The real work for Tuesday’s special is happening now, in closed door negotiations as legislative leaders meet to decide what will be in the bills to be voted on. State Senate Majority Leader Marty Looney tells The Hanging Shad he hoping that Republicans will not take advantage of the scandal facing state Speaker of the House Chris Donovan. The General Assembly will vote on bills to implement the adjustments to the state budget. However, implementers always become a last-ditch effort for bills that didn’t make it through in the regular session.
Negotiations between legislative leaders and the governor’s budget office are intensifying. However, it’s state House Majority Leader Brendan Sharkey representing the his caucus in the meetings since Speaker Chris Donovan relinquished the duties of the Speaker because of the federal investigation into alleged wrong-doing involving campaign contributions to his congressional campaign.
Looney, considered by this writer as the conscience of the Senate, says he hopes Republicans will not exploit the Speaker’s absence. “We hope there will be no grandstanding [at the special session],” Looney tells The Hanging Shad. “Such action would be reckless and irresponsible.”
Meanwhile, just what will be included in the “implementers” is up in the air. Expected is a jobs bill that is the top priority for Senate President Don Williams. The bill passed the Senate in the regular session but was never taken up by the House.
It’s also likely the much-talked-about “Roll Your Own” (RYO) bill will be included. RYO is the bill at the center of the federal investigation that has engulfed Donovan’s campaign and led to the Speaker stepping back from the gavel. In short, the bill would reclassify roll-your-own cigarette operations so they are subject to taxes and fees from which they are exempt now. The bill made it through the committee process but was not taken up by either chamber. It was a Senate bill.
Looney also tells The Shad he is completely convinced that Donovan knew nothing about the fundraising that is the subject of the federal investigation.