October 30, 2020
In This Issue:
From Paddi's Desk
CT Agency Corner
Municipal Roundup
Meet Alexandra Pilon
This Day in CT History
Trick or Treat?

Who really knows where the nation’s leadership will end up. Will we see a victory with the popular and defeat in the Electoral College? How will the swing states of Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Arizona and North Carolina decide the country’s next four years? We definitely know it won’t be over at the strike of 8 p.m. Tuesday night.

I’m really interested in what tricks or treats legislatives candidates will come up with on November 4th—or then again, maybe November 6th or later! As of Friday morning there’s been more than 500,000 absentee ballots returned to the 169 town clerks across the state, with an all-time high registered citizenry of 2,749,000 Connecticut voters! For some, turning out is dependent on legislative seats. For others, local issues matter more. According to our crystal ball, Connecticut could be facing a super majority in each of the Capitol’s chambers. And no one… I mean NO ONE…is really keen on that.

With a mostly popular Democrat Governor and a veto proof majority in both chambers, it’s a bit scary to be opposed to an initiative—or if your own initiative is not embraced by the majority party.

You’ll find some areas for wiggle room though if you dig deeper into the numbers. In the House the Republicans have the power of the process. Meaning they can leverage some decision making and/or amendments by simply utilizing the power of the microphone. If the new House Democratic leadership decides to play hardball (and I’m not saying they would all the time, just in some circumstances I think we all agree they would – caucus priorities, budget and governor initiatives) and freezes out the recommendations of the Republican members, I’m pretty sure some innocuous bill with little controversy will see hours, if not a day-long debate, parsing each and every word, questioning the meaning of a number and drilling down on the proposer’s knowledge of the subject in general. Popularly known as the filibuster!

Yes it could return to the House. It’s a well-practiced skill in the Senate for sure where the numbers have been askew for several sessions. But over the past four years only pulled out during two circumstances – a joint need to “stall” action while waiting on a mutually agreed upon amendment or a missing legislator, or a perceived lack of respect for the Republican members’ thoughts, opinions and recommendations.

With a virtual legislative procedure there could be a screeching halt to all action for the day and a retooling of the “go list” if the filibuster were to return to the lower chamber.

Another wild card in the House is how many members of the Democratic Caucus will be actively engaged with the sub caucus – the Progressive Caucus. Which will be looking to transform sleepy old Connecticut into a progressive, “modern” and forward-thinking state, no matter the cost to businesses and the taxpayers. I’m not suggesting they don’t have good intentions but I am suggesting that with CT’s economy not doing so good these days and a budget seriously under water to the tune of $5 billion or so, it’s not really the time to take on new and controversial issues without a desire to compromise. If they seek to take that direction then the newly elected Speaker will no doubt be looking for his colleagues across the aisle to pitch in and keep the focus on the workforce, economy, balancing the budget and getting out of town as quickly as possible.

In the Senate, which currently has a 22-14 current majority, a switch to 24-12 majority really isn’t that big of a deal. It’s rare in the Senate for the caucus to split and have to look for Republican support to get issues over the hump. It’s happened, but it’s usually on the BIG issues: tolls, taxes, social justice issues, stuff like that. SO whether there’s a veto proof Senate or not, it won’t really change the face of the Senate. But if somehow the CT Senate Republicans can beat the blue wave and inch closer to a tied Senate like in 2016, then there could be some interesting times on the third floor.

With the large Democratic numbers folks are expecting, and the moderate status usually displayed by the Governor, we might see the Governor having to use his positional power to work with the Republicans to seek compromise to thwart the aggressive efforts of the House progressives. I would not be surprised to see that happen with a number of critical issues this session.

So as we all wait to see the outcome, we can be assured it’s going to be a session like no other! Virtual, lack of public engagement and inside politics at play.  
Some Good News - This Time Around the Budget

It's certainly been a bleak series of woes and underperforming forecasts when it comes to how all states have seen their budget revenues deteriorate during the COVID -19 pandemic. Despite this, Connecticut saw some welcome good news come on the heels of the October 15th tax filing deadline that could mean our budget deficit may not be as severe as previously thought. Here are the details of the revised revenue projections and what could come next:

How large is the deficit now and what changed?

As of this week, our state's current fiscal year deficit (which ends on June 30, 2021) is project to be $1.2B which is more than half the amount projected prior to the tax filing deadline. It's hard to point to a single indicator for this change but OPM indicated in a letter to legislative leaders that, "the largest
change is in the Estimates and Finals category of the Personal Income Tax, up $210.0 million and reflective of healthy September estimated payments. The Sales and Use Tax has been revised upward by $90.7 million as that tax continues to exceed its target."

Where does the state see the trend growing or shrinking for the rest of the fiscal year?

The answer to this question is a bit complicated (to say the least). To give you an idea on how hard it is to predict the future budget deficit, the state needs to guess on (1) Whether or not businesses will continue to be open through the second wave of the pandemic (2) Will job growth rise, fall or remain flat in the months ahead and (3) Will the state receive funds from the federal government to account of the dramatic fall in revenue?

This presents incredible challenges for the state but in recent reports the state does predict a large return from the stock market gains of 2020, an active residential population boom that continues to rise (which also reflects increase spending habits) and a "rainy day fund" that has outperformed it's growth.

When will the state next estimate the deficit going into this fiscal year and the next two-year budget?

Connecticut law requires both OPM and the non-partisan budget office of the legislature the Office of Fiscal Analysis (OFA) to submit a revised revenue projection by mid-November which is called the Consensus Revenue Estimates. If and when the deficit for the current fiscal year is higher than 1% the Governor has the authority to continue to execute budget rescissions without any legislative approval for up to 5% of an agency budget and up to 3% of an individual line item. Those deficit numbers are expected to surpass the 1% threshold but not by as much as originally thought.

Here is a link to these projections for the current fiscal year.
The Ultimate Trick or Treat Conundrum

To trick or treat or not to trick or treat, that is the question! Tomorrow is Halloween, a day that kids look forward to for weeks and speaking for our families, we’re all going to be mindful of the pandemic when we made plans and that is no different for municipalities this week. The Governor and the Department of Public Health earlier this week made an announcements on Halloween. Essentially the State is suggesting that holiday celebrations should be contained to your own household and that we should not hand out candy or let children go door to door, especially if your town or city is in the “red alert” status for COVID infections. The state rules on gatherings are 25 people or less indoors but the Governor said, “the reality is, you shouldn’t be gathering with anywhere near that number of people,” and that “please don’t try to substitute trick-or-treating with a big party, even if it’s a big family party.” On the municipal front, Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin is heading that warning and asking his residents not to trick-or-treat and also suggested that even so called “trunk or treat” events should not happen either.

If you haven’t made up any plans yet for tomorrow, here’s CT DPH guidelines for the Halloween:

In New Canaan, they are not strongly discouraging trick-or-treating and town officials said, “the town is not cancelling Halloween but rather we are encouraging people to participate in a much safer way,” Administrative Officer Tucker Murphy said. Some parents may choose to allow children to trick-or-treat while only accepting prepackaged items or taking candy from a table left out without human interaction or grabbing from a bowl.

For other towns that have made statements regarding Halloween, the CT Post did a nice job summarizing these protocols. 

As an undergraduate student in 2013, Sullivan & LeShane brought me on as a sessional intern, and I’m lucky that I’ve been able to stay in touch with the team ever since. That first year, I was exposed to the positive culture, strategic thinking and working style that’s so fundamental to each task here and I’m thrilled to be re-joining this team as a Senior Government Relations Associate/Lobbyist.

I love government relations work, because it allows me to leverage two of my main personality traits – curiosity and adaptability. I’m curious by nature and I enjoy learning new things and discussing them with others who have different perspectives than I do. What I most enjoy is getting to utilize the information I’m consuming all day - from news media to social media, research papers, conversations with legislators and state government officials. From all of this, I filter out relevant information to share with clients so that together we can make positive policy changes.

Successful lobbyists have to be adaptable, since we’re operating in an ever-changing environment. Yet even with some turnover in the legislature each election cycle, many legislators do remain, as do key staff, allowing my relationships to keep getting stronger. The ins and outs of the legislative process remain largely the same as well, and when unique situations arise I’m able to learn more about those lesser known rules.

Lastly as we're just days away from Election Day, I would be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to plug a reminder to vote! There is still time to drop off your absentee ballot in a ballot drop box located outside of town halls, or if you prefer to vote in-person, you can do so at your polling location. You can even still register to vote if you haven’t done so yet, on Tuesday, November 3rd at your designated Election Day Registration location.

October 29, 1764 - The Hartford Courant releases their first issue

The Nation's oldest printed newspaper marks their 256th anniversary this week of releasing the very first edition of the Hartford Courant which was originally called the, "Connecticut Courant".

The story of it's origination is a fascinating one and is told here by the CT Humanities Council:

In October of 1764, 29-year-old Thomas Green, a fourth-generation printer, suddenly found himself out of a job working at the Connecticut Gazette print shop in New Haven. The Gazette, Connecticut’s very first newspaper, had been established several years earlier by the enterprising Benjamin Franklin, who had just sacked Green in order to install his nephew as head of the print shop. Undeterred, Green headed north to Hartford — then a prosperous river town of 4,000 people — and set up a new printing press on what is now Main Street with the help of his journeyman, Ebenezer Watson.

On October 29 of that same year, Green published the first issue of the Connecticut Courant, a weekly newspaper that promised readers it would be “useful, and entertaining, not only as a Channel for News, but assisting to all Those who may have Occasion to make use of it as an Advertiser.” Unbeknownst to Green at the time, his modest newspaper venture would continue publication, uninterrupted, for over 250 years, becoming one of the longest-lasting businesses in American history.

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