Rob’s Op-Ed About the Recent Special Session in Hartford

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Jun 27, 2012 No Comments ›› admin

June 25, 2012

 

No Way to Do Business!

Just recently on June 12th, I was in Hartford to participate in a Special Session of the Connecticut General Assembly. This Special Session was called to take up debate on what was supposed to be a plan to implement an adjusted midterm budget. This budget adjustment became necessary when things became clear that the Governor’s budget put into law just last year didn’t add up. The Special Session itself became necessary because the Governor and majority party in Hartford failed to get it done before the end of the regular session.

The legislation itself, over 600 pages released to me (and the public at-large) only hours before a final vote, contained numerous policy changes ranging far and wide with many having little or nothing to do with implementing a budget.

I was unable to support the final product which ended up being legislation loaded with dozens of special interest items and pet projects, bills that never had a public airing and bills that died during the regular session.

Imagine having hundreds of pages of new laws, regulations, including the creation of entirely new agencies and millions of dollars worth of additional state spending dropped on your desk the same morning you were expected to vote.

Can we support any increases in state spending right now, at a time when the state is borrowing money simply to cover operating expenses? Common sense tells me, “absolutely not.”

It is only now almost two weeks later that I have a really solid understanding of all of the many provisions this legislation contained.

In total there were 122 separate concepts that would qualify as individual bills basically combined into just two enormous bills expected to be voted on. To put that in perspective, the legislature approved only 344 bills during the entire regular session. Instead, here in one day, in 2 giant consolidated bills, the majority party forced votes on nearly one-third of that many issues.

It’s worth noting also that as many as 40 of these proposals never received so much as a public hearing or were subject to the committee process.

The shame of all of this is that there were some positive items I would have liked to support sprinkled in. Unfortunately, there were alarming concepts in the bill that forced me to vote no.

For instance, the bill would eliminate the mandatory staffing levels for state police and also permit terminally ill inmates convicted of violent crimes to reside in hospice facilities. The bill also creates new state agencies on Housing, Aging and Rehabilitative Services—each with commissioners who will have starting salaries over $100,000 – larger than many combined household incomes of struggling families. There were also pet pork projects, such as $11 million for construction of new athletic facilities in New Haven.

Hidden at the very end of the bill , section 292 proposes to “loan” the City of Bridgeport $3,500,000 to cover their budget deficit this year and takes the money from funds that had been set aside to fund schools in other parts of Connecticut. The only requirement is that the Governor Malloy’s Education Commissioner, Stefan Pryor, gets to choose Bridgeport’s superintendent.

When asked if they would allow each piece of legislation to get an up or down voted the majority party rejected that idea even when we said we could support many of the concepts before us.

If these items are so important to the people of Connecticut they should have been taken up during the regular session or addressed as separate bills in a special session dedicated for that purpose.

This no way to do the people’s business.

 

Original article in the Southington Patch can be found at  http://southington.patch.com/announcements/state-rep-rob-sampson-no-way-to-do-business