The 2011 Legislative Session finally ended on Wednesday, concluding the five-month process of gamesmanship, overheated rhetoric, and palace intrigue known as lawmaking.
The days immediately following the end of the session are perhaps the most curious of the entire affair as the public attempts to discern what was accomplished and who is to blame for it. Because the votes happen so quickly at the end, it often seems like a time of discovery for the legislators, too.
Legislators spent the final days of the 2011 Legislative Session sprinting toward the finish line. The State House passed 10 bills on Monday, 29 bills on Tuesday, and an incredible 62 bills on Wednesday, the last day. Combined, the three-day stretch of 101 bills accounted for 22.79 percent of 443 bills that passed the House for the entire session.
The Senate had an even more frenetic pace. The Senate passed 143 bills in the entire 31 days of May and an amazing 219 bills in the eight days of June. They passed 474 bills for the entire session, including 172 in the final three days.
Were widgets the legislature’s product, such a pace might be desirable. But they make laws and that should spur concern in every Connecticut resident.
Bills of all varieties were considered in this breakneck period. The votes were called on H.B. 6215, designating a funding source for the construction of a train station in Orange, at 10:22 p.m. in the House and 11:49 p.m. in the Senate. S.B. 1202, a bill that “develops an academic initiative that addresses the critical shortage of health care professionals in Connecticut” squeaked through at 10:42 p.m. in the Senate and 11:51 p.m. in the House. H.B. 6399 created a “task force to study the state’s current and potential green jobs industry and corresponding workforce” sailed through the House at 11:28 p.m. and 11:57 p.m. in the Senate in unanimous votes.
All told, the legislative eruption produced more than 300 bills that now await the signature or veto of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
As Gov. Malloy wrapped up the 2011 Legislative Session, he highlighted what the state needs to “focus on now: jobs.” Despite the irony of addressing a legislature that just concluded what could be characterized as the most stridently anti-jobs session in memory, he called for a special legislative session to accomplish that task.
In response, a no doubt weary state Sen. Eileen Daily of Westbrook was quoted saying, ““It is supposed to be a part-time legislature yet it has become very full-time.” Any casual observer of the last few days at the State Capitol would likely agree that legislators need less time in Hartford, not more.
This is the regular, pre-planned, the-way-we-always-do-it session. One can’t help but shudder to think what a special session might look like.
Heath W. Fahle served as executive director of the Connecticut Republican Party from 2007-09. Contact Heath about this article by visiting www.heathwfahle.com.