Capitol Connection: What a “Special Session” Means for CT

June 11, 2015

From the Office of State Senator Kevin Witkos

This year the legislative session at the Capitol ended with lots of unfinished business.


While the majority party was able to squeak out the votes they needed to pass the state budget, lawmakers did not have time to complete the “implementer” bill (which implements the budget) among other pieces of legislation that died while waiting for a vote.

But as they say, it’s not over, until it’s over. The legislature can buy more time and revive typically ‘dead’ legislation with what’s known as a “special session.”

Every regular legislative session has a specified date when the session must end. So lawmakers are always working against the clock to get a large amount of legislation passed – or not passed. A special session, on the other hand, can be called at any time. So when time runs out, if there’s really a strong will to keep it going, a special session comes into play.

In 16 states, only the governor can call a special session. Connecticut however, falls into a larger group of 34 states in which a special session can be called by either the governor or legislature. This year, a special session was proposed by legislative leaders and voted on by both the House of Representatives and State Senate. In Connecticut, we need either a petition signed by 2/3 of the Senate and House or by the leaders of both the Senate and House issuing a joint call to action.

The upcoming special session, which must be completed by the end of this fiscal year on June 30, was called to address the following items:

  • The “implementer” bill
  • Bills authorizing state bonding
  • Legislation regarding excessive use of force and police body cameras (this passed unanimously in the Senate but was not voted on yet by the House of Representatives)
  • A bill conveying certain parcels of state land

While this looks like a short list, the “implementer” can’t be underestimated. The implementer is a set of bills that contains policy changes needed to actually implement the state budget. All too often big pieces of legislation that may have been voted against in early stages of a legislative session make their way back into law by popping up in the implementer. Sometimes completely new policy ideas are included. Unlike other bills, the implementer does not have to go through a committee review process and it does not get a public hearing. Lawmakers will sometimes use this as a way to sneak in their pet legislation. That’s why we have to stay on our toes to look for these “rats” when we receive the implementer language.

The implementer is also the only way the budget passed by the legislature can be tweaked and changed. For example, new taxes can be delayed via the implementer.

I am urging the governor to veto the budget, and therefore require the legislature to work together on a new, better budget in a special session. However, if that veto never comes, there is still the option to make significant changes through the implementer.

As you watch the special session unfold, keep an eye out for discussion of what’s in the implementer, how the budget might be changed, and whether or not the governor will choose to veto this budget. If you want to share your thoughts with the governor on the new budget contact his office at (800) 406-1527. If you would like to see the governor put a stop to these tax hikes and dangerous new budget, sign my petition at

Sen. Witkos, Senate Minority Leader Pro Tempore, represents the 8th District towns of Avon, Barkhamsted, Canton, Colebrook, Granby, Hartland, Harwinton, New Hartford, Norfolk, Simsbury and Torrington. For more information visit or