House Democrats Resigned To New Reality
HARTFORD, CT — Democrats in the House have already given up on some legislative proposals, like Earned Family Medical Leave and an increase in the minimum wage, acknowledging that they won’t be able to win enough support to get them passed given their margins.
Democrats hold a slim 79 to 72 majority over Republicans.
“It was always our goal to work cooperatively with the other side of the aisle, but occasionally there are those big bills that we just can’t move,” House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said Saturday.
Earned Family Medical Leave and an increase in the minimum wage are two bills that many in the Democratic caucus would like to see approved.
“We could put it up there and have a 12-hour debate, but in the end I don’t know that the votes are there,” Aresimowicz said.
There’s also the reality that they can’t move any bills that include a fiscal note.
House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said that’s why they can’t call a bill to help homeowners with crumbling foundations in eastern Connecticut.
“It’s not that anyone’s being mean. It’s playing by the rules we established,” Ritter said.
Aresimowicz said Republicans can’t have it both ways. They can’t complain about having to get rid of fiscal notes when they want their bills passed.
“Once you stop adhering to rules for one exception, where does it end?” Ritter said. “You can’t play favorites on this stuff.”
Aresimowicz and Ritter said the crumbling foundation issue will need to be part of the state budget because it comes with what’s expected to be a hefty fiscal note.
Eleven Republican lawmakers whose communities have been impacted by the issue said the threat to include the issue in the budget “is yet another example of their inability to do right by the people we serve,” they stated. “Playing politics with the lives of thousands of people that are watching their homes crumble before their eyes is just plain wrong.”
Republican lawmakers said the issue should be addressed on its own.
“We’re not trying to be mean to anybody. We’re not trying to be political,” Ritter said. “It is the rules of the House that if there is a fiscal note over $20,000 we won’t call it until the budget is adopted.”
There were plans to debate electronic tolls on Saturday, but again there was not enough support for the bill.
The partisan bickering spilled into Saturday, too, as Democrats tried to get comfortable with a much smaller majority and the reality that fewer bills with their priorities will make it to the finish line.
Aresimowicz said he has a picture of House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, during a check presentation last October at Griffin Hospital.
The check was for $1.3 million from the state to the fund research at the hospital’s Multiple Sclerosis Research Center.
“Themis voted against the budget and I have a picture of her with a Happy Gilmore-sized check,” Aresimowicz said. “How does that work? In what universe can we take the rewards out of the hard work to get to the rewards.”
Klarides said she had to crash that check presentation because she was not invited.
She said the Democrats who set up the check presentation and subsequently did not win re-election did not invite her to the presentation. She said she found out about it because she’s a member of the hospital board.
She said she didn’t vote for the budget, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t support parts of the budget.
“I’m not going to sit there like a child and cross my arms because the budget vote didn’t go my way,” Klarides said.
She said the reality is two of the Democrats who showed up for the check signing voted to cut hospital funding as part of the 2017 budget adjustment and still stood there with a check saying “look at me, look at me.”