Photo: Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media
Tougher firearms laws, particularly safe weapon storage as well as bans on ghost and 3-D printed guns, will be the top priority of Bridgeport state Rep. Steve Stafstrom, when he takes over the powerful judiciary committee next week.
Stafstrom, named incoming co-chairman of the law-writing panel, said he plans to quickly reintroduce legislation that would prohibit the untraceable ghost guns and 3-D printed guns.
“There’s also been a lot of interest from advocates as well as members of the legislature on safe storage laws, and making sure it covers unloaded as well as loaded guns,” Stafstrom said Thursday. He has also previously worked on failed legislation that would have required open-carry permit holders to show their permit when requested by a police officer.
Stafstrom will co-chair the committee alongside state Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven. Stafstrom, a Bridgeport-based civil litigation attorney, will bring the bulk of the legal experience to the team, as Winfield, a union employee and former electrical construction manager, is not a lawyer. Without a Republican co-chairman after the previous two-year 18-18 tie in the Senate, Democrats will have a freer hand to push legislation.
Stafstrom said he’d also like to continue the criminal justice reforms started under Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration. He listed immigration policies, penalties for minor misdemeanors, the legalization of marijuana and creating more business-friendly statutes as other priorities for the Judiciary Committee, which has a hand in nearly every law considered by the legislature.
“Generally speaking we need to make sure that, as a Judiciary Committee, we need to make sure we are respecting the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law,” Stafstrom said. “We’ve seen out of Washington the last few years a president and even some legislators that have been hostile to the independence of the judiciary. We have an obligation to understand the limits and the role of the legislative branch.”
House co-chairmen of the various joint committees
Aging – Rep. Joe Serra, D-Middletown
Appropriations – Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven
Banks – Rep. Ezequiel Santiago, D-Bridgeport *
Children – Rep. Liz Linehan, D-Cheshire *
Commerce – Rep. Caroline Simmons, D-Stamford
Education – Rep. Bobby Sanchez, D-New Britain *
Energy & Technology – Rep. David Arconti, D-Danbury *
Environment – Rep. Mike Demicco, D-Farmington
Executive & Legislative Nominations – Rep. Edwin Vargas, D-Hartford
Finance, Revenue & Bonding – Rep. Jason Rojas, D-East Hartford
General Law – Rep. Mike D’Agostino, D-Hamden *
Government Administration & Elections – Rep. Dan Fox, D-Stamford
Higher Education & Employment Advancement – Rep. Gregg Haddad, D-Storrs
Housing – Rep. Brandon McGee, D-Hartford *
Human Services – Rep. Cathy Abercrombie, D-Meriden
Insurance & Real Estate – Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford
Internship – Rep. Kim Rose, D-Milford *
Judiciary – Rep. Steven Stafstrom, D-Bridgeport *
Labor & Public Employees – Rep. Robyn Porter, D-New Haven
Legislative Management – Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin
Planning & Development – Rep. Cristin McCarthy Vahey, D-Fairfield *
Public Health – Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, D-Westport
Public Safety – Rep. Joe Verrengia, D-West Hartford
Regulation Review – Rep. Susan Johnson, D-Willimantic *
Transportation – Rep. Roland Lemar, D-New Haven *
Veterans’ Affairs – Rep. Dorinda Borer, D-West Haven *
* indicates new co-chairman
In recent years proposals on ghost guns — assembled in parts that cannot be traced — and 3-D printed weapons have failed, although last year a law was approved to ban so-called bump stocks that give semi-automatic rifles the ability to shoot faster.
Stafstrom isn’t the only Bridgeport representative that will take on a leadership position in the new legislature. Ezequiel Santiago, who like the entire delegation is a Democrat, will lead the Banking Committee. Rep. Andre Baker will be vice chair of the Planning and Development Committee. Rep. Chris Rosario and Rep. Jack Hennessy will both serve as deputy speakers, and Rep. Charlie Stallworth will continue as a deputy majority leader.
“One of the kind of knocks on the Bridgeport delegation historically is that the delegation hasn’t really worked well together, and legislators haven’t stuck around long enough to get into leadership positions,” Stafstrom said.
He said the current delegation works well together and has pushed for each other to move into leadership positions. Stafstrom said.
“That bore itself out in the announcements … As a house delegation we were certainly pleased in making sure Bridgeport has a seat at the table with some major committee appointments,” he said.
Stafstrom, who was first elected in a 2015 special election, has previously served as vice chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and played a leading role in passing new laws that combat human trafficking through stronger penalties, training and awareness; and increasing transparency in law enforcement. Stafstrom has also been an advocate for property tax reform, education accessibility, a Bridgeport casino and improving economic development in the state’s cities.
The House leadership on other key committees will stay the same with Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven, maintaining her place at the helm of the Appropriations Committee, and Rep. Jason Rojas, D-East Hartford, continuing to lead the Finance, Revenue and Bonding committee. Those committees handle all matters related to the budget, which will dominate the discussion in the upcoming legislative session.
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