Surprises could be in store at special legislative session
HARTFORD -- The General Assembly has set June 12 for the special legislative session to approve the authorization language of the $20.5 billion budget that takes effect July 1.
While it should be a routine event, there will be several opportunities for intrigue, vampire bills rising from the dead and other political shenanigans.
The proposal to raise the $8.25 minimum wage by 50 cents over the next two years, which died from a lack of support in the Democratic-controlled Senate when the budget adjustment session ended earlier this month, may come back to life.
A job-promotion bill that also died will have an easier time becoming a legislative vampire, though, because it has bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. It would expand the availability of tax credits to companies that hire and train the unemployed and veterans.
Also expected to be inserted in "the back of the budget" as the legislation is called, is about $3.5 million for Bridgeport's troubled schools, which this year narrowed a $6 million deficit after the state takeover of the local Board of Education.
Senate Majority Leader Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, said he has supported raising the minimum wage.
"I hope there's some way to bring it into the discussion, perhaps through additional compromise," Looney said. "I certainly support taking another crack at it."
Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, said that he anticipates majority Democrats will open the scope of the special session to include the minimum wage, which was a major legislative goal -- and disappointment -- for Speaker of the House Christopher G. Donovan.
"Opening the special session beyond the budget is more than they legally can do," McKinney said. "In effect, they want to extend the regular session. It's because of their earlier failure to manage their calendar."
Donovan, D-Meriden, has scheduled a closed-door caucus for Democratic House members at 10 a.m. June 12.
Minority House Republicans are expected to try to hold Democrats strictly to the agenda announced in the dying minutes of the last session on May 8. But the GOP is outnumbered 99-52.
"We'll continue to oppose an expanded the call of the session to add a Christmas tree of bills," said McKinney, whose caucus is dominated by Democrats 22-14. "The votes were not there for the minimum wage at the end of the session."
Technically, for the issue of the minimum wage to appear, the majority would have to convene a special session within the special session.
The job-development legislation, an outgrowth of last October's special jobs session of the General Assembly, has support from both Democrats and Republicans and would fit into the rules of the special session.
"Job development is economic development and it is broad-based," Looney said.
McKinney anticipates the potential for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate to negotiate and compromise over a jobs bill, some kind of increase to the minimum wage and legislation the governor wanted to eliminate mandated state police staffing levels, which also died May 8.
Malloy said Friday the focus of the special session is to properly trigger the upcoming budget.
"Right now, unless the Legislature expands the call for the coming special session, I am looking to focus squarely on implementing the budget that was passed earlier this month," he said in a statement. " If the call is changed or they decide to add another special session, I'm open to discussing other issues. But for the time being, I would like to work toward implementing a budget well before the start of the new fiscal year, which begins on July 1."