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Week in CT news: Government shutdown, new gun laws, Bridgeport ballot drama continues

Bridgeport mayoral candidate John Gomes speaks to the press with his attorney Bill Bloss after appearing in court on September 25, 2023. Gomes filed a lawsuit challenging the results of the Sept. 12 mayoral primary after his campaign released a video of a woman making early morning trips to stuff papers into an absentee ballot drop box.
Ryan Caron King
Connecticut Public
Bridgeport mayoral candidate John Gomes speaks to the press with his attorney Bill Bloss after appearing in court on September 25, 2023. Gomes filed a lawsuit challenging the results of the Sept. 12 mayoral primary after his campaign released a video of a woman making early morning trips to stuff papers into an absentee ballot drop box.

If a federal spending package isn’t passed by Sunday, the government could shutdown  

Thousands of Connecticut residents will be impacted if federal lawmakers can’t come up with a resolution to fund the U.S. government by Oct. 1.

A small group of hard-right Republicans have sent the U.S. House into chaos as their party fails to reach consensus on a spending bill to keep the government open past Saturday. The U.S. Senate is working on its own bipartisan plan that is supported by both parties to continue funding at current levels.

According to data obtained by Connecticut Public and CT Mirror federal policy reporter Lisa Hagen, the state has more than 8,400 federal employees. And they mostly work for Cabinet-level agencies or large independent agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency.

The state’s defense workforce, along with service members at the New London-based U.S. Coast Guard Academy, are also facing the ramifications of a government shutdown.

"In 2019, when the Coast Guard was shut down along with the Department of Homeland Security in New London, we had pop-up food banks to help Coast Guard families put food on the table for themselves and their family members," U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, a Connecticut Democrat, said earlier this week. "This potential shutdown is totally unnecessary, unfair, and will wreak havoc across the country."

Coast Guard familiespoured through donations at tables that were set-up on campus back in January of 2019, when a government shutdown prevented service members from collecting their pay on time.

The government shutdown could also hurt non-federal employees. A spokesperson for U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy said Friday that nearly 50,000 women, children and infants will lose benefits from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, commonly known as WIC. Farmers seeking loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and those expecting flooding relief from FEMA could also experience a lack of support if the government isn’t funded.

Open Carry ban, limits on ‘bulk’ gun purchases taking effect Sunday 

Connecticut, already home to some of the strictest gun laws in the United States, will now have more firearm restrictions starting Oct. 1.

The new rules include a ban on the open carrying of firearms in public, a monthly in-state purchase limit of three handguns for most buyers, and a disqualification of domestic violence offenders from obtaining pistol permits.

Earlier this year, Connecticut lawmakers passed the restrictions in the hopes of curbing gun violence.

“This bill that I just signed takes smart and strategic steps to strengthen the laws in Connecticut to prevent tragedy from happening,” Gov. Ned Lamont said in a statement.

The legislation also includes provisions strengthening the state’s ban on assault weapons and ghost guns, which are firearms that lack serial numbers.

Bridgeport absentee-ballot investigation dominates special session conversation

While state investigators and a local superior court judge sort through evidence of alleged absentee ballot abuse in Bridgeport, state lawmakers pondered ways to strengthen the integrity of local elections at the state Capitol.

Republicans in the Connecticut General Assembly proposed the state eliminate drop boxes altogether in response to a video that recently surfaced out of Bridgeport alleging ballot-stuffing.

That prompted the Speaker of the state House of Representatives, Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, to call for his colleagues to take a more careful approach in the brief special legislative session.

“We don’t believe the wrecking ball approach is the right one here,” Ritter said before lawmakers convened at a special legislative session Tuesday in Hartford.

“I don’t know what you get from banning a ballot box in Pomfret, CT. I don’t know what that accomplishes, other than saying to people who might’ve got their absentee ballot the Saturday before the election, ‘Your vote’s not going to count.’ Well, all you’re doing is disenfranchising those individuals.”

Republican lawmakers also pushed for legislation strengthening penalties for election fraud in Connecticut.

Ultimately what did make it through the special session in response to Bridgeport was a bill opening up access to dollars once budgeted for an election monitor.

Also at the special legislative session, lawmakers confirmed Lamont’s pick for the Connecticut Supreme Court, Nora Dannehy. And, the date of Connecticut’s presidential primary was moved up from April 30 to April 2.

Frankie & Johnny premieres Fridays at 4:44 p.m. during All Things Considered on Connecticut Public Radio. Connecticut Public’s Jennifer Ahrens, Matt Dwyer, Lisa Hagen, Kelsey Hubbard Rollinsin and The Associated Press all contributed to this report. 

Frankie Graziano’s career in broadcast journalism continues to evolve.
John Henry Smith is Connecticut Public’s host of All Things Considered, its flagship afternoon news program. He's proud to be a part of the team that won a regional Emmy Award for The Vote: A Connecticut Conversation. In his 21st year as a professional broadcaster, he’s covered both news and sports.

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