Responsibly Adopting Legislation

January 13, 2011
Senator Witkos (center) takes the oath of office on the first day of the 2011 Legislative Session

Adopting a bill is a long and intricate process. It is one that requires every member of the General Assembly to be informed and accountable. Our job is to make the good decisions that protect our quality of life, and in doing so the most important rule is to not pre-judge legislation. Each vote we cast affects our state’s families and businesses for generations to come.

In our homes and businesses we all make decisions based on what benefits us most and based upon our needs. All the details are weighed and the long-term effects or financial implications are considered in order to do what is best.

As state senator, my goal is to make decisions the same way you would at home. I follow and track all proposed legislation from inception to the final version debated on the Senate floor. I also create a ‘watch list’ to more closely follow proposals I have drafted or those I have a particular interest in co-sponsoring.  The legislative process is one that invites “many cooks in the kitchen” and often times leads to numerous changes in a proposed bill, making it imperative for members of the General Assembly to read all final bills before voting.

Once legislation is drafted, it goes to its corresponding legislative committee for review and public hearing process. Members of the committees take heed to the testimony of advocates and the public then change, or amend, a proposed bill. When this is completed, the bill is voted out of committee and sent to the Senate or House floor for final amending, debate and voting.

These amendments may have great or little impact to the true or original intent of the proposed bill.  Amendments include minor text changes or larger additions such as fiscal notes, meaning the bill comes at a cost to the state and taxpayers. “Strike-all” amendments may also be proposed. This type of amendment strikes, or eliminates, all the underlying text in a particular bill and replaces it with new language, leaving only the bill’s original name. This new text can be entirely unrelated to the proposed bill and its name, requiring legislators to be aware of any and all modifications to the language.

With all the changes that may happen along the way I am hesitant to show my support until the very end. The amendments will either dissuade me from voting in favor of a final piece of legislation, or will actually persuade to vote in favor and even co-sponsor a bill.

When I cast my final vote on the Senate floor, the legislation I vote in favor of must fully and completely benefit our towns and our state. As a member of the General Assembly it is my responsibility to act as your voice in Hartford, and I do so with your family in mind.