Gov reinitiates transfer of BFPE to Dept of Public Safety. GOV Vetos Board of Firearms Permit Examiners Transfer (09)

 

S.B. No. 1017  AN ACT CONCERNING THE CONSOLIDATION OF THE DEPARTMENT OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AND HOMELAND SECURITY AND THE BOARD OF FIREARMS PERMIT EXAMINERS INTO THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY, AND TRANSFERRING RESPONSIBILITY FOR AMUSEMENT PARK OVERSIGHT TO THE DEPARTMENT OF CONSUMER PROTECTION. To implement the Governor's budget recommendations. REF. PUBLIC SAFETY AND SECURITY. OPPOSE. Public Hearing 02/22. CCS Testimony.
SB 1017 would have an immeasurable negative impact on Connecticut’s law-abiding gun owners by transferring operations of the Board of Firearm Permit Examiners (BFPE) to the Department of Public Safety.
(a) There shall be established a Board of Firearms Permit Examiners, within the Department of Public Safety, [for administrative purposes only,] hereinafter referred to as the board” (Sec 36.)

Most important, if elimination of the key provision [for administrative purposes only,] were made, it would lead to a reduction in, if not an elimination of, the inherent fairness of the Board’s operating principles which was put in place by the legislature to function as a Civilian Review Board. The public perception of the Board, as an independent autonomous body free from oversight and control of the DPS or the State Police, where any citizen can get a fair and impartial hearing, will be destroyed.

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2010:Your communications to Committee members caused SB28 not being placed on the Committee JF Deadline Agenda as was expected and probably carried the day for the other change made.

SB28  AN ACT CONSOLIDATING STATE AGENCIES AND ELIMINATING CERTAIN LEGISLATIVE COMMISSIONS. Sen. John McKinney, 28th Dist. Rep. Lawrence F. Cafero, 142nd Dist. To implement the Governor's budget recommendations. Calls for the independent Board of Firearms Permit Examiners to be deleted as an agency, and become subservient to the Department of Public Safety. REF: Government Administration and Elections. OPPOSE. Public Hearing 03/17. CCS Testimony.

Instead they addressed:

S.B. No. 284 (RAISED) GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION AND ELECTIONS. 'AN ACT CREATING A DIVISION OF ADMINISTRATIVE HEARINGS', to establish a Division of Administrative Hearings within the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities to hear contested cases concerning the Departments of Children and Families, Transportation and Motor Vehicles, the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities and the Board of Firearms Permit Examiners. REF. GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION AND ELECTIONS. OPPOSE. Public Hearing 03/01. JFS 03/26.

 

I first met with the Republican Caucus there at the time (SEN McLACHLAN, 24th District (Ranking Member), & REP. HETHERINGTON, 125th District (Ranking Member), & REP. LABRIOLA, 131st District. 

Immediately following that, I talked to REP. ARESIMOWICZ, (Vice Chair), who was also strongly supportive of our proposal and brought it before the Democratic Caucus. We heard immediately that it was considered a “friendly amendment” by both the Democratic and Republican leadership. 

The change recommended to the bill was simple yet effective to our goals: In Sec. 8. delete the line “(6) Brought by or before the Board of Firearms Permit Examiners.” (Line 188) This amendment effectively removes the BFPE from the bill. The amendment was called and voted by the Committee on a voice vote – approved.

This returns us to the status quo, in our opinion far better than the two bill alternatives above. We’ll keep watching as we may see a repeat of last year seeing this issue included in Deficit Mitigation bills.

 

SB28 - AN ACT CONSOLIDATING STATE AGENCIES AND ELIMINATING CERTAIN LEGISLATIVE COMMISSIONS.

 

The attached bill SB28, the Governor's proposal, again calls for the independent Board of Firearms Permit Examiners to be deleted as an agency, and become subservient to the Department of Public Safety (DPS) .,....... the BFPE is the OPENING PARAGRAPH of the proposed bill. The BFPE currently has one employee (non-union) with a budget of less than $100,000. The one employee position appears to be eliminated and would have to be filled by DPS. Last year, in previous budgets, attempts were made to transfer it to DPS, to merge it into the "Commission on Human Rights and Opportunity (CHRO)", and to the Department of Administrative Services (DAS).

"AN ACT CONSOLIDATING STATE AGENCIES AND ELIMINATING CERTAIN LEGISLATIVE COMMISSIONS.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

Section 1. Subsection (a) of section 29-32b of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective July 1, 2010):

(a) There shall be established a Board of Firearms Permit Examiners, within the Department of Public Safety, [for administrative purposes only,] hereinafter referred to as the board, to be comprised of seven members appointed by the Governor to serve during his term and until their successors are appointed and qualify. With the exception of public members, the members shall be appointed from nominees of the Commissioner of Public Safety, the Connecticut State Association of Chiefs of Police, the Commissioner of Environmental Protection, The Connecticut State Rifle and Revolver Association, Inc., and Ye Connecticut Gun Guild, Inc., and each of said organizations shall be entitled to representation on the board. At least one member of the board shall be a lawyer licensed to practice in this state, who shall act as chairman of the board during the hearing of appeals brought under this section."

One has to question rational thought or wisdom of the proposal. Like the 100% increase in sportsmen’s fees, the originator obviously has little experience or knowledge of the issue and a broad ax rather than a scalpel process is obvious.

 

Loss of the experienced employee will constitute loss of experience and institutional memory at a time when the BFPE is 18-24 months behind on appeals. Will a State Police officer or a civilian be a replacement at probably more cost and clearly with less experience? Why put the chickens in the fox’s den – CSP and associated Chiefs of Police are the ones who deny/revoke permits; the Board is a group that evaluates Police decisions. Are we to assume CSP will be fair and balanced and oppose decisions made by their police peers or superiors?

 

The BFPE MUST remain an independent agency, or a poorer solution placed under an agency that is neutral. Placing the Board under the State Police is the poorest solution.

 

CCS testified IN OPPOSITION to this same proposal last year and will do so again (Committee on Government Administration and Elections).

 

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Extract from Gov. Rell’s Veto message

 

December 28, 2009

The Honorable Susan Bysiewicz

Secretary of the State

20 Trinity Street

Hartford, CT 06106

 

Dear Secretary Bysiewicz:

 

I am returning to you without my signature Senate Bill 2101, An Act Concerning a Deficit Mitigation Plan for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2010.

 

As you know, when I called the General Assembly into special session to address the State’s budget deficit, I presented a comprehensive deficit mitigation plan. I proposed spending reductions, fund sweeps and other measures which would fully address the projected $337.1

million deficit. ……..

 

In addition, many of the so-called “savings” to be achieved in the bill are simply unworkable. For example, the bill merges the Board of Firearms Permit Examiners into the Department of Administrative Services (DAS). DAS, however, does not have staff on board that provide services that are similar to what the board will require. DAS, for instance, currently has no law enforcement authority, it does not issue any permits or licenses and does not conduct administrative hearings. In order for DAS to properly support the work of the board, therefore, DAS will need to hire additional staff for which no funding is provided. The projected savings associated with this provision are clearly overstated.

……….

 

Finally, Senate Bill 2101 appears to require the elimination of one of the two Governor’s Foot Guard and Horse Guard companies, although this elimination is not referenced in the bill itself, but rather the OLR analysis. These units are among the oldest militia in the country, having been founded in 1771 and 1788, respectively. In fact, the First Company Governor’s Foot Guard is the oldest military organization in continuous existence in the United States. If it is the intent of the General Assembly to eliminate any of these historic military organizations, they should specify such and identify which company is to be eliminated.

……….

 

For the foregoing reasons, pursuant to Section 15 of Article Fourth of the Constitution of the State of Connecticut and Article III of the Amendments to the Constitution of the State of Connecticut, I am returning Senate Bill 2101 without my signature.

 

Very truly yours,

M. Jodi Rell

Governor

 

The elimination of the only full time staff in this bill (i.e. one person) cannot help but slow down the Board’s appeal process if NOT cripple it. The entire makeup of the Board has never been compensated (and no one seeks to be compensated) but all of the administrative paperwork, mailing's, phone calling/answering, hearing recording, transcribing, website posting, etc are all done by that one person being eliminated. The Board has traditionally also had a 'part time' person but that person - and the man hours of work performed, were eliminated when the current budget was adopted. That 1/2 person's man hours allowed the Board to always have an open office. With that position eliminated, the remaining one full time staffer could not possibly keep the office open all the time - sick time, hearings, vacation, etc, resulted in no one always present to process the paperwork of the appeals.  The Board, by regulation, has a Chairman, a Secretary and members of the Board, are all volunteers and have already assumed responsibility for performing some portions of the 'required paper work - but THAT 'volunteerism' has its limits. The last session of the Legislature, passing the current biennial budget, dealt with the Governor's proposal to put the Board into the Department of Public Safety, but being that Department's actions that are being appealed to the Board, the Legislature changed the proposal, at first, to merge it into the "Commission on Human Rights and Opportunity (CHRO)" but that fell apart at the last minute and they voted to FORM A TASK FORCE (made up of several different people from different outlooks) to study 'where to put it'!

 

With this manpower cut and transfer of responsibility to DAS the effect would have virtually eliminated the Board or at a minimum made it totally ineffective (See the article at the end for DAS comments). We applaud the Governor for recognizing this problem and taking appropriate action.

SB 2101 AN ACT CONCERNING A DEFICIT MITIGATION PLAN FOR THE FISCAL YEAR ENDING JUNE 30, 2010. 12/21/09. PASSED.

§§ 12 & 13 — BOARD OF FIREARMS PERMIT EXAMINERS

The bill transfers the Board of Firearms Permit Examiners from the Department of Public Safety for administrative purposes only to the Department of Administrative Services (DAS). It also transfers $ 8,971 of the board's FY 10 appropriation for other expenses to DAS for the board's administration. 12/21/09

Sections 12 - 13 transfer the Board of Firearms Permit Examiners to the Department of Administrative Services (DAS). Funding of $8,971 in Other Expenses is transferred to DAS to support the Board. Section 1 includes a reduction in appropriations of $38,710 in the Board of Firearms Permit Examiners to reflect the elimination of one non-union position due to the transfer.

http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/cgabillstatus/cgabillstatus.asp?selBillType=Bill&bill_num=2101&which_year=2009&SUBMIT1.x=14&SUBMIT1.y=10

Prior Legislation: See link below for HB 7007 , AN ACT IMPLEMENTING THE PROVISIONS OF THE BUDGET CONCERNING GENERAL GOVERNMENT AND MAKING CHANGES TO VARIOUS PROGRAMS and see SEC. 155. Study TASK FORCE ON DIVISION OF ADMINISTRATIVE HEARINGS -CHRO Task Force http://www.cga.ct.gov/2009/TOB/H/2009HB-07007-R00-HB.htm The original proposal was to place it under the CT State Police – “Foxes watching the henhouse.” 10/02/09

Legislature this week may have caused more problems for the state’s firearms permitting process

December 23, 2009 at 11:48 pm by Brian Lockhart

On Monday, during the latest special session at the capitol to deal with the budget crisis, some staffers were grumbling about a proposal in the deficit mitigation bill that transfers the Board of Firearms Permit Examiners from the Department of Public Safety to the Department of Administrative Services and eliminates the one BFPE staffer.

And right there I just lost some of you. You’re wondering what the heck the Board of Firearms Permit Examiners does, what a Department of Administrative Services does, and who cares if one goes into the other?

The firearms board is the group residents turn to when their gun license has been denied or revoked. And it has come under fire – no pun intended – in recent years for being too darn slow in scheduling hearings (18 to 24 months in some cases). Lawsuits have been filed challenging the fairness of keeping folks with a permit appeal hanging for so long.

The complaint I heard in the capitol’s halls Monday, before the Democratic-majority General Assembly voted in favor of the deficit mitigation bill, was that moving that process to DAS is just going to make things worse.

So I reached out today to DAS and they are not particularly thrilled about this development. Here’s what Donna Micklus, a DAS spokesman, told me in an e-mail:

“Moving the Board of Firearms Permit Examiners under DAS was completely unanticipated by our agency since we weren’t party to any of the discussions, and we haven’t as yet had the chance to fully assess the impact.”

“However, since the move was ostensibly done to save the state $38,710, we have concerns whether any savings will be achieved. There is actually only $28,500 in BFPE’s account and most of that will have to go to pay the laid off employee’s salary for 4 to 6 weeks as required by law, paying her for vacation time if she leaves state service and to physically move the BFPE operations to DAS.”

“It is also our understanding that BFPE has a large backload of cases they are scheduled to hear and are involved in litigation for failure to provide Due Process to gun owners. This heightens our concern that the duties of BFPE staff are being assigned to an agency that has no knowledge or experience in the work they do. This is a heavy administrative burden; the duties performed by BFPE staff have no relevance to DAS core functions.”

I put in a call to Robert Cook, director of the Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen. Cook said he was trying to understand exactly what the legislature did on Monday, but said on the face of it “this just causes more administrative chaos.”

“The (BFPE) employee is the only one there to process these appeals,” Cook said. “Loss of the employee is just going to make it go from 18 to 24 months to 24 to 36 months.”

House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, whose caucus raised several concerns about the Democrats’ deficit mitigation bill, said he had not been aware of the concerns with the changes to the Board of Firearms Permit Examiners.

This is what happens, Cafero said, when the majority party is not serious about addressing the budget crisis and instead comes up with piecemeal solutions.

“You’re forced to do these cuts. So what happens? Friday you have this Board of Firearms Examiners and Monday it’s gone and Joe in the Department of Administrative Services is told ‘Hey Joe, make room, you’re the new firearms guy’ and he doesn’t know what the heck he’s doing. This is the way we’re running government, with no forethought or studying whatsoever,” Cafero said. “Then they make these cuts and people complain. It’s just the worst. And you’re going to see more of these things.”

http://blog.ctnews.com/politicalcapitol/2009/12/23/legislature-this-week-may-have-caused-more-problems-for-the-states-firearms-permitting-process/