I have come to respect the operation Democrat leaders in Hartford have built that allows them to achieve their political goals year after year. It is remarkably effective.
They roll out grass roots campaigns, form pluralistic coalitions, sign up multiple lawmakers to co-sponsor legislation, and engage professional lobbyists for their causes. They have funding; they have t-shirts and printed posters; and their allies in various media outlets amplify their activities.
Hartford Democrats can even flex national muscle launching a coordinated alliance with California, New York, Illinois, Maryland, Hawaii, Minnesota and Washington state legislatures to introduce a spate of “wealth taxes.” For Connecticut, they propose to increase the highest personal income marginal tax rates to 7.49% and 7.20% and establish a 1% and 0.75% surcharge on net gain from sale of capital assets for top earners.
Last week, as reported by the New Haven Independent and the Connecticut Mirror, something called the “Cap The Rent CT” campaign was launched online by the Connecticut Democratic Socialists of America, some Democrat politicians, and more than 200 supporters. This group’s website contains logos of more than thirty coalition partners. They are circulating a petition and promising to door knock to gather signatures.
No doubt they will also find citizens whose human-interest stories support their “Cap The Rent CT” narrative. As you might have guessed, this “Cap The Rent CT” campaign seeks to apply state-wide to Connecticut the type of rent control that exists in New York City.
This is happening at the same time that another, similarly well-organized group called DesegregateCT is rolling out its third try to thwart local control of zoning by denouncing local planning and zoning commissions as racist. This year, DesegregateCT’s campaign is for “Transit-Oriented Communities,” a slight variation from their “Transit-Oriented Development” push in 2022 and which was itself a slimmed-down version of their ambitious, multi-faceted attempt in 2021.
While some developers may see opportunity in activist efforts to override local zoning controls because it would remove obstacles to the building of large apartment complexes, I wonder if developers are aware of which way Connecticut laws are trending and their effect on the rental business model.
In 2022, Connecticut passed a law mandating a “fair rent commission” for every municipality with a population of at least 25,000. And last year Connecticut launched a new program to provide “free” legal services for low-income renters in eviction proceedings.
In each legislative session, progressive Democrats take what they can get. Taking an inch per session is fine, because in the next session they take another inch or a mile. These progressive activists don’t seem to rest or slow down or ever give up. Landlords, be aware that price controls are coming your way.
This inch-by-inch tactic has been on display during the last few years in the progressive push for Connecticut to provide healthcare benefits for undocumented persons. In the 2021 session, this bill was cast as “free” healthcare for children of undocumented parents up to age eight. In the 2022 session, this bill was expanded to include children of undocumented parents up to age 18.
And now, in the 2023 session that just began, House Bill 5323, An Act Concerning the Expansion of Husky Health Benefits to All Income-eligible Persons Regardless of Immigration Status, has been introduced.
I remember the first time I read in a bill the phrase “regardless of immigration status.” It was then that I learned Connecticut was an “sanctuary state,” one of eleven in the country that purposefully did not cooperate with federal immigration authorities. Governor Dannel Malloy signed the original bill in 2013, and Governor Ned Lamont signed an expansion of sanctuary status in 2019.
Democrats in the legislature also this year submitted House Joint resolution 12 to amend the state constitution “to allow undocumented immigrants who are residents of the state to be admitted as electors for the purposes of voting in municipal and state elections.”
Immigration – both legal and illegal — is an issue that must be addressed by our federal delegation. Meanwhile, Democrats are expanding bureaucratic, government-run healthcare and ultimately delivering to the people of Connecticut cradle-to-grave totalistic government.
In 2021, we were the first state in the nation to launch something called “Baby Bonds Trust Fund,” wherein our state treasurer will manage a fund of money set aside in trust for every child born into a family that qualifies for Medicaid.
One of my favorite thinkers is Henry Hazlitt, who was one of Connecticut’s own, living his later years in Wilton and Fairfield. In “Economics in One Lesson,” Hazlitt wrote, “Practically all government attempts to redistribute wealth and income tend to smother productive incentives and lead toward general impoverishment. It is the proper sphere of government to create and enforce a framework of law that prohibits force and fraud. But it must refrain from specific economic interventions.”
Our state government must refrain from dictating specific economic outcomes that necessarily will create unintended negative consequences for everyone.
I believe Democrats in the legislature have an opportunity to apply their admirable organizing operations towards wealth-creating entrepreneurism for every one, affirming earned success instead of political activism which creates a trap of dependence on government benefits.
Residents of Connecticut of all political persuasions, I encourage you to please speak up. If you do not, where will we go from here?
Fiorello served as State Representative for the 149th District