HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — COVID-19 halted the legislative process last week. What do lawmakers do when Capitol business is temporarily shut down?
During the last 6 days there have been no public hearings. Instead, the activity inside legislative buildings has only been of the deep-cleaning nature.
Legislative leaders tell News 8 they are talking every day via email, text, and phone.
In an interview with the Deputy Speaker of the House Wednesday, March 11 – just prior to the last vote before the shutdown – Representative Matt Ritter explained that lawmakers are trying to “find that balance between governing and protecting the public safety and it’s hard to thread the needle. But I’m confident we can do it.”
Lawmakers contemplated this when News 8 interviewed them before the temporary shutdown last week.
State Senator Martin Looney, the Senate President said “things are changing quickly new information is coming in every day. The most we can do is plan for a week at a time.”
State Senator Len Fasano, the Senate Minority Leader agreed, saying, “We are going to monitor the situation as everyone is, to determine what’s best.”
Rep. Ritter knows the legislature has a challenge ahead of it.
We have to act and do things because that is our charge. But at the same time we have to make sure we take the right precautions.– Representative Matt Ritter/ Deputy Speaker of the House
State Representative Themis Klarides, the House Minority Leader is concerned about businesses and legislative business but has a bigger priority. She says her first priority is “the health of the people of the state of Connecticut.”
Lawmakers have a few tools they can use to move the legislative process along”
- Emergency Certification of Bills: to push priority bills that have already had public hearings.
- Hold Hearings Online: they would have public testimony submitted online or bills that have to be debated.
- Hold Special Session: after the current session ends May 6.
Lt. Governor Susan Bysecwicz would lead the State Senate if lawmakers chose to return to the Capitol for a vote. As of now, her duty is to keep leading.
At a meal pick-up location for students barred from school during the virus outbreak, Byseweicz told News 8 the state has gotten approved for federal loans through the Small Business Administration. And the state will be announcing economic development assistance.
Right now – like everyone else – the legislature is in a holding pattern.