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State Senator

Christine Cohen

Representing Branford, Durham, Guilford, Killingworth, Madison & North Branford

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Cohen, Senate Democrats Announce “A Just Connecticut” Agenda

Today, State Senator Christine Cohen (D-Guilford) and her fellow Senate Democrats announced “A Just Connecticut,” the first of four legislative agendas for the 2019 legislative session. The series of bills outline the policy proposals from Senate Democrats to reform the state’s criminal justice system, strengthen gun safety protections, and expand voting rights.

Sen. Cohen has co-introduced a bill banning ghost guns (Senate Bill No. 655) and co-sponsored Ethan’s Law (House Bill No. 5345), an act concerning safe firearm storage which was introduced by State Representative Sean Scanlon (D-Guilford). Sen. Cohen said these are measures we need to take to keep our state safe.

“I fully support this legislation to improve our criminal justice system, expand voting rights and deal with the issue of gun violence,” said Sen. Cohen. “Ghost guns create a litany of issues and safety risks and do not benefit the residents of our state at all. This is important legislation that will keep our state safe. In addition to keeping our neighborhoods safer, the criminal justice reform legislation we have presented will give people who have paid their debt to society a real second chance to contribute to our state and eliminate the prison system’s revolving door.”

The legislative proposals in the “A Just Connecticut” agenda include:

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Senate Bill 654: An Act Concerning A Right to Counsel for Immigrant Children
To ensure children of immigrants are represented in issues regarding their well-being.

  • In FY 2018, there were 971 filings initiated in Connecticut for juvenile deportation proceedings. Largest represented countries of origin were Guatemala (309), Honduras (152), and Brazil (152). 716 of those individuals, or 78 percent, were not represented by counsel.
  • California; Washington; and Denver, Colorado have allocated funding for legal representation of immigrants.
  • New Jersey recently allocated $2.1 million for legal representation of immigrants.
  • The bill would establish a new program to provide legal counsel to undocumented minors. Roughly $800,000 a year would be needed.

Senate Bill 689: An Act Concerning Tolling Temporary Restraining Orders (SB 689)
To continue a temporary restraining order after the person alleged to be a threat is released from jail or custody.

  • It is possible that a restraining order is issued when the alleged abuser is in jail, or that the alleged abuser is arrested and in jail during the days prior to the hearing. If there is no hearing, which can be complicated by the alleged abuser’s arrest, then the restraining order can expire.
  • The bill would toll (delay) the time between issuing the restraining order and the hearing by one day for each day that the alleged abuser is in custody of law enforcement.

Senate Bill 653: An Act Concerning Open File Disclosure in Criminal Cases
To require prosecuting officials to automatically disclose certain pieces of evidence in criminal cases.

  • Adoption of automatic discovery, so that overworked defense attorneys do not need to make requests for the most common document requests. State Attorneys will be required to disclose certain materials.
  • Ensuring all materials in the state’s possession, not just the prosecutor’s, is shared with the defendant.
  • Requiring all materials with the ability to prove innocence or lessen the penalty of a crime be shared with the defendant before being asked to enter into a plea bargain.
  • Discovery standards that are uniform across the state, and do not vary by judicial district.

Senate Bill 691: An Act Concerning Expungement of Criminal Records
To create a system of expungement of criminal records for offenders that have remained crime-free for a significant period following the end of his or her sentence.

  • There is a strong correlation between housing and employment and the like hood that a convicted person will reoffend. The sad truth is that a person’s criminal record makes it unfairly more difficult to acquire housing and employment.
  • The bill would automatically expunge (destroy) or erase (seal and prohibit public access to) certain criminal records if an offender does not re-offend within a designated number of years from release

VOTING RIGHTS

Senate Joint Resolution 14: A Resolution Proposing an Amendment to the State Constitution to Allow for Early Voting
To amend the Constitution of the State of Connecticut to allow for in person voting for a period prior to election day.

Senate Bill 266: An Act Concerning Ballot Access for Students on College and University Campuses
To provide polling locations on college and university campuses for students to make it easier for students to vote.

GUN SAFETY

Senate Bill 655: An Act Concerning Ghost Guns
To ensure the sale of firearms adhere to serial number requirements and to close loopholes contributing to the illegal possession of firearms.

  • Without a serial number, law enforcement cannot run a search on a gun, making it impossible to determine chain of custody.
  • Bill would close loopholes by banning guns that do not have serial numbers and prohibit the sale of any materials or services that permit the construction of guns outside the regulated marketplace.

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