|Including today, there are five session days left. The last two nights the House was in session well past midnight, as we sprint to get our business done this year. Each morning, about an hour before session begins, we get what is dubbed the "hot list," which provides us a rough idea of the day's agenda. As soon as we get it, and we all try, individually and collectively, to translate it into estimates of how long we will be here, based on what we know about opposition or enthusiasm for each bill, both of which can increase the time it takes to debate it. As we get closer to the final day, we are hearing more Senate bills, and (hopefully) the Senate is taking up more of ours as we try to speed bills on their way to the Governor's desk. We will see what today brings, but I'm hoping to make it home to the Northwest Corner tonight.
Many of the bills the House has passed this week are bills that I have co-sponsored, championed, or helped negotiate. One of the bills the House debated and passed yesterday was HB 5417, which focuses on juvenile justice and services, firearm background checks, and car theft. Those topics have been front and center over the last several months, as we experienced an uptick in certain kinds of crimes, including auto theft and associated violent crime, some of which involved juveniles. These are topics which touch many nerves, from concerns about public safety and the need to protect our residents from crime to the need to provide better pathways and resources to juveniles left adrift during the pandemic. These issues are also easily turned into political soundbites, particularly in an election year, so I was particularly proud that we had finally been able to reach bipartisan agreement on the final bill, and I was looking forward to settling into the debate.
Just as that debate was beginning, however, the leadership of the Environment Committee drafted me to join a meeting with the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP) on SB 117, which is the bill addressing hazard tree removal policy in the wake of the disastrous tree removal at Housatonic Meadows State Park. While that bill has passed in the Senate, DEEP was digging in its heels in opposition to the bill as passed, so we needed to sit down in a room and work through specific language if we were going to have any chance of passing a bill and getting it signed by the Governor. That took priority, so I ended up missing most of the debate on the floor for HB 5417, though I did make it back to chamber for the bipartisan vote and to see it pass 129-17. (For more information on this bill, see the section below.)
The other main backdrop is the budget. As this is the second year of our biennium budget cycle, the budget this year is really adjustments made to the main budget we passed last year. As with the main budget, the adjustments have two parts: the dollars and cents of the line items of both spending and revenue that need to meet the various budgetary constraints we must live within, and then the policies that back up those numbers, otherwise known as the implementor.
Earlier this week we reached an agreement with the Governor on the overall budget, including $600 million in tax relief. Now the implementer is being crafted, which takes a few days. Currently we expect to vote on the budget at the beginning of next week, and I'll be providing more details when they are available.
Finally, to the many of you asking: the remote meetings bill was signed by the Governor yesterday, so towns will be able to continue to hold meetings remotely. (See the section below for more detail.)