We are in the final stretch of the Connecticut General Assembly’s 2021 legislative session. The committees all have wrapped up their work, and the state House of Representatives and state Senate now are in the full swing of holding session days, during which each chamber—in their entirety—debate and pass legislation.
With a little over a month left in the session, the majority party in each chamber is working to pass its own priority legislation. In a few weeks, the state House will address the state Senate bills—and vice versa—and then they will start sending legislation to Gov. Ned Lamont’s desk. The Senate—since it has fewer members—typically waits until the last week of the session to take action on a large number of state House bills. The state House—which has more members—typically starts taking action on state Senate bills earlier in the session.
What bills are being considered?
Several big-ticket pieces of legislation remain in the air. Neither the state House nor the state Senate has addressed legislation that would tackle the following:
- a public option for health insurance,
- legalization of recreational cannabis,
- sports betting and iGaming, or
- a resolution to support a constitutional amendment to allow for no-excuse absentee voting.
Barring broad consensus, any one of these issues likely would be time consuming to debate in each chamber.
The biennial budget
In addition to those issues, the state Legislature also will have to pass a new biennial budget. The state Legislature’s taxing committee—Finance, Revenue & Bonding—approved a revenue package that would significantly increase taxes on corporations and the state’s wealthiest citizens in an effort to fund a new, “equitable investment fund” to support programs for underserved communities.
In recent weeks, Lamont has stated multiple times that he is opposed to tax increases, which could, potentially, setup an intra-party showdown between Democratic Party leaders.
The session and the pandemic
Hanging over all these issues is that the state Legislature still is working remotely. Because lawmakers, staff, and advocates are unable to meet in person to discuss these issues, the legislative process has been slowed down.
So far, the state House and state Senate have not been in session on the same day, which is unusual. While that may change in the coming weeks, it’s all but certain that the session will continue remotely until further notice.
Lawmakers, staff, and advocates are navigating an unprecedented process during a—hopefully—once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. It will be fascinating to see how the rest of the session unfolds, and how much lawmakers will be able to accomplish given the logistical challenges they face.
For updates on Connecticut’s 2021 legislative session, read your PIA Northeast publications.