HARTFORD, CT — Connecticut’s 2021 legislative session won’t look like it has in past years because it’s still unclear if the building will reopen to the public, but legislative leaders say there will be a session.
Incoming Speaker of the House Matt Ritter and Senate Republican Leader Kevin Kelly talked Thursday about what it may look like during the Connecticut Retail Merchants Association annual meeting.
“If you’re running committee meetings via Zoom or a public hearing and you just want to roll out 42 bills, again on any given day, I’m not sure that is easy to follow and easy to track for anybody, including the committee,” Ritter said Thursday.
But that doesn’t mean legislative business will stop.
“We will have a session. We will pass bills. We’ve proven we can do that safely and effectively and there’s things that have to get done to get our state back up and running and have the legislature play a roll with the executive branch,” Ritter said.
Since March, Gov. Ned Lamont has been running the state with his executive powers under the emergency powers authority that legislative leaders gave him.
“This might be the most accessible the legislature has ever been to the public in some ways but not other ways,” Ritter said. “If you don’t have a computer or a phone and you can’t do the Zoom that is a problem. All you’d be left with is submitting electronic testimony.”
The flip side is there’s little you have to do to attend a public hearing via Zoom.
“Now you can sit in the comfort of your home, watching the football game in your sweat pants and testify at 4 a.m. in the morning when your time comes,” Ritter said. “We are giving up access but we are creating other access too.”
As far as the governor’s executive powers go, Kelly said the government isn’t structured in a way to have the governor be in charge of everything.
“We need to make sure that the hardworking, middle class families have a seat at the table,” Kelly said. “And whether the legislature is pesky or not we’re there for a reason or a purpose.”
He said the government isn’t supposed to be “efficient” and move based on “one person’s perspective.”
The governor’s emergency powers go until Feb. 9, 2021.
What about legalization of recreational marijuana?
“To me marijuana has nothing to do with revenue. I could care less,” Ritter said.
He said the only thing he thinks about is where else it’s legal in the region.
“It’s legal in New Jersey, in New York it’s coming and it’s legal in Massachusetts,” Ritter said. “Connecticut cannot fortify it’s border.”
He said he knows professionals who go to work every day and drive up to Massachusetts to purchase marijuana.
“You can’t just pretend it’s not all around you and readily available,” Ritter said.
What are the chances it passes this year?
“I think it’s got a 50-50 chance of passing this year,” Ritter said. “I think it should have a vote regardless.”
Kelly said it’s not a Republican or Democratic issue and he doesn’t know yet where his caucus stands, but he thinks it’s an individual issue for lawmakers.
“A lot of the reason states adopt this is because of the money,” Kelly said. “Just because other states do it doesn’t necessarily mean that Connecticut must do it.”