Fate of National Popular Vote Bill Uncertain
In five minutes Monday, the Government Administration and Elections Committee voted to raise 35 concepts this session. A bill to join the National Popular Vote Compact was not among them.
Last year the committee voted 10 to 5 to pass a bill that would have Connecticut join nine other states who have mandated their Electoral College delegates cast their votes for whichever presidential candidate gets the most votes nationally. But the bill was never raised on the House floor.
After the meeting, committee co-chairwoman Sen. Gayle Slossberg, D- Milford, said leadership was still discussing whether or not they would raise the bill again this year. She would not speculate whether they were likely take up the issue.
However, its absence from the long list of concepts the committee unanimously agreed to take up Monday does not bode well for national popular vote advocates. Slossberg noted that 15 of the concepts approved were at the request of different agencies. The other 20 were placeholder bills for issues they may decide to address.
“We put those bills aside to have as needed when issues arise so we don’t have to do things on an emergency basis and the business of the people of our state is not held up by technical difficulties. So that’s just a forward looking action,” she said.
Among the “dummy bills” passed were “An Act Concerning Elections” and “An Act Concerning Technical Changes to Election Laws.” Either placeholder could likely be germane to national popular vote if the committee decides to address it.
Rep. Matt Lesser, D- Middletown and vice chairman of the committee, said whether the issue gets raised will come down to a question of time. The committee has a long list of things it wants to accomplish, including changes to the Freedom of Information Act, and a short session to get it done, he said.
“I think its a strategic question the chairs are going to have to make but the committee members overwhelmingly want to get it done,” he said.
Last week, national popular vote supporter Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, D-West Hartford, said it was too early to say whether there would be a bill this year.
“The reality of this very short session is that for bills to get considered, you have to have co-chairs who are both open to considering it and chambers who are both open to considering it,” he said. “I have a sense that both House and Senate leadership are canvasing their members on various issues to see if the votes are potentially there.”
As far as committee leadership goes, co-chairman Rep. Russ Morin has supported the bill in the past, whereas Slossberg has opposed it. Sen. Edward Meyer, D- Guilford, said this year it will be a question of whether Slossberg allows time to debate a concept she doesn’t support.
“In the past she has agreed to allow a vote even though she opposes it,” he said.
If the bill makes it out of committee, supporters seem confident there are enough votes in both chambers to pass it. Fleischmann said House members have previously shown they have enough enough support, which he didn’t think has changed.
Sen. Gary LeBeau, D- East Hartford, said, without conducting a poll of state senators, he thinks the bill will be raised and passed this year.
“When people look at it and understand it and get past their objections, it’s pretty common sense,” he said.
LeBeau said he continues to get emails from people urging he support the bill. Meyer said if the bill is raised and makes it out of committee, he guesses it will pass the Senate with 2 to 1 support.
Even though national popular vote was not mentioned at Monday’s meeting, Meyer said he wouldn’t count it out yet.
“We have a number of meetings in which we can vote to raise bills. I think we’ll have more than enough time to do this,” he said. “And this being a presidential election year, I’m hoping there will be more motivation to debate it and move it.”
Not everyone on the committee is supportive of the concept. Committee member Rep. Hetherington, R-New Canaan, wrote an Op-Ed for CTNewsJunkie, saying national popular vote would be a bad thing for the country because it would encourage splinter parties, who may get a candidate elected if the vote is split enough ways.
“There is far less incentive for extremists to rest their case in primary battles when they can be real players in the general election,” he wrote.
National Popular Vote Regional Director Ryan O’Donnell said the group remains optimistic a bill will be raised in Connecticut this session. He said there has also been momentum nationwide. Since last year, Vermont and California have joined to compact and Rhode Island’s legislature is considering legislation this year, he said.