The mysterious case of who changed the date when undocumented immigrants can get a Connecticut driver’s license remains unsolved. But now the governor’s chief of staff is blaming the nonpartisan office that puts the documents together for the mistake.
On Wednesday morning of this week, I appeared on NBC Connecticut’s morning news in my role as their political analyst. When anchor Brad Drazen asked me what would take place on the last day of the legislative session, I explained that the legislature would be passing “implementer” bills—legislation that actually puts the budget into effect.
Sensing the viewers’ eyes glazing over or leaving the TV for that second cup of coffee at 6:30 a.m., I also explained that implementers are also now used as vehicles to put in last minute changes in language or even completely unrelated legislation—known in legislative parlance as “rats.” I said sometimes lawmakers will try to sneak rats in under the radar.
Just hours later, the lawmakers made me look like I had a crystal ball. A House Republican staff attorney noticed that the effective date of undocumenteds’ driver’s licensing bill had been change in an implementer from 2015 to next month.
Republicans were irate and threatened to filibuster the rest of the day and therefore the rest of the session. Democrats quickly claimed they had no idea how the change got in there, buried in technical language of the bill which was some 500 pages long. Once the “mistake” was found, the Dems agreed to take it out and business continued.
However, the question remains, who made the change? It had to be someone of authority. A staff member can’t simply pick up the phone and tell the Legislative Commissioner’s Office (LCO) to make such a change. It wasn’t as if a number was missing or the wrong bill number was referenced—both mistakes that LCO might make although even that is unlikely. This language was purposely put in to move up the effective date of the bill.
Gov. Dannel Malloy’s chief of staff Mark Ojakian blamed LCO for the mistake. That’s nonsense. LCO is led and staffed by nonpartisan professionals who review bills, gather content and send drafts back to the legislature. They don’t change the content of bills, even in implementers, unless there are told to do so.
Here is The Shad’s theory: The voting public has a short memory. The driver’s- license-for-illegals issue does not poll well—people generally oppose it according to those surveys. If the new law was to take effect next month instead of 2015, by the time the next legislative elections roll around in 2014, voters may consider it old news. But if it takes effect in 2015, it’s a campaign issue. So it’s in the Democrats interest—they were the ones who supported and pushed the bill through—to have it be old news before the next election. Therefore, a Democrat with some serious juice would be my “person of interest.”
It’s just a theory but it makes sense to me.
The blaming of LCO for a substantive change in legislation stealthily tucked into an implementer bill is a case of finding a scapegoat who likely won’t say anything. LCO won’t get into it because they need to remain nonpartisan.
In the end, we may never know who dumped the rat into the vat that was the last day of the 2013session.