Scenes from the Capitol: Bat removed, lawyers remain in pre-dawn session

At 2:55 a.m. today, a bat made its entrance in the House of Representatives, circling the ornate, high-ceilinged chamber to the amusement and discomfort of legislators.

And then things got weird.

House Republicans bitterly objected to the prospect of beginning a debate on a major energy bill at 2:55 a.m., a debate delayed by a just-concluded, seven-hour GOP filibuster of an education bill.

Knowing that they faced an adjournment deadline of midnight tonight, Democrats insisted on going forward. Rep. Vickie O. Nardello, D-Prospect, the co-chair of the Energy and Technology Committee prepared to explain the bill.

House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero, R-Norwalk, stood and made a motion to adjourn, a prerogative that belongs to the House majority leader, Denise W. Merrill, D-Mansfield.

Tercyak and the bat

Rep. Peter Tercyak traps the bat (Mark Pazniokas)

The bat swooped low.

“It’s a sign,” someone shouted.

Legislators laughed.

Cafero did not.

He asked for a roll call vote.

On a vote of 102 to 38, the motion failed. Two Democrats, Shawn Johnston of Thompson and Deputy Speaker Marie Kirkley-Bey of Hartford, voted with the GOP to call it a day.

Nardello again prepared to begin debate, but Johnston interrupted and announced he was recusing himself over a potential conflict of interest. He is a meter reader for CL&P.

Smiling, he exited the chamber. Other legislators theatrically waved their hands, beckoning for recognition to announce their own conflicts, real or imagined.

House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan, D-Meriden, ignored them.

The bat made another circle. All eyes looked up. Nardello stood with a microphone, but she could not be heard over the excited chatter.

Donovan banged the gavel.

“Can we please have order in the chamber?” Donovan asked. “I know it’s late.”


“And there’s a bat flying around.”

A fight at 3 a.m.

Cafero, center, awaits a ruling. (Pazniokas)


Again, Nardello prepared to begin debate, following the script followed to introduce every bill: She asked for permission to summarize the bill.

“Mr. Speaker, I object to summarization,” Cafero said.

Translation: Fine, if you want to debate this bill in the wee, small hours of the morning, then we’ll begin with the House clerk reading the entire thing aloud.

Merrill moved that the House suspend its rules.

Translation: Oh, yeah?

“Point of order. I ask the gentlewoman to cite the rule to which she is referring,” Cafero said.

Translation: You’re bluffing.

“Oh, this is bad,” Rep. Cameron C. Staples, D-New Haven, said under his breath.

Gary Coleman, the clerk who would have to read the bill, stripped off his bow tie, leaned back in his chair and stretched like an athlete about to begin a marathon.

Everyone reached for their rule books. Lawyers materialized.

Checking the rules

Donovan, Deputy Speaker Buddy Altobello check the rules. (Pazniokas)

The bat made another circuit, this time making a loop through the House gallery, where a maintenance worker stood ready with a net, presumably for the bat.

After another loop, dodging a wild swing of the net, the bat gave up, dropping like a stone behind your correspondent, just to the right of the speaker’s rostrum.

“Is it alive?” yelled Rep. Toni E. Walker, D-New Haven.

It was. It quickly attached itself to the wall, wings folded.

Rep. Peter Tercyak, D-New Britain, charged with a blue recycling bin, trapping the bat. A member of the maintenance staff knelt beside him, speaking low into a radio. The police arrived.

“Step back,” an officer ordered.

The bat was taken away.

The lawyers remained.

Donovan told the chamber that the House could override Cafero’s objections to summarization by a two-thirds vote.

At 3:36 a.m., Cafero withdrew his objection.

Donovan exhaled and said, “Thank you everybody.”