Chris Powell: Legislative Dems ready to hasten state’s decline

Brendan Sharkey and Joe Aresimowicz.

Brendan Sharkey and Joe Aresimowicz.

The Democratic majority in the state House of Representatives doesn’t seem to sense any desire among voters for change in Connecticut’s political direction.

The party’s caucus in the House decided this week that if it retains its majority in the imminent election it will elevate the majority leader, state Rep. Joe Aresimowicz of Berlin, to House speaker and state Rep. Matt Ritter of Hartford, co-chairman of the legislature’s Public Health Committee, to majority leader.

Aresimowicz is an official of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees union. Ritter is the son of former Speaker Thomas D. Ritter, now perhaps the premier lobbyist for special interests at the state Capitol.

So everyone whose livelihood depends on state government’s patronage should be thrilled with the Democrats’ succession plans.

Anyone hoping that the legislature will start reviewing state government’s operations more critically and stand up to special interests so as to halt Connecticut’s decline may not be as enthusiastic.

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MALLOY’S DUPLICITY ISN’T THE PROBLEM: Republican legislative leaders are criticizing what they call Governor Malloy’s recent duplicity about state government’s finances, his asserting that the budget is in balance even as a deficit persists and the governor himself has told his commissioners to plan more spending cuts.

But if the governor is being duplicitous in the hope of avoiding alarm on the eve of the legislative election, he has not been very successful at it. His instruction to the commissioners has been made public, and controversy has resulted from the state Board of Education’s musing that two vocational-technical schools might have to be closed. Further, some estimates conclude that if spending trends continue, in another 10 years or so most of the budget will be consumed by pension and medical benefits for retired state government employees. These estimates have been publicized too.

So the important issue is not that the governor would like to delay controversy until after the election. The important issue is exactly what must be done about state government’s financial collapse. The Republicans have offered only one specific and relevant proposal: to change state government’s pension system for new employees from a defined-benefit system to a defined-contribution system. Vital as such a change is, it would be just a start. Many other profound changes in policy must be made.

The governor isn’t likely to seek re-election and so probably will leave office in two years. He is already terribly beaten up politically and beating him up more over a side issue won’t accomplish much.

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DISHONEST REPEAL OF 2nd AMENDMENT: Only those who want all guns outlawed without the bother of having to repeal the Second Amendment can be disappointed by a state judge’s dismissal the other day of the lawsuit brought against Remington Arms for having made the rifle used by the young maniac who perpetrated the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown in 2012.

The theory the lawsuit sought to develop is “negligent entrustment” — that the manufacturer should have known that its product would fall into the hands of an evildoer and so the manufacturer should be held financially responsible for the resulting damage.

Dismissing the suit, the judge found that it had been pre-empted by federal legislation, which exempts gun manufacturers from liability for criminal misuse of their products. The reason for the exemption is obvious: If a gun manufacturer was made financially liable for criminal use of its products, it quickly would be put out of business, gun manufacturing would stop, and the right to bear arms would be much impaired and eventually become only theoretical.

Of course that was the lawsuit’s objective and the objective of the elected officials, including Governor Malloy, who supported it but don’t want to admit that they’d like to repeal all gun rights.

Chris Powell is the managing editor of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Connecticut.