HARTFORD, CT — Both Gov. Ned Lamont and Democratic legislative leaders are calling for a special session to address police accountability and ballot issues.
It’s unclear when they might hold a special session because Lamont said he wouldn’t agree to one unless there’s consensus on a package.
“Once we have agreed upon a package that has sufficient support in both chambers, I will issue a call for a special session that is tailored to specifically address that legislation,” Lamont wrote. “I will not issue a call for a special session until or unless that happens, however.”
Legislative leaders wrote two letters to Lamont Tuesday asking him to call them into a special session to help them codify his executive order that expires Sept. 9 and makes absentee ballots available to anyone who didn’t feel safe going to a polling place to vote.
“Although the election is still five months away, we view this as a pressing matter,” House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, Senate President Martin Looney, Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, and House Majority Leader Matt Ritter wrote in a letter Tuesday to Lamont. “Municipalities, and more importantly voters, need to be able to prepare for the general election. One of our core obligations is to create safe and accessible ways to exercise one’s right to vote.”
In his letter to lawmakers, Lamont said that “because my emergency powers are currently set to expire on September 9, I am unable to resolve the absentee balloting issue for the November general election through an Executive Order at this time.”
“In addition, the recent events in Minneapolis and the public outcry over similar events throughout the country require us to seize this moment and work together now to enact measures that will ensure our communities of color feel safe and have confidence that law enforcement and our criminal justice system as a whole treat all of our citizens fairly and equally,” Lamont said.
Lamont said he would like to address both of these issues in a special session and “preferably, in a bipartisan manner.”
It’s unclear whether Lamont will find bipartisan consensus on either topic.
In the past, Republicans have raised concerns about changes to the absentee ballot law, which is codified in both state statutes and the state constitution.
Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, has said he understands the need for absentee balloting because of the COVID-19 crisis. However, he believes it raises constitutional questions.
“If even one piece of the state’s constitution is not upheld, it sets a dangerous precedent that any part of the constitution could be ignored or overruled by one person,” Fasano has said. “Constitutional protections cannot be eviscerated by the stroke of a pen. No matter how much we may want to waive the language of the constitution given the COVID-19 health crisis, we are bound to the documents that created our country and state and cannot legally do that.”
It’s also unclear what Republicans will agree to when it comes to the topic of police accountability. In 2019, 58 House Republicans and 2 Democrats voted against a bill that requires the release of body or dashboard camera video within 96 hours of an incident and prohibits police from firing into fleeing vehicles.
The Senate passed the legislation unanimously.
The Police Accountability and Transparency Task Force, which also was created as part of that legislation, was asked this week to fast-track its recommendations. Its next meeting is on June 22.
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said that Republicans signed a petition last week to go into a special session.
As far as police accountability and transparency goes, she said it’s an issue that they should be taking up, “but it’s an issue that has to transcend politics, transcend party. This has to be in my opinion a bipartisan, nonpartisan common sense approach to what is wrong in Connecticut that we can fix to make people safer. ”