Sunday, February 03, 2013

General Assembly Declines To Deliberate on Gun Issues

It was the intention of certain members of the General Assembly from the very moment the Bipartisan Task Force On Gun Violence Prevention And Children's Safety was formed to “e-cert” the normal legislative process, State Senate President Pro Tempore Donald Williams said in a recent interview.

The emergency certification of a bill bypasses usual legislative hearings and requires, as the name itself implies, an emergency to justify it. Generally, e-certs are reserved for times of crisis such as natural disasters or when action cannot be delayed because of an approaching timeline.

In this case, the “emergency” was triggered by a timeline set by legislative leaders who had tasked the bipartisan task force to complete its recommendations to the legislature before February 28, so that a bill could be produced on that date. Apparently, it is the assigned date that has created the emergency, which begs a question: If the task force completes its work on the 29th rather than the 28th will the legislature emergency certify its gun control measures without benefit of the committee’s work simply to meet a deadline?

The answer to that question, one supposes, would be no. And the answer exposes what may be a subtle legislative fraud.

The multiple murders at Sandy Hook, however horrific, were exceptional; when was the last time, other than at Sandy Hook, that a slaughter of 20 children and 6 faculty members occurred in Connecticut? For purposes of legislation, exceptions of this kind should not be discounted, but the ordinary legislative process is designed to produce as its end product a bill that has been properly vetted the provisions of which have been sufficiently debated by legislators whose votes sanction the committee work on the bill.

It should not be the business of the General Assembly to decline to do its business or to assign its constitutional responsibilities to ad hoc committees created either by the legislature or the governor.  Legislative short cuts of this kind that leave fewer fingerprints on a final bill allow cowardly politicians to assign responsibility for defective legislation to non-elected entities.

Speaking at the last of four public hearings on gun control in an empty Newtown High School auditorium, Mr. Williams explained why a bill on gun control must be produced without benefit of the usual committee hearings. The haste to produce a bill in the absence of data certified by the principal crime investigators – a final criminal report will not be due until March, if then – is a result of constituent demand: “When our constituents say 'We don't necessarily have all the answers, but we want you to do the right thing,' we need to rise to that challenge – and that's why we have this bipartisan task force," said Mr. Williams.

At the beginning of January, Governor Dannel Malloy announced “the formation of the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, an expert panel that will review current policy and make specific recommendations in the areas of public safety, with particular attention paid to school safety, mental health, and gun violence prevention.” That panel’s initial report willnot be due until March 15, two weeks beyond the date the legislature has set to produce a bill that presumably will accomplish the same purpose without committee hearings.

This is legislating with a purpose. Unfortunately, it would appear that the purpose is not to write a bill that would satisfy the deepest longings of the parents in Sandy Hook whose children were so violently taken from them. Those parents want a bill that will quench the fire in their blood, so that after its passage everyone in Connecticut may say of Sandy Hook -- “never again.”

Bills based on surmises and vagrant hopes rather than hard data – which will not be vetted by the relevant oversight committees before a final bill is produced – suit other purposes.
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