Welcome to The Hartford Portfolio, Yankee Institute’s update on what’s happening at the State Capitol during the legislative session. This year is known as a “short session” because it generally runs from February through May in even-numbered years. Lawmakers will make adjustments to last year’s biennial budget, which will chiefly involve spending the state’s anticipated $1.5 billion surplus. Individual senators and representatives won’t be able to introduce bills, but legislation can still be introduced through committees.
Here’s some of what we saw in Hartford this week:
- Lawmakers on Tuesday held a six-hour hearing about the governor’s emergency powers and his request to continue several policies that were enacted by executive order. Fewer than half of the 369 people who signed up to testify ended up getting a turn, though the “randomized” speaker order gave the heads of Connecticut’s statewide teachers unions the first and second spots.
- The General Assembly kicked off its 2022 session on Wednesday. Governor Lamont’s State of the State speech touted Connecticut’s “fiscal turnaround.” The governor’s just-released budget proposal calls for using a portion of the state’s surplus on $336 million in self-styled “tax cuts” consisting mainly of recycled election-year gimmicks.
- The House voted (86 to 62) Thursday to modify and extend parts of 11 pandemic-related executive orders, including the directive that required K-12 students to wear masks in school now set to expire February 28. Under the approved bill, each school district would be authorized to keep the current mask rules in place, though the state health commissioner can overrule them. The House defeated an amendment that would have given parents the final say on whether their student had to wear a mask. The House also approved a resolution continuing the state’s pandemic state of emergency until June 30, primarily to let Connecticut residents continue drawing an extra $32 million per month in food stamp benefits from the federal government. Senate votes on the executive orders and the state of emergency resolution are expected Monday.