Malloy, leaders close to setting scope of special session
The scope of next week’s special budget session at the General Assembly is expanding to include state police staffing levels, energy issues, economic development, roll-your-own cigarettes and the sale of state land.
Not on the list — at least not by late Friday afternoon as Democratic legislative leaders were to try to finalize the scope with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy — was an effort to amend a campaign finance disclosure bill in danger of a veto.
“That’s not on our list right now,” said Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn. “We hope to finalize things by the end of the day and have the bill drafted over the weekend.”
House Majority Leader J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, said the House and Senate Democratic leaders agree on 95 percent of the agenda, and the leaders and Malloy have resolved about 80 percent of the scope.
Everything would be packed into one or possibly two bills to be voted on Tuesday, a session originally called to take up relatively technical bills necessary to implement elements of the budget.
But, as is often the case, the budget implementers become an opportunity to resurrect pieces of bills that died on the House or Senate calendars when time ran out at midnight May 9 on the annual legislative session.
“It’s like doing a session over again,” said House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk. “Let’s just come in for one day and we’ll throw 70 bills into one omnibus ‘e-cert’ and go call it a day.”
During a special session, every bill is an e-cert, or emergency-certified bill, meaning it bypasses the usual procedures that subject legislation to review by committees and a public hearing.
Cafero said he will object to the inclusion of any subject matter that is not required to implement the budget.
The Democratic majority, however, has the votes to reject procedural challenges. It also has the ability to simply expand the call, or proper scope, of the session.
It has been clear since the end of the session that a popular Senate jobs bill would be taken up. It was a victim of a Senate-House fight over a proposal by House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan, D-Meriden, to increase the minimum wage.
Donovan agreed soon after the session ended to support the jobs bill, dropping his insistence on passage of the minimum wage.
Other issues have crept onto the agenda.
The administration would like to repeal or amend a law that sets minimum staffing levels for the state police, saying that is properly within the discretion of the administration.
The land-sale issue is a routine piece of business lost in what was an especially chaotic close of the session. Almost every year, there is surplus state land given or sold to a municipality.
Another issue likely to be addressed in special session is expanding the voting membership of the board overseeing the health insurance exchange. Consumer advocates have complained it was tilted toward the insurance and health-care industries.
The compromise is a minor adjustment. Instead of adding more members, it appears the legislature will instead grant voting rights to the state health-care advocate, who was an ex officio member.
Malloy’s staff has raised objections about portions of a campaign finance-disclosure bill, saying it was poorly drafted and imposes potentially unconstitutional reporting requirements on nonprofits and corporations.
“I have had some discussions with staff in the Senate Democrats” about the governor’s reservations, said Andrew McDonald, a former state senator who is Malloy’s general counsel. “But we were not negotiating anything.”
Malloy has until the end of next week to veto or sign the bill.
An unfolding federal investigation has given a high profile to a minor issue: a proposal to tax and increase fees on shops that allow customers to use machinery to roll their own cigarettes.
The FBI last week arrested the finance director of Donovan’s congressional campaign, accusing him of accepting illegal contributions meant to push the speaker to kill the tobacco legislation.
No evidence has surfaced that Donovan was aware of the effort or did anything to stop the bill. In fact, the measure was a Senate bill that never reached the House.
Even before the arrest, Democratic leaders were preparing to include the tax measure in the budget implementer bill.
Donovan has recused himself from negotiations over the scope of the special session, but he intends to vote Tuesday for whatever bills are produced by the negotiations.
Cafero, who opposed the tobacco bill, also has been tangentially caught up in the case. He returned five $1,000 checks to House GOP political action committees that he believes were related to the FBI case.
The FBI has told Cafero that neither he nor his staff are investigative targets.
Cafero said he sees no reason for him to drop his opposition to the tax and fees on roll-your-own cigarettes.
“I can’t think of a one,” he said. “It’s a tax on small business.”
Cafero said the administration had offered a compromise during the regular session that would have delayed the effective date until July 1, 2013, which undercuts the argument it needed to be approved in special session.
But the bill Tuesday is expected to be based on the original language, making the tax effective in 2012.
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