Weir Champions Public Safety and Local Control in Race for 55th District House Seat

Steve Weir

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Steve Weir, a restoration contractor and small business owner living in Hebron, said he is running to represent the 55th state House district because he doesn’t think politicians and government officials are held accountable for their decisions.

A former police officer, Weir was most enthusiastic talking about public safety, and why he believes the 2020 police accountability law has made Connecticut less safe and police officers too apprehensive to do their jobs effectively.

Weir, a Republican, unsuccessfully challenged State Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, for the 19th Senate District in 2020 – losing that election with just under 45 percent of the vote.

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Now he is running against Democratic candidate Wes Skorski, seeking to replace outgoing State Rep. Robin Green and continue the decades-long streak of Republicans representing the district that includes Hebron, Andover, Bolton and Marlborough.

CT Examiner spoke with both candidates to ask them about the same set of issues.

CTEx: What are your key goals if elected?

WEIR: Public safety needs to be looked at. Back in 2020 [the police accountability law] really limited some of the tools that police have at their disposal. It emboldened the criminals. I just don’t understand why it’s not being brought back up. Why are the Democrats failing to even give this another look? Why is it that law-abiding citizens have to worry?

I would say, also, accountability and transparency at the government level. I think when our legislators create a law that is not good for the taxpayers of Connecticut, they should be held accountable for that.

All of our government employees should also be accountable to the taxpayers. They’re working for the taxpayers, and they need to be reminded of that. We pay taxes for services, and we should be getting nothing but the best services for the high cost of living we have here in Connecticut. Our schools should be exemplary, the DOT should be performing at a top level, every piece of government should be working well. And if it’s not, there should be a way to evaluate it.

I also want to make sure that forced regionalization doesn’t happen. And I think that money should follow the child. If a school is underperforming, and a student is looking to go to a technical school or another school that has something else to offer, they should be able to. 

My daughters went to school in Hebron, and they’re competitive swimmers, but the high school doesn’t have a swim program. So we ended up sending them to private school, which we paid in addition to the taxes I paid for them to go to the public school. I think parents should have the option to send their kids where they think is best suited.

I would also like to see Connecticut be more competitive. It’s a very expensive state to live in, and when I see how other states have improved their economies, we haven’t gotten back to our levels of employment from 2008 – we’re treading water and other states are thriving. Connecticut is not an easy place to start and run a business. I want to bring proposals that will allow my kids to afford to stay here and maybe even start a business.

CTEx: You mentioned the 2020 police accountability statute – are there any changes that need to be made?

WEIR: Whether it was intended this way, or this is just an unintended consequence, criminals do not fear the consequences, and police are much less likely to proactively police. They’re not going out and looking for crime nearly as much as they used to. They’re not investigating like they used to. It’s caused them to be hesitant, to be tentative.

Back in my day [as a police officer] you were involved in the community, you were visible, you were active. And when you’re active and visible, the criminals are gonna go somewhere else. 

What this “police accountability bill,” and I’ll use my air-quotes there, said was that there was a problem in Connecticut with police bias. I don’t necessarily believe that was true, and not nearly to the extent there is in other places. This was a result of the George Floyd incident, and I think that situation was unfairly cast upon the men and women, police officers and troopers of Connecticut.

We have much higher standards here, and much higher levels of training. While there are individual police officers who abuse their power, I think there are ways to deal with those who are not following their oath on an individual basis. You don’t paint with a broad brush, which is what happened.

Qualified immunity was taken away, making it more likely that a police officer could be personally liable for a split-second decision he or she is making in a really hectic, stressful situation – and then judged months or years later. The perception to the police officers is they’re not being covered, so they’re not willing to risk being proactive.

Why are we seeing in our suburbs, in Hebron, Glastonbury, Marlborough, cars stolen or rifled through? You had a lady in Marlborough who was abducted last fall, taken to another town and beaten. Criminals do not fear the consequences. Police can’t chase them, and if they are apprehended, a lot of times they’re turned loose, especially the juveniles.

The bill also added costs to towns in the form of body cameras. Requiring body cameras in itself is not necessarily a bad thing, but that data has to be stored somewhere, and the towns will pick up the burden of storing that data. And that is passed by the municipality to the taxpayer.

If I just go down a short list of tools that police don’t have at their disposal: marijuana is now legal in Connecticut, but the smell of marijuana coming from a vehicle is not probable cause to stop it. And it’s not like alcohol where you can measure someone’s level of impairment.

Police also cannot ask for identification of a passenger when they pull a car over. Forget having a potential criminal in the passenger seat, what if that was a young girl who has been abducted who’s been told to be quiet, and the police can’t ask for identification? That’s a concern for me. Police also aren’t allowed to stop for an equipment violation. All these tools police had are gone, and I feel we’re less safe as a result.

CTEx: What do you think about the job the state has done balancing its clean energy goals with the cost of electricity?

WEIR: I would say it’s done a poor job of looking out for whether people can afford to live here. I think the clean energy goals have gone way beyond any consideration for affordability. The pendulum has swung almost entirely in the direction of clean energy goals, which are laudable if they’re practical. But it’s time to admit that some of these goals are unreasonable. We just don’t have that discussion.

What should be the state’s role in ensuring residents have access to affordable housing, and is there any policy that should be changed or implemented?

WEIR: I would say 8-30g should be repealed. I think the state has no business usurping local zoning laws. None.

I am a housing advocate. I am the chair of the Government Relations Committee for the Connecticut Apartment Association, and I work with multifamily owners and developers, and these people are in the business of providing quality housing for residents, not in the business of evicting people. And looking at some of the regulations, it’s expensive to develop in Connecticut. It’s a risk for developers and owners to take those risks.

We have a supply issue, so I think the state could reduce regulations that inhibit development. And then that discussion should happen between cities and towns and the developers. Housing is a business, so if there is a market that is attractive to the owners and developers, they’re going to build. But you have to have a stable environment where they’re willing to take that risk. I think Connecticut, with all the taxes and regulation, is not a friendly place to do business.

CTEx: What does the state need to do to make healthcare more affordable and accessible?

WEIR: Having been a town employee as a police officer in Glastonbury, we had the Cadillac of health plans – low deductibles and just about everything was included. Before that, when I was an adult paying my own health insurance premiums, they were somewhat affordable and health care was more accessible. 

There was less regulation. I could meet with my doctor, it wasn’t in and out like a factory. I had time to consult and you weren’t meeting with a physician’s assistant. Maybe a nurse took your blood pressure, but you had time with the doctor.

Today, I’m paying considerably more for coverage that isn’t even as good, and I go see the doctor and it’s like an assembly line. And I believe that is due to burdensome regulations. More regulations, more responsibilities, putting the doctor more on administrative duties and you’ve gotten away from the service model where the doctor and patient have a relationship.

So I would want to reduce regulations and make it easier for good doctors to do business and see their patients. I think you’d see the quality of healthcare improve. And I would stay as far away from the public option as possible.

CTEx: What would be your goals for improving educational outcomes for Connecticut students?

WEIR: I talked about money following the child. I think it’s also important to have a school curriculum on the town level that is visible to parents, and making sure that parents are signing on. 

It’s also important that we are graduating students who are prepared to enter the workforce – so more focus on reading, writing, arithmetic, financial skills. Are we teaching students to balance a checkbook, versus some of the social-type of curriculum that we’ve seen. Let’s focus on getting back to the basics, teaching kids so they can come out of school with skills they can put into the working world.

Again, having school choice vouchers or money following the child, I think that’s going to open up opportunities for people to send their kids to schools that are going to better serve their child. And I think that’s going to hold the districts, the administrators, the teachers — everyone — accountable for the success of the children in that school. 

CTEx: What are your thoughts on marijuana legalization?

WEIR: That law is confusing to me because there’s so many hands in the cookie jar. It’s so complicated in the push for the equity piece of it, and as far as I know, not everything has been sorted out.

From a public safety piece, I think it’s a terrible idea. As a business owner, I think it’s a terrible idea to be encouraging people to come to work under the influence of a controlled substance or drug.

But if I put that aside, if I was going to get behind a bill that legalized marijuana, it would be to the extent that you’re allowed to grow your own and possess it, and the state isn’t going to benefit from additional revenue. Take the whole revenue piece and the equity piece out of it and make it simple, and you might get me to sign off.

If I’m able to close my eyes to the public safety issue – that you can’t tell if somebody is impaired – I mean, I’m not a prude. If you’re saying adults whose brains are fully developed should be able to make their own decision on what they put in their body, yeah I agree with that. So assuming that adults are responsible enough that they’re not going to ingest it then operate machinery or a car, I’m fine with it. If you take the state money grab out of it, you allow people to make their own decisions and assume their own risks and consequences.

CTEx: Where do you see yourself in the Republican Party?

WEIR: I see myself as a champion of liberty, personal freedom, personal responsibility, body autonomy. I see myself as looking out for my constituents and really celebrating the individual. I see myself as someone who can work with others of all different ideas, civilly. That doesn’t mean that I’m not going to stand for my principles, but I’m going to be able to communicate with others. You can’t always be talking, you gotta be willing to listen, even if there’s disagreement.

I think today, the environment is pretty vitriolic, and people get their defenses up and they’re not willing to listen to another point of view. And that’s not how things get done. So, I’m not sure how I fit into the Republican Party today. I’ve been a Republican since I was 18 years old, and the party has changed quite a bit. So has the Democrat party. So I don’t know, but I’m going to be wiling to listen, whether I agree or not.