With less than a month before the start of the 2015 legislative session, lawmakers have begun filing bills on topics ranging from new term limits for public officials to changes in the state’s public-funded campaign program.
The new legislative session will begin on Jan. 7 as Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is inaugurated for a second term. Among the 30 bills that had already been filed Wednesday morning is a piece of legislation to change the state constitution to ensure Malloy’s second term is his last.
Malloy, who only just won re-election last month, has not indicated whether he intends to seek a third term in four years. But a bill proposed by Cromwell Republican Rep. Christie Carpino, would amend the constitution to prohibit any governor from serving more than two terms.
Carpino is not the only legislator proposing to establish term limits. Rep. Linda Orange, a Democrat from Colchester, has introduced a bill that would place a limit of two consecutive terms on lawmakers. The same bill would also extend each term from two to four years.
Neither concept is likely to be enacted. Amending the state constitution is a difficult process requiring either a three-fifths vote by the legislature or approval in two consecutive years. In both cases, it would then have to be approved by voters at the polls.
The bill proposed by Orange is also notable because it would legislate its author out of a job. Orange is a long-serving representative who was first sworn in during the 1997 legislative session.
“A constituent of mine asked for the bill. So, of course representing everyone, I entered it,” Orange said in a phone interview Wednesday. “It’s part of the job. I will follow up with [Government Administration and Elections Committee] chairs and ask them to raise the bill and bring it to a public hearing. We’ll see where that takes us.”
House Republican have proposed most of the bills filed so far and they seem interested in changing campaign finance law as it applies to the state’s political parties and Connecticut’s public campaign finance system.
Carpino proposed a bill that would prevent unopposed candidates from receiving public campaign grants.
Meanwhile, East Haddam Republican Rep. Melissa Ziobron introduced a series of bills that would reduce public financing grants by 20 percent and increase the amount of money a candidate must raise to qualify for the grants by 20 percent. Ziobron also wants to require that candidates using public dollars spend at least 75 percent of their grants at Connecticut-based businesses.
Newly-elected Stafford Republican Rep. Kurt Vail has proposed one bill, which would limit contributions an individual can make to a political party to $5,000 down from the current $10,000 limit. He introduced another bill which attempts to limit how much money political parties can spend on candidates participating in the public financing system.
Both proposals are attempts to turn back changes to the campaign finance law made by the legislature in 2013, when Democrats voted to ease limitations on the amount of money parties could raise and then spend on their publicly-financed candidates.
Rep. Mary Fritz, D-Yalesville, has filed a bill, which Malloy promised to push for during his second term. The bill would remove firearms from recipients of temporary restraining orders rather than waiting until a hearing before a judge to remove weapons. The goal is to protect women who have applied for restraining orders and are at risk during the period before the hearing when their former partner retains access to guns.
Some perennial bills are already lined up for next session. Ziobron has filed two often-proposed bills. One bill would end a requirement that municipalities publish certain legal notices in their local newspapers by allowing them to publish the notices on their websites. Towns call the current requirement an unfunded mandate but newspapers say removing the requirement would reduce public transparency.
Another bill proposed this year by Ziobron would permit hunters to bow-hunt deer on Sundays. Malloy’s environmental agency has backed a version of the proposal in the past. Although it has often been proposed, the bill may have a better shot at passage this year in light of the retirement of longtime Senate President Donald Williams who has opposed it.