Hospital officials, social services advocates, columnists, newspaper editorial boards, bloggers, even some Democratic lawmakers—they all seem to want it. Republican legislative leaders—they’ve wanted it for months. “It” is a special session of the Connecticut General Assembly to restore Gov. Dannel Malloy’s budget cuts. And it’s not going to happen unless things change.
Why are the majority Democratic leaders resisting? Because they believe Republicans are going to turn it into political theatre; demanding a seat at the negotiating table and then voting against the final product anyway.
There is one thing that all the above players want: to restore most if not all of Malloy’s cuts that fell heavily on programs for people who can least avoid to lose the services. But is a special session the way to do?
Senate President Marty Looney explained it perfectly to The Hanging Shad last week. There is no reason to call a special session, debate and negotiate a package to restore the cuts and then have Republicans vote against it anyway. “The minority party doesn’t have to be the responsible party,” Looney said, “They can just vote ‘no.’”
Looney has a point and illustrated it with an example from the past. “When we passed the gun violence reduction laws [in 2013 after the Newtown massacre], Senator [John] McKinney and Representative [Larry] Cafero came to the table, stayed at the table and then delivered 40 percent of their caucus to vote for the final product,” Looney said. “That it not yet the case here.”
Further, Looney points out, it is a bit disingenuous for Republicans to cry foul now when in the last legislative session, Democrats restored a good deal of Malloy’s cuts to the same type of programs as now, and the Republicans voted against it.
There are several moving pieces of this whole situation. Republicans have floated an alternative budget plan that restores cuts in the past but it relies heavily on union concessions which Democrats are loathe to ask for, even the ones that were previously negotiated but never materialized.
Will Democrats ask labor for givebacks? The answer is usually a quick and big “no.” But special circumstances demand special solutions. The door was cracked last week when Democratic Sen. Beth Bye at least it could be considered. That’s no small thing. Bye is the Democratic co-chair of the Appropriations Committee which carries a lot of influence. But The Shad’s experience is that Bye is among the most thoughtful and smart legislators in the General Assembly. So others may follow her into the dark abyss of possibility challenging labor.