Newtown and Hartford will meet head-on tonight at Newtown High School.
Tonight's full hearing of Connecticut's Bipartisan Task Force will bring a 48-member panel of elected officials from around the state to the school. It's the last in a series of hearings designed to solicit public input on the state's response to the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
"The state of Connecticut is coming to Newtown," said Rep. Mitch Bolinsky, a member of the task force, in an interview with Patch on Jan. 17. "[W]e'll come out to the community and let them ground us -- and correct us, correct us, correct us."
Organizers are making the voices of Newtown residents a top priority, according to a release from Newtown's legislative delegation on the task force -- made up of Bolinsky, Rep. DebraLee Hovey (R-112) and Rep. Dan Carter (R-2).
The event will run from 6 p.m. to midnight, with testimony reserved from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. for local officials, local first responders and families of the Sandy Hook Elementary School system, according to a task force release. For the remainder of the event, a lottery will be held on site to determine speakers. Registration begins at 4:30 p.m. Officials warn that anyone arriving before that time will be turned away by security. Space in the auditorium is limited -- once the 850-person capacity is reached, the main entrance will be closed.
Some representatives have expressed concern about the level of discourse in discussions so far, including Rep. Dan Carter (R-2.) Carter, who represents the southwest portion of Newtown. Carter serves on the Gun Violence Prevention panel and was among those who heard testimony on the issue in Hartford Tuesday.
"[E]veryone is concerned about gun violence, but those with opposing ideas find it difficult to relate to the opposite point of view," said Carter in a statement released Wednesday. "I’m concerned we may be moving forward with this process without having complete information on the unspeakable massacre that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary."
The task force launched a web site earlier this month to profile its efforts. The hearing is the last one scheduled by the task force, but it won't mark the end of Hartford's involvement. The task force is expected to report its findings this spring. Meanwhile, Gov. Dannel Malloy's Sandy Hook Advisory Commission is also investigating the causes and reaction to the Dec. 14 shooting.
For those who aren't able to attend, the Connecticut Network will stream the event online at their web site.