HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The 2021 Connecticut legislative session has come to a close. In the final hours of the session, lawmakers passed the state budget with bipartisan support. Also, there was a decision to go into overtime to tackle the bill that would legalize recreational marijuana for adults in a “special session.”
The marijuana bill was hanging in the balance after a controversial provision was discovered and then deleted before the bill passed in the Senate.
The back and forth over the last 24-hours have led everyone back to the spot no one wanted to be in: a special session. Around 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, Democratic leaders came out of a closed-door meeting and announced the decision.
Late Wednesday night, News 8 learned the marijuana bill will be voted on during the special session on June 16 at 10 a.m.
Republicans were going to run out the clock. They say the bill language came out on Saturday evening and was dropped on their desks Monday with sections of language that created major issues. Democrats question figuratively “why that was the hill to die on” and think they will still have the votes despite a delay.
Governor Ned Lamont said Wednesday, “Why do you want to sit around till three in the morning to say the same thing the last eight guys have said for the next four hours? But if that’s what they wanna do we will vote when they’re tired of talking.”
House Speaker Matt Ritter (D) added, “The confusing part is all we had to do is get a vote we would get a 14-hour, 16-hour debate. All they are doing is delaying the vote. I just don’t understand it.”
House Minority Leader Vin Candelora (R) was adamant for his caucus it’s about respect: “For them to just suggest we should shut up and sit in the corner is not appropriate for the legislative body. It is unbecoming of this chamber…It’s one-party rule in the State of Connecticut. It’s the height of arrogance to say to somehow ‘this is your fault that we’re not gonna choke down their legislation before we even get to go through it before we give our input.’”
State Representative Ritter said, “We control our chamber. We will vote on the time of our choosing and that’s what we will do.”
Democratic leaders are calling for overtime to take up the cannabis bill in a special session. Republicans were going to filibuster.
“If there are things that we could change to make the bill better that I hope they would be open to that process,” added Candelora.
The speaker says they will call themselves in during the next seven to 14 days and thinks they will pick up Republican votes in the interim.
“We will have staff come back, resources spent, and people will miss vacations. I feel bad about that,” conceded Ritter.
Meantime, the budget bill passed the State Senate with bipartisan support.
It is a $46 billion two-year budget. There were proposed a number of taxes. The agreement wipes all of them out and provides full education and municipal funding.
Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly (R) said, “We had taxes, more taxes, and the most taxes, but today’s budget has no new taxes and that’s where Republicans have always been.”
Federal dollars not only helped free up money to balance the budget, but it will help subsidize people getting them on the exchange and increase the tax credit for low-income families. Education and municipalities are fully funded. $3-billion is going to the rainy day fund.
With a special session, not only will they have to start over on the cannabis bill, but the budget implementer – a second bill to execute programs funded in the budget – will also have to be debated.
We’re told it’s currently still being written and when they go into special session a lot of items that were cut could get added back in.
Senate President Martin Looney of New Haven has decades of experience and knows a special session can be a wide-open environment.
“The implementer obviously will be a matter for a special session and that’s a complex issue of deciding what provisions will go into the budget that was passed,” he said.
Governor Lamont at a late-day press conference Wednesday told reporters he would like to see the Transportation Climate Initiative come back.
Additionally, he is a supporter of putting money for information technology and cybersecurity back into the budget. It was cut and he really would like to see several agencies come into the 21st Century. Especially, the Department of Labor which was still running on cobalt software at the height of the pandemic – when tens of thousands of residents were applying for unemployment.
The State Bonding bill has also passed and is awaiting the Governor’s signature. It authorizes $335-million dollars in long-term projects for various municipalities around the state. It also includes a first-of-its-kind in the nation “Baby Bonds” program.
State Treasurer Shawn Wooden says it will lead the nation in addressing generational poverty with an innovative approach.
Here’s how it will work: This program will create a trust for the benefit of children born into poverty. A child will become eligible for CT Baby Bonds if their birth was covered by CT Husky A—the State’s Medicaid program which insures pregnant women. When a beneficiary reaches the age of 18 and completes a financial education requirement, the funds can be used for targeted eligible purposes including: educational expenses, to purchase a home in Connecticut, to invest in a business in Connecticut, or to contribute towards retirement savings.
CT Baby Bonds is an anti-generational poverty and racial equity program that will directly address long-standing wealth disparities in Connecticut, while also generating long-term economic growth.
The actual document calling for a special session has been released on the general assembly website.
It reads in part: “We the members of this General Assembly judge it necessary that there be a special session of the General Assembly, that said session be convened not earlier than 12:01 a.m. on June 10, 2021, and that the call of the session be solely for the purposes of considering and enacting the following legislation: Bills and resolutions needed to implement the state budget for the biennium beginning July 1, 2021.”