The lack of legislative urgency, especially regarding the state budget, got Republican gubernatorial candidate R. Nelson “Oz” Griebel thinking that having a biennial legislature might not be such a bad idea.
A biennial legislature would only meet in the odd numbered years to work on the two-year budget. In the even numbered years it could call itself into special session if there was something it needed to address, Griebel explained.
“We’ve been doing things the same way for thirty years and new ideas need to seriously be pursued,” Griebel said Monday.
He reasoned that with a biennium budget there’s no need to come back and adjust it in the even numbered years. He said this would also force the legislature to set deadlines, abide by them, and remain a part-time legislature.
Griebel said he’s not certain if a constitutional amendment would be necessary to change how frequently the legislature meets and admitted he’s unaware if there’s any legislative support for such a proposal.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Texas, and Oregon have biennial legislatures and biennial budgets. Connecticut is one of 15 states with a biennial budget and an annual legislature, while the rest of the 30 states have an annual budget and an annual legislature.
The NCSL report concluded that “There is little evidence that either annual or biennial state budgets hold clear advantages over the other.” And, “States with biennial budgets and biennial legislative sessions do not appear to have given greater authority over budget revision to governors than other states have. Forecasting is likely to prove more accurate in annual-budget states than in biennial-budget states, reducing the need for supplemental appropriations and special legislative sessions.”
Griebel argues Connecticut’s current part-time bicameral legislature lacks a sense of urgency to get the job done.
“There’s a need for urgency to do the state’s business,” Griebel said. “When you can procrastinate you’re not forced to come to an agreement.”
He argued having a biennial legislature would force lawmakers to evaluate their priorities more quickly and efficiently. He said he understands it’s human to delay making a decision when it’s a hard one, but it has to be made.
Right now the budget process allows lawmakers to say “we’ll fix it next year,” Griebel said.
Having a truly part-time legislature would also begin to dismantle the “political class” Griebel says has been created by the offer of lucrative lifetime benefits after 10 years of service.
Griebel’s Republican opponents for the Aug. 10 primary did not respond to requests for comment on the idea.
A biennial legislature is just part of Griebel’s “Clean & Open Government Plan.”
As part of that plan Griebel would self-impose a two year term limit on himself, get rid of the public campaign finance system and replace it with an online management system with real-time updates of campaign contributions, and eliminate the state’s current defined benefit pension with a defined contribution system.