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Connecticut Lawmakers Hit Somber Note As Abbreviated Legislative Session Ends

The Connecticut Capitol Building in Hartford
Danielle Wedderburn
The Connecticut Capitol Building in Hartford

The Connecticut legislative session comes to an end at midnight on Wednesday. But for the first time no lawmakers will actually be at the Capitol because that would violate the state’s social distancing requirement. 

As far as legislation is concerned, this year’s General Assembly session actually came to an end on March 12th. That was the day the state Capitol was officially shut down because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“It’s sad for me to end my legislative career on this session,” said Joe Aresimowicz, the outgoing Democratic House Speaker. He says he would never have envisioned that his last session in the chamber would end this way, with lawmakers meeting at the Capitol for barely a month.

“I would have liked the opportunity of spending more time with my colleagues, work closer with people in my district and from around the state, passing some good legislation.”

Aresimowicz says the regular session ends with hardly any legislation done, so there will have to be a special session for lawmakers to do some needed work before the new fiscal year begins on July 1st. That’s because they moved this year’s state income tax deadline from April 15th to July 15th.

“We have to pass statutory language to allow that tax collection, when it does occur, to be credited to a fiscal year. We have a school construction bill. We have a conveyance bill. We have numerous other bills that we have to do.”

But he says they won’t be bringing up new business.

“We aren't coming and starting from scratch with public hearings. I envision a legislative session that would do corona response-type legislation.”

“The speaker and I have talked about emergency certifying a number of bills.”

That’s Democratic Senate President Martin Looney.

“But we would have to arrange in advance ways for making it safe for us to return to the Capitol.”

He says that might involve limiting the number of members that could be in each chamber at any given time.

Looney says there are some bills that had been vetted through the committee process before the shutdown of the Capitol that he would like included on the agenda for the special session.

“For instance the bill that was Senate Bill 1, that is providing a cap on the cost of insulin, and insulin-related products for diabetes. That's a bill that there's broad-based support for.”

“I would think that any special session would take place at the very end of June or more likely July,” said outgoing Senate Republic Minority Leader Len Fasano.

“It’s disappointing not to have a session, on a selfish and personal note, because this is my last one. But we’ll go in to finish up on some bills and some things we have to do to get federal funding. So we have to do those, and then there’ll be some other bills that I think we all can agree to get done.”

Looking back at the abbreviated session, Fasano did get something he wanted when Democratic Governor Ned Lamont withdrew his highway toll proposal.

“I don’t look at the toll issue as me versus Governor Lamont. It never was personal. It’s a different philosophy. He had his idea, and I had mine.”

Fasano says his hope is that Congress will pass federal funding for highway infrastructure improvement as part of its response to the COVID-19 economic downturn and Connecticut would be able to take advantage of that to pay for transportation infrastructure improvements.

Lamont has said that a transportation infrastructure plan would have to be taken up by the next legislature.  

In the meantime, Lamont’s budget director, Melissa McCaw, says the administration is consulting with legislative leaders to deal with the budget deficit created by the COVID-19 economic shutdown.

“In the month of June, we will need a special session to have them act upon a deficiency bill. And to the extent that there are some smaller mitigation measures that we are in agreement that they can act upon, such as these small tax changes to hold the line at the current tax rates if you will.”

State officials project a $934 billion deficit for this fiscal year which ends on June 30th.


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Copyright 2020 WSHU

As WSHU Public Radio’s award-winning senior political reporter, Ebong Udoma draws on his extensive tenure to delve deep into state politics during a major election year. In addition to providing long-form reports and features for WSHU, he regularly contributes spot news to NPR, and has worked at the NPR National News Desk as part of NPR’s diversity initiative.
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