AP NEWS

You sent them to Hartford, here’s what they’re doing

February 23, 2019

STAMFORD — State Rep. David Michel was sworn in 46 days ago and has signed off on 177 bills since, averaging more than four bills a day.

Odd thing is, although the number seems out of proportion — it’s not. The Stamford Democrat ranks third so far in the number of bills General Assembly members have introduced, co-introduced or co-sponsored this session. It could be passion, perhaps naivete, experts say, but there’s also newfound urgency and a progressive lurch behind the skyrocketing number of bills.

Legislators have put hundreds of ideas to the pen since Jan. 9, each averaging 40 bills a piece, according to a Stamford Advocate analysis.

In fact, the state’s 36 rookies, including Michel, have been linked to — on average — three more bills than even the veterans this session, the analysis shows.

Gary Rose, head of the political science department at Sacred Heart University, said the stats are a reflection of the same progressive push thrusting the national Democratic party to the left.

It’s that, he said, coupled with a rush to legislate by state Democrats who now have the senate, house and governor’s mansion.

“The party has moved in a progressive direction. It’s expected of them,” he said. “There’s also a tremendous sense that now is the time to legislate because there’s nothing to stop them … the floodgates are open to change.”

Michel, whose heavy French accent coupled with an affinity for turtlenecks and distinctive eyewear stands out in a sea of suits, illustrates Rose’s point.

Among the bills bearing Michel’s stamp are several Democratic and progressive standards including ones promoting a higher minimum wage, paid family medical leave, and debt-free college.

Then there are the Stamford-centric, personal and environmental bills, some of which have already gotten pushback or were introduced practically stillborn.

For example there’s an act concerning the teaching of climate change in public schools; an act concerning a methane tax; an act prohibiting the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits in pet shops; an act prohibiting wildlife trafficking; and an act prohibiting the sale of cetaceans, a class of marine mammals such as dolphins.

“You can see now that Democrats think that government really is the answer,” Rose said.

Democrats, combined, have signed-off on 4,571 bills this session while GOP legislators have gone for 2,753. The numbers do not reflect the total of bills floating around the General Assembly, but instead the number of which legislators have personally backed, therefore tallying several duplicates.

Michel, for example, is attached to four bills that all call for restricting the use of wild and exotic animals in circuses and traveling shows, three of which he has set aside for a bill with better chances.

“It’s even hard for me to find my own bills,” he said. “Four bills. This is crazy.”

Although he has four bills on circuses, it’s another proposal thought that has earned Michel the most pushback.

His methane proposal — one of 28 Michel has introduced on his own — got him a mocking by the state GOP, which tweeted a picture implying that Michel wanted to put an end to cow farts.

Michel said he takes no offense.

“Did you see the cow in the picture?” he said. “My team in Stamford love that cow. We’ve got to make a graphic with that cow.”

Other local freshmen have also had pushback to bills they have introduced.

State Sen. Alex Bergstein, D-Greenwich, for example, filed the state’s first toll-producing bill this session.

She has attached herself to 66 bills in all — twenty more than the average — but her link to tolls is what has garnered her the most attention, with protestors showing up to civic meetings she has organized.

Tolls and transportation have also kept another local politician from looking busy by the bill metric, although they fill his days, he said.

State Rep. Chris Perone, D-Norwalk, has the lowest number of bills linked to his name in the General Assembly. He is linked to one bill, a call to hike the minimum age to buy vapes and electronic cigarettes.

Perone said his ongoing appointment as the state House’s “transportation czar” has only intensified this session with Gov. Ned Lamont’s ambitious transportation plans and toll squabbles have kept him away from bill writing.

As the chief transportation financial officer for House Democrats, Perone oversees how Connecticut funds and prioritizes road, rail and other infrastructure projects.

“My focus has been on moving forward legislation,” he said. “There were a few bills I had planned on introducing this session. One would augment our ability to enter into P3s (public private partnerships) and the other would make it possible for people to renew their driver’s licenses online. Both of these concepts have since been rolled into the governor’s plans to address transportation and I fully support that.”

Perone said “while the numbers are low, what I’m working on is so important to our state.”

And one bill, while dwarfed by 177, would still mean a lot more if it’s the lone bill turned law.

As for Michel, he said he’d be ecstatic with a law in his first year, especially if it’s one of the 28 he introduced.

“I would be doing extremely well if one of my bills made it,” he said. “It would be huge.”

barry.lytton@stamfordadvocate.com; 203-964-2263; @bglytton