State lawmakers looking to make CT hate crime laws among toughest in the U.S.

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HARTFORD -- Democrats and advocates are expected to introduce a comprehensive proposal in Hartford Thursday to strengthen hate crime laws in Connecticut, making them one of the strongest in the nation.

In light of recent incidents, at Jewish Community Centers, a Meriden mosque, the home of a Stamford interracial couple and in Danbury, Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney of New Haven, will introduce the bills.

Hate crimes against African-Americans, Hispanics, Jewish people, Muslims, transgender women and others have been hitting close to home along with harassment toward lawmakers.

"Our family has been the subject of hate mail that really struck fear in our children," said State Senator Beth Bye, D-West Hartford. "They still talk about it then years later. We opened up a letter and it was a picture of a lynching and it had a gun pointing at you and it said I'm dreaming of a White Christmas."

Earlier this month, there was a bomb threat at the Jewish Community Center in West Hartford. That case was referred to the FBI.

Last month, the Hebrew High School of New England was one of at least 16 Jewish centers across the country to be threatened on the same day and in January, a bomb threat was called into the Jewish Community Center in Woodbridge.

Here's what is in the bill that Looney is expected to roll out:

  • Make hate crimes a Class "D" felony instead of a misdemeanor
  • Establish a minimum fine amount for hate crimes
  • The proposed bill includes creating a state-wide hate crimes advisory council using money from those fines
  • Creation of a hotline for reporting incidents of harassment or intimidation of minority groups in the state

Republicans say they were not invited to the Thursday afternoon press conference.

Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Len Fasano released the following statement:

“The best way to combat hate is to show unity. That’s why it’s so disappointing that Connecticut Democrats from the beginning chose to turn a certainly bipartisan issue into a completely partisan press conference today. Instead of working with Republicans to show a united front against hate crimes in our state, Democrats chose political theater. Instead of making today about standing together, Democrats made it about standing apart. Divisiveness cannot fight hate.”