May 11th, 2018
Welcome to In the Loop!

From Paddi's Desk

"And now, the end is near....and they faced the final curtain" - Frank Sinatra (kind of)
So with a day's sleep and time to reflect - the 2017- 2018 CT legislature certainly did it their way. Last session, for the first time in history, the democratically controlled House with a tied Senate kicked out the Governor and his advisor from crafting a first ever bipartisan budget. While that was nice and good, it was only for the legislature to learn that as the revenues in CT dipped below the saturated deficient, the Governor went where no one expected. He cut spending and created a huge riff once again between the Governor and the legislature.
Fast forward to Wednesday night when the 2018 legislature adjourned. It was 5pm Wednesday with no more than seven hours to go, the joint leaders agreed to a spending and revenue plan for the second time in a row. This plan comes with no new taxes, compliance with last sessions tightly worded financial stability fund intact and replacement of funds cut by the Governor for some very necessary human services programs. With only one no vote in both chambers, the House and Senate approved a budget plan with 90 minutes to go, and time to sneak in an energetic celebration debate in the House. This came with a very touching thank you to Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman, as she departs public service after 32 years as a State Representative, State Comptroller and the #2 person in CT, and about 15 other bills prior to the banging of the final gavel.
"Yes there were times, I'm sure you knew ... when he bit off more than he could chew..." - Frank Sinatra (kind of)
When the joint session convened, Governor Malloy was on fire. It was probably the most relaxed he's been with the legislature over the past two years. He was funny, self-effacing, gracious and genuinely welcomed in the House chamber by the full 186 sitting legislators. He mention some of the more controversial moments with humor, a little bit of humble pie and loads of energy even at 12:30 in the morning. Many said that had he found a way during the tough times to show this side of him, maybe it might not have been so hard to find the tough answers.
"But in the end ... he faced it all and he stood tall, and he did it his way." - Frank Sinatra (kind of)
As the session ended, many of the biggest most controversial items remained on the calendar in both chambers. The Labor Committee's wish list, which they attempted to intimidate Democratic leaders into calling on the House floor but failed, remained undone. A great number of Republican initiatives made their way through both chambers with some not so gentle trading. Then, in a remarkable manner, many more contentious matters were worked out between all three critical parties - the Governor, the Republican leaders and the Democratic leaders.
"So while it was ugly for sure and many thought nothing would happen ... the record shows they took the blows, and did it their way." - Frank Sinatra (kind of)
Personal note - I first said in my opening column at the opening of the 2017 session it might not be so bad for the state to have a tied Senate and an oh-so-close House. It would bring an unusual style of compromise, respect and horse trading. The four key leaders all share long time personal relationships that definitely created a foundation of trust. Yes, they did part ways at times and want to strangle one or the other. But, at the end of the day, they stood tall remembered it wasn't about them or their parties but the state of Connecticut.
So for the long hours, the stressful moments when we are struggling to get your bill up on the board I forgive them. After all, for the most part, it was a successful session. Kudos to the leadership.

CT Agency Corner   

CT Agency Corner - How the Budget Left the Station On-Time 

by Mike Johnson

When compared to last year's novel-length story of being the last state in the country to adopt a budget, this year's budget process can be compared to a magazine article!
The legislature wrapped up their fiscal year 2019 adjustment budget hours before the session ended on Wednesday but more impressive than that was the fact that it was bipartisan for the second year in a row. Considering the majorities of both the House and Senate hanging in the balance for the next election in November, it was welcome news that the legislature wrapped everything up on time.
So how was all this possible?
First, the Federal tax reform encouraged a large amount of capital gains and one-time revenue reporting to occur this year which gave the state an unexpected windfall of $1.5B. Next, both Democrats and Republicans knew that if they waited past the legislative session to adopt a budget that Governor Malloy would have the power to cut up to 5% of any agency's budget and 3% of any individual line item within his executive powers. Combine those factors with the impending July 1st deadline to extend the Medicare Savings Program relied upon by low income seniors, much needed local municipal aid and the money needed for special bond projects and voila! The state has solved the budget.
Many issues related to the budgets long term outlook remain unresolved but those tasks will be the first order of business for whoever is elected governor in November. Among the most pressing topics are Connecticut's unfunded liabilities which are growing since the state is on the hook for its pensions and municipal retirement account. We fully expect the campaign cycle to have a much larger emphasis on these topics.

Did You Know?

Today in History

May 11: Connecticut's Old State House Opens in 1796

At the historic center of Hartford stands the Old State House, a beautiful federal-era building that served as Connecticut's capitol for 83 years. Designed by pioneering American architect Charles Bulfinch, the State House opened for business on this day in 1796, as the state legislature met insides its spacious chambers for the first time.

Built with brownstone quarried from Portland, Connecticut, the State House was designed to impress, sitting on an elevated location overlooking the bustling ports on the Connecticut River below. In the 1790s, Hartford was a vibrant and rapidly expanding city, and the State House building reflected the latest trends in neoclassical architecture, with symmetrical porticoes, arches, and Greek columns throughout.

For most of the 19th century, Connecticut actually had two capital cities; Hartford and New Haven took turns hosting the state government on alternating years until 1875, when Hartford became Connecticut's sole capital. From 1796 to 1878, the State House in Hartford served as the official place of business for all three branches of state government - executive, legislative, and judicial - whenever it convened in Hartford. The State House played host to a number of historically significant events, including the Hartford Convention of 1814 and the Amistad trial of 1841.

In 1878, the state government moved into the Gothic-style state capitol building located on Hartford's Capitol Avenue, where it continues to meet to this day. After decades of neglect, the Old State House underwent a series of extensive renovations in the late 20th century and reopened as a museum in 1996, its 200th anniversary year. Inside, various offices, meeting halls, and chambers have been restored to reflect Federal, Victorian, and Colonial Revival styles of architecture. One of the museum's most famous features is a recreation of Joseph Steward's "Hartford Museum" cabinet of curiosities, which operated within the State House from 1797 to 1808.
In This Issue:

by Ryan Bingham

The 2018 legislative session may have come to an end, but Connecticut's towns and cities never adjourn.

Looks like the Bristol city council is looking to crack down on panhandlers. While that opening sentence may sound a bit harsh, the focus on this crack down is really spurred by the increase of those representing themselves as homeless, but in actuality are not. " We do not condone this type of alleged scheme, and are taking steps to tighten some very old ordinance language that is on the books to allow the police to better manage and enforce this," said Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu, and continued to state that the city has "zero tolerance for those who would attempt to exploit people's empathy for the homeless."

And yet another session, and another bill bites the dust. A last minute effort to show support for extending Tweed New Haven Airport's runaway another 1,000 met it's maker at 12pm Wednesday night, after the bill failed to pass both chambers. While the Mayor's office stood in strong support of the bill, maybe community activists were against the airport expansion. While the Mayor's office hoped for prosperity and growth, the community pushed for Tweed to remain a regional airport.

While this session has ended, there is always opportunity, on both sides, in a new year.

Behind the Scenes

By Chelsea Neelon

This week, I had the pleasure of speaking with with Representative Josh Elliott,  of the 88th House District and Vice-Chair of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee  to hear more about his time as a legislator and some thoughts on the 2018 legislative session. 

What were some of your legislative priorities for the session?
- 15 dollar minimum wage, legalizing marijuana, equalizing the property tax structure across the state, protecting CEP (citizens election program), ensuring a more equitable tax structure, ensuring that we have better access to voting if that means we have a holiday for it or no excuse absentee ballots, we need to get aid and dying in the state. That's good for now, right? :)

What is your favorite memory as a legislator?
- Getting the chance to bring out the legalization bill.

What legislation are you most proud of getting passed?
-  It hasn't happened yet and probably won't happen for a while. So stay tuned!

What is your favorite late night session snack?
-   Water, water and more water! Have to stay hydrated.

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