It sure is lucky for Connecticut governor Dannel Malloy that the UConn Huskies failed to qualify for this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament. If they had, and done well enough to make it out of the Elite Eight, Malloy would have found himself in an awkward spot — this weekend’s Final Four takes place at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Indiana governor Mike Pence recently signed into law a Religious Freedom Restoration Act, providing guys such as Malloy with a great opportunity to score major political points at little cost. Some call it grandstanding. Yesterday, Malloy signed an executive order banning state-funded travel to states that use RFRAs as “a justification for discrimination based upon sex, sexual orientation or gender identity or expression or other protected classes.” The order doesn’t specifically mention Indiana.
That Connecticut has an RFRA providing even more vigorous protection of religious liberty than does Indiana’s law has been well covered by reporters. But the whole hubbub raises the prospect that Governor Malloy might have forbidden the team — who, for the next few days at least, are the reigning national champions — to travel to Indianapolis to play in the Big Dance. If he’d done so, he might have faced an angry mob; the Huskies have won four national titles since 1999 and are wildly popular in Connecticut. As it happens, they lost in mid March to SMU in the American Athletic Conference championship and missed out on the tournament entirely.
Like I said, lucky for Malloy.
The Stamford Democrat, who recently won reelection, excels at grandstanding. He used the Newtown tragedy to ram through anti-gun legislation. His Sandy Hook Advisory Commission recommended vast and unprecedented restrictions on homeschooling that had nothing to do with Adam Lanza’s crime. He abolished the state’s death penalty, claiming his Catholic faith compelled it, but issued a press release celebrating the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. He has lately embarked on a spree of transportation-related showcase initiatives that many in the state assume are intended to land him a key position in Washington, D.C. For the next two years, he will serve as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, a position that all who hold it hope will elevate their national standing.
Dan Malloy thinks he has a big future, so jumping on the #BoycottIndiana bandwagon makes all the sense in the world. At the very least it will distract attention from his disastrous fiscal stewardship of the Nutmeg State. His administration recently projected a $133 million budget shortfall in 2015, but the nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis said that the state’s deficit is actually worse — about $191 million. As of 2013, Connecticut’s state-employee pension system was the third-most-underfunded in the nation. According to the New London Day, the state would have to allocate an additional $70 million per year for 18 years to close its funding gap.
Malloy has no real plan for solving this problem. Connecticut taxpayers already shoulder a burden that only residents of two or three other states can appreciate. He’s spending wildly on bus routes to nowhere and has taken heat for hiring a public-safety commissioner with a dodgy reputation. So why not shift focus by setting off a Twitterstorm of indignation? Why not make a bid for the big time with an executive order that is purposely vague and functionally meaningless?
Everybody else is doing it, why not Dan Malloy?
#related#As you can imagine, being a conservative in what was once widely, and not ironically, known as the Land of Steady Habits, is a pretty lonely thing. Even the Republicans don’t want to be seen with us. But Malloy’s stunt is especially galling given Connecticut’s historical role in the development of religious liberty in America. Thomas Jefferson’s 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist association, in which he affirmed the “wall of separation between Church & State,” has clarified and informed jurisprudence on the issue of religious liberty for two centuries. In 2009, according to the indispensable Family Institute of Connecticut, the state secured the nation’s strongest religious-liberty exemptions against same-sex marriage.
But if Malloy has sullied Connecticut’s proud history as a bastion of religious liberty, at least we still have the Lady Huskies to root for. The UConn women’s basketball team has dominated the NCAA tournament for the last three decades and qualified for their Final Four with a resounding victory over Dayton last night. They are slated to play a semifinal matchup against fellow Number One seed Maryland on April 5 in Tampa, Fla.
No word yet on whether Malloy will allow the team to attend. Florida has its own RFRA.