STATE OF THE UNION; STATE BILLS FIGHT V. STATE BUDGET

The Shad will leave the hard analysis of President Barak Obama’s State of the Union address to those who do that sort of thing for a living. For the record, Obama seemed to genuinely try to reconnect with the average American given the lessons learned over the past year. The Shad was also happy Obama didn’t buckle to the right wing (who have blasted him in every instance) and made it clear the mess he walked into. The speech was great but the judgment comes, like many things in life, in the follow through.

One major distraction for at least this viewer was Vice President Biden. He was visible is the vast majority of TV shots of the president and he was constantly nodding his head and making comments of affirmation, apparently to himself. If this was baseball season, no doubt some minor league team would be hard at work this morning planning “Joe Biden Bobblehead Doll Day.” Maybe the Wilmington Blue Rocks would be interested.

Sen. Chris Dodd looked like that was the last place he wanted to be last night. Joe Lieberman looked particularly disinterested
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The next session of the state legislature opens next Wednesday. There will be plenty of pomp and circumstance and usually a speech by the governor. That will be followed by the usual spin from each party (The Shad’s author was a part of the group that composed the Democratic response to such speeches for many years, working with a “war room” of brilliant senate democratic staffers. We then proposed our work the senate president who would put his own stamp on it). It always starts with great promise but the 2010 session, will be dominated by the budget. The current year’s budget deficit is, according to some estimates, more than a half a billion dollars.
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There will attempts at debating and passing some other bills that deserve attention but will likely not get the spotlight they deserve. As the days go by, we will no doubt hear complaints that “we can pass [insert passed bill] but we can’t fix the budget.” That rhetoric always amused this writer because it implies that if all the legislators all went home, we’d get a budget deal. It didn’t work this summer and it won’t work this spring.
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One issue on some lawmakers’ radar screens is a proposal to require seat belts on school buses. It’s not a new issue but has gotten new-found attention following a deadly crash earlier this month. The crash claimed the life of Rocky Hill teenager Vikas Parikh and injured a number of students on I-84 near the Hartford-West Hartford line. The bus tumbled down an embankment.

A recent Quinnipiac poll showed that requiring seat belt on school buses has the support of 3 out of 4 Connecticut residents surveyed. State Rep. Tony Guerrera (D-Rocky Hill), who is also the co-chair of the transportation committee, is sponsoring a seat belt bill this year. Many such bills have been proposed over the years but there may be new support for it because of the Jan. 9 crash.
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State Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney (D-New Haven) is putting his considerable political weight behind a proposal dealing with high school athletes who suffer concussions. “When in Doubt, Sit it Out” is the slogan advocates are using to back the bill that would put the student-athlete under greater scrutiny when he or she comes close to returning to play.

The author of The Shad suffered a number of concussions when playing high school and college hockey back in the mid-‘80s (yes, that explains a lot, I know). Back then, the treatment was to keep you in the hospital overnight, waking you up occasionally to make sure you didn’t slip into a coma. Rarely did the injury keep the player out of the next game. Now, much more attention is paid to such injuries—and rightly so.

There have been many stories in recent years about professional athletes returning to play too soon from a concussion only to be hurt again and jeopardizing their careers. But this bill, also strongly backed by education co-chair state Senator Tom Gaffey (D-Meriden), would make Connecticut—along with Washington and Oregon—the only states to adopt a “comprehensive law protecting student-athletes from the effects of concussions.”