In the time of the coronavirus should the Connecticut legislature change its rules?
At the present time, Connecticut legislators need to be in the actual Legislative Office Building in order to cast their votes. Legislators can either be on the floor of the Legislative Office Building or in their offices when they vote, but they must be in the building for their vote to be counted.
This rule is not set by Connecticut State statute but instead set by the rules committee at the beginning of the legislative session.
The present rules concerning voting can be found in the “Resolution Concerning the Joint Rules Of The Senate and House of Representatives.” In the 2019 session these rules were set in lines 347 and 1105 of that resolution.
Line 347 states: Proxies.“ No member may vote by proxy and no committee shall record a vote cast by any member as a proxy for any other member.”
Line 1105 states: Roll Call requirement. “ Each Bill and each resolution proposing an amendment to the constitution and each other substantive resolution appearing on the regular calendar shall be voted upon by a roll call vote.”
These two sections constitute the requirement for legislators to be in the Legislative Office Building for their votes to be counted.
Because the coronavirus is likely to be with us next year, it would be wise for legislators to be able to vote from home, which would be the safest place for them to be. Although Connecticut is doing well with the pandemic, it is because most citizens are wearing masks and staying close to home.
Technology today allows for hundreds of people to all be connected with one another. Universities provide excellent examples for this, as we have seen how students have been taught virtually since last March with some classes having more than 200 students in them – yet the professors have managed well.
Instead of canceling sessions or bringing legislators back into the State buildings, it is time for Connecticut to start working on how next year’s legislative session can work with zooming hearings and zooming voting.
It is up to the leadership of the legislature to set the rules that all CT legislators will live by, and making sure that our legislature will function without bringing legislators back in a building that could prove dangerous for them.
The next session is scheduled to start Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, so it is not too early to think about how the Connecticut Legislature will best function in the time of the coronavirus.
Nancy Alderman is President of Environment and Human Health, Inc.
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