Bill Would Punish Obstruction of Legislative ProcessFebruary 16, 2021
Rep. Steve Stafstrom of Bridgeport, House Chair of the legislature's Judiciary Committee and who introduced the bill, says "Public participation is a cornerstone of democracy, but when that participation turns into violence that threatens lives and the unauthorized release of confidential information, those individuals must be held accountable.”
Stafstrom believes a related statute passed in 1973 is outdated and by today's standards and needs to reflect the advances of modern society. For example, it fails to proscribe a penalty for theft of an official cellphone or laptop which is known to contain confidential or propriety government information, as well as personal information identifying constituents who have sought assistance.
In other respects, certain parts are too strict, seemingly allowing someone to be jailed for up to a year for directing explicit language at a legislator or picketing in the lobby of the Legislative Office building – something that pre-COVID was not an uncommon occurrence.
House Bill 6455, rectifies the current statute's shortcomings by:
- Creating an offense of Impeding the Legislative Process, punishable as a Class A misdemeanor, refusing to leave the offices of the General Assembly upon lawful order by the Capitol police or other law enforcement;
- Creating an offence of Obstructing the Legislative processes, punishable as a Class D felony, for using force, physical interference or intimidation to prevent the General Assembly from meeting, destroying or defacing official documents of the General Assembly, taking property known to contain confidential or propriety information, or bringing weapons into the Capitol or Legislative Office building;
- Creating a heightened offence, punishable as a Class C felony, for using a weapon to Obstruct the Legislative processes; and
- Making clear that interfering with a Capitol Police Officer is a Class A misdemeanor, or a Class D felony if it results in injury to the Capitol Police Officer. Making assault of a Capitol Police Officer a Class C felony.