At the end of the “do nothing” legislative session, Rep. Chris Caruso and Senator Diana Urban, the co-chairs of the Government Administration and Elections Committee, had a press conference the subject of which was ethics reform, but another senator, Edward Meyer, unexpectedly showed up, commandeered the microphone and rained on their propaganda parade.
“I want to state a different opinion,” Meyer said as reporters recorded the interruption of an otherwise placid media opportunity.
According to a report in the Journal Inquirer, “The Guilford lawmaker then charged his two House colleagues on the GAEC panel with producing a ‘watered down’ pension sanctions plan designed to shield unionized state employees, questioning their resolve to affect a linchpin of the Democratic base. ‘It looks self-serving,’ Meyer said. ‘It looks union-biased.’”
The king was stripped naked of his trappings and the two co-chairs of GAEC gasped with astonishment. Of course, it didn’t take Caruso long to recover the use of his tongue.
"That was just bush league," Caruso said. "I have never had a colleague do that."
A suitable punishment for Mayer’s bad taste in exercising his right to criticize Caruso in a public forum might be to deprive him of his parking space at the Capitol.
The two co-chairs of the GAEC panel had come together to resolve a difficulty caused mostly by Caruso. At first, Caruso had insisted that pension revocation for corrupt government officials should be made retroactive, the better to seize the ill gotten gains of former Gov. John Rowland, one among other government officials who actually did time for having used their offices corruptly for personal gain. Rowland -- along with former Mayor of Bridgeport Joe Ganim, child molester and former mayor of Waterbury Phil Giordano, the sweet talking state senator Ernie Newton, and a handful of others –spent some time in the clinker reflecting on their misdeeds.
Everybody who was anybody warned Caruso that retroactive punishments were unconstitutional. A law cannot be written to punish activities that were legal at the time they were performed: First comes the law defining a breach of legality, then follows the breach, then follows the punishment, except for the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, those who think laws were intended to punish pre-illegal rather than post-illegal acts – and Caruso.
Caruso relented on the point but soon drilled a hole in the ethics reform boat that for the moment sunk the bill.
On the Orwellian theory that all animals in the political barnyard are equal except the pigs -- who are more equal -- Caruso favored a system of pension revocation in which everyone but unionized employees of the state would have their pensions revoked upon the commission of an illegal act.
When the legislature reconvenes for a special session, it will restore an elapsing tax cut and once again consider ethics reform. Apart from increasing taxes, no one is betting much else will get done.