The co-chairs of the Energy and Technology Committee, who were criticized last year for dropping a more than 100-page omnibus energy bill on their colleagues laps less than a week before the end of the session, stepped in it again Thursday when they re-wrote the rules for public hearings.
Rep. Vickie Nardello, D-Prospect, explained that individuals testifying at a public hearing will have three minutes to testify and the committee will have 12 minutes to ask them questions. If the committee, comprised of several new Republican members, is not done after the 12 minutes is up then the individual will be asked to stay to answer questions after others who have signed up to testify speak.
Sen. John Fonfara, D-Hartford, said the reason they decided on the new procedure is because it’s unfair to have one person sit before the committee for more than 12 minutes answering questions as others wait their turn.
But he admitted, “no system is perfect.”
Rep. Sean Williams, R-Watertown, said maybe then the committee could start the meetings on time and reduce the number of bills.
Rep. Penny Bacchiochi, R-Somers, said she understands the desire to move the hearing along, but finds it difficult with such a heavy subject matter to remember her question if she has to wait for another group of speakers to get done before going back to the one she had the question for.
“It throws me off,” she said.
And as a member of the minority, Bacchiochi said, sometimes her only ability to influence the process is by asking questions at these public hearings. She said she feels like the co-chairs are trying to take away one of the few tools the minority party has at its disposal.
“I find it offensive and I disagree with it,” Bacchiochi said.
The discussion over how the committee would conduct its hearing lasted through at least five speakers Thursday and lengthened the packed public hearing.