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Overall, it was not a bad legislative session, at least from the perspective of this newspaper's editorial agenda.
The General Assembly, which completed its work Wednesday, repealed the state's death penalty law, a position The Day long advocated. Murderers now face the prospect of life imprisonment without parole, putting Connecticut in line with most of the rest of the civilized world. The repeal kept in place, however, the sentences of the 11 men on death row, a provision we find morally and legally contradictory. The courts, we suspect, will have something to say about that.
After years of failed attempts, a bill to allow Sunday alcohol sales finally won approval. We saw no need to keep that old Blue Law on the books. Here in eastern Connecticut, it will mean liquor sales that were lost to neighboring states on Sundays will stay local. But again, there is a qualification. The legislature missed an opportunity to lift price controls and license restrictions that inflate prices by benefitting some businesses at the expense of others. Encouraging competition would have been the better choice.
Approved was a medical marijuana law that will legalize use of the drug by chronic sufferers who get a physician's certificate of need for various stipulated conditions. The law appears to strike the right balance between assuring access to those who need marijuana for medicinal reasons, while avoiding lax regulations that could lead to backdoor legalization for recreational purposes. Legalized medical use of marijuana was another issue this newspaper had long advocated.
And the legislature took some important first steps in pursuing reform of the public education system in Connecticut and closing the achievement gap between students in poor urban schools and those in neighboring suburbs.
We are also happy with something the legislature did not do, increase the state minimum wage, already among the highest in the country. Though the final version of the bill, increasing the minimum hourly wage from $8.25 to $8.50 in 2013 and to $8.75 in 2014, was preferable to the original plan for a $1 boost and tying future increases to inflation, the timing was still not right. Mandating higher salaries just as the state tries to recover economically could have discouraged job growth, particularly for teens seeking to enter the job market for the first time.