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State Civil Rights Commission Investigates Racial Profiling

Voters rank state politicians on their commitment to environmentalism, and a state commission looks into racial profiling.

Is there a problem officer?

The Connecticut Committee for the US Commission on Civil Rights met in Hartford to examine the state’s racial profiling law.

According to the state law, know as the “Alvin W. Penn Racial Profiling Prohibition Act” police departments must collect and provide annual data on traffic stops, offenses, dispositions, and complaints of discriminatory stops to the African-American Affairs Commission and the chief state's attorney.

But according to the AAAC, more than half of the state’s 160 law enforcement agencies aren’t providing the traffic stop data. Last session legislation to strengthen the law failed in part because some viewed it as an unfunded mandate.

“It would not surprise me if the Judiciary Committee chose to look into this,” said state Rep. T.R. Rowe, a Republican representing Trumbull in the 123rd House District. “I frankly am not certain it is a big issue. My understanding is that most all departments do comply. It may simply be that the forms submitted are different, or in different formats. I'd hate to see the legislature get bogged down over this issue because of a ‘form over substance’ mentality.”

Some police departments said they didn’t send data because they felt it was useless. Others said they don’t know how to report the statistics. The Office of Policy and Management opposed revisions to the bill it couldn’t pay staff to complete the task of collecting data.

, doesn't expect the legislature will tackle this issue again because there simply aren’t the funds to cull through all the data.

“The intent of the law is good, but a mandate doesn’t seem to be working,” Duff said. “If I had a magic want I would have random checks. Every year you could pick municipalities at random and do some sampling there. We’re looking to see behaviors.”

 “I know that the legislature has undertaken efforts in recent years to create reporting requirement aimed at gathering information to identify and possibly minimize improper racial profiling,” said state Rep. John Shaban, a Republican representing Easton, Weston and Redding in the 135th House District.  “The hearings that I have sat through, however, indicate that the effort has had mixed results.  I am in favor of reasonable measures aimed at gathering relevant information, but want to steer away from needlessly burdensome requirements that yield little or no value.”

PROPANE

Lawmakers want to rekindle efforts to make the state’s propane companies more transparent.

Last spring, the co-chairmen of the Energy Committee advocated changes to make Connecticut’s propane companies operate more like heating oil dealers and less like mini monopolies. Under current regulations, propane companies insist only owners of the tanks can fill them. That means consumers must buy propane from the company that owns their tank. There is no bargain hunting allowed.

State Sen. John Fonfara of Hartford propane companies either need to become transparent businesses like heating oil dealers, or face being regulated monopolies.

Duff, who sits on the Energy and Enivronment Committee said he opposes changes to current practice.

“It’s a lot more complex then it sounds,” Duff said. “The driver who delivers propane is essentially delivering liquid gas. There are a lot of different rules and safety protocols.”

Because of that Duff favors keeping companies liable for the tanks and filling of them rather than putting that responsibility on homeowners.

“Caring for a propane tank is a hundreds time fore difficult than caring for an oil tank. If your oil tank leaks in your basement it’s not going to ignite,” Duff said. “If a homeowner doesn’t maintain their tank it could blow up their yard.”

State Rep. Laura Hoydick, a Republican representing Stratford in the 120th House District still wants the present practice changed.

“Transparency for the consumer is a priority.  As I understand it, if a consumer bears the cost to purchase and install their own propane tank, they may contract with a licensed supplier to fill the tank,” Hoydick said. “If the tank is owned by a third-party, the tank owner, in this case the third-party, selects the supplier and the charges are passed onto the consumer. Many consumers did not realize this when they purchased their residence or when they had the tank installed or when they converted from electric heat to propane.

Yet, according to David Gable, president of the Shelton-based Hocon Gas Inc. the Nutmeg State enjoys some of the lowest average propane heating price in the northeast. Hocon told lawmakers any move toward regulation would derail competition.

REPORT CARD

The Connecticut League for Conservation Voters released its annual scorecard. According to the report, CTLCV grades legislators on a 0 to 100 percent scale based on votes on bills that affect the environment. The closer to 100 percent, the more lawmakers’ votes were considered “pro-environment.

In the Senate:

  • 71 percent
  • Bob Duff, (D-25) 71 percent
  • L. Scott Frantz, (R-36) 40 percent
  • Carlo Leone, (D-27) 71 percent
  • John McKinney, (R-28) 100 percent

In the House:

  • Larry Cafero, (R-142) 60 percent
  • 38 percent
  • 80 percent
  • Livvy Floren, (R-149) 70 percent
  • Gerald Fox, (D-146) 71 percent
  • John Frey, (R-111) 60 percent
  • Lile Gibbons, (R-150) 33 percent
  • John Hetherington, (R-125) 90 percent
  • 57 percent
  • 70 percent
  • Patricia Miller, (D-145) 80 percent
  • 64 percent
  • Jason Perillo, (R-113) 50 percent
  • Chris Perone, (D-137) 70 percent
  • TR Rowe (R-123) 83 percent
  • John Shaban, (R-135) 56 percent
  • Jonathan Steinberg, (D-136) 86 percent
  • William Tong, (D-147) 83 percent
  • Terrie Wood, (R-141) 58 percent

In addition, CTLCV said it expects the 2012 session, which comes during an election year, to be a tough one.

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