Emergency alcohol and other silly bills

In a recent editorial we cautioned the new Democratic governor, Dannel P. Malloy, and the continuing Democratic majorities in the legislature to maintain their focus on the budget crisis and the sputtering economy. Our concern was, and remains, the tendency for the legislature to talk about anything but the fiscal problem because it appears so intractable.

The focus was on Democrats because the party's control of the legislative and executive branches means it controls how the budget gets resolved. But to be fair, we also took a peek at some Republican initiatives and found some time-consuming silliness there.

Sen. Robert J. Kane, the Republican representing the 32nd District in the state's affluent southwest corner, wants to set up an elaborate system to drug-test poor people, more precisely poor people who receive state assistance. His bill would require periodic drug testing of every adult receiving state aid. Silly us, we thought Republicans preferred less intrusive government.

If testing positive, an individual would have to undergo a medical evaluation and, if recommended, enter a treatment program. If the person tests positive a second time, he or she will automatically go into a treatment program. After a third positive-testing strike the individual is cut off from assistance and must go live under a bridge somewhere, apparently.

Everybody? Seriously?

Another Fairfield County senator, Michael McLachlan of the 24th, is carrying water for the birther movement. His bill would require the secretary of the state to demand an original birth certificate from presidential or vice presidential candidates before qualifying them for the ballot. Let's see President Obama get around that one if he runs for re-election.

Incredible.

Sen. McLachlan is apparently also concerned about those death panels that don't exist anywhere but in Sarah Palin's mind. His law would prohibit public or private health plans "requiring insured persons to participate in end-of-life counseling that promotes limited access to certain treatment options for such person."

In other words, he wants to pass a law to prevent a requirement no one proposes requiring.

The award for most outrageous title goes to Sen. John A. Kissel's "Act Concerning the Distribution of Alcoholic Liquor During Emergencies." Really.

The five-term Republican from Enfield says it's not as crazy as it may seem. The state has specific regulations about distribution territories for alcohol products. In an emergency, he wants the commissioner of consumer protection to have the power to suspend those regulations so a package store owner can get the booze somewhere else, such as a place that isn't under 10 feet of water or devastated by a meteor strike.

The bill's "Statement of Purpose" is straightforward: "To ensure the normal distribution of alcoholic liquor during emergencies."

As they say, you can't make this stuff up.

Sen. Kissel, however, says he is withdrawing the bill. The commissioner, it turns out, already has the right to suspend the rules. Who knew?

Dubious bills come from across the political spectrum. Some Democrats are trying again to ban smoking in private clubs. Is this really a good time to fight that battle? Meanwhile, a Democratic initiative to charge a 5-cent deposit for every plastic shopping bag, an effort to coerce people to utilize reusable bags (and raise revenues), appears ready to die a quick death given wide-scale public opposition.

Balancing the budget and job creation are the priorities. Focus on that.

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