The poor results from the escalating secrecy in state government in the last three years are beginning to show.
In the last two legislative sessions, a number of laws were passed and signed into law by Gov. Dannel Malloy. Some of these laws took strong and polarizing positions without full consideration of public opinion and impact. Several were passed in secret, like legalizing keno and campagn financing reform. Other laws, such as school reform, enhanced tree trimming under power lines and limiting freedom of information and access to public records were passed in spite of strong vocal objections from significantly impacted groups. The legislature and governor enacted these and other laws that are now being questioned and challenged by significant constituencies.
Yet, the secrecy continues. The leadership in the General Assembly has been reluctant to hold public hearings requested by those questioning the wisdom of the controversial laws. When public hearings were held recently on proposed limits to freedom of information, hearings by two different committees on the matter were scheduled at the same time, which significantly limited opportunity for public input. The minority party leadership had to force a true public hearing on school reform and Common Core Standards.
Worse yet are the laws that are passed without public comment. Keno was legalized without a public hearing last June, and only after public outcry did the leadership reconsider and suggest that the law be repealed.
And in response to the successful prosecution of legislative and campaign staff for accepting tainted campaign contributions from the roll-your-own cigarettes business, the campaign finance laws were liberalized and the maximum allowed contributions were doubled, all without a public hearing, thereby contributing to further public scepticism about a pay-to-play culture in state government.
Are we well served by our current insular, inaccessible state government? No.
Our government is more effective when public opinion is solicited, valued and incorporated into the legislative and administratve process. Connecticut is a great state and the great people of Connecticut deserve open, transparent and accessible government.
Gary Brown of Hamden is a Connecticut native who has advocated for progressive, open government since the Watergate era.