Deputy Senate Republican Leader Paul Cicarella (R-North Haven) announced his legislative priorities for the 2024 legislative session that begins on Feb. 7. While legislative sessions that fall on even years are statutorily confined to budget-related proposals, lawmakers may submit requests for other individual concepts to be raised through the legislative committees of cognizance. A summary of Sen. Cicarella’s legislative requests is below:
As ranking member of the Public Safety and Security Committee, Sen. Cicarella will continue to offer measures that provide more tools for law enforcement to do their job to deter criminals amidst the continued rise in certain crimes across the state. Technology is one such tool that will bolster local law enforcment, and Sen. Cicarella will offer a measure enabling police to utilize license-plate readers to track vehicles traced to criminal activity and identify stolen vehicles, while limiting law enforcement’s use and storage of any data collected.
Sen. Cicarella will also enable police to take a proactive approach with a legislative request to restore law enforcement’s ability to perform consent searches of a motor vehicle, while providing protections so that there is no undue influence on the operator, and there is an articulable reason for the search.
Juvenile crime continues to surge in the state, most notably by way of motor vehicle thefts. It has become well known that those juveniles found in stolen cars often possess illegal firearms. They then appear in juvenile court, where their case is referred to a community-based diversion process, which historically had been reserved for minor violations of the law.
One of the reasons for these referrals was a Jan. 1, 2023, practice book change that allowed more serious offenses to be handled outside of court. This change was not made by state statute, but rather by the Judicial Branch. Thus, Sen. Cicarella will request a bill to reverse this practice book change and require a juvenile to be adjudicated within the court system in the following instances: felony theft of a motor vehicle; sale or possession with the intent to sell narcotics; illegal use or possession of a firearm; or, if a crime is committed while the juvenile is on probation. In addition, Sen. Cicarella will request a bill to include serious firearm offenses in the list of discretionary transfers from juvenile to adult court.
To combat the ongoing threat of fentanyl in the state, Sen. Cicarella is requesting a measure to restore proper funding to the statewide narcotics task force to focus on illegal manufacturing and sale of the substance in Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, and Waterbury.
Cannabis, while now legal in certain recreational settings, also poses a threat from drivers that operate under the influence of the substance. Numerous stories have outlined concerns over an increase in impaired driving in the past few years, including those impaired by cannabis. Sen. Cicarella will request a bill that revises state statutes permitting law enforcement to conduct a motor vehicle stop when they witness a driver or passenger smoking cannabis. Connecticut law currently prohibits such motor vehicle stops.
Sen. Cicarella also is requesting a specific measure in response to a North Haven tow truck operator who was struck and killed by a vehicle while helping a motorist on the side of I-91 last year. He will put forward a request, in coordination with advocates from North Haven’s Nelcon Towing, that permits tow truck drivers to activate standard red and blue hazard lights on the rear of their vehicle while hooking up a vehicle or re-entering the roadway. Several other states currently permit this measure.
Finally, he continues his effort to protect police K-9s injured in the line of duty, while assisting their handlers to protect citizens. He will request that elements of his co-sponsored 2023 bill (S.B. 932) be raised to enable police K-9s to receive medical attention and be transported in EMS vehicles.
After supporting a bipartisan budget that returns hundreds of millions to taxpayers, Sen. Cicarella acknowledged that this was a first step. Sen. Cicarella considers duplication of government services as a key contributor to wasteful spending and, ultimately, unaffordability. He will again submit his 2023 proposal (S.B. 381) that will create a workgroup to propose legislation that creates an Office of Accountability to ensure that state agencies are working efficiently and that redundant services are eliminated.
Sen. Cicarella is also asking again for legislation identical to his 2021 proposal (S.B. 670) that establishes Community Investment Boards where community leaders can identify priorities for the use of municipal revenue sharing grants and select grants for payment in lieu of taxes. It also requires the state’s Office of Policy and Management to accept proposals for solutions to problems specific to urban areas and establishes pilot programs to implement such proposals. Finally, it creates a task force to study the issues concerning nonprofit providers.
A leading voice on workforce development issues, Sen. Cicarella offered a key concept that became law in 2023 that ensured all high school students receive financial literacy education.
This year, he is requesting a bill that requires the Connecticut State Dept. of Education to create a high school apprenticeship program guideline that is accessible to all public schools that wish to provide such programs.
Sen. Cicarella will also request a legislative adjustment to enable more trade workers to get training and find jobs. Under currently law, there is a certain journeyman to apprentice ratio on a worksite. This ratio is cumbersome and hurts small trade business owners who are thus limited with their ability to hire apprentices. Sen. Cicarella will request legislation to better implement the existing ratio relief process for business owners through Connecticut DOL. The bill ensures that DOL must respond to such requests within 10 business days; the request will be considered approved if DOL fails to respond within this period.
Sen. Cicarella is addressing a common challenge faced by Connecticut’s veterans: transportation costs. He plans to propose legislation for the creation of a work group comprised of the Department of Transportation and Department of Veterans and Military Affairs. This group will assess the feasibility and cost of exempting Veteran residents from state public transportation fees, building on his previous proposals.