With a budget that’s dragging into a special session, the 2016 legislative session limped to a close Wednesday without much urgency, energy or excitement.
The Senate tackled a bill updating affirmative consent policies on college campuses, and the House discussed a bill that would improve access to legal counsel for poor individuals with about three hours left before the midnight deadline.
With about an hour left on the clock members of the Senate started thanking their interns for their work. Earlier in the day they spent two hours bidding adieu to Sen. Andrew Maynard, D-Stonington, and Clark Chapin, R-New Milford, who won’t be running for re-election.
With a half hour left on the clock the House passed a bill to protect state-owned land and preserve open space and with less than 10 minutes left on the clock they loaded up a consent calendar and passed it with three minutes to spare. Attempts to amend an education bill were thwarted when the clock struck midnight and Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, moved they adjourn sine die.
Around 11:15 p.m. the Senate and around 11:30 p.m. the House approved a special session resolution to adjust the 2017 budget and adopt a bond package.
Even though the resolution for special session didn’t explicitly say they would take up Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s big criminal justice initiatives, there are $14 million in net savings that accompany them. Legislative leaders confirmed Thursday morning that Malloy’s initiatives will be part of a special session.
That legislation would increase the age at which youth are still considered juveniles and make changes to the bail bond system. The bill, which was dubbed by Malloy as Second Chance 2.0, would allow 18-,19-, and 20-year-olds cases to be heard in the juvenile justice system as opposed to adult court. It would also make changes to the bail system.
“Change is not easy, especially when you talk about criminal justice reform,” Sen. Eric Coleman, D-Bloomfield said Wednesday.
Coleman and the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus had made the legislation a priority this year and hoped to get it across the finish line before midnight.
This is the second year in a row lawmakers have delayed tackling criminal justice reforms during the regular session.
Coleman said as long as they get them approved that’s all that matters.
He said he appreciates being a trendsetter in criminal justice reform.
“It’s going to take some perseverance, but at some point it’s going to happen,” Coleman said.
And while there was a lot that was the same, things were different this year.
The usual flurry of business and deal making wasn’t happening at the same pace or with the same urgency. There was no budget deal so there was very little left to negotiate since everything that remained on the calendar in either chamber would have to have little or no fiscal impact.
Democratic legislative leaders already signaled that they won’t be holding post-session press conferences because their work is not done.
Meanwhile, Malloy said postponing a budget vote won’t change the deal he reached Tuesday with Democratic lawmakers.
“If this delay begins a discussion about re-opening the agreement in order to find a way to avoid difficult decisions, that’s unacceptable,” Malloy said. “I will not move from the principles we’ve agreed to. I want to reassure the citizens of Connecticut that if we don’t take the necessary action together, I will take whatever steps necessary to bring our budget into balance.”
Malloy did not address a joint session of the General Assembly after midnight and the traditional last-night-of-session party with alcohol and music wasn’t not as boisterous. Lobbyists didn’t linger in the halls. Instead, many left, defeated.