Connecticut’s Democratic-controlled General Assembly passed protections for abortion providers and gave more power to libraries facing book challenges — and they did it with Republican support.
All but 13 Republicans voted for the $51 billion two-year state budget and a handful even voted for a major gun control bill that’s already being challenged in court.
Bucking the partisan rancor seen in other legislatures this year, Connecticut lawmakers on Wednesday night wrapped up what’s been one of the most bipartisan legislative sessions in recent memory. And they’re crediting old fashioned relationship-building, a willingness for compromise, a healthy budget surplus and a strict adjournment deadline.
” Oregon hasn’t met in a month because the senators have just left the building. Think about that,” Democratic House Speaker Matthew Ritter said hours before Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont addressed lawmakers in a traditional midnight speech, lauding them for a “job well done” and for working collaboratively.
“We sent a message that there’s a way to do it and we’re going to do it again next year,” Ritter said to loud cheers and applause.
Besides Oregon, where hundreds of bills are languishing amid a partisan stalemate, there have been examples of discord this year across the country. Lawmakers have expelled colleagues in Tennessee, and barred a representative from the Montana House floor.
In contrast, Connecticut Democrats and Republicans on Wednesday were still celebrating the strong bipartisan support for the budget finalized Tuesday, though there were some disagreements about spending levels for social nonprofit service agencies and how much to cut taxes.
Republican Rep. David Rutigliano, who helped craft a bipartisan bill this year that fixes Connecticut’s recreational marijuana law, something he and other GOP lawmakers opposed in 2021, said he’s learned from the top Republican and Democratic House leaders, who are on friendly terms, that relationship-building is key, especially for a minority Republican.
“They tell us if you want to get anything done, you have to have a relationship. You can’t do a lot of gotcha stuff. You can’t be kind of a jerk and you have to talk,” he said. “Listen, (Democrats) are in charge, we get it. But it’s better when we’re in the room. Our ideas aren’t all bad.”
Despite talk of bipartisanship this session, there have been mostly partisan votes, including on election-related matters and guns.
The desire for bipartisanship has watered down some initiatives, said Sarah Ganong, state director of the left-leaning Connecticut Working Families Party. For example, a proposal to raise the age limit for Medicaid health insurance for immigrant children lacking legal status from 12 to 26 was reduced to 15.
“On the surface, maybe that seems like a sort of a bipartisan compromise,” she said. “But to a 17-year-old that doesn’t have health care right now, that’s not actually a middle ground. That’s clearly picking a side.”