Sen. Kissel Rips Sending State Troopers Out To Notify All Legislators For Special Session; “This is 2011, Not 1811.” [Hartford Courant]

June 28, 2011

By Christopher Keating
Article as it appeared in the Hartford Courant
June 28, 2011

Sen. John Kissel was resting comfortably at home Saturday and starting to enjoy a summer weekend when the doorbell rang.

It was a state trooper, but it wasn’t an emergency in the traditional sense.
Instead, the young trooper was arriving at Kissel’s Enfield home to hand deliver a notice that the legislature would be in special session this Thursday. It has happened before, but Kissel says this should be the last time.

“This is 2011, not 1811,” Kissel told Capitol Watch in an interview. “It’s pretty incredible. Just use the phones or e-mail. It’s 2011. Come on.”

Under state law, the troopers or others are required to deliver the notices if the General Assembly is called into special session on fewer than 10 days’ notice. In this case, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy called last week for the special session on Thursday – thus triggering the process for hand delivery.

“This is the kind of stuff that makes people crazy about state government,” said Kissel, one of the longest-serving Republican state senators.

Kissel was so dumbfounded that he will offer an amendment on the Senate floor Thursday to eliminate the hand delivery and thus save the costs that are estimated as high as $35,000 to $40,000.

“It’s an anachronism,” Kissel said. “I’m hoping this is the last time we use or troopers this way.”

Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s senior adviser, said that the administration had a discussion with the state police commissioner “to minimize the costs” and ask the troopers to make the deliveries “in the course of their regular duties.”

“I’m interested to know how many times Senator Kissel made this suggestion when Jodi Rell was governor,” Occhiogrosso said.

Regarding Kissel’s amendment to eliminate the long-running practice, Occhiogrosso said, “If there’s a more efficient, effective way to do it, we’re happy to consider it.”

Republicans cited an estimate from 2007 in which then-Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, a Democrat, said it could cost taxpayers $35,000 for the state police to notify legislators about a special session that had been called by Rell.

If a special session is called on less than 10 days’ notice, state law says legislators must receive a written notice from “a state marshal, constable,
state policeman or indifferent person at least twenty-four hours prior to the time of convening of such special session.”

In a statement at the time, Bysiewicz said, “In this day of cell phones, fax machines, e-mail, overnight mail delivery, and text messaging, it is astonishing that taxpayers are forced to foot the bill for hand delivery of special session notices. This is the type of wastefulness that understandably irritates taxpayers, and it needs to stop.

The state statute, which was written decades ago, should be changed, and I look forward to working with legislators and Governor Rell during this next legislative session to get it done.”

In the case in September 2007, 72 troopers delivered notices to 187 legislators in all 169 cities and towns, stretching from Greenwich to Stonington and from Salisbury to Thompson.