Final 3 days: Energy bill expected to pass Senate today

The Senate plans today to begin the last three days of the 2011 session by passing a massive energy bill, while the House is expected to give final legislative approval to an $864 million plan to revamp the UConn Health Center.

Both bills are priorities of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, and both have drawn some bipartisan support in a session otherwise marked by long, heated debates and party-line votes.

The three-day slog to the midnight Wednesday adjournment will end with Malloy, the first Democratic governor in 20 years, accepting an invitation to address a joint session of the General Assembly.

His predecessor, M. Jodi Rell, declined to give a close-of-session speech last year, but Malloy seldom passes up a chance to frame the public narrative about his new administration.

His first session was dominated by fiscal issues: He won passage of $1.4 billion in tax increases to help erase an inherited deficit originally estimate at more than $3.6 billion.

The House is likely to take up the energy bill as soon as it is passed and transmitted to the Senate.

In the final three days, it is not uncommon for major bills to be debated and passed in both chambers in the same day.

The massive omnibus energy bill establishes Connecticut’s first energy department in three decades, creates new energy programs, alters old ones, sets ambitious policy goals and overhauls parts of the energy business.

Among other things, it creates a Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to be run by Malloy’s environment commissioner, Daniel Esty, a former Yale professor and author on energy policies.

Malloy’s proposal to renovate and expand the UConn Health Center in Farmington passed the state Senate last week,  15 days after it was first announced.

Supporters of the bill cast the proposal as an urgently needed economic development plan that would create thousands of jobs while making the state a leader in bioscience research, not a repeat of past debates over the health center’s future or precarious financial situation.

A bill before the House after being passed Saturday by the Senate, which would create a quasi-public authority to oversee Bradley International Airport and five smaller state-owned airports, also is considered an economic-development measure.

Democrats can be expected to stress some of the economic measures as the session wraps up.

“In these final hours of the session, the mantra should continue to be jobs, jobs, jobs,” said Nancy DiNardo, the Democratic state chairwoman.

The Senate today also is expected to pass a final budget implementation bill.

The House agenda could include final passage of a bill decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, a bill that passed the Senate on Saturday after Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, the presiding officer, cast her first tie-breaking vote.

Passage of a medical marijuana bill was unlikely.

At the end of every session, power shifts to the Republican minority in each chamber as the GOP has the ability to kill legislation with lengthy debates or parliamentary manevers.

Malloy and the legislature got an early review today of how they addressed the budget.

“I rate it an A,” said James Finley, executive director of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities.

The state budget approved by legislators earlier this month maintains the amount provided for town and education aid.

But even with an A grade for the budget, Finley said cities and towns still are nervous about the coming days: Unfunded mandates, such as a requirement passed in the Senate that police videotape all interrogations, remain a concern.

Jacqueline Rabe contributed to this report.