In The Loop – May 24, 2024

What’s Special about a Special Session?

The term “Special Session” has been buzzing around the Capitol recently, leaving some to wonder what makes it so special. Is it the topic at hand, the timing right after the 2024 session ended with numerous bills still pending, or is there an urgent matter facing Connecticut?

Special sessions address urgent issues that cannot wait until the next regular meeting. According to Robert’s Rules of Order, these meetings are convened for matters requiring immediate attention. The process for calling a special session typically involves specific steps, including providing written notices to all members within a designated timeframe, often outlined in the organization’s bylaws. Notices for special meetings might need to be mailed at least 14 days in advance, and they must clearly state the meeting’s purpose, as no other business can be conducted.

Urgent matters prompting special sessions can include natural disasters, economic crises, or significant legal changes required by court decisions. For example, the Connecticut General Assembly has been called into a special session to address state budget issues. If budgetary problems arise or a budget cannot be passed during a regular session, a special session ensures the government remains funded and operational. Other triggers might be court decisions requiring legislative action or constitutional requirements, such as the inability to pass a state budget, the removal of an elected official for misconduct, or urgent appointments that cannot wait until the next regular session.

Sometimes, policy priorities need immediate attention, particularly major legislative initiatives stalled by political or social pressures. In Connecticut’s case for the Summer of 2024, the issue at hand is a policy matter gaining significant attention. The potential special session is linked to House Bill 5172, which aims to “fix” a 2022 law mandating towns to change their vehicle assessment system and introduce a depreciation schedule, so people pay less as their cars age. Although the legislature delayed the mandate to October 2024, the bill did not pass both chambers in the last session.

The House approved the bill on a bipartisan vote, but it encountered issues in the Senate. On the last day of the session, the Senate modified the language to allow municipalities a five-year phase-out and to increase the assessment percentage above a 70% cap. The House did not vote on these changes due to time constraints, lack of interest, or differing opinions. As a result, the current language will go into effect on October 1st unless a special session is held to address it.

What makes a special session “special” is the legislature’s ability to schedule it anytime and for any duration. The scope of discussion is limited to the “call of the session.” For example, Connecticut uses an “emergency certified bill” to frame any chamber debate, and anything not in the call of the session or contrary to the bill’s intent is not allowed by the presiding officer.

For some, special sessions are indeed special, while for most, they indicate trouble. This summer’s special session in Connecticut falls into the latter category. As Sun Tzu stated in “The Art of War,” “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.” So never underestimate lobbyists and motivated legislators. They often find creative ways to introduce additional policy discussions during special sessions, even when they appear limited in scope.

Let’s watch and see how this special session unfolds. I wonder what type of special antics will happen in the special session!  READ THE FULL IN THE LOOP HERE

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