On Friday night, State Representative Penny Bacchiochi, a Republican, and Democratic challenger Chris Grohs got together at the Stafford Community Center to debate the issues facing the state.
The candidates for the 52nd House District took questions from the audience -which was pretty full for a Friday night before a major storm.
Ten questions were asked, including what’s the first legislation they would introduce, their views on the death penalty, their views on the early prison release program, and whether or not the state needs more stringent gun laws.
On the legislation question, Grohs said he would like to expand counseling for veterans. There are programs currently in place, but he would like to see them expanded.
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For Bacchiochi, she would like to deal with unfunded liabilities – money that the state has committed to put into a fund but isn’t doing.
“Because we’re not funding it, we’re being downgraded on a regular basis,” she said. “Forbes magazine said that we are the worst state in the country at handling our economic finances. If we don’t address that immediately, it’s going to continue to grow and the state of Connecticut is going to continue to have an economic disadvantage. The saddest part is that our kids and our grandkids get stuck with the bills that all of us decided to run up today.”
The death penalty question is a very tough one that is often hotly contended. Bacchiochi said that she had a difficult time when casting her vote, but in the end, decided that there are certain crimes that are so horrible and evil that that is the just punishment when there is no doubt of guilt.
She also noted her concern for the correction officers in the prisons, noting that when nothing else can be done to these inmates, what will stop them from injuring or killing the officers.
For Grohs, he said that it is simply an issue of morals and that the state should not be playing God. He mentioned the circumstance where people have been exonerated after they have been executed and that the death penalty is not something he has ever supported.
When it came to the early prison release issue, Grohs said he supports it, but that he understands that there were problems with it. He feels that the problem was with the implementation and not the program. He noted how prisons are overcrowded and how that puts a burden on the corrections officers. He said the options are to either build more prisons, or get some of the inmates out of them.
Bacchiochi said that she initially supported it, however it was accidentally turned into a bad thing. She said how inmates who are child molesters, burglars, and arsonists are eligible for the program and that basically the only people not eligible are those convicted of murder or a major capital felony.
She said how it was never intended to put violent criminals out on the street, but we’ve already seen some tragic examples of what happens when a bad bill is passed.
With the gun laws issue, Grohs said that it is an individual right and noted how he is a gun owner.
Bacchiochi said that the state has fairly stringent laws when compared to other states and that she feels it is the person who commits the crime, not the gun. She said that she generally supports bills that work to enforce the laws we have and not create new ones.