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Rep. Bob Godfrey, D-Danbury (screen grab)

HARTFORD, CT — After the House adjourned the longest special session in history, Rep. Bob Godfrey, D-Danbury, stood up and called the recent issues with the legislature’s television network “fraudulent.”

“Either restore it or do away with it,” Godfrey said. “Because it’s just a travesty as it stands now.”

Godfrey said he plans on introducing legislation to restore the independence of the television network, which is currently being run by the Office of Legislative Management (OLM).

Legislative leaders said they had no choice, but to let OLM take over operation of the network.

They said they didn’t choose for the Connecticut Public Affairs Network (CPAN) to walk away from the contract.

CPAN ceased operations on Nov. 3 and the website and television station went into reruns for a week.

OLM hired 13 former CPAN employees to operate the network and they covered a public hearing Monday, the Senate session and Supreme Court arguments on Tuesday, and the House session on Wednesday.

James Tracy, director of the Office of Legislative Management, said that his office is working with CT-N staff on scheduling. 

“We are not instructing,” Tracy said. “It has been a discussion which has worked out very well.”

Asked who was making the decisions about what events to cover, House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said he doesn’t know.

“It must be Legislative Management,” he said.

House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said they’re going back to its original charge and that’s “gavel-to-gavel of the House and Senate and committee and public hearings.”

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House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz and House Minority Leader Themis Klarides (screen grab)

Dan Klau, president of the Connecticut Council on the Freedom of Information, questioned the legality of CT-N only covering one branch of government when the revenue intercept for the $1.6 million earmarked for the television network says the money will be used “to defray the cost of providing the citizens of this state with Connecticut Television Network coverage of state government deliberations and public policy events.”

Klau also pointed out in a blog post that the Connecticut constitution states that “the powers of government shall be divided into three distinct departments, and each of them confined to a separate magistracy, to wit, those which are legislative, to one; those which are executive, to another; and those which are judicial, to another. “

That essentially means no branch of government is superior to the other.

“Given the fundamental architecture of our state government, can a single branch–the General Assembly–constitutionally create and operate a television network that excludes the other branches from coverage, or that only permits coverage of the other branches at the discretion of the legislature?” Klau asks.

For Klau the answer is no, but legislative leaders so far have disagreed.

Klarides said they will move forward with a bidding process that’s fiscally prudent and transparent.

“I don’t think there’s anything in secret or behind closed doors,” Klarides said. “I would be open to any way anybody agreed to move forward with it as long as they agreed to stay on the air.”

The earliest OLM said it could put a new contract out to bid is in the Spring.

Aresimowicz said the reduction in the scope of service had nothing to do with editorial control and everything to do with the budget constraints.

“We removed people from Medicaid across the state. We altered the renters rebate program. We reduced the amount going to municipalities. We asked teachers to pay one percent,” Aresimowicz said. “We asked them to negotiate a contract with CT-N to have it live more within its means.”

The $1.2 million budget the legislature allocated for the first year of the five-year contract was less than the $2.4 million scope included in the contract. CPAN said it was never offered a “scope of services” for the $1.2 million. CPAN officials have said they would be unable to fulfill its mission under the constraints described, but never formally conveyed in writing.

House revises budget – legislative leaders talk about CT-N

Posted by on Wednesday, November 15, 2017