March 22, 2019
The latest from the folks across the street from the Capitol

From Paddi's Desk
by Paddi LeShane

It's a fitting day today. Dreary, overcast and kind of sad. Most of the activity at the LOB came to a halt yesterday around 3PM when a bus left Hartford filled with legislators and staff to pay respects to Representative Ezequiel Santiago, who passed away one week ago today. This morning his family, friends and community celebrated his life accomplishments in his favorite place: Bridgeport, CT.

While he was not a "Native Nutmegger," he and his family have left a mark on their adoptive hometown of Bridgeport. His father served in the House before "Zeke" stepped up to represent the City. This year he assumed the role of the Bridgeport delegation chair and co-chair of the Banking Committee, and was quickly seen as an insider with a heart and a zeal to make things happen. We send our condolences not only to his personal family but his legislative family as well.

While committees and caucuses continue to debate and take positions on a variety of issues, I think it's a perfect time to take a minute and talk about statesmanship, civility and negotiation.

Civility is about more than just politeness, although politeness is a necessary first step. It is about disagreeing with respect, seeking common ground as a starting point for a dialogue about differences, listening past one's preconceptions and modeling that behavior for others. Civility is the hard work of staying present even with those whom we have deeply rooted and fierce disagreements. It is political in the sense that it is a necessary prerequisite for civic action. It is political, too, in the sense that it is about negotiating interpersonal power such that everyone's voice is heard, and nobody's is ignored.

Everyone who "does business" at the Capitol knows those times when you just want to strangle someone who's being immovable. There are times when the politics of the situation overtake the listening part of an issue. And we all know it's easier to fuel the fires with rhetoric and passion versus rolling up the sleeves and looking deeper for that win-win situation.

Negotiation is another can of worms that doesn't fit well in a political environment. It's a method by which people settle differences. It is a process by which compromise or agreement is reached while avoiding argument and dispute. In any disagreement, individuals understandably aim to achieve the best possible outcome for their position (or perhaps an organization they represent). However, the principles of fairness, seeking mutual benefits and maintaining a relationship are the keys to a successful outcome.

And lastly, statesmanship. Many say you know it when you see it. I'd tend to agree, but the experts say it's the "... demonstration of leadership or decision making, that puts the country, the state, or other governmental entity above the goals and interests of the individual, political 
party, or ideology."

We look at the next 11 weeks left in the legislative session and we see the mounds of hot-button, controversial issues confronting the 187 members of the legislature and the Governor. We're hoping that somewhere along the way the caucus leaders, along with the Governor and even the lobbyists, will step up and think about what is in the best interests of the people of CT, along with what is sustainable and what is tolerable for the small businesses that support CT's economy. 

Right now, CT's biggest focus should be on what will move CT towards a sustainable and responsible economy where once on solid footing, we can look at the finer points of living in CT. Maintaining a solid taxpayer-focused economy, supporting workforce initiatives, delivering on quality education for the digital world ahead will go farther than placing burdens after burdens on those who want to stay in CT. However, should they be dealt what they see as the last straw, they too will go to greener pastures.

We all want to go to Disney World, but maybe for the next couple years we will have to settle for a trip to a local attraction, where we can take in the comforts of our families and communities and rebuild our great state!

The Legislative Scoop
File Copies 101
by Mike Johnson
Now that we are mid-way through the legislative session, you will start to see file copies being sent from our office for bills.

A file copy comes out after a bill has been JF'ed out of committee, and it receives a fiscal analysis report from the Office of Fiscal Analysis and a legislative research report from the Office of Legislative Research. It also includes information on the committee action taken on the bill in terms of the Joint Favorable or Joint Favorable Substitute vote that it received to be passed out of committee. 

It is the full version of a bill that includes any substitute language that's been added and all additional non-partisan information about a proposal. This is the version of the bill that is ready for consideration by the full House or Senate.

As file copies continue to come out for bills as they are voted out of committee, we will be sure to keep you posted!

2019 Behind the Scenes
by Chelsea Neelon

This week, we featured State Representative Rick Lopes of the 24th House District.

What motivated you to run for office?
As a social worker I am driven by a desire to see economic and social fairness in society.  I hope to give voice to those without power.

What are your legislative priorities this session?
- Definitely e ducation funding for New Britain and a  $15/hour min wage. 

Last question! What's your favorite hobby?
I love to ski.
In This Issue:

CT Agency Corner
By Chelsea Neelon

Usually Fridays at the LOB are a bit quieter, but today the building saw a good amount of buzz with supporters and opponents ready to testify regarding the legalization and retail sale of marijuana.

Last week, the House Democratic chairs of the Judiciary, General Law and Finance committees announced that each committee will be introducing legislation on the legalization of marijuana. After each bill goes through the hearing and committee process, proponents of the legislation hope to create one piece of legislation that encompasses the legalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana.

As reported by the CTPost, "The leaders said that the current producers of marijuana for the state's medical cannabis program would have the extra capacity needed to provide retail marijuana in the first months of a new retail program, while an anticipated three tiers of new growers - small, medium and large operations - jump through the initial regulatory hoops." 
Beyond that, there will be language that includes the erasure of criminal records for small possession of marijuana charges, as legislators have reiterated the hope to create equity within the creation of this legislation for all communities.

Many of the details still need to be worked out, as the Finance committee still does not yet have language for legislation on this issue, but the public hearings are a start to the process of possibility having legalization passed this year. Stay tuned!

by Ryan Bingham

Governor Ned Lamont has faced serious backlash this session over his proposal to regionalize Connecticut's school districts.

The Governor softened his stance on the issue on Wednesday, when he released a new legislative proposal that does not mention any form of redistricting. Instead, the revised bill will, "create a Commission on shared school services," and "... develop recommendations." These recommendations will help schools find ways to collaborate through shared services, such as software, transportation, staff, and superintendents. By sharing these services, the Governor hopes Connecticut's public schools can cut down on administrative costs. However, the Governor's new proposal will not require any form of redistricting as it is currently amended.

As for the rest of the bill, the Governor made no changes to the part granting the Commissioner of Education the right to withhold funding from small school districts that do not share superintendents. Small school districts are defined as, "towns having fewer than 10,000 residents, having one or two public elementary schools, or having fewer than 2,000 students."

Did You Know?
This Month in CT History
March 16, 1977
Connecticut Chooses An Official State Song

In late 1977, temporarily setting aside the politics of a struggling national economy and election-year posturing, the Connecticut General Assembly took up the task of selecting an official state song for the state of Connecticut.  The request for a state song first came from then-governor Ella Grasso's predecessor, Thomas Meskill, who was reportedly sick of hearing Yale University's fight song, "Boola Boola," being played whenever he showed up at official functions as Governor.

After months of debate, Representative (and future governor) William O'Neill proposed replacing the word "girls" with "folks" in the chorus of "Yankee Doodle" in order to eliminate any possible hints of sexism the original song may have contained.  

O'Neill's proposal made "Yankee Doodle" palatable enough for the state House of Representatives to pass a motion making it Connecticut's state song on March 9, 1978.  After voting down a proposal by then-state senator Joseph Lieberman to include a reference to "Boola Boola" in the agreed-upon lyrics, the state Senate followed suit, voting to make "Yankee Doodle" Connecticut official state song on March 16, 1978.