The Newtown massacre has generated so much proposed legislation — to expand the state's assault-weapons ban, make gun permit holders' names available publicly, reform the mental health system, and increase school security — that leaders of the General Assembly have decided they need to step in and direct traffic.
Tuesday morning they will announce the formation of a special bipartisan task force on gun violence prevention and children's safety. The task force will coordinate and expedite the handling of dozens of proposals for new laws as they work their way through legislative committees to final approval in both the House and the Senate.
A press conference is set for 11 a.m. in the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, featuring the four legislative caucuses' leaders: Senate President Pro Tempore Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn; Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield; House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden; and House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk.
Facing a crush of incoming bills, "the idea is not to waste effort or completely duplicate everything," said a top aide for one of the caucuses. No official pronouncements were coming out of the four partisan offices because they agreed not to make premature statements before Tuesday's announcement.
However, speaking on condition of anonymity, the aide said that it makes sense for lawmakers to plan in advance on the handling of bills on which several committees might feel a need to hold a public hearing — and, rather than each committee holding a separate hearing, there could be one hearing by members of the various panels. They can also iron out some difference in advance, rather than take up valuable time in debates on the House and Senate floors.
Sources said the task force will have working groups in three main areas: gun control, school safety, and mental health. One idea is that each of the four caucuses could put up to four members on each of the working groups, a source said.
Some of the legislative committees that would likely be involved in bills on those topics would be: appropriations, finance, children's, judiciary, public safety, public health, human service, higher education, education, and insurance.
Legislative leaders could have other motivations to form the task force — including simply to demonstrate that they are doing something and to put their stamp on any reforms that come out of the tragedy, said sources who have watched the General Assembly for years. They noted that the governor has already formed a task force to make post-Newtown reform recommendations by mid-March.
The sources also said the new task force also might be a control mechanism —that the leaders may want to assure that a particular reform proposal doesn't acquire a life of its own, gaining public sympathy and momentum, if they are unwilling to support it or lack confidence that they can pass it. In other words, they don't want to look like the bad guys who killed a popular proposal, the sources said.