Bristol lawmakers said Friday they’ll fight any effort to repeal a statute that guarantees the city’s courthouse will remain open.
“It would be crazy for anyone here to vote against it,” said state Sen. Tom Colapietro, a Bristol Democrat.
State Rep. Frank Nicastro, a Bristol Democrat and former mayor, said he would “fight tooth and nail to keep that law on the books. I’m going to protect our city as much as I can.”
Legislators said they’re ready to fend off efforts by judicial officials who said this week they’d seek to wipe from the books the law protecting Bristol’s courthouse. Judicial officials argue that to meet required budget cuts, they need to shutter the downtown courthouse as one of many spending cuts.
State Rep. Chris Wright, a first-term Bristol Democrat, said the city already lost its priority school funding this year “so it’s not like we’ve gone unscathed” in the budget process.
He said that targeting the courthouse goes too far.
“It seems Bristol is beging asked to give more than most,” Wright said. “It’s a question of fairness. It’s a question of equity.”
The speaker of the state House, Democrat Christopher Donovan of Meriden, said Friday that Gov. Jodi Rell “assured us there would be no courthouse closings.”
“We’re certainly not talking about overturning a law that keeps” the Bristol courthouse operating, he said. “We want to keep the Bristol courthouse open.”
State Rep. Bill Hamzy, a Plymouth Republican whose district includes a portion of Bristol, said he’s glad the judicial branch recognizes the law guaranteeing that Bristol’s courthouse will operate at least 40 weeks per year. It should stay in the statute books, he said.
Donovan said the governor shouldn’t have vetoed the budget measure last week that ensured enough funding for Bristol’s courthouse.
“What we are talking about is overturning the governor's veto of legislation that would have protected this courthouse,” he said, “and we could use the help of Representative Hamzy and others to override that veto.”
“I doubt we’re even going to have that veto session,” Hamzy said, adding that he wouldn’t vote for the measure anyway given the extras the Democrats larded it with.
Nicastro said he would talk with other legislators in the month ahead to make sure they support Bristol’s position.
“I’m not going to have Bristol singled out,” Nicastro said.
Colapietro said it’s crucial to keep the courthouse open.
“I just don’t want to see a ghost town here,” the senator said. “Everything is going to New Britain. What are we going to call ourselves? New Bristol?”
He pointed out that Bristol has already lost its unemployment office, social services office and more to the slightly larger city.
“What are these poor people do to? Go to New Britain?” Colapietro asked.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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