(Updated 7:30 a.m.) Several key documents related to the 2017 state budget weren’t posted until after midnight on the night before the Senate was expected to convene a special session to make adjustments to close a nearly $1 billion deficit.
The 95-page state budget, a fiscal note, and bill analysis were posted Tuesday evening, but as of Wednesday night at 11 p.m. the budget implementation language and a separate bill that reforms the criminal justice system were still unavailable.
The 291-page budget implementer became available after midnight.
Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said Wednesday evening that the language implementing the budget will be released as soon as it’s ready.
The Senate is scheduled to convene at 10:30 a.m. today.
“After all the Democrats’ talk about transparency, and after all their accusations that Republicans were delaying them, it’s now past 7 p.m. the night before the Senate vote and they still don’t have their act together,” Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said. “The Democrat majority has disrespected the people of this state and brushed democracy and transparency aside. Clearly, they have been in the majority too long because they think that they don’t have to answer to anyone but themselves.”
Looney said the Senate will be voting on the budget, the implementers, the bonding package, school construction, property conveyance, and the criminal justice reforms Thursday.
“That’s our plan,” Looney said.
As far as the budget is concerned, Looney said nothing has changed since last Wednesday when they ran out of time during the regular session to get the budget passed.
The House is looking at returning either Friday or Monday to pass the budget, but it’s unclear if they have the votes.
Rep. Ed Vargas, D-Hartford, said the more he learns about the budget “the more I dislike it.”
Will he vote for it?
“So far I can’t commit to this budget,” Vargas said Wednesday.
Looney said he’s confident the Senate has the votes to pass the budget and Malloy’s criminal justice reforms, which raises the age at which a defendant is still treated like a juvenile and changes the bail system for misdemeanors.
Malloy said the criminal justice reforms he advanced this year allow people to escape stupid mistakes they make when they’re young. He said if a person can’t buy liquor until they’re 21, “why do we treat them as if they have the judgment to buy liquor?”
He said if society has already made a decision that people don’t fully mature until later in life, then why should they be treated differently by the court system?
This new class of juveniles created under the legislation will receive “youthful offender” status from the time of their arrest, which means they will be able to keep their name out of the news media, be subject to no more than four years of incarceration, and have their records erased four years after their conviction as long as they complete their sentence. The bill would phase in raising the age to 20 by July 1, 2019.
The legislation also would get rid of the cash bail system for misdemeanors, but it would maintain the traditional bail system for more serious crimes.
Malloy said Wednesday that he’s talked to a lot of people about the legislation, but he hasn’t consciously made an effort since the session ended last week to talk to lawmakers about the proposal.
There are a handful of Democratic Senators who have expressed concern about the legislation, but Looney said Wednesday that he believes “we have the votes.”
The bill detailing the criminal justice reforms was still not available Thursday morning.
Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, said the Senate plans to vote today on the budget and the criminal justice reforms.
“And I certainly expect the House to do the same,” Duff said.
However, it’s still unclear when the House will return for a special session. Spokesmen for House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, said there are “no plans yet.”