03/02/17

ACLU-CT 2017 Legislative Testimony

As a voice for freedom, our legislative priorities include promoting and preserving civil liberties for all. Through state legislative advocacy, we aim to defend and extend key constitutional principles, including equality, justice, liberty, and democracy. The legislature ended its regular session on June 7, 2017. Learn more about which bills passed by reading our end of regular legislative session wrap-up.

Below, you will find testimony regarding just some of the issues of interest to the ACLU of Connecticut in 2017.

Liberty

  • S.B. 11, An Act Concerning the Legalization and Taxation of the Retail Sale of Marijuana
    This bill to fully legalize marijuana presents a chance for Connecticut to further honor individual privacy rights, prevent discrimination, and remedy the disparate burdens that marijuana prohibition has placed on youth, communities of color, and poor communities throughout our state. Read our testimony supporting this bill.
  • H.B. 7146, An Act Requiring a Criminal Conviction for Certain Offenses Before Assets Seized in a Lawful Arrest of Lawful Search May Be Forfeited in a Civil Proceeding
    Civil asset forfeiture provides police with the power to take and keep property from someone who has not been convicted or even charged with a crime. Civil asset forfeiture incentivizes policing for profit, disproportionately harms innocent people of color, and frequently violates the Constitution. For these reasons, the ACLU of Connecticut supports banning civil asset forfeiture altogether, in favor of keeping only criminal forfeiture, which requires a criminal conviction prior to seizing forfeiture litigation in which the title to property is transferred to the state. Read our testimony supporting this bill.
  • H.B. 5472, An Act Concerning Exploitation of Children in Panhandling
    Instead of providing families in need with tools to avoid resorting to begging, this bill would allow cities to punish children and parents who are trying to give their families a chance at survival. This bill is overbroad and constitutionally impermissible. It would impede well-established rights, including the right to beg, the right to distribute information and seek donations, and the right to be free from vague laws and discrimination on the basis of socioeconomic condition. Despite the fact that the proposed bill’s purpose is ostensibly to prevent child panhandling, its broad wording could also allow municipal prohibitions on children asking for contributions of any kind, in any public space. Read our testimony opposing this bill.
  • H.B. 7154, An Act Concerning Students’ Right to Privacy in Their Personal Mobile Electronic Devices
    This proposal would protect students’ electronic devices from unlawful searches. The ACLU of Connecticut strongly supports liberty and justice for all, including the right to privacy and freedom from unjust searches. Requiring a student to sacrifice his or her constitutional right to privacy in order to obtain equal access to education is not only wrong; it is unworthy of a twenty-first century educational system. Read our testimony supporting this bill.
  • H.B. 7260, An Act Concerning the Use and Regulation of Drones
    In its original form, this bill would ensure privacy and public safety by protecting communities from unwarranted police drone surveillance and preventing police from weaponizing drones. The ACLU of Connecticut supports this original version of the bill, but opposes an added amendment that would allow police to weaponize drones. Read our testimony supporting the original version of H.B. 7260, and our statement opposing the amendment to allow police to weaponize drones.

Justice

  • H.B. 7302, An Act Concerning Isolated Confinement and Correctional Staff Training and Wellness
    Solitary confinement costs too much, can cause or exacerbate mental illness, and does nothing to improve public safety. This bill prohibits solitary confinement of vulnerable populations, including juveniles, creates limitations on the use of solitary confinement overall, and requires additional transparency regarding the use of solitary confinement in Connecticut prisons. Read our testimony supporting this bill.
  • H.B. 7285, An Act Concerning Complaints that Allege Misconduct by Law Enforcement Personnel
    A 2017 report by the ACLU-CT found widespread problems in Connecticut’s system for handling complaints of police misconduct. This bill recognizes those problems, and could be strengthened to fix them. Read our testimony supporting  and asking for amendments to this bill.
  • Governor’s Bill 7044 and H.B. 7287, Acts Regarding Pretrial Justice Reform
    Both of these bills would reform Connecticut’s pretrial justice system, including its bail system. Read our testimony supporting these bills.
  • H.B. 6662 and H.B. 6663, An Act Concerning the Revocation of Pensions of Police Officers Who Commit Any Crime Related to Employment and An Act Concerning Police Misconduct
    Both of these bills would establish meaningful accountability for police officers who use excessive force. While H.B. 6662 would allow the courts to revoke a police officer’s pension if he or she is convicted, pleads guilty, or pleads no contest to a crime involving excessive use of force, H.B. 6663 would create more transparent and responsive systems for ensuring police accountability. Read our testimony supporting these bills.
  • S.B. 242, An Act Studying the Use of Body-Worn Recording Equipment by Law Enforcement
    This bill would create a task force to review and make recommendations regarding police body cameras. In 2015, the ACLU-CT successfully pushed for the state to designate $10 million for municipal police departments and $2 million for state police to purchase body cameras. While state police have purchased body cameras, few municipalities have taken advantage of the opportunity to provide their police departments with body cameras free of charge. Proposed Bill 242 would provide our state with the information it needs to implement a body camera program that upholds public safety, police-community relations, and privacy alike. Read our testimony supporting this bill. Learn more about our support for the 2015 measure to create body camera funding.
  • H.B. 6714, An Act Concerning the Safe Use of Electronic Defense Weapons by Police Officers
    This legislation would clarify and streamline the Taser reporting process while creating more transparency about police Taser use. In the process, it would provide police agencies with an opportunity to build public trust, and members of the public with a greater ability to ensure police accountability. Read our testimony supporting this bill. Learn more about our police Taser work.
  • H.B. 5354, An Act Concerning Freedom of Information Act Appeals
    The net effect of this bill would be to stifle government transparency and accountability. By requiring members of the public to pay up front to appeal a denied Freedom of Information (FOI) request, this proposal would reward bad government behavior while punishing public attempts to secure transparency. This goes against our democracy’s principles of government by and for the people. Read our testimony opposing this bill. Learn about our Freedom of Information requests regarding police surveillance and drones. Learn about our Freedom of Information request regarding Customs and Border Protection’s enforcement of the Trump administration’s travel ban here.
  • H.B. 5174, An Act Concerning the Penalty for Assault of an Off-Duty Police Officer or Department of Correction Employee
    Communities hire police and corrections workers to perform jobs that can be dangerous and stressful. Crimes committed against police in Connecticut, however, regardless of motive, are down, not up. Unlike crimes against racial and religious minorities, women, LGBT people, and other groups, there is also no history of crimes against public safety employees being under-prosecuted or treated frivolously. This proposal would pay lip service to protecting police and corrections workers without actually doing so. It is an unnecessary distraction from efforts that could improve safety for police and corrections workers, such as proposals that would decrease our state’s prison population and improve police-community relations. Read our testimony opposing this bill.
  • H.B. 7093, An Act Concerning Notification to the Police Officer Standards and Training Council
    By requiring police departments to notify the Police Officer Standards and Training Council (POSTC) each time a police officer is fired for misconduct or resigns or retires while under a misconduct investigation, H.B. 7093 would close a loophole in Connecticut’s existing use of force law. Read our testimony supporting this bill. 

Equality

  • S.B. 586, An Act Requiring Health Insurance Coverage for Preventive Care Provided to Female Enrollees and Access to Prescription Contraceptive Methods, and S.B. 494, An Act Concerning Health Insurance Cost-Sharing Requirements for Prescription Contraception  
    Both of these proposals present an opportunity for Connecticut to stand up for equality and freedom by preserving contraceptive access without out of pocket costs. Contraception offers women the tools to decide whether and when to become parents, which is critical to equal participation in society. Without access to contraception, a woman’s ability to complete an education, to advance her career, to care for her children, or to pursue her dreams may be significantly compromised. Read our testimony supporting these bills.
  • S.B. 740, An Act Concerning the Form of Oaths
    This proposal would amend the wording of oaths taken by public officials to allow individuals to avoid identifying with a specific belief system. As an organization committed to the liberties guaranteed by our Constitution, the ACLU-CT strongly supports freedom of belief, expression, and association. By updating the oaths for certain public officials to match language for all other public officials in the state, this bill would better align Connecticut with the Constitution and respect the diversity of our state. Religious liberty is a cornerstone of our democracy. Participation in that democracy should not depend on someone’s ability to affirm a belief in a specific religion. Read our testimony supporting these bills.
  • H.B. 6695, An Act Concerning the Protection of Youth from Conversion Therapy
    This bill would protect LGBT youth in Connecticut state from the dangerous, harmful effects of conversion “therapy,” also known as “reparative therapy.” Read our testimony supporting this bill.