Pass These Bills, Don't Pass Those

The Hartford Courant

With a week left in the 2014 General Assembly session, barely a dozen bills have made their way through both houses to the governor's desk. That means another down-to-the-wire finish, a ballet of storm and stress in which good proposals can fail to reach the floor and some bad ones can sneak through.

Bills in the pipeline that The Courant thinks should pass include:

•Water Plan: The bill requires the Water Planning Council to prepare a plan to manage the state's water resources. The state is blessed with adequate water; we must manage it properly. For the same reason, a bill banning the storage and disposal of fracking waste should also pass. The water bill passed the House Wednesday and now goes to the Senate.

•Preschool: The bill greatly expands pre-kindergarten opportunities for preschoolers, particularly in less affluent communities. Why not stop the achievement gap before it starts?

•Recycling: This forward-looking bill would move the state away from burning so much of its solid waste and toward recycling much more of it. The result should be lower costs and cleaner air.

•Juvenile Sentencing: The bill prohibits mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole for juvenile offenders, and establishes more lenient parole guidelines for some who commit crimes under the age of 18. This is in line with a Supreme Court ruling and modern research on adolescents.

•Patent Trolls: The bill would make it harder for these barely legal shakedown artists to make bad-faith claims of patent infringement against Connecticut business owners. Federal legislation in this area also is pending, and would further help stamp out this sleazy practice, which is a major drain on the economy.

•Social Enterprise: The bill allows for the creation of hybrid corporations that both pursue social benefits and increase value for shareholders. Shareholders couldn't sue if, for example, the corporation chose to pay a little more for local labor or for locally made goods or services.

•National Popular Vote: If passed, Connecticut would join a compact agreeing to give its electoral votes for president to the winner of the national popular vote. Every other election in the country is decided by majority vote, and so should be the highest office in the land.

•Vulnerable Users: This bill would create a fine of up to $1,000 for careless drivers who hurt or kill pedestrians, bicyclists or other legitimate users of the road. For reasons that aren't completely clear, many drivers aren't held criminally accountable for the injuries they cause. The fine would at least be a start.

Bills that should not pass include:

•Reverse PILOT: The bill would require hospitals and some private colleges to pay local property taxes and then apply to the state to get some of the money back as payment in lieu of-taxes, or PILOT. Although the state's property tax system needs reform, this is not the way to do it.

•Retirement Savings: The bill creates a state-directed retirement plan for certain private-sector employees. This is a good concept — lack of retirement savings is a fast-coming national crisis — but the price tag to taxpayers is too high and such a service should be provided by the state's private sector.

•Legal Notices: A bill that would limit the requirement that legal notices be printed in newspapers is a bad idea. Newspapers are where the most people see such notices, and newspapers create a permanent legal record of the notices.

•Hepatitis C: This bill would require that all primary care doctors offer the screening test for hepatitis C. The cost of effective medication, however, would put the cure out of most patients' reach. And legislators should not be dictating to physicians which medical conditions they must discuss with their patients.

•Labor History: Legislators telling schools what they should study — this year it's labor history — is getting silly. Yes, students should know labor history, and a lot of other things. Leave curriculum content to the professionals.

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