A time for deals, odd alliances

The 12-hour session that ended early Friday signaled that the season of deal-making is on at the General Assembly, yielding strange, if temporary alliances in the name of politics and pragmatism.

A day after the dyspeptic House required nearly eight hours to pass an immigration bill, the same legislators sitting at the same desks passed 26 bills, most with limited debate and lopsided votes.

“We’re all pals again,” said Rep. Arthur O’Neill, R-Southbury.

One head-turning alliance: animal-protection and hunting advocates reaching an accommodation on measures that fight animal cruelty and expand hunting on private land.

One bill authorizes judges to appoint an advocate for the interests of animals in civil and criminal cases involved animal cruelty. The other legalizes the bow hunting of deer on Sunday.

Hunting passed at 2:20 p.m. on the first vote of the day, 107 to 19. Less than an hour later, after passage of four other bills, the anti-cruelty measure passed, 114 to 23.

In most cases, the deals are for silence, not votes.

With less than two weeks until the constitutional adjournment of midnight June 5, the surest way to get a bill called for debate is to guarantee that it won’t be a talker, tying up the House for hours.

It also helps that House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, and House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk, can negotiate floor time for a mix of Democratic and GOP bills.

“Sometimes, it’s floor management. Sometimes, we agree to trade items off,” Sharkey said.  “It can be one for one. It can be one for two.”

Near the end of every session, power shifts to the minority, which often can kill bills by threatening a long debate.

There were no long talkers in the session that adjourned for the day at 1:35 a.m., even though some of the topics generated controversy in the past, such as racial profiling by police.

The House voted unanimously to give final passage to a bill that standardizes information police departments must provide to the state about the circumstances of traffic stops and race of the drivers.

It also gave final approval to a measure that raises by one year the age at which a minor can use a tanning device without written permission from a guardian. Under the new rule, anyone under 17 will need a note.

And it gave final approval to a bill that makes homeowners who plant “running bamboo,” which spreads wildly, liable for damage to neighbors’ property.

The final bill of the day was a compromise crafted late Thursday night by Sharkey on the labeling of genetically modified foods. It was passed at 1:30 a.m. Friday on a 114-7 vote, but when the sun rose it became clear that advocates of labeling saw Sharkey’s work as no real compromise.

By midday, they were publicly urging the Senate to reject the bill.

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