HARTFORD, CT — The House abruptly adjourned Thursday before 4 p.m. following a closed-door caucus on electronic tolls.
With five days left in the legislative session, the announcement left lawmakers and lobbyists scrambling for information and caused new concern about the fate of their pending legislation.
House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said they’re not going to stay in session until 1 a.m. if they “don’t have a product to do.”
The lobbyists in the hallway waiting for votes on their bills disagreed with Ritter’s assessment.
Lobbyist Betty Gallo offered that she had a bill they could debate.
“We don’t have anything right now we feel was ready to run,” Ritter said.
He contends they passed more bills this year than they did in 2015, which was the last long legislative session.
Through May 30, the House has passed 160 House bills and 30 Senate bills. Over the last two days the House has approved about 10 bills.
They will reconvene at 10 a.m. Friday.
Rep. Antonio Guerrera, D-Rocky Hill, declined to comment on whether tolls sent his caucus into disarray.
Republicans told Ritter only one of their members was willing to vote for tolls.
Democrats have 79 members and Republicans have 72, which means no more than four members can disagree.
“This is a new reality of where we are,” Ritter said. “Some nights you’re going to go home earlier than normal.”
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said they didn’t call the electronic tolling bill for a vote because “clearly they didn’t have the votes.”
She said the abrupt nature of the adjournment is related to the smaller Democratic majority.
“When you have governed for 38 or 40 years with large majorities you can make decisions based on what you think is right. Your members can either go for it or they won’t,” Klarides said.
That luxury doesn’t exist at the moment for the Democratic Party. However, that doesn’t mean they had to adjourn. She said there was legislation both sides agreed upon that could be run.
Klarides said they ended up donating dinner for their 72 members to a homeless shelter in Hartford because they had ordered it in preparation for a long night of debate.
“Don’t rely on my members to pass things that you want,” Klarides said.
She said that doesn’t mean “you stop at 3 o’clock in the afternoon … there’s nothing else we could do?”
At the same time, she believes it’s better for the state of Connecticut that one party is “not running rampant.”