The special session will kick off this week and changes to police accountability, updates to absentee voting rules and changes to public health policy are expected to be approved.
Most of the "controversial" topics will be left for another day, as the Senate and House will be testing their social distancing and technology accommodations for chamber debates and voting.
The public is invited to submit comments to legislators and provide input via listening forums that are being conducted over Zoom. Public input kicked off on Friday with the Judiciary Committee's forum on proposed language for police accountability. The Public Health Committee and Government & Elections Committees will follow suit at the beginning of the week.
As the Big Six Legislative Leaders and the Governor sorted through all the requests for issues to be taken up, one thing became clear-despite the many articles and press releases, there has been a collaborative approach on HOW this special session will run. They worked hard to make do with the situation and accommodate the many personal and health needs of 187 legislators.
Unlike past special sessions, where it felt more like "my way or the highway," there's a real sense of "we're in this together and we need to do this right." No one knows what the COVID-19 situation will look like in January when the newly elected General Assembly arrives in Hartford. But if next week's procedures can be successfully pulled off, then we may have a prototype for the 2021 session.
As I've mentioned before, three of the current Big Six Legislative Leaders are not seeking reelection. Once the November election reveals the majority party in the House, a new Speaker and Majority Leader will be elected by the chamber. For the minority party (whoever that will be) it's pretty clear who the leaders will probably be based on seniority and early vote counting.
If you are out and about, I'm sure you're seeing the same thing we're seeing: closed businesses, less traffic on the roads and a huge lack of convenience. Here on Capitol Avenue in Hartford, there's been no word yet on when the Legislative Office Building will reopen. Same goes for state agency offices.
My driver's license expires this month and I called back in June to find out how to renew it. Even though the Governor's executive order provided a 60-day extension, the earliest I could get an appointment at the DMV was late October. I ended up calling AAA, where I'm a member, and they slid me in for an appointment next week.
Many state websites still remain out-of-date, and they often tell folks to call 211-which is the state's free, confidential information and referral service that connects residents to essential health and human services. While the service is great for some things, it's not so great for providing residents vital information they need to take care of routine things. Even residents who are trying to talk to their elected representatives are being referred to 211.
As it has done with everything else, the inconveniences of the "new normal" are starting to infiltrate their way into state government and I expect that by the end of the summer many more residents will be clamoring for action and a place where they can get their needs processed.
With the temperature getting hotter and the elections get closer, I think the public's patience will continue to be tested. And their temperatures will probably rise as well. Stay tuned.