There are Specific Rules for Each Legislative Session

December 23, 2010

In meeting and talking to people throughout the district, one aspect of the General Assembly that people may not be familiar with is the fact that each legislative session has its very own set of guidelines. You’re probably thinking, “Kevin, Isn’t the legislature always in session?” While it may seem that way, the two-year term of the General Assembly is broken down into two completely different sessions, the “long session” and the “short session.”

All 187 members of the General Assembly are elected to serve two-year terms. The first year of that term is considered to be the long session, which runs from the first week in January to the first week in June in odd numbered years. During this session, the legislature is required to produce a budget for the following two fiscal years. The session also allows individual legislators to introduce bills on any subject. The long session was designed to be the “workhorse” session because there no parameters as to what types of bills can be raised and who can raise them. During this session you might see a lot of bills submitted by legislators at the request of his or her constituents because there are no limits as to what they can introduce.

The short session is much different. I consider this session to be the “touch up” session, or at least that is the way it was intended to be. The short session runs from February through May during the even numbered years. The main responsibility of the legislature during the short session is to make adjustments to the two-year budget adopted in the previous year. It also gives the legislature the opportunity to create news laws and “tweak” old ones as long as they adhere to the requirement that all legislation be related to the budget.

Legislators are prohibited from introducing individual bills during the short session. All bills must be raised by the committee that has cognizance over the issue. This is not to say that a concern a constituent may have cannot be raised, it just has to be met with approval by the committee before it can be raised.

The 2010 Regular Session of the Connecticut General Assembly will convene on February 3rd and runs through May 5th. Being a short session and the state facing a rather substantial budget deficit, to say that the legislature has its work cut out is certainly an understatement. This brings me back to the question about the legislature seemingly always being in session.

In recent years the General Assembly has not completed its work in the time frame allotted for each session, thus the legislature has been going into Special Session on a regular basis more often. In fact, in 2009 the General Assembly went into Special Session 13 times. This is very disturbing trend because the legislature is supposed to be a part-time governing body and the failure to get things done under the time allotted by the Connecticut Constitution undermines that premise.

While 2010 will undoubtedly be a challenging year, I remain hopeful that we legislative leaders can reverse the trend and finish its work on time. If you have any questions regarding the lengths of the legislative session or any other issue or concern facing state government, please contact my office in Hartford at 1-800-842-1421. Happy New Year!!!