November 13, 2020
In This Issue:
From Paddi's Desk
CT Agency Corner
Municipal Roundup
From Inside The Golden Dome
This Day in CT History
When the music stops, where will people be sitting?

Connecticut’s 2020 Election is over. Thank heavens! A few recounts are required but for the most part the Legislative Office Building is now re-focused on what’s next. The Capitol’s top leadership was selected this past week and Speaker-Designate Matt Ritter has begun announcing his picks for committee chairs. With some retirements and the elevation of Finance, Revenue and Bonding Chair Jason Rojas to House Majority Leader, it’s become a game of musical chairs.

Several deputy leaders retired last year and with a bunch of movement in leadership spots, there’s a ton of speculation as to who will co-chair the “big” committees of Education, Insurance, Public Health, Transportation and Environment. Some have chairs already in place who were re-elected, but that doesn’t guarantee them a return to the committee.

At times, after several years of co-chairing a committee, a legislator may want to seek a caucus leadership role on the screening committee or within a deputy leader spot. Other times the current chairs may want to expand their horizons and take on a new topic, instead of re-doing their past two years. And importantly, all current committee chairs were selected by outgoing Speaker Aresimowicz. So with a new Speaker-Designate now in charge, some appointments may change based on the strength of relationships, views about the mission and/or a changing of leadership style that the Speaker-Designate is looking to achieve.

Leadership in the House is clearly in the hands of the Speaker, but it’s become tradition that the Majority Leader has some sway in selecting the co-chairs and vice chairs. So it would not surprise any of us to see some vice chairs move into leadership roles, as well as chairs move into deputy spots. In recent years it’s been important to manage the full spectrum of the caucus’ political philosophies. With a strong progressive caucus and a vocal Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, we think we’ll see more diversity in many of the appointed spots.

On the Republican side there are a few less members in both the Senate and House and we expect to see some doubling up on committee assignments. The GOP Caucus saw big changes in their leadership with many incumbents not running for re-election (particularly in the House). This will make their game of musical chairs a bit more challenging. The legislature is technically a part time role and their compensation is definitely designed to reflect a part time job. Many legislators have to balance their work at the Capitol with their “real” jobs and many younger legislators need to balance parenting as well. It often makes it impossible for some to accept additional leadership responsibilities beyond their district. Session after session several very competent members of the legislature have declined a leadership role due to the requirements and nature of the job.

With more Dems winning their recent election and a large class of freshmen coming in, you can bet this game of musical chairs will be another test for the new leadership’s ability to build a collaborative process.

Next up: How in the heck will session actually operate? It’s clearly looking like a virtual engagement given the uptick in positive tests. We’ll take a look at where this is going next week. 
Budget Update

The one topic that seems to pair perfectly with a post-election wrap-up better than a cabernet with a NY strip is the budget.
 
The Governor and State Legislature certainly have a large collection of topics shaping up the 2021 session (more on that in the coming weeks) but ultimately the state budget is the sun of the legislative solar system. Connecticut’s budget has seen struggling numbers that took place during the peak of the first shut down but it still fares better than other states have during COVID-19. One example is the statistics showing the real estate market in Connecticut up over 25% when compared to the same time in 2019 and a national survey conducted assessed Connecticut as the 3rd highest state (outside of Vermont and North Dakota) to have an influx of new residents directly related to COVID-19.
 
Our baseline numbers as a state were confirmed Tuesday in the latest report known as the Consensus Revenue Estimates which take place three times a year.

This statutory requirement that was created in 2009 states that the Governor’s budget office (the Office of Policy and Management) and the legislative budget office (Office of Fiscal Analysis) must analyze their budget projections for the remainder of the year and reach a consensus on the current deficit or surplus (what’s that?!).
 
Those numbers leave our state budget in a bad deficit but not as bad as originally projected. As of now, the current fiscal year that ends on June 30, 2021 will likely carry around a $900M deficit with the outside fiscal years carrying a $1.3B and $1.45B deficit respectively.
 
Since the $900M figure is above the 1% threshold of the total budget, the Governor has the ability to invoke what is called Rescission Authority where he can cut any state agency up to 5% and any individual line-item up to 3% without any legislative approval or ability to override the cuts.
 
Early indications identify that the Governor is not ready (yet) to invoke this power since the legislature was just elected last week but it certainly is an important back-pocket strategy that the Governor could leverage in his favor if he chooses.
 
With significant gains made by Democrats in Connecticut, new sources of revenue will be put back on the table for consideration to help mitigate this number. That said, the state also is carrying a $3.1B reserve balance known as the “rainy day fund” which will likely also be used to help cover the deficit given the unusual circumstances of the pandemic.
 
All eyes will be on the Governor’s proposed two-year budget which is set to be released in February.
Housing Solutions Needed

CT towns and cities have an issue on their hands that has been exasperated in recent months - evictions. Between 2007 and 2018, the number of households that lacked enough income to cover basic needs like housing was about 38%, according to the United Way of CT. As of 2016, eviction rates in four CT cities were among the highest in the nation and 20,000 households lost their homes due to eviction just last year. This year due to the pandemic there was some relief from this growing trend when the CDC issued a federal eviction moratorium and a CT moratorium has just recently been lifted slightly that would allow landlords to initiate some non-payment cases to housing courts. 
 
Recently, $40 million was allocated to the Temporary Rental Housing Assistance Program (TRHAP) in CT and this will assist 10,000 renters, but some say it is not enough to cover the estimated 140,500 renters that could be potentially in need of these funds. TRHAP assists with three months of rent or less. The eviction moratorium is scheduled to expire at the end of 2020 and many advocates are urging the State to do more to protect those that are in need. Many are urging CT to cease issuing eviction executions and default judgments, extend the moratorium for the duration of the public health crisis and consider new laws that protect tenants’ credit. There are no easy solutions as many of the landlords in these cases are also struggling to make ends meet with so few rents coming in to pay debts. There is no doubt that this legislative session will be full of discussion about housing and the eviction issue seems to be on top of that list.
Additional Leadership Positions Announced in the House

This week, we saw the announcement of several key committee chairs by Speaker-Designate Matt Ritter and Majority Leader Jason Rojas. Following the news of Sean Scanlon as Finance, Revenue and Bonding committee chair, House democratic leadership announced that many legislators will return to positions of leadership they’ve previously held:

·        Rep. Toni Walker (D-New Haven) as Appropriations Chair,
·        Rep. Pat Billie Miller (D-Stamford) as Bonding Sub-Committee Chair,
·        Rep. Steve Stafstrom (D-Bridgeport) as Judiciary Chair, 
·        Rep. Caroline Simmons (D-Stamford) as Commerce Chair,
·        Rep. Liz Linehan (D-Cheshire) as Childrens Chair, and
·        Soon to be announced, Rep. Bobby Sanchez (D-New Britain) as Education Chair.

With these reappointments confirmed, committees can soon begin their work on agenda setting for next session. Big questions remain on several key committees, including Insurance and Real Estate which was previously led by Rep. Sean Scanlon before his elevation to the Finance committee.

In addition to announcing these leaders, House democratic leadership held a press conference this week with State Comptroller Kevin Lembo and other legislative leaders from the Senate, to discuss the need for healthcare reform. They jointly stated that accessible and affordable healthcare is needed more than ever before. We anticipate that a proposal for a public option, as well as other policy changes related to healthcare, will be big topics in the coming months.
November 13, 1913 - Emmeline Pankhurst Delivers One of the 20th Century’s Greatest Speeches – “Freedom or Death”

Today in 1913, British suffragist Emmeline Pankhurst delivered her famous “Freedom or Death” speech to a crowd of supporters at the Parsons Theater in Hartford, Connecticut. The famous activist, well-known to Americans for the aggressive tactics she employed at suffragist rallies in England, was invited to speak by architect Theodate Pope of Farmington, and introduced by Hartford socialite and feminist Katharine Houghton Hepburn.

Taking the stage in front of a green, white, and purple banner that read “Resistance to Tyranny is Obedience to God,” Pankhurst spoke for over ninety minutes, delivering a powerful and eloquent justification of using militant tactics to agitate for women’s rights. “Tonight I am not here to advocate woman suffrage,” she declared; “I am here as a soldier who has temporarily left the field of battle in order to explain what civil war is like when civil war is waged by women.” Giving a detailed history of the trials and tribulations of the women’s movement in England, Pankhurst also made multiple references to the political ideals of the Enlightenment and the American Revolution, repeatedly stressing the intolerable status quo of an entire country of women being governed without their consent: “We have been proving in our own person that government does not rest upon force; it rests upon consent… all of the strange happenings that you have read about over [in England] have been manifestations of a refusal to consent on the part of the women.”

Here is a link to the full article - Provided by CT Humanities Council
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