HARTFORD, CT — (Updated 6:45 p.m.) A House Republican lawmaker said Tuesday that the majority Democrats seated one too many state senators on the Transportation Committee this year in violation of joint legislative rules— a revelation that he believes might have invalidated all of committee’s votes this year, including votes on tolls.
However, Senate President Martin Looney and Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano disagree with his conclusion.
The Transportation Committee approved a total of 32 bills before its deadline Monday, including three that would begin the process for implementing tolls on Connecticut highways.
Deputy House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, penned a letter to legislative leaders Tuesday to let them know the joint rules only allow for nine Senators to be seated as voting members of the Transportation Committee. At the moment there are 10 Senators on the committee, which has already passed its deadline to refer bills to the House and Senate.
“Given that the Transportation Committee is constituted in violation of our Senate and Joint Rules, I believe any and all actions taken by it are invalid according to Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure,” Candelora said. “Because you both have appointing authority for these committees under our rules, I believe it is imperative that this violation be remedied immediately to assure the future validity of any action.”
Looney said 10 is the same number of Senators who were on the committee the last two years.
“Ten state senators serve on the Transportation Committee in the 2019-2020 legislative term. Ten state senators served on the Transportation Committee in the 2017-2018 legislative term,” Looney said. “Furthermore, section 15.1 of Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure states that objections in the same vein as Rep. Candelora’s do not impair the validity of a statute. The work of the Transportation Committee stands. We have spoken with the Senate Republicans and we believe the issue is moot.”
Fasano said while he appreciates the concerns raised by Candelora he doesn’t believe the number of Senators on one committee poses any issues.
“It is clear that the number of senators serving on this committee does not pose any issues to the legislative process and removing a member of the committee would not result in a different outcome for any of the votes taken this year,” Fasano said. “I’ve been in contact with Sen. Looney and we both share this understanding.”
Candelora said he doesn’t believe that’s an accurate interpretation of Mason’s. He said the “body” which refers to the House and the Senate is the only entity that is able to settle this dispute now. He said he would agree with Looney if the body had already acted on the legislation. But the bills have only made it out of committee.
“Clearly it’s a rule violation this year,” Candelora said, adding that “just because we did something wrong two years ago doesn’t make it right.”
He said he’s more concerned with the “overrepresentation of Senate Democrats” on these committees.
As for tolls, he said he wasn’t trying to stifle debate on any specific issue because tolls will also be raised by the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee.
Candelora said there’s always a vehicle for legislative concepts.
He said he’s bothered more by the number of Senators on these committees.
“I really want to know whether he plans to correct this error,” Candelora said.
The joint rules, which are printed in the Legislative Guide, say that “each joint standing committee shall consist of not more than nine senators and not more than thirty-five representatives.” The only three committees with more than nine senators are Appropriations, Judiciary, and the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding committee.