It’s been more than a month since the start of the legislative session, but it wasn’t clear until Monday that public hearings would be transcribed. They will. What’s not clear is where the state will get the $215,000 to pay for the transcription of dozens of public hearings.
Legislative leaders from all four caucuses signed off this week on a series of measures to restore some of the $626,000 in printing costs they cut just last year. Click here to read the list of provisions they approved.
Mildred Torres-Ferguson, chief of staff for House Speaker Chris Donovan and a member of the task force charged with looking at the printing cuts, said the public hearing transcripts have been restored and other printed documents have been reduced.
For example the Public Acts of Passage, a book of public acts printed one month before the final bound copies of the public acts, has been cut. Torres-Ferguson said that move alone will save $45,000. It’s unclear how much the reduction in others printed materials will save.
In addition to reducing printed materials, Torres-Ferguson said legislative leaders have asked Legislative Management to enforce its mailbox policy and collect the fees it’s failed to collect for years. The mailboxes at the Capitol are rented by various lobbyists and news organizations and contain copies of bills, calendars, and other paper material necessary to navigate the building. The first box is free and every box after that will cost an organization $300 per year.
Brooks Campion, president of the Connecticut Lobbyists Association, said her organization has been there since the beginning to help develop a solution.
“We tried to be a part of the solution by coming up with cost savings measures to help restore funding to critical documents that the public relies upon to enable them to follow their government in action,” Campion said. “Recognizing the state’s budgetary realities we felt the only responsible response was to offer some level of cost-sharing by those in the lobbying community who rent bill boxes in order to receive printed copies of legislative documents. We are very grateful to legislative leaders within the four caucuses for restoring funding for the transcription of public hearings and for the continued printing of critical legislative documents to preserve the public’s timely access to information and transparency in government.”
But it was revealed during task force meetings last year that Campion and other lobbyists have never been asked by Legislative Management to pony up the mailbox fee in the past. It’s not because they never intended to pay it. They were just never sent a bill.
Because of this it’s unclear how much money the measure will bring in, Torres-Ferguson said.
What is clear is that lawyers, librarians and some lawmakers are breathing a sigh of relief that the public transcripts will be restored.
“We think this is a appropriate change in order to save the state money but also maintain transparency and provide citizens access to important legislative records,” Sen. President Donald Williams said Monday.
The State Library is custodian to more than 100 years of public hearing transcript history. The transcripts are often used by the courts to determine legislative intent when statutes are challenged in the courts.