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Connecticut General Assembly

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Connecticut General Assembly

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General Information
Type:   State legislature
Term limits:   None
2014 session start:   February 8, 2012
Website:   Official Legislature Page
Leadership
Senate President:   Donald Williams, Jr. (D)
House Speaker:  Christopher Donovan (D)
Majority Leader:   Martin Looney (D) (Senate),
J. Brendan Sharkey (D) (House)
Minority leader:   John McKinney (R) (Senate),
Lawrence Cafero (R) (House)
Structure
Members:  36 (Senate), 151 (House)
Length of term:   2 years (Senate), 2 years (House)
Authority:   Art III, Section 1, Connecticut Constitution
Salary:   $28,000/year
Elections
Last Election:  November 2, 2010
36 seats (Senate)
151 seats (House)
Next election:  November 6, 2012
36 seats (Senate)
151 seats (House)
Redistricting:  Connecticut Legislature has control with optional commission
The Connecticut State Legislature is known as the Connecticut General Assembly (or CGA). It is the state legislature of Connecticut and is a bicameral body composed of the 151-member lower Connecticut House of Representatives and the 36-member upper Connecticut State Senate. It meets in the state capital, Hartford.

During even-numbered years, the General Assembly is in session from February to May. In odd-numbered years, when the state budget is completed, session lasts from January to June. The governor has the right to call for a special session after the end of the regular session, while the General Assembly can call for a veto session after the close in order to override gubernatorial vetoes.

During the first half of session, the House and Senate typically meet on Wednesdays only, though by the end of the session, they meet daily due to increased workload and deadlines.

In 2010, the Legislature was in session from February 3rd to May 5th.[1]

Sessions

Article III of the Connecticut Constitution establishes when the Legislature is to be in session. Section 2 of Article III states that, in odd-numbered years, the Legislature shall convene its regular session on the Wednesday after the first Monday in January. Section 2 requires regular sessions in odd-numbered years to adjourn by the Wednesday after the first Monday in June.

The Constitution does not establish when the Legislature is supposed to meet in even-numbered years, so these dates are established by law. In even-numbered years, the Legislature convenes on the Wednesday following the first Monday in February, pending the decision of the Legislature, and it must adjourn by the Wednesday after the first Monday in May.[2]

2012

See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions

In 2012, the General Assembly will be in session from February 8 to May 9.

Major issues

Legislators will mainly focus on the $20 billion state budget. In addition, they will also consider overhauling early childhood public education, ending the ban on Sunday alcohol sales, increasing the minimum wage, allowing same-day voter registration and the use of red-light cameras.[3]

2011

See also: Dates of 2011 state legislative sessions

In 2011, the General Assembly was in session from January 5 through June 8. Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy convened both houses in a special session to address budget cuts on June 30. [4]

Session highlights

Tax increases

During the 2011 legislative session, the legislature passed $1.5 billion worth of tax increases strongly pushed by Governor Dan Malloy to help close a budget gap estimated at $3.3 billion. Individual and corporate income tax rates rose, along with inheritance, alcohol, cigarette and gasoline levies. Additionally, the retail sales tax rate from 6% to 6.35%. The Republican legislative minority strongly criticized Malloy and Democratic leaders, calling their plan a "massive and unnecessary tax hike."[5]

2010

See also: Dates of 2010 state legislative sessions

In 2010, the Legislature was in session from February 3rd to May 5th.

Membership

Members of the General Assembly, regardless of chamber, serve two-year terms; there are no term limits imposed on them.

As with most New England state legislatures, the Connecticut General Assembly is traditionally a moderate body. Most urban and suburban areas are represented by Democrats, while many rural or more affluent areas have Republican representation. Among state legislatures, the Connecticut General Assembly is known for its good working and personal relationships between the two parties.

Political scientists consider the General Assembly to be a part-time, professionally-run state legislature. Most legislators have jobs aside from their political positions, and aside from leadership, few are present at the Capitol Monday through Friday. Legislators with more time to offer are generally placed on "A" committees, which meet Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, while others are assigned to "B" committees that meet only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. All legislators are expected to be present for "session," or days when their chambers are in session, regardless of committee assignments.

Although it is a part-time body, the legislature is known for having some of the best support services among state legislatures, including its large staff, Legislative Commissioners' Office (which helps with the writing of bills), Office of Legislative Research, Office of Fiscal Analysis, and other services available.

Legislation is introduced before each chamber by the majority or minority leader. Traditionally, the majority and minority leaders represent urban or large suburban areas, just as the Speaker of the House is usually from a city.

Role in State Budget

Main article: Connecticut state budget

By the end of February of every other year, the Legislature of Connecticut receives a biennial budget proposal from the Governor. The biennial budget proposal is for the next two fiscal years, which begin July 1st. The Legislature then revises this budget over the course of the next couple of months. In May or June, the Legislature votes on a budget. For a budget to pass, a majority of legislatures must vote in support of it [6]

The Legislature of Connecticut has failed to pass balanced budgets. Connecticut ended FY 2009 on June 30, 2009 with a $926 million deficit[7] and expects a $500 million deficit for FY 2010 according to Connecticut State Comptroller Nancy Wyman.[8] Gov. Mary Jodi Rell and the Connecticut General Assembly continue to be at odds over the FY 2010 budget after its latest revision on September 1, 2009.[9]

Legislators

Salaries

See also: Comparison of state legislative salaries

As of 2010, members of the Connecticut legislature are paid $28,000 per year. They receive no per diem.[10]

The $28,000 that Connecticut legislators are paid as of 2010 is the same that they were paid during legislative sessions in 2007. The per diem is also the same.[11]

One in four Connecticut legislators do not hold a full-time job, though their position in the legislature is part-time.[12]

When sworn in

See also: When state legislators assume office after a general election

Connecticut legislators assume office the Wednesday following the first Monday of January after their election.

Facilities

Most of the General Assembly's committee and caucus meetings are held in the modern Legislative Office Building (or LOB), while the House and Senate sessions are held in the State Capitol. The two buildings are connected via an underground tunnel known as the "Concourse," which stretches underneath an off-ramp of Interstate 84. Most offices for legislators and their aides are also housed in the LOB, though some legislative leaders choose to be based out of the State Capitol itself.

Each committee has its own office space, with most being located in the LOB. A few committees, particularly select committees, have their offices in the Capitol. Committee chairs and ranking members normally choose to have their personal offices near their committee offices, rather than staying in their caucus areas.

The General Assembly is also provided with facilities such as a cafeteria, private dining room, newsstand, and library.

Committee system

The General Assembly has 27 committees, all of which are joint committees; that is, their membership is comprised of House and Senate members alike. Several committees have subcommittees, each with their own chair and special focus.

Before most bills are considered in either the House or Senate, they must first go through the committee system. The primary exception to this rule is the emergency certification bill, or "e-cert," which can be passed on the floor without going through committee first. The e-cert is generally reserved for use during times of crisis, such as natural disasters or when deadlines are approaching too quickly to delay action.

Permanent committees

Most are permanent committees, which are authorized and required by state statute to be continued each session. No separate chamber committees are established.

The twenty-five permanent committees of the General Assembly are:

Of those, the Executive and Legislative Nominations Committee, Internship Committee, Joint Committee on Legislative Management, Program Review and Investigations Committee, and Regulation Review Committee are considered bi-partisan and feature leadership from each party.

Select committees

Some committees are "select" committees. They are authorized to only function for a set number of years before being brought up for review. Most select committees deal with issues of major import during a particular time period and are created in response to specific problems facing the state.

The two select committees of the General Assembly are:

Leadership and staff

Most committee chair positions are held by the ruling party, but committees considered officially bi-partisan have chairs from both the Republican and Democratic caucuses. Bi-partisan committees are ones that are mostly administrative in nature, such as the Legislative Internship Committee and the Legislative Management Committee. Most committees have ranking members, or leaders from the minority party who serve as the leaders of their party on each committee.

All committees have their own staff members. Most are led by a committee clerk and two assistant clerks. The committee clerk and one of the assistants are appointed by the majority party, while the minority party appoints the additional assistant. The exception to this rule is the Appropriations Committee, the legislature's second-largest behind the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding committee. The Appropriations Committee hires a non-partisan senior committee administrator, who outranks the clerk and works equally with both parties.

Unlike the majority-controlled committees, non-partisan committees only hire non-partisan staff. Most of these staff members are researchers and analysts who deal with specific issues throughout the session.

Each committee is assigned staffers from the Office of Legislative Research, the Office of Fiscal Analysis, and the Legislative Commissioners' Office. These staffers specialize in various areas of research and legislation that pertain to the committee's mission. For example, the Transportation Committee has researchers who specialize in the state's mass transit plan and car taxes.

Public participation

The majority of General Assembly proceedings are open to members of the public. Public hearings are held regularly during the session for residents to be given a chance to testify on pending legislation. Viewing areas are offered in both chambers for people who would like to observe, though the floor of each chamber is generally restricted to legislators, staff members, interns, and certain members of the media collectively known as the Capitol Press Corps. Additionally, the Connecticut Network, or CT-N, broadcasts the majority of each session for viewing on television.

Members of the public are often recognized during legislative proceedings, particularly sessions of the House. Representatives and senators can call for a "point of personal privilege" when there is no business pending on the floor, which allows them to introduce family members or residents of their districts to the rest of the membership. The entire chamber often recognizes civic and youth groups, particularly championship-winning sports teams. Some residents receive special citations from the membership as well.

Senate

The Connecticut State Senate is the upper house of the Connecticut General Assembly, the state legislature of the U.S. state of Connecticut. The state senate comprises 36 members. Each member represents an average of 99,280 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[13] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 94,599.[14] Senators are elected to two-year terms without term limits. The Connecticut State Senate is one of 14 state legislative upper houses whose members serve two-year terms as opposed to four-year terms.

As in other upper houses of state and territorial legislatures and the federal U.S. Senate, the Senate is reserved with special functions such as confirming or rejecting gubernatorial appointments to the state's executive departments, the state cabinet, commissions and boards. Unlike a majority of U.S. state legislatures, both the Connecticut House of Representatives and the State Senate vote on the composition to the Connecticut Supreme Court.

Leadership of the Senate

The Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut serves as the President of the Senate, but only casts a vote if required to break a tie. In his or her absence, the President Pro Tempore presides over the Senate. The President Pro Tempore is elected by the majority party caucus followed by confirmation of the entire Senate through a Senate Resolution. The President Pro Tempore is the chief leadership position in the Senate. The Senate majority and minority leaders are elected by their respective party caucuses.

Current make-up

Party As of April 2014
     Democratic Party 22
     Republican Party 14
Total 36


House of Representatives

The Connecticut House of Representatives is the lower house in the Connecticut General Assembly, the state legislature of the U.S. state of Connecticut. The house is composed of 151 members representing an equal amount of districts. Each member represents an average of 23,670 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[15] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 22,553.[16] Representatives are elected to two-year terms with no term limits.

Leadership of the House

The Speaker of the House presides over the House of Representatives. The Speaker is elected by the majority party caucus followed by confirmation of the full House through the passage of a House resolution. In addition to presiding over the body, the Speaker is also its the chief leadership position, and controls the flow of legislation and committee assignments. Other House leaders, such as the majority and minority leaders, are elected by their respective party caucuses relative to their party's strength in the chamber.

Current make-up

Party As of April 2014
     Democratic Party 97
     Republican Party 53
     Vacancy 1
Total 151


External links

References