Rep. Matt Ritter’s Essay on his 2015 Legislative Objectives

This column appears in the October 23 – 30 edition of the Hartford News… Visit the Community Party’s No Sellout blog or Twitter/Facebook pages for Part III of CP’s urban agenda analysis, featuring Mary Sanders’ reform recommendations for the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Mary’s piece will appear in this space on November 6, due to the Hartford Arts and Heritage special edition of the Hartford News next week. Mary wrote the language for our Trayvon Martin Act, which addresses racial profiling and police containment of low-income communities of color. The links to our social media pages are available at the end of this column.

AFSCME members, check out No Sellout for info on the Local 318 Safe Workplace Committee Meet & Greet Thursday, November 13 in Rocky Hill. Stay tuned for updates on CP’s Safe Work Environment Act, coming in 2015.

State Representative Matt Ritter is running for re-election in the 1st Assembly District. You can get updates from Rep. Ritter on the Connecticut General Assembly website, Twitter and Facebook. See below for links. Rep. Ritter has supported the Trayvon Martin Act, our Safe Work Environment Act legislation aimed at stopping workplace bullying and our effort to bring a publicly owned bank to Connecticut. Election Day is Tuesday, November 4th. This week we’ll share Rep. Ritter’s essay on his 2015 legislative objectives, including a major announcement regarding the racial profiling issue.


Why I am Running for Re-election

Some campaign advisors tell their candidates not to use the words ‘re-elect’ or ‘re-election’ in their campaign literature because poll numbers for political incumbents are so low. As an attorney and incumbent politician, I sometimes joke that my two professions are as popular as Christian Laettner was in Connecticut after his game winning shot ended UConn’s “Dream Season” in 1990.

However, I love serving as a legislator and I am proud to be running for re-election as the State Representative for the 1st Assembly District in Hartford. I am also excited about the upcoming session and the opportunity for the General Assembly to tackle some major issues that could have a positive and long-lasting impact on Hartford and our State. Below is a summary of some critical issues and initiatives that I hope to work on if I am re-elected. I have tried to highlight some issues that may not receive the same attention as others but which I feel are critically important pieces of legislation.

If you ever care to discuss these or any other issues please do not hesitate to call me at home at 860-519-5685. I can assure you of this: if you call me and leave your number, I will call you back.

Juvenile Sentencing Reform Bill

What if I told you that the State of Connecticut is in violation of two recent United States Supreme Court decisions dealing with the manner in which juvenile offenders are sentenced?

In Graham v. Florida, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment prohibits states from sentencing defendants under age 18 to life without parole for non-homicide crimes. The Court stated that there must be “some meaningful opportunity” for release based on a defendant’s demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation. The Court stated that the Eighth Amendment does not prohibit a juvenile who commits a non-homicide crime from being kept in prison for life but it prohibits making the judgment “at the outset that those offenders never will be fit to re-enter society.” Subsequently, in 2012, in Miller v. Alabama, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Eighth Amendment prohibits courts from automatically imposing life without parole sentences on offenders who committed homicides while they were juveniles (under age 18). The Court did not categorically bar life without parole sentences for juveniles but stated that a court must “take into account how children are different, and how those differences counsel against irrevocably sentencing them to a lifetime in prison.”[1]

In 2014, HB 5221 would have brought our State laws into compliance with these Supreme Court rulings. However, that bill which passed out of the House of Representatives by a vote of 129-15, was never taken up by the State Senate. I hope 2015 is our chance to bring our state statutes into compliance with these U.S. Supreme Court rulings.

Municipal Property Tax Reform

Municipal property taxes are the most regressive taxation system in our State. All too often urban residents pay a higher percentage of their annual income in property taxes than wealthier residents in the suburbs do. The 2015 session could provide an opportunity to make some important and innovative changes to the municipal property tax system. The current Speaker of the House, Brendan Sharkey, has been a leader on this issue for years and I expect him to lead the charge in 2015. One idea I have considered is to propose implementing a statewide motor vehicle tax and raise the State’s income tax for top earners by a small percentage to help offset any lost revenue for towns. The State should also consider tweaking its school construction reimbursement formula to provide more grants to distressed municipalities and pledging state support for municipal debt issued to build or renovate schools. If the State pledged its full faith and credit as a final backstop for payment to bond holders on certain municipal bonds issues, it would permit these municipalities to borrow money at a much lower rate, which in turn saves money for the residents of that Town in the form of lower taxes and lower budget costs.

Financial Literacy

I have been working with my colleagues, Representatives McGee and Lemar, on drafting legislation to improve how we educate our students about financial literacy issues. The State currently has some decent laws on the books but we need to do more. Too often, young adults between the ages of 18-30 find themselves swimming in debt because of the misuse of a credit card or poor financial planning. If we want people to have safe and comfortable retirements in their 70s and 80s, then we should do more to educate people about the choices they make in their 20s.

Racial Profiling

I have worked on this issue with your usual columnist, David Samuels, for a few years now. I plan to introduce legislation in 2015 that will, amongst other things, (i) appropriate $2.5 million for the purpose of equipping all police cars with an “e-filing” system which will increase transparency and the accuracy of certain police reports; and (ii) require that DMV include a summary of the State’s new racial profiling laws with all driver’s license renewal and application packets. If the public is not informed of the new laws, then they are not as effective. Hopefully, this will help create awareness of an individual’s rights when they are stopped by a police officer.

No Excuse Voting

Lastly, I hope everyone will vote “Yes” on Tuesday, November 4, 2014, to enable our State to change our antiquated election laws. No excuse absentee balloting is long overdue. Our State should make it easier for people to vote not harder.


I was born in Hartford, raised in Hartford and am fully committed to Hartford. Serving as a representative of this great City at the State Capitol is an honor of a lifetime. I hope this Election Day that you will give me a chance to continue that service.


[1] State of Connecticut, Office of Legislative Research.


Follow CP on Twitter @CommunityParty1 for state, national and global headlines and updates on the Trayvon Martin, Safe Work Environment and Jane Doe Acts. Visit our No Sellout blog for the archive of CP Hartford News columns ( and Northend Agent’s for selected columns. Check out the CP Facebook page. Listen to WQTQ 89.9 FM for CP’s public service announcement on our social justice platform. Contact us at 860-206-8879 or

David Samuels


Community Party


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