Returning to the State Capitol last week for a special session of the legislature initially intended to implement budget bills passed before adjournment last month, State Representatives T. R. Rowe instead found over six hundred pages of patchwork legislation dropped on their desk with little more than several hours to review its contents before a vote.
Majority party leaders had loaded up the supposed “budget implementation’’ bills for the special session with dozens of special interest items and pet projects, disregarding the long-held tradition of addressing only budget issues as prescribed by statute.
“In the fourteen years I have been here I have seen some strange and high-handed acts,” said Rep. Rowe. “But I have never seen something quite like this. Numerous bills that died on the calendar due to Constitutional time constraints now suddenly had new life in this ‘implementer’ – over one hundred of them. Nearly half of these didn’t even have a public hearing. This isn’t the way the legislature is supposed to work.”
Among the various provisions of the bill was the creation of new state agencies on Housing, Aging and Rehabilitative Services—each with commissioners who will have starting salaries of more than $100,000, and a hidden pet pork project of $11 million for construction of new athletic facilities in New Haven.
Additional portions of the legislation include:
- A State takeover of childhood immunization that requires doctors to get their vaccine supply from the state and prohibits them from getting them on the private market unless there is a declared shortage, despite strong objections from pediatrician state-wide.
- The Probate Fund Surplus has been allowed to become a slush fund with about $2.3 million in pet projects currently being funded from the surplus.
- Hidden at the very end of the bill is section 292 of the 297 section bill “loans” the City ofBridgeport$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 ofConnecticut. The only requirement is that the Governor Malloy’s Education Commissioner, Stefan Pryor, gets to chooseBridgeport’s superintendent. Taking over the decision making process from local municipal control without any input from legislative representatives and educators/teachers.
Rowe said Republicans were not consulted by majority party leaders who went behind closed doors to write the legislation over the last few days. In fact, most rank and file Democratic legislators were equally uninformed.
“In the entire last session 344 bills were approved by the General Assembly,” said Rep. Rowe. “What we were asked to do today was akin to having a virtually full session in just one day. This is a bad day for democracy.”
Despite approving of certain aspects of the bills, Rowe ultimately opposed them as a whole. The measures passed the House by a vote of 88-53. They were also passed by the Senate the same day and will now go to Governor Dannel P. Malloy for his signature.