Scientists have long agreed that the human brain has tripled in size over the fullness of time. Connecticut's General Assembly this year put that settled conclusion in doubt. The legislative session, which ended at midnight on Wednesday, suggests that in Hartford the march of progress on some fronts is in retreat.
The legislature passed a budget. It increases state spending by 10 percent over two years. That far surpasses how much the state's economy will grow. To everyone's frustration, the state has been mired in a slump for half a decade. State government seems detached from this reality.
The urge to splurge should be constrained by the cost of meeting basic needs in a state where nearly 20 percent of the state's population receives some sort of Medicaid benefit for health care. The workforce has contracted, so fewer people are paying the wide array of taxes the state imposes.
To make the budget appear to be balanced, leaders adopted assumptions about economic growth that would earn a student in a college class a failing grade if he used them in an economic model. The budget is peppered with fantasy. The augurs of ancient Rome may have enjoyed a more accurate record of predicting the future when they looked to the patterns of birds in the sky for their pronouncements.
The statewide 2014 election approaches, so the goal, and there is nothing new in this, is to get through the budget with as few sharp doses of reality as possible.
Two of the legislature's top leaders were implicated last month in the federal criminal trial of a fundraiser for former Speaker of the House Christopher Donovan's 2012 congressional campaign. It was as if prosecutors inserted public service announcements about lawmakers' wrongdoing in the trial of Robert Braddock for his role in the illegal-contributions-for-legislative-favors scandal that saw Braddock quickly convicted by a jury.
Prosecutors spent parts of two days demonstrating that House Republican Leader Lawrence Cafero, of Norwalk, was involved in the acceptance of $5,000 in illegal contributions from stooges connected to the roll your own tobacco shop owners at the center of the criminal conspiracy. Cafero did not report the $5,000 in cash he or his minion were offered, but instead returned it for checks from fake donors.
House Majority Leader Joseph Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, was a presence at the trial through the introduction of texts messages showing he knew there was a connection between a piece of legislation and large contributions to the Donovan campaign. Aresimowicz appeared to want to be helpful to both Donovan and his campaign contributors in their illegal scheme.
We don't often see this sort of sleaze displayed on the bright stage a federal criminal trial provides. In the face of the disturbing revelations, legislative leaders remained silent. They acted as if none of this had happened in the building where they work. Silence betrayed a stunning contempt for the public and the institution in which they serve.
They confirmed that conclusion by loosening the campaign finance laws they once championed as a bar to corruption. They can collect more money from sources they often condemn as grasping special interests. At the same time, they will continue to require the public to provide tens of millions of dollars to their campaigns because it's never enough.
Much of the legislative session was spent addressing the availability of guns in the aftermath of the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook slaughter of 20 children and six adults. Certain types of guns will no longer be sold in Connecticut and it will be illegal to possess them because our leaders say they want to make sure this never happens again.
The state, however, continues to offer public funding to pay for the proliferation of other types of guns, also lethal in the wrong hands, by Bass Pro Shops, one of the nation's biggest retail weapons purveyors. It's in the process of putting a large store in Bridgeport, which receives attention for the misery gun violence inflicts on its residents year after year.
You'll know fewer details of tragedies and failures of public safety because the legislature has restricted the information that will be available to the public in homicides. They think your brain's gotten small too.
Kevin Rennie is a lawyer and a former Republican state legislator. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Copyright © 2015, CT Now