Bridgeport Mayor Joseph P. Ganim flanked by supporters outside the state Capitol on Monday. Clarice Silber / CTMirror.org

Connecticut’s Democratic gubernatorial contenders took aim at President Donald Trump’s administration Monday, vowing to push back against attacks on abortion access rights and environmental standards.

Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim called for an amendment to the Connecticut Constitution to reinforce a longstanding statue legalizing women’s right to an abortion.

His rival for the Democratic nomination, Greenwich businessman Ned Lamont, offered a multi-pronged strategy to resist what he called the steady weakening of environmental standards by the Trump administration, adding they pose a threat to Connecticut’s physical and economic health.

Ganim echoed other state politicians and abortion-rights advocates nationwide who are calling for further reproductive rights protections amid Trump’s pivotal new Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh.

“This is a huge challenge and this Trump administration has taken no prisoners, so to speak,” Ganim said during a noon press conference outside the state Capitol. “They are going for the extreme and they will do it bluntly and boldly, and control that court with this new appointment in many ways.”

The Bridgeport mayor said incorporating the current state statute into the state constitution would combat the the passage of federal laws or the Supreme Court’s potential overturning of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion.

Ganim’s announcement comes two days before House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, hosts a roundtable discussion on Wednesday with abortion-rights advocates to discuss the landscape of Connecticut’s reproductive rights.

Nine other states have added abortion protections to their constitution—Alaska, California, Florida, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, and New Mexico, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.

In Connecticut, enshrining a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy would require 75 percent of the members in both the state House and Senate to approve a proposal to put it before voters in the following election. Lawmakers could still send the measure to the ballot box without meeting that threshold if a simple majority approves it during two successive legislative terms.

For example, if the 2018-19 legislature approved the proposed amendment by a simple majority in both chambers, the matter would have to come back in the next legislative term, which begins in 2020. If adopted a second time, even by a simple majority, it would be placed on the next state ballot.

Ganim said pursuing the measure would be worth the effort despite a potential years-long battle. The candidate also called for the state to preserve access and funding to affordable health care, citing the need to fight federal gag orders on women’s health clinics. That rule bars federal family planning funding for organizations that provide abortions or make referrals.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont (left) and state Attorney General George Jepsen talk with reporters at Great River Park in East Hartford. Keith M. Phaneuf / CTMirror.org

Meanwhile, Lamont said during an early afternoon press conference along the Connecticut River in East Hartford that the environmental stakes for Connecticut are huge given the Trump agenda.

“We do have to draw a line in the sand when it comes to issues like this, Lamont said. “Connecticut is at the end of the tailpipe when it comes to all of the emissions coming from the great Midwestern plants  and the Southern plants.”

Since taking office in January 2017, Trump proposed overturning, weakening or reducing funding for 26 Obama-era regulations, fuel-efficiency standards and other policies to stem climate change and otherwise limit pollution.

Further complicating matters, Lamont said, is that the Trump changes are not necessary. Major corporations “know what the (environmental) rules are and have invested accordingly,” he said. 

“I’m a business guy. We don’t like regulation,” Lamont added. “We don’t like over-regulation. We don’t like erratic regulation. And this is none of the above. These fuel efficiency standards have been in place for many, many years now.”

Attorney General George Jepsen, who has endorsed Lamont and joined him at the press conference, said “the impact taken over a generation from 2020 to 2050 — if Trump is allowed to do what he says he wants to do — would be enormous.”

Nationally the changes would cause more than $450 billion in economic damage over the period, Jepsen said, primarily through increased consumer spending on motor fuels.

Jepsen’s office has been working with a multi-state coalition and preparing testimony to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to oppose many of the changes Trump is seeking. And Jepsen, who is not seeking re-election this fall, said Connecticut’s next governor and attorney general may have to go to court in the coming months to oppose many of the Trump policies.

Lamont said he would support that action. “We must make sure we hold the president’s feet to the fire,” he said.

Lamont also said he would support state incentives to encourage greater consumer use of electric cars and other high-fuel-efficiency vehicles.

“Public transportation also has got to be a key priority for us,” he said, adding that means more frequent and regular rail and bus transit service.

Keith has spent most of his 31 years as a reporter specializing in state government finances, analyzing such topics as income tax equity, waste in government and the complex funding systems behind Connecticut’s transportation and social services networks. He has been the state finances reporter at CT Mirror since it launched in 2010. Prior to joining CT Mirror Keith was State Capitol bureau chief for The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, a reporter for the Day of New London, and a former contributing writer to The New York Times. Keith is a graduate of and a former journalism instructor at the University of Connecticut.

Clarice Silber

Clarice Silber was a General Assignment Reporter at CT Mirror. She formerly worked for The Associated Press in Phoenix as a legislative and general assignment reporter. In 2016, she conducted extensive interviews and research in Portuguese and Spanish for the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative team at McClatchy, which was the only U.S. newspaper to gain initial access to the Panama Papers. She is a Rio de Janeiro native and graduated from the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism.

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