Republican Lawmakers Continue to Press for Special Session on Budget [Courant]

October 15, 2015

Hartford Courant

In their continued quest to force a special session of the legislature to deal with state budget cuts, Republican leaders presented a stack of petitions to the Secretary of the State Tuesday.

Democrats immediately branded the move a “political stunt.”

Both sides are united in their opposition to many of the emergency spending cuts ordered by Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy last month. Both sides say the reductions will hurt the old, the poor, the sick and other vulnerable citizens.

But Republicans, who are in the minority in both the House and the Senate, are pushing for a special session to undo the governor’s cuts. Democrats, who are preparing to release their own proposed alternatives to the governor’s cuts, say they see no need to convene the legislature at this time.

The legislature can be called into special session by the governor or the majority party. But state law also allows rank and file lawmakers to petition for a special session. In order for that to happen, a majority in both chambers must sign on.

Although the petition submitted Tuesday was signed by every Republican lawmaker, it also would need the signatures of at least 4 Democrats in the Senate and 12 in the House in order to meet the threshold.

At a press conference at the Capitol immediately after submitting the petitions, Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano and House Republican Leader Themis Klarides implored Democrats to sign on.

“We’re encouraging members of the other side of the aisle who have been so outspoken to the press, so outspoken in their op-eds…to put their words to action and sign the petition to allow us to go into special session and correct the wrongs in this budget,” said Fasano, R-North Haven.

Klarides said rank-and-file Democratic lawmakers were afraid to buck the governor and party leaders. She said they were putting political considerations before an obligation to help the state’s neediest.

But Democratic leaders said it was the Republicans who were playing politics. “Republicans once again have nothing substantive to offer,” House Speaker Brendan Sharkey said. “Today’s political stunt is merely a continuation of Republicans putting political grandstanding ahead of serious policy. ”

Senate President Martin Looney chided Republicans for failing to offer substantive solutions to the state’s budget dilemma.

“I wish it were shocking that Republicans want to have a special session without actually proposing a balanced budget,” Looney said. “Their failure to produce a comprehensive, balanced alternative budget demonstrates their total lack of commitment to actively participate in the budget process all the way to a responsible conclusion. In all of the hours of filibustering, they never showed the courage to offer a comprehensive substitute as an amendment to the proposed budget. This is just more empty rhetoric from a party that doesn’t have a plan.”

But Klarides rejected that assertion. “We put together a fully vetted budget,” she said. “It’s a game every day. When they don’t want to talk about what we’re doing, they talk about what we’re doing. And in the next breath they say, ‘they’re the minority so it really doesn’t matter.”’