HARTFORD, CT — The Labor and Public Employees Committee meeting that recessed twice, and adjourned abruptly without a vote on any of its agenda.
It was a stark reminder of just how close the margins are between parties in the Connecticut General Assembly.
Each committee has three co-chairs, one from the House and two from the Senate—one Democrat and one Republican. The Senate is currently evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats and having co-chairs from each party was part of the power sharing agreement reached by legislative leaders following the 2016 election.
After two hours of closed-door meetings, the committee reconvened and Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, moved to withdraw her motion and adjourn.
Asked what happened and why they adjourned, Sen. Ed Gomes, D-Bridgeport, who co-chairs the committee, said “no comment.”
Osten also declined comment and said she’s not the chair of the committee.
The House co-chair of the committee, Rep. Robyn Porter, D-New Haven, was in a meeting and declined to speak to a reporter outside her office.
Sen. Craig Miner, R-Litchfield, the only Republican co-chair of the committee, said he was seeking to amend the agenda to get a few more concepts raised to be drafted into legislation when they ended debate.
“I had no idea they were going to withdraw their motion to end debate and adjourn,” Miner said.
He said he was completely taken off-guard by the decision.
“I’m not sure this changes my perception that if things aren’t going their way they don’t even want to talk about them,” Miner said as the committee room emptied out.
Rep. David Rutigliano, R-Trumbull, said based on shear numbers Republicans represent 50 percent of the Senate and 48 percent of the House, but only represented 30 percent of the agenda.
Adam Joseph, spokesman for the Senate Democratic caucus, there was a spirited disagreement and the Labor Committee chairs decided to adjourn until next week when a decision can be reached to move forward.
Thursday’s agenda sought to raise 19 different concepts to be drafted as legislation. The agenda included everything from “An Act Concerning Collective Bargaining Agreements” to “An Act Concerning Sexual Harassment.”
Republican lawmakers said they were seeking to raise a few more concepts as legislation, including that “no pension can be over $100,000 per year for any current or future state retired worker.”
Another would prohibit the practice of “bumping” between different state agencies, and one that would have capped the amount of time a state employee can spend on paid administrative leave. Yet, another concept sought to clarify unemployment tax law so that independent contractors are not improperly classified as employees.
Most of the requests for legislation may have been offensive to Democratic members of the committee, who are unlikely to agree with Republicans on labor issues.
However, Rutigliano said not all of the Republicans agreed with the requests for legislation, “but we should at least have a conversation.”
Rep. Mike Bocchino, R-Greenwich, said it’s a “complete injustice to the people of the state of Connecticut not to raise these issues for a discussion.”
There was also a disagreement about which of the three chairs was in charge of the meeting Thursday. Republicans said last year it would rotate from Porter to Miner to Gomes.
Republicans felt Miner should have been chairing the meeting when Gomes was the one trying to chair it Thursday.
“We’re not being treated fairly and they’re not recognizing the numbers in the building,” Rutigliano said.