PLAINVILLE - State Rep. William Petit Jr. and state Sen. Henri Martin spoke to more than a dozen residents at Bolo Bakery Tuesday morning on a variety of topics.
Guests at the monthly “coffee and conversation” included regulars at Town Council meetings, a retired teacher and a nurse.
Several asked what the legislators were doing about illegal immigration, saying the issue is even affecting small communities like Plainville.
“Illegals are taking up room in our jails and criminals are being let out back into society that don’t belong there because there is so much overcrowding,” said Linda Pleva. “They should not be able to appear 15 times in court. If they are illegal, send them home.”
Martin replied that he “grew up with Italian immigrants - people that came here legally, that got their work permit and that learned to speak English.”
“Now, those who came here legally are demanding the same rights and benefits as those who came legally. I think that a path needs to be figured out. I don’t think that it is as cut and dried as ‘Just get rid of the illegals,’ ” Martin said.
Bill Garrity, a nurse, asked the legislators what they thought about a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
“I’ve talked to business owners in Plainville and they are almost universally against it,” said Petit.
Martin said that, if a $15 minimum wage is approved, people will lose their jobs to layoffs and automation.
“A lot of businesses operate on the margin, week to week and month to month,” he said. “If this is approved, they will be at a loss. They will have to cut expenses and lay people off or go out of business.”
Brenda Berardy, a retired teacher, said that she is worried about the governor’s plan to push one-third of the cost of teacher pensions onto the local communities.
“I contributed for 23 years to that pension and for 17 years to Social Security,” she said. “I’m only getting about 40 percent of what I would have gotten.”
“It’s everybody’s top priority to get you what you were promised that you would get,” Martin said. “There has been a lack of fiscal discipline on both sides of the aisle under past governors and we can’t kick the can down the road anymore.”
Petit said that if the governor wanted communities to pay for one-third of teacher pensions, that should have been phased in over 10 years.
Pleva was among three meeting attendees wearing shirts for Desmond’s Army - a group of animal law advocates. She encouraged the legislators to eliminate accelerated rehabilitation for felony animal abusers.
“I sit in courtrooms every day and see judges waiving thousands of dollars in fines because these people are criminals and don’t have jobs,” said Pleva. “They are being put into accelerated rehabilitation and a year later their crime is wiped clean from their record.
“The punishments need to be a lot more severe. Animal abuse is a gateway crime to domestic violence. I have a list of 47 cases which we are actively working on and they include people who shot their own dog in the face with a 9-millimeter handgun or ripped a pet chicken’s head off.”
Martin encouraged Pleva to urge legislative committee leaders to pay attention to the issue and have it brought to the floor.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or email@example.com.