There was no lack of optimism among legislative leaders Monday morning as they prepared for the last minute push to their adjournment by midnight Wednesday.
Legislative leaders were behind closed doors reading what they hope are final drafts of both the budget and education reform package, which has been hotly debated since February.
Sen. President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, said there is a “tentative” agreement on 2013 budget adjustments, and a “tentative” agreement on the education package.
“It’s not official at this point we’re still trading language,” he said.
Both the budget and the education package are intertwined because the budget needs to include any increase in education spending necessary to implement the reforms.
Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers are prepared to flex their muscle.
“We recognize the fact that we have the clock on our side,” House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, said Monday. “We look at it from two points of view: things that we want and things we want not to happen.
“What is somewhat unique this year as opposed to other years is typically by this time with three days left we’ve done most of the major big bills,” Cafero said.
At the moment, “we’re looking at campaign finance, the budget, education reform,” Cafero said. “The management of the clock with these particular issues has not been very good.”
Cafero believes it puts the minority Republicans in a better negotiating position than past sessions.
This year Cafero has decided to use a post-it note system to instruct his caucus how to handle the debate on particular bills when he’s not on the House floor. He said it’s modeled after Homeland Security’s alert system.
Red means keep talking, threat level is severe; orange means the threat level is high, keep the debate going; yellow means the threat level is elevated; blue means guarded, and; green means to stop talking so everyone can vote.
Democratic press aides have gotten so frustrated with the new alert system they’ve taken to telling reporters to look at the color of the post-it notes if they want to figure out how long a debate may last.
House Speaker Chris Donovan, D-Meriden, who is running for Congress and won’t return to the House next year as speaker, said they’re working on finding agreement with all parties, including Republicans, when they can.
“We’re trying to negotiate,” Donovan said.
No one was able to offer any details about what the budget and the education package will look like. As of Saturday the two sides were still determining whether charter schools could be used as turnaround schools and if teacher unions will have collective bargaining rights when the state comes in to reconstitute a low performing schools.