Progressive caucus hopes to pass legal pot, other bills

HARTFORD  — Armed with more members after Election Day, lawmakers in the Connecticut House progressive caucus predicted Thursday their chances have greatly improved to finally enact a paid family medical leave program, an eventual $15-an-hour minimum wage and legalized recreational use of marijuana for adults in next year’s legislative session.

East Haven Rep. James Albis, co-chairman of the caucus, said there’s “a good shot” of passing the long-running proposals in 2019 considering Democratic Gov.-elect Ned Lamont’s campaign platform, a new batch of “really energized” lawmakers and strong public support for the issues.

“Frankly, these aren’t issues that are left or right or Democrat or Republican issues. These are issues that are supported by the public with 60 to 70 percent level of support,” he said. “So we think it is vital that we start the conversation about these important issues now.”

Albis said his group of liberal Democrats in the House of Representatives currently numbers 46. Eleven are freshmen. When the new General Assembly convenes in January, Democrats will control the House 91-59, with one seat still in legal limbo. Democrats will hold a 23-13 advantage in the Senate.

House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, a Republican from Derby, criticized the progressive caucus for not offering more detail about the proposals. She also argued that offering such “random ideas” is how Connecticut got itself into a financial mess, noting a looming state budget deficit and an insolvent unemployment compensation fund.

“This,” she asked, referring to the package of proposals, “is what they think the state wants and is going to move the state out of the problem?”