The Capitol Beat: May 13-17, 2013

From Gaffney, Bennett & Associates

May 13, 2013 – May 17, 2013

It felt a little like the calm before a storm this past week at the Capitol, with no major, overarching issues dominating the calendars of the House and Senate, but plenty of side meetings occurring among leadership, the administration and others on a variety of issues, including the budget.  Expect a lot of the big ticket issues to be uncorked in the remaining two and a half weeks before the Legislature’s June 5 adjournment.

Here are just a few nuggets of news coming from under the Capitol dome this week:  Governor Malloy reiterated his pledge not to raise taxes in the next two-year budget; Senate President Don Williams, D-Brooklyn, proclaimed that the Legislature will pass a balanced budget by its June 5 adjournment; potential GOP gubernatorial candidate and current House Minority Leader, Larry Cafero of Norwalk, brushed off any suggestions that he is linked to the ongoing investigation involving former House Speaker Chris Donovan, and said that whispers of his involvement would not stand in his way of a decision to run for Governor.

Behind the headlines:  There are still a few state Senators who are not keen on busting the Constitutional spending cap in order to balance the budget, the most senior of whom is state Sen. Joan Hartley, D-Waterbury, who has remained loyal to her transparent budgeting roots throughout her nearly 30 years at the Capitol. She and a few of her counterparts are reportedly tasked with finding savings in the budget necessary to avoid having a spending cap battle.

Sampling of Bills Passed and Moving Forward

  • Connecticut will be able to rest easy should the Governor sign a measure, approved by both chambers, which would mandate mattress recycling.  If signed into law, Connecticut would become the first state to mandate mattress recycling – beating out California! – and consumers will pick up the tab with a newly imposed fee when they purchase the product.   Cities and towns estimate that it costs them $1.3 million per year to dispose of mattresses, considered bulky waste. Paint and computer monitors have been the focus of similar proposals in the past, and more so-called “producer responsibility” proposals are sure to be in the pipeline.
  • The Senate passed, along party lines, a bill (SB 316) that requires the Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) commissioner, in consultation with the public health commissioner, to issue a notice detailing the recommended best practices for the safe use of cell phones. It defines a cell phone as a portable wireless telephone device designed to send or receive transmissions through cellular radiotelephone service, as defined in federal regulations. The notice must be posted on the DCP website.  The bill awaits action in the House.
  • The Senate unanimously approved and forwarded to the House a bill, (SB 434), which makes numerous changes concerning government administration.  Specifically, the bill: eliminates a requirement that the administrative fee associated with e-government services be deposited in the General Fund; allows the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) commissioner to extend certain goods and services contracts without competitive bidding or quotations; revises the charge and increases the size of the committee established to encourage employment by the state of people with disabilities; and increases, from $ 7,500 to $ 20,000, the threshold under which the Claims Commissioner can administratively settle claims against the state.

Section 2 of the bill, dealing with goods and services contracts, specifies that the law prohibiting state agencies from extending contracts for supplies, materials, equipment, or contractual services, and which deals with competitive bid and quotation requirements, does not apply to situations where the contractor is a sole source provider. Among other things, the bill also allows the DAS commissioner to extend, for up to one year and without competitive bids or quotations, a contract for supplies, materials, equipment, or contractual services if he certifies in writing that failing to extend the contract would compromise the continuity of an agency’s systems or operations.

  • Another DAS bill dealing with government efficiency, (SB 111), was altered in the House and sent back to the Senate.  As amended, the bill modifies the makeup of an important DAS advisory committee and expands the reporting duties of the committee.   The committee advises the agency on its organization and functions regarding information and telecommunications systems, and reviews and approves the state’s information and telecommunications system strategic plan. The revised bill removes the Comptroller, Treasurer, and the chairpersons of the UConn Board of Trustees and the Board of Regents for Higher Education from the committee, and adds to the Secretary of the State (or a designee) and up to four commissioners (or their designees) of executive branch agencies, jointly appointed by the Office of Policy and Management secretary and the DAS commissioner.  In its annual report, the advisory committee will be required to gather new information. Specifically, it will be required to identify and review the efforts of DAS’s Division of Information Technology and executive branch agencies in using e-government solutions to deliver state services and conduct state programs, including: agency clients’ feedback and demands, and plans to address these concerns with online solutions, when determined to be feasible by the agencies. The bill also specifies that the report must be submitted to the Appropriations, Government Administration and Elections, and Program Review and Investigations committees, rather than the Legislature as a whole.

Legislative Calendar for Week of May 20-24*

Monday, May 20

10:00 AMHouse SessionHouse Chamber

Tuesday, May 21

9:30 AMJudiciary Committee MeetingLOB Room 1E
9:30 AMAppropriations and Human Services Public Hearing re Waive Amendments, Followed by Committee MeetingsLOB Room 1D
10:00 AMPlanning & Development Committee MeetingLOB Room 2A
10:00 AMGovernment Administration and Elections Committee MeetingLOB Room 2B
10:30 AMFinance, Revenue and Bonding Committee MeetingLOB Room 2E
10:30 AMTransportation Committee MeetingCAP Outside House Chamber
10:30 AMLabor and Public Employees Committee MeetingCAP Outside House Chamber
11:00 AMRight to Know GMO CT: GMO Free CT RallyCAP Grounds North

Wednesday, May 22

9:00 AMOffice of the Healthcare Advocate: Mental Health Awareness DayCAP Hall of Flags
1:00 PMBHPOC/MAPOC Coordination of Care/Consumer Access Committee MeetingLOB Room 1E
5:00 PMCT Association of Nonprofits: Legislative ReceptionCAP Old Judiciary Room

Thursday, May 23 

9:30 AMRep. Cafero: McDonald’s Legislative DayLOB Room 1B
3:00 PMCommunity Health Center, Inc.: Informational ExpoCAP Room 310
5:00 PMMetro Hartford Alliance: Legislative ReceptionCAP Old Judiciary Room

Friday, May 24

9:30 AMCouncil on Medical Assistance Program Oversight: Complex Care Committee MeetingLOB Room 1A
10:00 AMOffice of the Governor: Cabinet on Nonprofit Health & Human ServicesCAP Room 310

*Note: The House and Senate sessions for the week are not all published yet in the Legislative Bulletin, but it is anticipated that the House will be in session possibly Monday through Friday this week, and the Senate at least three days, beginning on Tuesday at 11 a.m.

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