charged with prostitution to avoid conviction by proving that
they were acting because of a trafficker's coercion.
The law also allows (1) the attorney general to sue
employers who knowingly employ victims and (2) victims to sue traffickers for
money damages. The measure appropriates $75,000 each for training programs and witness
protection services and $25,000 for shelter and victim services.
It also adds members and duties to the Interagency Task
Force on Trafficking in Persons and extends the deadline for it to file its
legislative report from January 1, 2006 to January 1, 2007. The bill passed
both houses of the General Assembly on unanimous votes and was signed by the
Governor. Also, the final budget allocated $25,000 to the Permanent Commission
on the Status of Women to combat the trafficking in women and $100,000 to the
Judicial Department for services for victims of trafficking.
Governor Rell and House
Speaker James Amann (D-Milford) announced proposals to toughen the state's sex offender
laws before we even went into session. Speaker Amann along with Attorney
General Richard Blumenthal proposed a 10-point plan to deal with sex offenders
that included such proposals as civil commitment and GPS tracking of offenders.
were talking about civil commitment, lifetime GPS tracking, and school zones
restrictions for offenders as well. We meet with Rep. Michael Lawlor (D-East
Haven), House Chair of Judiciary about the proposals. He assured us that his
committee was primarily focused on the establishment of a review panel
comprised of experts that would be charged with developing a rating system for
sex offenders. Such a ratings system would allow enable the state modify the
web-based registry to include only the most serious offenders. The legislature
passed new registry language as part of one of the budget implementers, HB5846.
It did not include the serious civil liberties violations that were being
considered at the beginning of the session such as civil commitment and lifelong