Connecticut Seal

House Bill No. 5018

Public Act No. 04-117

AN ACT CONCERNING THE PREPARATION OF MATERIALS FOR REFERENDA CALLED FOR BY A REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICT AND CONCERNING BUDGETS OF REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICTS.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

Section 1. Section 9-369b of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective from passage):

(a) [Any] Except as provided in subsection (b) of this section, any municipality may, by vote of its legislative body, authorize the preparation and printing of concise explanatory texts of local proposals or questions approved for submission to the electors of a municipality at a referendum. In a municipality that has a town meeting as its legislative body, the board of selectmen shall, by majority vote, determine whether to authorize an explanatory text or the dissemination of other neutral printed material. Thereafter, each such explanatory text shall be prepared by the municipal clerk, subject to the approval of the municipal attorney, and shall specify the intent and purpose of each such proposal or question. Such text shall not advocate either the approval or disapproval of the proposal or question. The municipal clerk shall cause such question or proposal and such explanatory text to be printed in sufficient supply for public distribution and shall also provide for the printing of such explanations of proposals or questions on posters of a size to be determined by said clerk. At least three such posters shall be posted at each polling place at which electors will be voting on such proposals or questions. Any posters printed in excess of the number required by this section to be posted may be displayed by said clerk at the clerk's discretion at locations which are frequented by the public. The explanatory text shall also be furnished to each absentee ballot applicant pursuant to subsection (d) of section 9-140. Except as provided in subsection [(c)] (d) of this section, no expenditure of state or municipal funds shall be made to influence any person to vote for approval or disapproval of any such proposal or question. Any municipality may, by vote of its legislative body and subject to the approval of its municipal attorney, authorize the preparation and printing of materials concerning any such proposal or question in addition to the explanatory text if such materials do not advocate the approval or disapproval of the proposal or question. This subsection shall not apply to a written, printed or typed summary of an official's views on a proposal or question, which is prepared for any news medium or which is not distributed with public funds to a member of the public except upon request of such member.

(b) For any referendum called for by a regional school district, the regional board of education shall authorize the preparation and printing of concise explanatory texts of proposals or questions approved for submission to the electors of a municipality at a referendum. The regional school board of education's secretary shall prepare each such explanatory text, subject to the approval of the regional school board of education's counsel, and shall undertake any other duty of a municipal clerk, as described in subsection (a) of this section.

[(b)] (c) The State Elections Enforcement Commission, after providing an opportunity for a hearing in accordance with chapter 54, may impose a civil penalty on any person who violates subsection (a) or (b) of this section by authorizing an expenditure of state or municipal funds for a purpose which is prohibited by subsection (a) of this section. The amount of any such civil penalty shall not exceed twice the amount of the improper expenditure or one thousand dollars, whichever is greater. In the case of failure to pay any such penalty imposed under this subsection within thirty days of written notice sent by certified or registered mail to such person, the superior court for the judicial district of Hartford, on application of the commission, may issue an order requiring such person to pay the penalty imposed. Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 5-141d, 7-101a and 7-465, as amended, any other provision of the general statutes, and any provision of any special act or charter, no state or municipal officer or employee shall be indemnified or reimbursed by the state or a municipality for a civil penalty imposed under this subsection.

[(c)] (d) Any municipality may provide, by ordinance, for the preparation and printing of concise summaries of arguments in favor of, and arguments opposed to, local proposals or questions approved for submission to the electors of a municipality at a referendum for which explanatory texts are prepared under subsection (a) or (b) of this section. Any such ordinance shall provide for the establishment or designation of a committee to prepare such summaries, in accordance with procedures set forth in said ordinance. The members of said committee shall be representatives of various viewpoints concerning such local proposals or questions. The committee shall provide an opportunity for public comment on such summaries to the extent practicable. Such summaries shall be approved by vote of the legislative body of the municipality, or any other municipal body designated by the ordinance, and shall be posted and distributed in the same manner as explanatory texts under subsection (a) of this section. Each summary shall contain language clearly stating that the printing of the summary does not constitute an endorsement by or represent the official position of the municipality.

Sec. 2. Section 7-405 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective July 1, 2004):

(a) When annual appropriations have not been made by a municipality before the beginning of any fiscal year, the disbursing officers may make necessary expenditures during the period of ninety days after the beginning of such year on proper warrants for purposes and in amounts authorized by the appropriating body or by the board of finance or other budget-making authority. When annual appropriations have not been made by such municipality before the end of such ninety-day period, the disbursing officers may make necessary expenditures during successive monthly periods in such year on proper warrants for purposes and in amounts authorized by the appropriating body or by the board of finance or other budget-making authority within the limits of appropriations specified in budgetary line items for the previous fiscal year. For this purpose, necessary borrowing may be authorized by resolution of the budget-making authority, provided all such borrowing shall mature and be payable not later than the end of the fiscal year for which such borrowings are made. Any notes so authorized may be issued and sold in the manner provided by such resolution. Such expenditures authorized by this section and interest costs and other expenses incidental to any such borrowing shall constitute the first charges against appropriations for the fiscal year in which they are made.

(b) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a) of this section, when an annual budget of a regional school district is not approved by a majority of voters of the member towns of such district before the beginning of any fiscal year, the disbursing officer for each member town of the regional school district shall make necessary expenditures to such district in an amount equal to the total of the town's appropriation to the district for the previous fiscal year and the town's proportionate share in any increment in debt service over the previous fiscal year, until the regional school district budget is approved pursuant to section 10-51, as amended by this act. Each such town shall receive credit for such expenditures once the budget is approved for the fiscal year.

Sec. 3. Subsection (a) of section 10-51 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective July 1, 2004):

(a) The fiscal year of a regional school district shall be July first to June thirtieth. Except as otherwise provided in this subsection, not less than two weeks before the annual meeting held pursuant to section 10-47, the board shall hold a public district meeting to present a proposed budget for the next fiscal year. Any person may recommend the inclusion or deletion of expenditures at such time. After the public hearing, the board shall prepare an annual budget for the next fiscal year, make available on request copies thereof and deliver a reasonable number to the town clerk of each of the towns in the district at least five days before the annual meeting. At the annual meeting on the first Monday in May, the board shall present a budget which includes a statement of (1) estimated receipts and expenditures for the next fiscal year, (2) estimated receipts and expenditures for the current fiscal year, (3) estimated surplus or deficit in operating funds at the end of the current fiscal year, (4) bonded or other debt, (5) estimated per pupil expenditure for the current and for the next fiscal year, and (6) such other information as is necessary in the opinion of the board. Persons present and eligible to vote under section 7-6 may accept or reject the proposed budget except as provided below. No person who is eligible to vote in more than one town in the regional school district is eligible to cast more than one vote on any issue considered at a regional school district meeting or referendum held pursuant to this section. Any person who violates this section by fraudulently casting more than one vote or ballot per issue shall be fined not less than three hundred dollars or more than five hundred dollars and shall be imprisoned not less than one year or more than two years and shall be disenfranchised. The regional board of education may, in the call to the meeting, designate that the vote on the motion to adopt the budget shall be by paper ballots at the district meeting held on the budget or by a "yes" or "no" vote on the voting machines in each of the member towns on the day following the district meeting. If submitted to a vote by voting machine, questions may be included on the ballot for persons voting "no" to indicate whether the budget is too high or too low, provided the vote on such questions shall be for advisory purposes only and not binding upon the board. Two hundred or more persons qualified to vote in any regional district meeting called to adopt a budget may petition the regional board, in writing, at least three days prior to such meeting, requesting that any item or items on the call of such meeting be submitted to the persons qualified to vote in the meeting for a vote by paper ballot or on the voting machines in each of the member towns on the day following the district meeting and in accordance with the appropriate procedures provided in section 7-7. If a majority of such persons voting reject the budget, the board shall, within four weeks thereafter and upon notice of not less than one week, call a district meeting to consider the same or an amended budget. Such meetings shall be convened at such intervals until a budget is approved. If the budget is not approved before the beginning of a fiscal year, the disbursing officer for each member town, or the designee of such officer, shall make necessary expenditures to such district in amounts equal to the total of the town's appropriation to the district for the previous year and the town's proportionate share in any increment in debt service over the previous fiscal year, pursuant to section 7-405, as amended by this act, until the budget is approved. The town shall receive credit for such expenditures once the budget is approved for the fiscal year. After the budget is approved, the board shall estimate the share of the net expenses to be paid by each member town in accordance with subsection (b) of this section and notify the treasurer thereof. With respect to adoption of a budget for the period from the organization of the board to the beginning of the first full fiscal year, the board may use the above procedure at any time within such period. If the board needs to submit a supplementary budget, the general procedure specified in this section shall be used.

Sec. 4. (NEW) (Effective July 1, 2004) Any person (1) claiming to have been aggrieved by any ruling of any election official in connection with a referendum, (2) claiming that there has been a mistake in the count of votes cast for a referendum, or (3) claiming to be aggrieved by a violation of any provision of section 9-355, 9-357 to 9-361, inclusive, as amended, 9-364, 9-364a or 9-365 of the general statutes in the casting of absentee ballots at a referendum, may bring a complaint to any judge of the Superior Court for relief from such ruling, mistake or violation. In any action brought pursuant to the provisions of this section, the complainant shall send a copy of the complaint by first class mail, or deliver a copy of the complaint by hand, to the State Elections Enforcement Commission. If such complaint is made prior to such referendum, such judge shall proceed expeditiously to render judgment on the complaint and shall cause notice of the hearing to be given to the Secretary of the State and the State Elections Enforcement Commission. If such complaint is made subsequent to such referendum, it shall be brought within thirty days after such referendum to any judge of the Superior Court, in which the person shall set out the claimed errors of the election official, the claimed errors in the count or the claimed violations of said sections. Such judge shall forthwith order a hearing to be held upon such complaint, upon a day not more than five nor less than three days from the making of such order, and shall cause notice of not less than three nor more than five days to be given to any person who may be affected by the decision upon such hearing, to such election official, the Secretary of the State, the State Elections Enforcement Commission and to any other party or parties whom such judge deems proper parties to the hearing, of the time and place for the hearing upon such complaint. Such judge shall, on the day fixed for such hearing and without unnecessary delay, proceed to hear the parties. If sufficient reason is shown, such judge may order any voting machines to be unlocked or any ballot boxes to be opened and a recount of the votes cast, including absentee ballots, to be made. Such judge shall, if such judge finds any error in the rulings of the election official or any mistake in the count of the votes, certify the result of such judge's finding or decision to the Secretary of the State before the tenth day succeeding the conclusion of the hearing. Such judge may order a new referendum or a change in the existing referendum schedule. Such certificate of such judge's finding or decision shall be final and conclusive upon all questions relating to errors in the ruling of such election officials, to the correctness of such count, and, for the purposes of this section only, such claimed violations, and shall operate to correct the returns of the moderators or presiding officers, so as to conform to such finding or decision, except that this section shall not affect the right of appeal to the Supreme Court and it shall not prevent such judge from reserving such questions of law for the advice of the Supreme Court as provided in section 9-325 of the general statutes. Such judge may, if necessary, issue a writ of mandamus, requiring the adverse party and those under such judge to deliver to the complainant the appurtenances of such office, and shall cause such judge's finding and decree to be entered on the records of the Superior Court in the proper judicial district.

Approved May 21, 2004