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Thursday, June 09, 2005

Compromise reached

From The Day
In an effort to remedy the racial disparity in mandatory drug sentences, the state Senate Wednesday passed an amended bill to equalize the amounts of crack and powder cocaine that would trigger those sentences.

Current law provides a mandatory sentence of five years in prison for possession of one ounce of powder cocaine or a half-gram of crack. Legislators have said that because inner-city blacks and Hispanics are more likely to use crack cocaine, while suburban whites are more likely to use powder, more than 80 percent of those in prison under the law are either black or Hispanic.

Under the bill, the amount of crack and powder that would set off the mandatory sentence would be equalized at a half-ounce.

The action came after Gov. M. Jodi Rell vetoed an earlier version of the bill because she felt the proposed amounts of the drugs that would trigger the mandatory sentence –– an ounce in each case –– were too high.

Dennis Schain, director of communications for the governor's office, said Rell would sign the bill into law.

“This bill is exactly the compromise the governor proposed,” he said. “It is an approach that ends the disparity in sentencing between powdered and crack cocaine in a manner that does not send a bad signal that we're easing enforcement of our drug laws. The governor plans on signing it. ...”

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Time is running out to change cocaine-crack law

Today is the last day of the 2005 legislative regular session and time is running to change the cocaine crack possession law.

From The Connecticut Post

Rell's vetoes include a controversial bill aimed at reducing the racial disparity in state prisons by equalizing the amount of crack or powder cocaine a suspect could possess before facing a mandatory five-year penalty for dealing.

[...]

Rell offered lawmakers a compromise setting half an ounce of either type of cocaine as the tripwire for the harsher dealing charge. A deal could be finalized during the race to the finish late tonight.

Currently, if a person has 1/2 gram crack (about the size of a raisin) or 28 grams of cocaine in their possession, that individual would receive a mandatory 5 year prison sentance. The Gov vetoed a change in the law that would of raised the possession requirement for crack from 1/2 gram to 28 grams but offered to sign the bill if the amount of cocaine and crack was equalized at 14 grams.

Will keep you posted on what develops at the Capital tonight.


Senators subpoena Pentagon for base closure documents

From the Norwich Bulletin

Sens. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, subpoenaed the Pentagon Tuesday, seeking more information about how defense officials decided to recommend closing certain bases, including the Groton submarine base.

Newly released Pentagon documents, meanwhile, show the submarine base has been on the Pentagon's closure list since at least October.

[...]

Federal law requires the Pentagon to release all documents related to the base closure process to Congress and an independent Base Closure and Realignment Commission, Phillips said. The commission will review the Pentagon's base closure list, unveiled May 13, and come up with a final list by Sept. 8.

Stacie Paxton, spokeswoman for Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., said the senator and his staff are frustrated by the incomplete information the Pentagon has released so far, such as minutes from meetings of officials discussing potential base closures.

During the 1995 round of base closings, minutes from meetings made it clear why a base was recommended for closure, Paxton said. But the minutes from meetings linked to this year's round of base closings refer to documents that aren't provided, she said.

"There's no context or justification," Paxton said. "It's tough to dispute their findings when they refuse to provide the information upon which those findings were based."

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Sen. Dodd against Bolton nomination

Sen. Chris Dodd is leading the way in opposition of the John Bolton nomionation. If you never heard of Bolton, check this video to get an idea of the man.

From the Hartford Courant:
Dodd has gone public with his disdain because he is deeply offended by reports that the acerbic Bolton tried to manipulate intelligence data.

"I don't like going public this way, but this has become much more than a nomination fight," Dodd said Monday. "The issues surrounding this nomination go to the very heart of what we must restore in our foreign policy - our credibility."

Nice try

Dan Levine at CT News Junkie has the scoop on the Catholic Church and their latest attempt to tinker with the new civil union law.

For most in the state Capitol, the civil union controversy ended April 13, when Gov. M. Jodi Rell signed the landmark legislation. But for the Catholic Church, the battle still rages.

Over the last few weeks, church lobbyists have shopped an amendment at the state Capitol that would exempt church affiliated organizations from paying benefits to same sex partners. They’ve even begun phone banking legislators- state Rep. Michael Lawlor (D-East Haven), a leading civil union proponent, said he received four calls over the past week.

For Dr. Marie Hilliard, executive director of the Connecticut Catholic Conference, the issue is one of entitlement. The Catholic Church should be protected under the First Amendment from being required to follow policies that undermine its religious teaching, according to Hilliard. By mandating church funds towards same sex partners, via benefits packages, the civil union law infringes on religious freedom, she said.

“We’re trying to exercise our right not to de facto recognize civil unions through benefits packages,” Hilliard said.

Oh but it's nice to live in a blue state and most of us don't drink kool-aid and can see through their smoke screen.

Problem is, the civil union law already exempts religious organizations, Lawlor said. The Judiciary Committee’s co-chairman believes the Catholic Conference is actually pushing much stronger language which the House rejected during the debate on the bill. That language would institute a range of restrictions, and not just at churches- Catholic hospitals may not be required to recognize civil unions on a range of fronts, including visitation rights, Lawlor said.

This isn't about First Amendment rights, it's about intolerance and hate pure and simple and thank goodness Lawlor had the guts to call them on their bigotry.
“This is a pathetic attempt to have another discussion about this bigotry. Now this is pure bigotry,” Lawlor said, “and we don’t want to rent our hall to that.”
We know where the church stands with homosexuality and this is the start of their master plan to chip away at the law and the rights of gays in this state.

This battle isn't going away anytime soon.

Monday, June 06, 2005

If the Navy leaves, who owns the land?

The Stamford Advocate has an interesting article about who really owns the land at the submarine base in Groton.

The answer seems no one is sure who owns the land, the state or the military.

So, when the 112 acres were donated in 1868, Connecticut was the official donor but New London had put up the most money, Bolles owned much of the land and the base was ultimately placed in Groton and Ledyard.

The earliest paperwork does not contain provisions for what happens if the Navy leaves, Kimball said. It became the stuff of Bolles family lore.

"The story my dad told, he said that if the flag failed to fly over the base for 24 consecutive hours, the land would go back to the Bolles family," said Mary Lamphere, a descendant of Bolles.

None of this mattered much in 1868, Kimball said, because nobody considered that the base might someday close.


When you start to hear folk tales in a middle of a land dispute, you know things are going to get very intersting.

NPR weighs in on CT cocaine-crack bill

From NPR's Weekend Edition

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Cocaine-crack bill update

Bill Leukhardt of the Hartford Courant writes about the effort being made by the state senate and house to quickly pass the Republican compromise to the failed cocaine-crack prosession bill before the session ends.
The sponsors will seek quick House and Senate passage of a proposal setting 14 grams - half an ounce - as the trigger amount of either crack or powder cocaine a suspect must possess to be charged as a dealer.

The law now says anyone possessing half a gram of crack cocaine can be charged as a dealer, with a mandatory minimum jail term of five years if convicted. For powder cocaine, the threshold is 28 grams.

The bill Rell vetoed would have set 28 grams of either as the threshold. Rell said a 28-gram threshold for crack was too lenient for a highly addictive drug often sold in cities by violent gangs that battle rivals for turf.

She said she would sign a compromise setting 14 grams as the threshold for the dealing charge for both crack and powder - a compromise position House and Senate Republicans proposed last month without success.
The only problem facing members of Congress is that time is not on their side.
Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford, pointed out another hurdle - the calendar.

"The enemy is time. We have much to do and only a few days left until the session ends," he said.

As I said in my last post, the members of Congress must of known that Gov. Rell wouldn't sign this bill into law as she hinted that she would veto the bill early on in the process. Now that they were running out of time this session, there is a chance that there will be no change to the current law.

We'll keep an eye on this and see how this develops.