Connecticut lawmakers approve youth crime bill in final hours of session
State lawmakers passed a controversial juvenile crime bill Wednesday, just hours before the 2022 legislative session ends. It's a response to a spike in car thefts during the pandemic, although the latest data shows numbers dropped last year.
Police will now be able to hold minors up to eight hours. Judges must see juvenile suspects within five days and they can order GPS monitoring for repeat offenders – a major sticking point for civil justice advocates and progressive Democrats. Also, all car thefts will now be treated equally, regardless of the vehicle's value.
Although the bill passed 32-1 in the state Senate, it's a compromise no one is completely happy with.
"I don't think there's a victory here today," said Sen. Gary Winfield. "I think that we have gotten here because of a conversation that people engaged in before they knew the facts on the ground."
Republicans pushed for tougher penalties and more support services for offenders.
"It moves the needle in the right direction, but it doesn't finish the job," said Sen. Kevin Kelly, the Senate GOP leader.
Lawmakers are burning the midnight oil, racing to beat the clock and a hard deadline to pass bills.
On Wednesday, they gave final approval to a bill cracking down on so-called cannabis "gifting" events. Critics say marijuana bazaars evade Connecticut's carefully-crafted retail license rules.
"Somebody will pay an entrance fee and then they can walk around and obtain samples," said Sen. Kevin Witkos.
The proposal led to protests at the state Capitol. But it still lets people with a "bona fide social relationship" give pot as a gift -- as long as money isn't exchanged.
Also, lawmakers plan to make some fixes to the new state budget Wednesday night. They're adding extra money to reimburse cities and towns for a new car tax cut.
"I'm hearing Glastonbury. I'm hearing Stratford," said the House Minority Leader Rep. VIn Candelora. "I'm still trying to verify in my own community to what degree we're going to be left short because of this proposal."
On the final day, legislators also:
Created a Juneteenth state holiday. It commemorates the day the last slaves were freed in 1865, and coincides with an existing federal holiday.
Approved a watered-down bill to prevent cancer deaths in firefighters. Now, two firefighting groups will develop a plan to keep toxins out of turnout gear. An earlier version required departments to buy two sets of turnout gear for each firefighter, or purchase expensive washing equipment.
Lawmakers are also voting on Gov. Ned Lamont's proposal to import cheaper prescription drugs from Canada, but it's unclear if time will run out.
As this year's session winds down, no one here got everything they wanted. But everyone is going home with something.
"We have $600 million in tax cuts for families all across the state of Connecticut that helps senior citizens, that helps students, that helps working families. We've increased the Earned Income Tax Credit," said Sen. Bob Duff, the Senate Majority leader.
Lawmakers wrap up at midnight. Breaking with tradition, Gov. Lamont will not address lawmakers after they adjourn.