PRESIDING CHAIRMEN: Representative Caruso,
REPRESENTATIVES: O'Brien, Floren, Spallone, O'Rourke, Giannaros, Fleischmann, Mantilla, McCluskey, Nafis, Drew, Ferrari, Caron, Tymniak, Shapiro, Towson, Norman-Eady, Sullivan
REPRESENTATIVE CARUSO: We want to begin our hearing. The first speaker is Donald Romanik. Is Donald here? I don't know if I pronounced your name correctly, Donald.
DONALD ROMANIK: Good morning. My name is Donald Romanik. I am Vice President for Legal and Government Affairs for Oak Hill. Oak Hill is a private nonprofit agency that provides residential, vocational, and education services for people with disabilities throughout the State of Connecticut.
I'm also here today in my capacity as Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Connecticut Community Providers Association. We're here today to discuss the provisions of S.B. 96, AN ACT CONCERNING THE EMPLOYMENT SECURITY OF CERTAIN DISABLED AND DISADVANTAGED WORKERS.
We realize that last year we worked with the committee on the various issues around this bill, as we discussed employment opportunities for people with disabilities and work options for economically disadvantaged workers. Before I just comment on the bill, I just want to fill you in a little bit on the set-aside program.
Since 1977, CCPA has administered a set-aside program for people with disabilities. This is a separate set-aside program from the small and minority business set-aside programs. CCPA contracts with 28 private nonprofit provider agencies throughout the state whose clients perform work on government contracts.
This provides an opportunity for people with significant disabilities to work and receive job training and on-the-job supports. In fiscal year '04, this program created 701 jobs for individuals with disabilities in such areas as janitorial and lawn, food service, clerical, copying, mailing services, as well as production.
A prerequisite of this program is that 75% of the labor is to be provided by individuals with disabilities. The other workers on our contracts are job coaches or other non-disabled workers. The set-aside program is but one of many vehicles to assist people with disabilities in becoming fully integrated.
We realize that the issues raised in S.B. 96 are complex. What happened last year is that we were pitting people with disabilities against economically disadvantaged workers. The extension of contracts was a way of sort of establishing a cooling-off period.
We are ready, willing, and able to work with the committee in coming up with lasting solutions to this complex issue. S.B. 96 is an attempt to, once again, extend the contracts and put a taskforce together to look at permanent solutions to this very complex issue.
We would like to work with the committee on maybe putting some kind of dollar amount thresholds on what contracts would be extended and what contracts would go out to bid. Right now, only contracts over $50,000 a year are subject to the prevailing wage. Maybe there is some flexibility there.
We look forward to working with the committee, not only in S.B. 96, but in finding a long-term solution so that both people with disabilities and economically disadvantaged workers have opportunities in the workforce. We look forward to this opportunity.
REP. CARUSO: Thank you. Are there any questions? Thank you very much for testifying.
DONALD ROMANIK: Thank you.
REP. CARUSO: Next speaker, it's hard to make out the last name, but Susan Giacalone, is it? Okay. I don't know if I'm right on that.
SUSAN GIACALONE: Good morning, Chairman Caruso and members of the GAE Committee. My name is Susan Giacalone. I am here as counsel to the Insurance Association of Connecticut. I'm here, and I'm just going to briefly testify on S.B. 104. I submitted testimony.
REP. CARUSO: Is your microphone on there, Susan?
SUSAN GIACALONE: It's on. I'll keep my comments brief. The S.B. 104 seeks to limit business' use of Social Security numbers. You offer another number that people can provide for identifying purposes. A similar bill was heard in the Insurance Committee limiting the insurance industry's use of it and was rejected because there are very valid and necessary reasons that we, as an industry, have to use the number.
For a lot of our products, we have to provide tax information to the federal government. To do that, we have to use a Social Security number.
Our administrative processes are done, a lot of them, based on, and it's only for internal purposes, but we use the Social Security number for tracking purposes. For example, someone has a wife policy. They are trying to find out information on someone who has passed away.
A lot of times, a Social Security number is the number that provides them the information, so we can help them out. We are governed by many state and federal privacy laws, including the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which protects the consumer for our dispelling any private information, including Social Security numbers.
For this reason, we would ask that you at least limit the scope of this, so it doesn't apply to the valid uses of Social Security numbers by businesses. Thank you. I'll take any comments.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: [inaudible - microphone not on]
SUSAN GIACALONE: Seasoned. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: [inaudible - microphone not on]
RICHARD WALTER: Good morning, Chairman Caruso, members of the GAE Committee. I am Richard Walter, a teacher at Stonington High School. I support granting 17 year olds, who will be 18 at the next regular election, the right to vote in primaries for such elections.
The idea actually came from some of my high school students. They question, why, if as good citizens, they were expected to participate in a general election, shouldn't they also vote in the primaries? After all, they claimed, it was part of the same election.
A little research showed that the states of Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Maryland, and the District of Columbia allow such participation. More important that this precedence is the idea that Connecticut teachers are charged with preparing students to become active citizens. I've translated this to mean that we should do everything possible to foster good citizenship.
Currently, all Connecticut high school students must pass the half-year course devoted solely to civics in order to graduate. Students are encouraged to register, and more importantly, to vote. Voting, after all, is the cornerstone of our democratic society.
Ladies and gentlemen, we should do all we can to encourage active participation of young people in government. Passage of H.B. 5282 is an important step. I've brought some evidence. Questions?
REP. CARUSO: Any questions?
SEN. FREEDMAN: I have one. Currently, our law says you can pre-register people if you are going to turn 18 prior to the election. Now, what this is going is say that you can now vote in the primary, even though you are not 18 years of age at the date of the primary.
RICHARD WALTER: That is correct.
SEN. FREEDMAN: So what you're actually asking us to do is to lower the voting age to age 17. Would you then see somebody who is not going to be 17 in time being eligible to vote because they are going to be 16 and a couple of days short of age 18 in the primary, although they may be 17 on the day of the election?
RICHARD WALTER: Well, the way I read the bill is that it says, a 17-year-old person. So if a person is not 17 years old, they would not be able to register for the primary.
SEN. FREEDMAN: But I'm saying, I take it to the next level. You are now lowering the voting age.
RICHARD WALTER: Well, I think that if that were the case, then another meeting would have to be held in which the age was lowered. Another bill would need to be passed, which would lower the age to 16.
SEN. FREEDMAN: But technically, we are now saying you can vote in a primary at age 17.
RICHARD WALTER: If this passes, yes.
SEN. FREEDMAN: Right. And you're saying it's a limited amount of people. People who are going to be age 18--
RICHARD WALTER: People who are going to be 18 by the general election, yes.
SEN. FREEDMAN: --that would be interesting. Thank you.
RICHARD WALTER: It, essentially, allows them to participate in the full process, from the primary to the election.
REP. CARUSO: Representative Ferrari?
REP. FERRARI: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Just a question, you mentioned a couple of states that have already done this.
RICHARD WALTER: Yes, Sir.
REP. FERRARI: Virginia, and I don't remember others.
RICHARD WALTER: Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.
REP. FERRARI: Are there any studies they've done to show that this actually increased participation and by how much?
RICHARD WALTER: I'm sorry. I don't know that, Sir.
REP. FERRARI: Oh, you don't know.
RICHARD WALTER: Don't know.
REP. FERRARI: Thank you.
REP. CARUSO: Any further questions? Yes, Representative Spallone?
REP. SPALLONE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I don't have any questions for Mr. Walter. I just want to publicly thank him for bringing the group up today. I'm looking forward to hearing from them as well.
I just wanted to indicate to those present and perhaps watching us on CTN, this is an example of how people can present an idea to the Legislature, citizens. You don't have to be particularly connected or a lobbyist or anything of that degree.
You can bring it to the attention of one of us, and you can see how the process can move forward. We will at least give some due consideration. I want to thank you for bringing your students up here today. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.
RICHARD WALTER: Thank you, Representative.
REP. CARUSO: Further questions? Gentlemen, would you like to say a few words?
MATTHEW COLLETTE: Yes. I'm Matthew Collette. I am also a student at Stonington High School. I believe that if this bill were to become a law, it would benefit Connecticut's youth because it would encourage them to be more active in the political process.
By voting in a primary, young Americans are more likely to be active in the political process and to become educated on issues that matter to them.
Nonprofit organizations that cater to youth, like Rock the Vote, urge young Americans to vote because it allows for them to have a say in issues that affect them the most, like jobs, education, healthcare, war, the draft, and voting, and civil rights.
By involving more Americans in the voting process at an earlier age, Americans will continue to remain active in the democratic process throughout their lives. In a time when Connecticut mandates civics classes for high school students, wouldn't this bill be one of the greatest civics lessons you could offer to Connecticut's youth?
Allowing younger Americans to vote in primaries would create a more politically active culture in America's youth. Thank you for letting me address you today.
REP. CARUSO: Why don't we hear from the other gentleman, if you like, then if we have questions.
COREY PRACHNIAK: Yeah. I am Corey Prachniak. This week, I turned 18 years old, which is exciting because I not only get to do things like own a credit card and sign my own permission slips, but also because I can finally vote.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: You have to pay for it.
COREY PRACHNIAK: It strikes me as odd when I hear of other young people ignoring their power to vote, as I consider it to be both a responsibility and privilege. This election season, I campaigned for local and national candidates and spoke to many neighbors, friends, and even teachers who told me that they did not vote on Election Day.
By and large, it was simply because they did not like either presidential candidate. The problem for many people this year was that they did not feel that either party had selected a candidate that represented them well enough to earn their vote.
One solution to this is to vote in primaries, which would allow them to help select whom they would like to vote for in the general election. Because those who vote in primaries are often much more extreme than are the average voters of that party, the candidates selected often do not represent much of America's youth.
By allowing 17 year olds the right to vote in primaries, two things will occur. First, these new potential voters will get a say in who they would like to be able to vote for in November, which could very well increase the general-election turnout among youths.
After all, it is hard to expect young people to vote for candidates that they did not want running to begin with. The second, and perhaps most important result, however, is that the importance of voting in primaries, in addition to in general elections, will be established at a young age.
Young people such as myself will be encouraged to get out and get involved in the election process early, rather than sitting by the sidelines while others make the decisions.
Connecticut's youth will not forget the importance of participating in primaries, and so this law will certainly help to start them off on the right track to becoming active voting citizens. Thank you.
REP. CARUSO: Thank you.
PAUL SCHMITZ: I am Paul Schmitz from Stonington, Connecticut. I am an 18-year-old student writing to you about a proposed piece of legislation that would enable 17 year olds to participate in the presidential primaries, if they were eligible to vote in the presidential election.
The root of this issue lays in the 26th Amendment to the Constitution, which reads, the right of citizens of the United States, who are 18 years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of age.
The reasoning behind passing the amendment was to enfranchise those that could potentially be drafted. Connecticut's current voting laws allow youths as young as 17 years old to register to vote.
A well-known and publicized part of the presidential elections is the political primary. The primaries exist to allow the voters the chance to become further enfranchised by not forcing the voter to choose between two candidates representing parties that are opposite in the political spectrum, but allowing one to choose between candidates that have more subtle differences, allow for a greater degree of representation.
Therefore, 17 year olds who will be eligible to vote in the presidential election ought to be allowed to participate in the presidential primaries because it is a logical extension of the 26th Amendment's goal of extending enfranchisement toward those who could be called to defend the country.
REP. CARUSO: Thank you.
DAN TERRELL: I am Dan Terrell from Stonington, Connecticut. Yesterday, I was driving to school and thought how I've had my license for over a year, and how my life has changed, and is still changing today by continually taking on much more responsibility.
Presently, I am a senior in high school and am interested in politics and different policies of the government. Every organization depends on the amount of new people who become interested in joining that organization.
Lately, young adults have become less and less interested in how the government runs. There are many obstacles to how young people relate to the government. Today, before you is a bill, which, if passed, would help get more young adults interested in government.
Many of the voters under the age of 35 are declared as independent. If the State of Connecticut allowed 17 year olds who will be 18 by the election to vote in primaries, these 17 year olds would have to register with a party and would probably keep that alliance through their life, as most people do with the first party they register with.
This bill is not just about allowing more people to vote in primaries, but it's a chance to increase the involvement of young adults in government. This year, I was in support of a Democratic nominee who won only one primary, which left me with a feeling that my vote would not have counted in the primary.
I believe many young people have this feeling of their votes not counting and, therefore, avoiding elections and government altogether. If Connecticut takes this initiative to change this law, we could change that feeling and bring together a younger voter force, which could concentrate on issues that younger voters feel are important and need addressing.
I urge you to pass this bill for the sake of the overall government. Thank you for your time.
REP. CARUSO: Are there any questions? Representative Ferrari?
REP. FERRARI: Just a quick follow up on my original question about finding out what the statistics show in those states that do allow this to happen. If I could give you an assignment, I would find that information helpful, and I think the committee would also.
If you could check with those other states and see if, indeed, it has been shown that there was an increase in young-voter turnout, that would be very helpful to me, and I think to some of the other members of the committee. I would appreciate that.
MATTHEW COLLETTE: We'll definitely look into that and send you that information.
REP. FERRARI: Great. Thank you very much.
REP. CARUSO: Any further questions? I just have one question. Why not 16 year olds?
COREY PRACHNIAK: I think it's important to keep the voting age at 18. It's something that Americans have stood for. We don't need to keep lowering the age.
The only reason we think that we should lower this age just a tiny bit, it deals with primaries. People can be involved in the entire procedure of electing a candidate. So we're not really changing, altogether, voting rights.
You still have to be 18 to actually vote for a candidate, but this is just getting you involved in the process a little bit earlier. You can have a say in what you'd like to have happen later, just a couple months later.
REP. CARUSO: If voting just in primaries, why not the election?
COREY PRACHNIAK: Well, our point was mostly just that you don't really have full voting rights at 18 if you can't select who you're going to be voting for at 18.
So as the law currently stands, yes, you can vote when you're 18, as is mandated by the Constitution, but you don't really have the full privilege of voting in that election if you don't have the option to select who is there.
So in order to fully allow 18 year olds to vote, it makes sense to let them choose who they are going to be voting for.
REP. CARUSO: Yes. Senator Freedman?
SEN. FREEDMAN: Just to follow up, if you did not get the right to vote in the primary, would that prevent you or would you not vote in the general election because you did not vote in the primary?
COREY PRACHNICAK: I do think it acts as a deterrent for some people. Personally, I would rather go vote between two choices than not vote at all.
I know that a lot of people told me, like I said, I spoke to a lot of people. They said that they didn't vote because, you know, no one that was selected that they felt represented them.
So this is the best way, I think, to have that not happen, to vote in the primaries.
SEN. FREEDMAN: Well, we're at another disadvantage. Our primary is held in March. By the time the primary for the presidential elections comes to us, the candidate has already been chosen.
So would you still go out and vote in the primary, even if you already know who the candidate is who's been selected?
COREY PRACHNIAK: Well, the law doesn't just apply to presidential primaries. It also applies to other primaries. So, for example, in our voting district, we had a few people running for various things.
So we had primary elections for Congress as well. So that would give you the opportunity to go vote for someone like that, where it is actually a very small group of people that is determining the result of the primary.
SEN. FREEDMAN: And just as a follow up, what have you done in your civics classes when it has come to the studying of the election process?
Do you actually do voting in the civics classes, even though you aren't eligible to vote? Did they bring the machines in, so you could go through the process? Did you go through a mock election?
MATTHEW COLLETTE: Our school actually put on a very extensive mock election where candidates from our citizens in action, our civics class, adopted the different parties.
We had an entire school-wide election that got the entire school involved in this procedure. We had a mock debate that students were able to go to. So we really are trying to get voting to become very important to our culture at school.
REP. CARUSO: Other questions? Representative Giannaros?
REP. GIANNAROS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. First, I want to congratulate you. I was here just for a few minutes of your presentations. You sound so articulate and have done your homework. So as a teacher myself, I would really feel great to have people like you in my class. So feel free anytime to join me.
MATTHEW COLLETTE: Thanks, Representative.
REP. GIANNAROS: I happen to believe that anytime people want to vote, they should have that right. I'm really proud that you're actually promoting people's right to vote.
The difference between now and let's say 20 years ago is that you guys, like my sons, have access to information through the Internet. You can pick up information on candidates.
And you do know, probably, more than some of the adults in some cases, if you have an interest in politics, than we were able to do or you were able to do if you were, let's say, 20 years back.
The information was much tougher to get unless you were getting daily newspapers and the like. So I think we are on to something that we should seriously consider. I really am very proud of you, that you are taking this initiative to inform us. Thank you.
MATTHEW COLLETTE: Thank you.
REP. CARUSO: Further questions? Gentlemen, thank you all very much for coming up. One thing I would ask, maybe your class can also look at some of the issues before the capitol today, campaign finance reform, public financing, for example.
That may be something you may be interested in, as well as part of the election process. Your thoughts on it would be appreciated. Thank you all very much.
MATTHEW COLLETTE: Thank you.
REP. CARUSO: Kathryn Price? Kathryn? Good.
KATHRYN PRICE: Good morning, Senator DeFronzo, Representative Caruso, and respected members of the committee. My name is Kathryn Price, and I am a graduate student at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work. I am majoring in policy practice.
I'm also completing an internship with the Institute for the Advancement of Political Social Work Practice. I am here to speak in favor of requiring the Secretary of State to hold voter-registration drives at naturalization ceremonies of newly naturalized citizens.
I've learned through my work at the Institute the importance of registering people to vote. This is perhaps one of the rights that is most synonymous with the image of our country.
For centuries, many people have fought for the voting rights of women and persons of color. However, the battle for voting rights is far from over.
We need to be responsive to the needs of a particular group that has roots in constructing our country and its ideals, new citizens. Newly naturalized citizens should be encouraged and offered the opportunity to register to vote after naturalization ceremonies.
Individuals who are becoming citizens have their own personal reasons for why they are making this decision.
Many believe in the ideals that have come to symbolize our country, the rights of freedom of religion, speech, press, and to vote. Naturalization ceremonies are, in a way, renewing the emphasis we place on the ideals and beliefs our country was founded on.
I can think of no better way to pay tribute to these ideals than to provide the opportunity for them to partake in one of them, moments after they have officially become a part of our state and country.
Registering to vote can be a daunting and confusing experience for people who are citizens. Therefore, you can imagine how the experience might be for someone who has recently become a citizen of our country and new to the political processes.
Naturalization ceremonies provide an excellent and timely opportunity to provide information and assistance to naturalized citizens, so that they may participate in our democracy.
It also takes out the element of frustration that may accompany newly naturalized citizens attempting to find out how, when, and where to register to vote.
The responsibility and commitment for ensuring that all eligible voters have the opportunity to register to vote is one of great importance.
I am asking the committee to, please, consider making voter registration of naturalized citizens at naturalization ceremonies a responsibility of the Office of the Secretary of the State.
Assigning this office to this role will ensure that this group is not forgotten and is included as a part of our democracy. Thank you.
REP. CARUSO: Any questions? Representative Ferrari?
REP. FERRARI: I'm sorry. I don't mean to keep busting in here. Can they do that already? I mean, what we're saying here is that we're requiring them to do it. Can they do it already?
KATHRYN PRICE: They can do it. I'm just asking that it be more of an established procedure. They can offer voting registration afterwards, however, it is not required. They can offer it.
REP. FERRARI: In your knowledge, do you know if they do that? Do they do that? I guess what I'm driving at, is there a reason for telling them they have to?
KATHRYN PRICE: I'm not saying--
REP. FERRARI: I mean, it's a good idea.
KATHRYN PRICE: --I'm not saying that they have to register to vote. I'm just saying we should offer the opportunity to register to vote.
REP. FERRARI: No. No. You misunderstand me.
KATHRYN PRICE: Okay.
REP. FERRARI: What I mean, do they already do that? Why is it necessary to say they mandate that they do that?
KATHRYN PRICE: I have heard read about it in other states. California, through the League of Women Voters, I know they specifically do it after naturalization ceremonies.
So even if it was impossible for the Secretary of the State to be the office that's responsible for holding it, perhaps another nonprofit or democratic group that is interested in promoting the democracy of newly naturalized citizens could do it.
REP. FERRARI: Okay. And then they would follow the same rules for registering voters that the registrars normally follow about parties and all that stuff. They would just simply be there to register them to vote the way they wish to.
KATHRYN PRICE: Yes.
REP. FERRARI: Okay. Thank you very much.
REP. CARUSO: Further questions? Representative Fleischmann?
REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. First, Kathryn, I would like to thank you for your testimony. It was excellent. I agree with every word that you had to say.
Just to come to the issue that Representative Ferrari was driving at, it is my understanding that for many years, indeed, this happened after every naturalization ceremony in Connecticut.
Then at a certain point, that practice dropped by the wayside. Now, sometimes it happens. Often, it doesn't. Is that your understanding of the current practice?
KATHRYN PRICE: That is my understanding.
REP. FLEISCHMANN: Well, I share your sense that that is not right. Once someone has become a citizen, one of the greatest things they can do is to register to vote.
In fact, from discussions I've had with people who have that opportunity, I understand that the registration rates among people who have just been naturalized are tremendously high. Is that your understanding as well?
KATHRYN PRICE: As I understand it.
REP. FLEISCHMANN: Well, I am glad to hear that. You know, it is understandable that it is. What could be more demonstrative of the benefits of citizenship than getting to participate in your democracy?
So I appreciate you bringing this to our attention and hope that we can work with you to make it a law. Thank you.
REP. CARUSO: Other questions? Thank you very much.
KATHRYN PRICE: Thank you.
REP. CARUSO: Bill Green?
BILL GREEN: Hi. My name is Bill Green. I am the Vice President of Service Contracts for CW Resources. I am here to talk about S.B. 96. Our role at CW is to provide employment and training opportunities for people with disabilities.
The state is an invaluable resource on those jobs and those opportunities. We understand that the problem that faces us is that we're pitting two groups against each other, but I want to stress the importance of the jobs that the State of Connecticut provides for people with disabilities.
We have many contracts with the state. Anytime we have an opening, we have a list of workers with disabilities looking to have that opportunity.
We support this bill because we feel that it will give us an opportunity to work out something with both parties, so everyone will be treated fairly. We understand how difficult this problem is.
We stand ready and willing to work with any group and any party to resolve this problem. Again, we can't stress enough how important these jobs are to the people we work with. Thank you.
REP. CARUSO: Questions? Thank you, Sir. Oh, sorry.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: He is from New Britain.
REP. CARUSO: Okay. He is from New Britain.
SEN. DEFRONZO: Thanks for coming out this morning, Bill. I know Ron is not here this morning. I know I recognize Ron's willingness, Ron Buccilli, he's the Director of the Constructive Workshop, his willingness to engage in a dialogue on this issue over the last number of months.
It has been very helpful. I just wanted to ask you this. There is a list of potential prospective participants on this committee to discuss this issue in a study group. Have you had a chance to review that list?
BILL GREEN: I have not, no.
SEN. DEFRONZO: Okay. Let me just, one group, which has come to my attention that we have left off that list is the Bureau of Education Services for the Blind, BESB.
Just your quick opinion, do you think that there would be an important addition to that list perhaps?
BILL GREEN: Yeah. I think it would be. We do employ many of their clients in our programs. So they would, I think, be a valuable resource in that process. Thank you.
REP. CARUSO: Thank you. Andy Sauer followed by Walter Drew, and then Robert Fromer.
ANDY SAUER: Thank you. Good morning. My name is Andy Sauer. I'm the Executive Director of Connecticut Common Cause. Thank you for this opportunity to testify before the Government Administration Elections Committee.
I have submitted written testimony. I'll try to keep my comments short. I would like to talk about three bills, one in particular, proposed H.B. 5204, AN ACT CONCERNING POTENTIAL CONFLICTS OF INTEREST WITH REGISTERED LOBBYISTS.
I actually had to look in the statutes to make sure whether this was actually necessary. It appears that, yes, it is necessary. I am astounded that there is an allowance for registered lobbyists to serve on quasi-public agencies.
Quasi-public agencies were created to allow a public institution, let's say for an example, an airport to operate in a businesslike manner. However, it does not liberate them from their obligation to the public.
If you are on the board of a quasi-public agency or, say, the Connecticut Board of Trustees, the Judicial Selection Commission, you have a great deal of influence, not just on hiring, but on contracts, all sorts of things.
Lobbyists, by definition, are paid to represent their clients' views. You know, in serving on state-related organizations, the public is left to wonder if they are acting on behalf of the people of Connecticut or their clients.
As I said, I had to double check. It is in the statute that says that lobbyists cannot work for the General Assembly and vice versa. Members of the General Assembly cannot work for lobbyists.
It makes sense. There is a tremendous amount of responsibility. I would say that and extend it further to all public agencies and quasi-public agencies as well.
In addition, I would like to talk about H.B. 5283, AN ACT CONCERNING VOTER EDUCATION. Since I've been working at Common Cause, I've seen this bill suffer a terrible death always on the floor of the House.
It's always disappointed me because this is something that I think serves the public good. I heard the complaints regarding space, and I've heard the complaints, you know, regarding the number of words and photos. I think there is a larger picture here regarding voter education.
I used to work at a newspaper. As you know, newspapers print out ballots for an election. The newspaper I worked at, they got it wrong. They printed out the wrong one for that town. Of course, a correction was made immediately, but to the voter of that town, they may not be picking up the paper the next day.
They may not be even looking for, you know, something on B4. An official state site that has accurate information, I think, is necessary, especially when we consider this year, I believe, we are going to have new voting machines.
I've already heard from many people in Connecticut that are very anxious about using these new voter machines. There should be some sort of information out there on the Internet that is available to the public.
Last, but not least, H.B. 5276, AN ACT CONCNERING CAMPAIGN ADVERTISEMENT ACCOUNTABILITY. I know over the course of the election this was sort of the subject of a lot of late-night jokes.
I remember hearing people say on David Letterman, I approve this message, things like that. I think it added a degree of civility to, you know, something that has run rampant. I think that politicians and anyone who pays for time to air a message should be accountable for that. Thank you.
REP. CARUSO: Questions of Andy? Representative Ferrari?
REP. FERRARI: Sorry. Hi. How are you doing?
ANDY SAUER: Hi. How are you?
REP. FERRARI: Good. Just a quick question on the campaign advisement accountability. I really haven't had a chance to look at the bill that deeply. Who would be the arbiter of whether or not the material is correct or incorrect?
ANDY SAUER: On the voter education or the campaign advertisement accountability?
REP. FERRARI: Campaign advertisement accountability.
ANDY SAUER: Well, I think what that would be would be, let's say, a candidate airs a political ad that would be very similar to what it was last year where the politician who is running or the candidate who is running for office says, I approve this message.
So if I were running for, say, the United States Senate, my name is Andy Sauer, and I approve this message. It gives voters the idea that I have screened this commercial.
I've looked at it, and whatever is said in it, be it passive or hostile, I have authorized it personally. Then I imagine that if I didn't do that, it would fall under the purview of the State Elections Enforcement Commission.
REP. FERRARI: But the election, by that time, would be over.
ANDY SAUER: I think that, you know, a complaint could be registered by the other campaign that would require the candidate to be accountable for the ad.
It just simply can't go there. I have some experience in registering complaints during elections. Usually, the decision process is quite speedy.
REP. FERRARI: Thank you very much. I appreciate that.
REP. CARUSO: Further questions? Representative Fleischmann?
REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for your testimony. I have questions on a few of the bills that you mentioned.
First, to start with this advertisement accountability bill, for a candidate to say either at the beginning or the end of the ad, you know, I'm Joe Smith, and I approve of this ad, the reason I think it brought a lot of jokes is that, while it made candidates look kind of silly, it wasn't evident what impact it had.
You said in your testimony that you think it made ads more civil. I think anyone who lived in Connecticut during the last election cycle saw ads that were as tough as any that anyone has ever seen, particularly in a couple of our congressional districts.
We had very competitive races. So, you know, why should we be wading into these waters, given the fact that we haven't really seen much of a change in the elections that were affected by federal law?
ANDY SAUER: Thank you. Prior to that, though, beneath the ads, there was fine print, if you happen to take your attention off the message, you would know who ran the ad, who was accountable for the ad.
In this situation, at least you know that the person is standing up for what is being spoken there. Now, I know it may seem unnecessary. Again, I acknowledge it was the fodder for a lot of late-night jokes.
I do think that if someone is going to go out there and say, my opponent doesn't stand for this, they should put their face out there and acknowledge, I know it's being aired, and I approve this.
Often, sometimes, I think that maybe without doing it, it offers a candidate a chance to say, well, I had no idea. This was my campaign. I had no idea what was being said. This offers accountability.
REP. FLEISCHMANN: Under current law, is there not a requirement that you do get a disclaimer that shows that candidate's committee paid for the ad?
ANDY SAUER: Yes, Sir. It is fine print at the very bottom.
REP. FLEISCHMANN: So would you also be open to the idea that we make sure that the disclaimer is more visible?
ANDY SAUER: Oh, that would be good as well. I mean, Common Cause has run issue ads as well. We did last year. You know, we ran it prominently. I would have no problem saying that, my name is Andy Sauer, and I approve this message.
REP. FLEISCHMANN: I got you. Just on a couple of the other bills you mentioned. First, you offer testimony on Representative McCluskey's bill about registered lobbyists and, you know, where they may or may not serve.
The ACLU, just yesterday, raised concerns about another measure, that we have in this committee, proposed by the Governor that would ban lobbyists from giving to political campaigns.
The ACLU's argument is, you know, they question whether there is a compelling public interest. In that case, I think I can see the nexus. I can see how you argue that there is a compelling public interest in limiting the influence of these players who are also up at the capitol all the time.
I'm just wondering if you could tell us what the nexus is when it comes, and I see it also, by the way, for the Judicial Selection Commission, that is such an incredibly important and powerful body, and the Judiciary is such a critical branch of government, but when it comes to, say, the UCONN Board of Trustees, could you explain to me and the committee where you see a conflict there?
ANDY SAUER: Well, actually, I don't know much about the UCONN Board of Trustees. What really kind of sparked my interest in it was the quasi-public-agency aspect of it. I am familiar with the way quasi-public agencies operate.
As I used the example with an airport, one of the reasons why so many states have airport authorities, it allows them to make decisions quickly and on a dime. It also allows them to extend themselves in terms of, you know, seeking out maybe loans, that sort of thing.
So it allows them to operate more competitively in an aviation market, a competitive environment. However, I'll just take an example. Many lobbyists have public-relation wings of their office.
What if a lobbyist was on that Board of Directors of this airport authority and this airport authority needed some marketing done? He could say, well, I've got a marketing agency. Why don't you send the business my way?
I know a good number of lobbyists who would probably not do that. That would be a clear conflict. I mean, these are the types of warnings that I think we need to be aware of.
It does create, I believe, it undermines the public trust. I think that a lobbyist is paid to represent interests. When they are on the board of a quasi-public agency, they are thinking about the public's interest. I think therein lies a conflict.
REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you. That is extremely helpful. Lastly, AN ACT CONCERING VOTER EDUCATION, as currently drafted, this bill simply would create an Internet availability of basic information on candidates. The title is voter education.
I'm struck by the fact that in the State of Connecticut at present, we only require one semester of civics for high school students.
I'm wondering when it comes to educating people whether we should be considering doing more than that, for instance, having programs at an earlier age for kids in elementary school that would allow them to learn about democracy and participation in democracy at an earlier age.
ANDY SAUER: Absolutely. I have a seven-year-old son. As you might imagine, I never have a shortage of words. I love to teach him about government, the way government operates.
I take personal pride that I've taken him with me to vote, you know, since he was born. He has always accompanied me to the polls and inside. Every year, we talk about the important decisions we have to make.
I think democracy is an important part of every American's life. I think it should be the type of thing that is instituted as early as kindergarten.
REP. FLEISCHMANN: Thank you.
REP. CARUSO: Further questions? Representative Giannaros?
REP. GIANNAROS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Sauer, nice to see you.
ANDY SAUER: Good to see you.
REP. GIANNAROS: Most of the time, I fully agree with your positions. This one, I'm having a little bit of a hard time. Let me state that I have run six state elections, never solicited any lobbyists to give me funding for my campaign, and have sent checks back, literally, when they do send me money.
Not that lobbyists, there is anything wrong with lobbyists. I think that we are all lobbyists. We all push for our own interests. You are a lobbyist. Everyone else is a lobbyist pushing for our interests. The lobbyists are doing their job.
What I am concerned about, and I do believe that lobbyists should not be giving money to campaigns, I do believe that very strongly because they come up here. They are here in our face every day, and they are trying to push the interests of their clients.
When we start going into, like they can't serve government in any capacity type of thing, not on boards, especially on boards where there is no conflict. For example, if you are a lobbyist for the environmental groups, why shouldn't you serve on a board of higher education or a board of water quality? Well, water quality, they wouldn't do that.
There are other examples one can come up with. What is wrong with that? I don't understand. They are citizens too.
ANDY SAUER: Well, naturally, without having thought about that, as I mentioned to Representative Fleischmann, what caught my eye was the quasi-public aspect of it.
Having some experience in knowing how authorities and other quasi-public agencies operate, it struck me as not being proper, not being good. I am refraining from using the word ethical because ethical, at least as it's defined, is defined by the statutes.
I guess in the examples you brought up, I'd have to think about it more. I can only relate it conversely to my own position. I lobby on ethics. I lobby on campaign-finance reform.
I would think it would be improper of me to serve on the State Elections Commission as a commissioner and be the one deciding vote on the commission that decides we're going to endorse public financing.
It would be a conflict if I served in the State Ethics Commission, and I was the one deciding vote that said, you know, we're going to issue this advisory. That could be related to a public official.
REP. GIANNAROS: I guess my concern, and I want your response to this, and this is the last question. If we were to start eliminating chunks of the population from serving in government, pretty soon, we're not going to have any volunteers.
Would you be comfortable that they should not serve if they have a potential conflict relating to their lobbying activities?
ANDY SAUER: Again, Sir, I will have to think about it. You know, I am amenable to it off the bat. I'd have to think about it.
REP. GIANNAROS: Thank you.
REP. CARUSO: Representative McCluskey?
REP. MCCLUSKEY: Thank you. Thank you for your testimony. First of all, regarding the bill that you were discussing with Representative Giannaros, would you have a problem if we maybe crafted the bill a little finer and said that lobbyists are prohibited from maybe policy-making or decision-making boards to distinguish them from advisory boards that may only have the power to recommend as opposed to actually awarding contracts?
For example, like the UCONN Board of Trustees would decide whether or not to have a stand-alone private surgical facility in Farmington or to make other decisions regarding, you know, sweatshop purchases of their sporting gear, something like that.
ANDY SAUER: Yes, Sir.
REP. MCCLUSKEY: Okay. And also, right now, to your knowledge, there is no even disclosure requirement, that says when a lobbyist is on the board, they have to disclose or report the fact to the board they are appointed on that they are, in fact, a lobbyist and who their clients are.
ANDY SAUER: Not to the best of my knowledge.
REP. MCCLUSKEY: The last thing, on Representative Spallone's bill, H.B. 5276, I was just reading through it. I had not focused on it carefully.
One of the things that I thought was perhaps, I mean, they want to include a pre-recorded phone message. As you know, it was somewhat of a controversy in the second [inaudible] whether or not certain robot calls, if you will, were done at the behest of one of the candidates for that congressional race.
So I would like you to think about whether or not you may want to expand this proposed bill to also include those kinds of communication, which, I think, caused a lot of controversy. It was unclear who was paying for those pre-recorded phone calls. Thank you.
ANDY SAUER: Yes, Sir.
REP. CARUSO: Other questions? Okay. Thank you very much, Andy. Walter Drew followed by Robert Fromer followed by Americo Santiago.
WALTER DREW: Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to speak here. For whatever it's worth, I do believe I am [inaudible] related to Representative Thomas Drew, if that makes any difference or not. I have two bills on my mind. First, I'll start out with the good news.
SEN. DEFRONZO: Mr. Drew, could you pull that microphone a little closer to you? Is the light on in front of you?
WALTER DREW: Yes. There is a light that is lit.
SEN. DEFRONZO: Okay.
WALTER DREW: Okay. Can everybody hear me?
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: [inaudible - microphone not on]
WALTER DREW: Oh, a little louder? I hope I don't bust anybody's eardrum. Okay. So goes the battle.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: [inaudible - microphone not on]
WALTER DREW: Okay. The first one is Proposed S.B. 2, LCO number 56, AN ACT CHANGING THE METHOD OF SELECTING PRESIDENTIAL ELECTORS. I understand that every one of you have a copy of this bill in front of you.
Like the good-news-bad-news jokes, I think this is a very good joke. Right now, we don't get as much attention from presidential candidates as we could or should. I think this would help get more attention, which we deserve.
And I also think [inaudible] would take more of an interest in voting if they think, at least in their congressional district, they've got an electoral vote to vote for. I think this would get more voter interest and more voter turnout.
So, therefore, one other thing, there are two states, Nebraska and Maine, that have this. If Connecticut does this, they will be the third state in the Union to do it. I'd like that.
When it came to passing a law about right on red at a stoplight, we were the next to the last [Gap in testimony. Changing from Tape 1A to 1B.]
I'd like to see this bill go through. Now, the bad news is Proposed S.J. 5. Am I still loud enough?
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Yeah.
WALTER DREW: Thank you. It is a resolution proposing a constitutional amendment to provide for direct initiative. This bill, as far as I'm concerned, is very poorly written in every way.
If it should be enacted, it would cause a great deal of problems for the State of Connecticut. Without going through it, I'll just pick off, down at the end, it says, no legislation shall be taken in respect to any proposal submitted until after the third legislative session following submittal.
That is a long time. I'm not quite sure what that means. Anyway, the young man had a proposal here. My name is written in the upper-left-hand corner, Walter Drew.
I would request and recommend that you substitute this one that, where is it? I had a copy of it right here. Well, I've got it in my head anyway, I guess.
I recommend this one. Massachusetts has direct initiative. Maine has direct initiative. California has influence for direct initiative. This bill is written to try to eliminate as many of those problems as possible.
For example, in California, any initiatives can come up at any election. There are not [inaudible] people voting at that election. This bill provides that it can only come on a general election in November. This is when you have the most number of voters out and voting.
It also provides that it has to be passed by 15% of the registered voters. Sometimes you can get through the majority, but they are not registered. So there is a double safeguard to prevent some of the fiascos that come in other states.
Also, there is a possibility that an outside interest could hijack an initiative. So this proposal here says that only people who are citizens of Connecticut can do any campaigning. An outside interest cannot campaign for or against an initiative.
When it comes to the financing initiative, it cannot be financed by any outside interests. It can be financed only by people who are residents of Connecticut or a business whose headquarters, unincorporated business whose headquarters is in Connecticut or an incorporated business who is incorporated in Connecticut.
Others cannot do it. That is just to try to keep it at the hometown voice. Every so often, you get tax revolts. They want to get a bill through to limit town taxes, like Massachusetts did.
This one specifically says that no initiatives can be used to limit or inhibit the ability of the town to levy or collect taxes.
REP. CARUSO: Mr. Drew, if you could just summarize, I think some members want to ask you questions.
WALTER DREW: Pardon?
REP. CARUSO: If you could just summarize your remarks because some members of the committee, I think, want to ask you questions.
WALTER DREW: Oh, yes. Well, I'll stop right there. That's all I can think of at the moment.
REP. CARUSO: Okay. Representative O'Rourke?
REP. O'ROURKE: Thank you. Good morning, Walter. It is great to see you up here at the capitol. I've carried on correspondence with you for many years.
I know you're a very involved citizen, someone who is very interested in our public policy. It is good to see you come up here to our committee.
You and I had traded some letters back and forth on this idea that you addressed today, changing the method of selecting our presidential electors here. It strikes me that this is really something that needs to be done on a federal level.
We would be better off, perhaps, scraping the entire Electoral College and going to a direct vote, a majority votes of all the people in this country. To do it on a state-by-state basis really doesn't make a lot of sense to me.
If a blue state like Connecticut and other blue states were to just go on their own and apply this bill and portion out their electors on a basis of congressional district by congressional district, don't you think that would ultimately weaken the United States of America by further lowering our electoral I.Q?
WALTER DREW: No. This bill is modeled after the one in Nebraska, which is a state law. It is not necessarily a federal law. The purpose of the bill is to get more voter interest, and also initiative, get the voters out in the voting process. If they think their vote is going to count, they will.
REP. O'ROURKE: Again, wouldn't Connecticut's voice be weaker by doing this, if we divided up our electoral votes in this manner?
If we give it all to the winner, it has a much bigger impact than if we divvy it up based on congressional districts.
WALTER DREW: There are some people who would like to scrap the electoral system and have people elected by direct popular vote. Who knows? I don't like that idea.
REP. O'ROURKE: I just think--
WALTER DREW: They should let the system--
REP. O'ROURKE: --every state should be the same across the country is what I'm saying to you. It should be all one way or all the other.
If every state did it based on congressional district, then that would be great. To have some states do it, I really don't think that makes much sense.
WALTER DREW: --thank you.
REP. CARUSO: Thank you. Further questions? Thank you, Mr. Drew.
WALTER DREW: Yeah. Thank you.
REP. CARUSO: We'll tell your son, Thomas, what a fine gentleman you are. Robert Fromer followed by Americo Santiago.
WALTER DREW: My Drew ancestors are ship captains and ship builders in Maine.
ROBERT FROMER: Hi. Good morning. My name is Robert Fromer. I am an environmental consultant, not an environmental lobbyist.
I am the person responsible for asking Representative Farr to introduce this legislation based on my involvement in the demolition process in Fort Trumbull in New London, which many of you have heard about in the eminent-domain cases.
I've been actively involved in the litigation in many of those cases, as a consultant to the attorneys. I'll get into that a little more. I have provided, to each one of you, written testimony on this issue.
I'd like to get you to focus on certain key words here, energy waste, solid waste, historic structures, non-historic structures. Those are the focus here.
Now, under Connecticut's law, the building official in every town has a ministerial duty where if someone applies for a demolition permit and can demonstrate that they meet the requirements as a demolition contractor, they're licensed, they could tear down any structure.
No one has any say in any kind of rational process to give second thought or contemplation to saving any of these buildings. The only structures that are protected are historic structures.
Under the Environmental Protection Act, Section 22A-19A, if a structure is slated for registry in the National Historic Register or is registered, then the state can get involved, citizen groups can get involved and require the consideration of feasible and prudent alternatives.
Attached to my testimony is a copy of a Superior Court decision involving the Hill City neighborhood versus the City of New Haven where a determination was made that there were no feasible or prudent alternatives. It was a blighted structure and so forth and so on.
At least, there is a rational process. Now, think about this. No other citizen in Connecticut could try to do anything about that. So I crafted a legal theory, which the attorney I work with presented to the Superior Court to establish what is the building official's ultimate duty.
Is it strictly ministerial or does he have discretionary responsibilities? It went to the Supreme Court. And in the case of Fort Trumbull Conservancy, LLC v. Alvez, Alvez still is the building official in New London, the court said, it's a ministerial duty.
However, under the Environmental Protection Act, there is a callable claim that could be brought about pollution. The case hasn't occurred yet. Now, think about this. Every single building, every single structure involves energy consumption.
We have a national energy crisis. We have a state energy crisis. The state DEP has still, in all these years, not crafted a solid-waste management plan. Construction and demolition debris are major problems in terms of disposal of landfills or trucking across state lines.
Every single structure involves this consumption of energy. Just imagine a piece of wood siding, anything, it took energy to harvest that raw material. It is considered what is called, embedded energy.
All the energy that went into that structure, to then have someone come along, tear it down, which requires more energy, then deposit it in a landfill, which still requires more energy, to then use more energy to build another building on the site. It is mindless.
There is no process involved here, which can control that. My suggestion is to enhance the building official's position. The building official, essentially, serves the purpose--
REP. CARUSO: Mr. Fromer, if you could just summarize, I would appreciate it.
ROBERT FROMER: Yeah. He serves the purpose of public safety. My proposal, submitted through Representative Farr, is to expand that for environmental considerations.
So it would require, for example, if you looked at my recommendations, a planning commission having to pass on the feasible and prudent alternative through demolition approvals, which would then be certified by building officials.
A building official wouldn't just have public safety involvement, he would also have environmental involvement without being in the process of doing the considerations. The planning commission would do those considerations. Thank you.
REP. CARUSO: Are there any questions for Mr. Fromer?
ROBERT FROMER: I just wanted to make some brief comments on a couple other bills.
REP. CARUSO: You really can't. We give three minutes to each speaker. I'd be happy, if you have some comments, and you want to give them to the clerk, we'll consider them. Representative Caron?
REP. CARON: Mr. Fromer, I was trying to run through your testimony as quickly as I could. Is this for state buildings only or for all buildings in Connecticut?
ROBERT FROMER: All buildings in Connecticut. For example, for a state building, as occurred in Fort Trumbull, the town crafted a municipal development plan. The environmental impact evaluation went and was prepared for the Department of Economic and Community Development and was reviewed by the DEP.
Under the regulations of Connecticut's State Agencies for the preparation of an environmental impact evaluation, it just says, consider energy consumption, and then provides low criteria or standards.
So when it came to demolition, the only statement that was made in that environmental evaluation, there was no evaluation, no assessment. It was, well, there will be no more additional expenditure of energy. That was the sum total of the statement. That is a serious problem.
REP. CARON: So you are just saying you just really want us to make an assessment of any and all potential energy uses when one has to demolish a building.
ROBERT FROMER: Well, whenever anyone would come in to demolish a building, it would be required that they consider feasible and prudent alternatives that would expand that consideration from historic structures to all structures.
You know, the energy doesn't just go into historic buildings. It goes into all buildings. So if we have an energy problem--
REP. CARON: I understand what you're saying. Do you have any idea of what the potential cost of this would be for municipalities, planning agencies, and the state as well?
ROBERT FROMER: Well, think about the cost, don't look at it in terms of dollars because the dollar is backed by oil. Look at it in terms of reduction of fossil fuels, which, in my opinion, is a much greater consideration.
Yes, it is going to cost money. Everything you do involves expenditure of energy. We have a fixed supply worldwide. The question is, how do you reduce and extend the existing reserve of fossil fuel, that is to reduce the waste?
REP. CARON: Understood. I think we're looking for tradeoffs--
ROBERT FROMER: I understand, but the thing is, if you're going to have--
REP. CARON: --most benefit we're getting out of it. I notice you mention in your testimony, welcome to Connecticut, the state where waste is our most important and prolific product.
ROBERT FROMER: --yes. I send that out with all--
REP. CARON: --it just seems like we're adding a couple more layers, at least, of the bureaucratic process in here for little, if any benefit.
ROBERT FROMER: Well, I think the fact of the matter is that you're closing your landfills. You have to truck demolition debris across state lines. That is a significant cost to communities indirectly.
The fact that you're wasting oil, what happens when the fossil fuels run out? What are you going to do then? What are you going to do about demolition of buildings then? The thing is to prevent it in planning now instead of having to deal with a correction afterwards.
REP. CARON: Okay. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. CARUSO: Probably what you'd do then, once the oil companies figure out how they can control hydrogen production, then you'll have that.
ROBERT FROMER: Well, the solution, I think, is to look at passive solar.
REP. CARUSO: I agree. Okay. Next is Americo Santiago followed by Eunice Francine, and Mark Behrens.
AMERICO SANTIAGO: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee. My name is Americo Santiago. I am the Policy and Program Director at DemocracyWorks. For the record, DemocracyWorks is a nonpartisan organization.
We have been working on election reform issues, campaign finance reform, ethics, and all those issues that we want to make sure are making democracy more fair and inclusive.
Just for the record, I would like to say that Eunice, the person who was going to follow me had to leave. She had to go and take care of her daughter.
Mr. Chairman, and Members of the Committee, I will just take a few minutes to comment on a few bills. The first one is H.B. 5282. I am glad that the students came over here to testify. The work that we have done in the past is paying off.
Many people throughout the State of Connecticut say, well, why do we want to pass this legislation? It is a clear example today by having a school doing school-wide elections, mock elections, and showing the interest they have to come over here and try to make sure they participate in the process.
I would just like to remind the members of the committee that not too long ago, we, who served in Vietnam, I remember that I was in Vietnam and couldn't vote because I was 19 years old. You had to be 21 years old in order to vote.
Now, we've passed legislation to allow students and young people to work with the registrars working the polls. If they work at the polls, they should be able to vote too, right?
So we are in support of that piece of legislation. Hopefully, you will allow those individuals who are 17 and would be 18 by Election Day to participate in the process. Congratulations to all of them.
The other bill is H.B. 5283, the Board of Education bill. This bill, like my friend Andy said this morning, it has gone through a period of ups and downs. A bill similar to this was introduced by the committee last year and passed.
The bill required the Secretary of the State in consultation with the Election Enforcement Commission to prepare and publish on the Internet a guide for state elections.
One of the issues that was raised during the committee hearings and also on the floor of the house was the cost. How much will this cost to the Secretary of the State? Analyses done by the Office of Fiscal Analysis during the 2002 election, everyone who ran for office paid $25.
That would be sufficient. Okay. So it is a small amount of dollars. They will raise $9,650, and this will correlate according to the Office of Fiscal Analysis.
If we want to continually increase the use of the Internet by providing information for candidates, this will increase the credibility of the process, and also, it will increase the attention that people are giving to the election. It probably will increase participation.
Lastly, the bill that I want to comment on is S.B. 54, AN ACT REQUIRING THE PROVISION OF VOTER REGISTRATION SERVICES AT THE NATURALIZATION CEREMONIES. You have testimony that we have submitted around this particular issue.
Let me just say that my personal experience is, and this was raised by Representative Ferrari, yes, in 1996, we had an agreement with the Federal Court in the State of Connecticut by the senior judge to allow people who are becoming citizens during the ceremonies to register to vote.
We had a staff from the Secretary of State's Office, and also we had people, volunteers including the League of Women Voters. There was a period of time that this continued on for many years until, for whatever reason, it was stopped. It wasn't done any longer.
I don't know if at the present time, the Secretary of the State's Office continues to provide this service, but we would like for this legislation to pass.
One of the most cherished rights of a new citizen is the right to participate in electing the public officials. If you take a quick look at the news, what took place in Iraq, many people came to vote for the first time.
Many people who come into this country become citizens. One of their rights is to become involved in the process. Why not provide those services the same day that they become a citizen like we used to do by the Secretary of the State's Office and the League of Women Voters?
So we would love to have your support. Thank you very much for giving me your time to come before you.
REP. CARUSO: Thank you. Any questions? Okay. Senator Freedman?
SEN. FREEDMAN: Thank you for your comments. As I recall, in the last campaign, I thought it was the League of Women Voters that had on the Internet where you could fill out a whole thing as a candidate, and it would go right onto the website. I can't remember what it was called. You had the option of doing that.
If all candidates did that, why would the Secretary of State then have to put together a brochure, since the League is already offering that service? It is probably on the medium that most people are using nowadays.
AMERICO SANTIAGO: Well, in due respect, the League of Women Voters is doing a tremendous amount of work. They are volunteers. They do more than what people think. You have to remember, though, the League of Women Voters is not a state agency.
Many people who look for information when it comes to voter registration, you can download from the Secretary of State's Office, the voter-registration application. You can also find information about campaign finance, how to fill out the paperwork, and also about corporations, and many other needs the residents and the citizens of the State of Connecticut have.
The Secretary of the State's Office is one of the most public offices in the State of Connecticut. I think by providing that information through the Secretary of the State's Office would be an addition to the work that is done and also in addition to the service that the League of Women Voters does.
They do it on a volunteer basis. Putting this information in the website for the Secretary of the State would be something that people can access more frequently.
SEN. FREEDMAN: But as I recall, this links right back to the Secretary of the State's Office. Any information you may need, you can go right through from the League of Women Voters or whoever sets up that site.
I'm not sure which group. I thought it was the League. Why would the Secretary of State now want to take and spend money on something that is being done for free for all candidates?
AMERICO SANTIAGO: Well, the Secretary of State is not going to spend any money on it. I mean, the $25, I guess, you know, is not that much, first of all.
Secondly, because I am doing campaign-finance reform or because I want to register to vote or because I want to find out what my rights are in the statutes as a citizen, I go ahead through the Secretary of the State's Office. That information will be there.
I wouldn't have to go through the League to do it first. Not that many people go through the League to get information. They mostly go through the Secretary of State's website. It is a first hit.
REP. CARUSO: Further questions? Thank you very much, Americo.
AMERICO SANTIAGO: You're welcome.
REP. CARUSO: I appreciate it. Our next speaker is Mark Behrens followed by Tom Swan, and then Rosario Rondinelli, if I'm pronouncing it properly.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: It sounded nice. It was melodic.
MARK BEHRENS: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee. My name is Mark Behrens. I am a partner with a law firm in Washington, D.C. called Shook, Hardy & Bacon. I am here today on behalf of the American Legislative Exchange Council.
ALEC is the nation's leading membership organization of state Legislators with about 2,400 Legislators nationwide. I understand I have about three minutes today.
I have submitted written testimony to the committee, which should have been passed out earlier this morning. I would ask that that be submitted into the record. I will just summarize my remarks today.
I would strongly support Proposed H.B. 5143, which is to be introduced by Representative Harkins. My understanding is that it's similar to a bill that was considered by this committee last year, which was R.B. 570.
It was legislation to require an open and competitive bidding process when the state or state agencies look to hire outside lawyers. This is an issue that really arose first as a national policy issue in the aftermath of the State Attorney General's action against the tobacco industry.
After a lot of investigation that occurred across the states, a lot of people wondered how did the attorneys in that litigation get hired? I have an article that came out at the time that is somewhat humorous called, Puff Daddies. I think this came out in George Magazine that was the Kennedy Magazine for a while.
You know, you look at some of these people here like Dickie Scruggs on his yacht. His settlement was more than $1 billion to his firm. Just another example, here is another lawyer, 45 years old, he's about my age, on his ranch in South Carolina, Joe Rice, at least $1 billion to his firm, possibly as much as $10 billion to his firm.
In some of the states, attorneys earned as much as $105,000 an hour. In many places, when they were asked how these attorneys were picked, a lot of Attorney Generals said things like, there was a familiarity factor.
It was clear that the work was not put up for open and competitive bidding in most states. The interesting thing is that in other states where I've testified on this bill, we've had personal-injury lawyers, plaintiff's lawyers who have complained about the process because they were shut out.
There were a lot of firms that wanted to compete for that work, but they weren't able to do so. Even where competitive bidding goes on, here in this state, I know that the Attorney General recently has put out requests for proposals in the area of prescription drug litigation, litigation to go after public utilities for carbon dioxide emissions, and in litigation regarding MTBE as a gasoline fuel additive.
So there is a bidding process that has been put into place after the tobacco litigation, perhaps because of the nature of public oversight that came out of the tobacco litigation.
Nevertheless, we think that that is a good government concept. This work should be put up to competitive bidding, like anything else the state buys. We think that it would be very good policy for the committee to codify the practice that is occurring in the state right now. Thank you very much.
REP. CARUSO: I just have two questions. I don't think it's a bad idea at all. My only concern is that when you do bids on law firms, it's more subjective than if you were building a building where you know how many parts you need and what type of parts.
It's somewhat subjective in a lot of ways. How would you judge the competency of the firm? Would that be part of the bid package or the request for proposals? Do you understand what I'm saying?
MARK BEHRENS: Absolutely.
REP. CARUSO: When you do a building, you need so many, you know, metal rods. It's kind of straightforward, but with this, it's a little different. So how would you--
MARK BEHRENS: It's a very good question. The proposal would not require the work to simply go to the lowest cost bid. In some instances, you get what you pay for.
Obviously, the absolutely lowest cost bid would not necessarily always be in the state's best interest. What the bill would call for is the same process that every general counsel in a corporation in America does today.
Last night, I was driving, and this is my first time in Hartford. I see all the buildings downtown with names of insurance companies on them. I represent some of those companies.
When they decide that they want to hire outside legal counsel, whether they are insurers or auto companies or pharmaceutical companies or what have you, they put out bids.
When an auto company wants to hire counsel to represent, let's say Ford, in all-over litigation on a particular type of vehicle or a drug company wants to hire somebody to coordinate their national counsel, that is the type of work that our firm does.
They'll solicit bids from firms all across the country. They will make their decision on who would be the best firm to represent them, factoring in price as one thing, experience as another factor, and so on.
That is really what we would like here, to make sure that the taxpayers are getting the absolute best value for their dollar.
REP. CARUSO: One final question, statutory deadlines in the hiring of a firm, you know, if you were bidding, competitive bidding and the time involved, would that in any way, do you think, create problems with statutory deadlines for filing suits and things of that nature?
MARK BEHRENS: That hasn't occurred in any of the states that I'm aware of. The bill provides for a fairly expedited procedure to identify firms.
In fact, the procedure that appears to be used right now by the Attorney General in the ongoing litigation over prescription drugs, MTBE, power utilities, the statute of limitations doesn't seem to have raised any bar to those actions.
Again, what this would really codify is the procedure that appears to be going on right now. Attorney General Blumenthal is, I think, doing the right thing by putting this work up for public bidding. We don't know that that is always going to be the practice.
It wasn't the practice in tobacco litigation. We don't know who future the future Attorney General might be and what their practice would be.
REP. CARUSO: This isn't just for Attorney Generals. These are agencies too within the state, right?
MARK BEHRENS: Exactly, state agencies.
REP. CARUSO: Further questions? Representative O'Rourke, I know you did and then Representative McCluskey.
REP. O'ROURKE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I noticed you folks have been pursuing this bill for a year or two now. Generally, I think competitive bidding is very important all across government and something I would want to encourage.
You folks have sort of focused in, your group, ALEC, on the lawyers who were hired. I guess I think, traditionally, when we're doing professional services, the quality, the experience of the people involved, it's not like building a building. You know?
There are a lot of different intangibles that don't exactly equate to the normal low-bid process. Just so I can understand where your organization is coming from on this and why you're focusing in on the lawyers that are hired by the government, where do you folks, the Legislative Exchange Council, get your funding from?
MARK BEHRENS: I am just counsel to ALEC. I don't work there. So I don't know names of companies to rattle off. ALEC is sort of an interesting organization. I've learned more about it.
The reason they call it American Legislative Exchange Council is that ALEC's membership includes public sector members, state Legislators, and private sector members. There are corporate members of ALEC.
REP. O'ROURKE: So, for instance, the big tobacco companies that you mention, they seemed grieved by the tobacco settlements that were forced on them by the action of Attorney Generals across the country.
MARK BEHRENS: I'm not sure.
REP. O'ROURKE: Are they a major funder?
MARK BEHRENS: I don't know whether they are or not, but, frankly, they get nothing out of this bill. Their litigation is water under the bridge at this point. They've entered into their agreement with the Attorney General. That litigation is resolved.
I don't know where they stand, whether they are ALEC members or what their level of funding is. It has absolutely no bearing on this bill because they get nothing out of it.
REP. O'ROURKE: But it's typical, a lot of big business are the funders of the group.
MARK BEHRENS: They get big business funding. Yeah.
REP. O'ROURKE: Okay. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. CARUSO: Representative McCluskey?
REP. MCCLUSKEY: Thank you. Thank you for your testimony. I just had two questions regarding the bill. It says any contract for legal counsel. You wouldn't have a problem if we had a certain dollar amount, right?
MARK BEHRENS: I think that, at least, I know in last year's bill, that would be something you really would be better to ask the sponsor.
I think with respect to legislative oversight into the terms of the contract, it would only apply to contracts for more than $1 million in fees.
So in smaller litigations involving the state, whether a condemnation proceeding or whatever, those would not be affected by the legislation.
REP. MCCLUSKEY: Okay. I'm sorry. I don't have last year's drafted bill. I just have the proposal. The other thing is, you know, we're a part-time Legislature.
My concern would be, much like we have with state employee contracts, would we have to be hauled into special session? We're only in three months a year or five months a year.
Would we have to have a special session, which adds cost to the State of Connecticut or would it require that the Attorney General only be able to have these contracts approved by the General Assembly when we're in session?
Do you have any comments on that? It says, approval by the General Assembly. We're a part-time Legislature in Connecticut, so, you know, you've got three months, you've got five months or you're sitting out until the next session. So I'd urge you to consider that.
Finally, when you say retain outside counsel, are you just talking about litigation or would you be talking about, like we had a controversy with the ex-Governor regarding background checks that used to be done by the State Police, but were, in fact, done by a legal counsel firm that had connections to the ex-Governor.
In fact, they subbed out the work on background checks because most legal firms don't have any expertise in background checks of potential public officials.
So would you include work, not just litigation work, but any work done by legal counsel?
MARK BEHRENS: Again, it is not my decision to include or not include items in the bill. I think that the bill, at least as I understand it, is directed towards hiring outside legal counsel that is going to be performing legal services on behalf of the state or state agencies.
REP. MCCLUSKEY: But if you're concerned about influence peddling and appropriate use of tax dollars, in fact, if it is just one way to funnel work one way to contributors of a Governor or another constitutional officer, you would want that abuse to be addressed as well by your legislation, wouldn't you?
MARK BEHRENS: I really don't know the facts of the situation, being from out of state. Generally, we stand for greater sunshine, more involvement. This is not a tort reform bill.
There is nothing in here that says the Attorney General or state agencies cannot bring litigation. There is nothing in here that would cap the amount of damages that could be achieved in litigation.
All this bill does, it's a good government bill. It says, when the state is going to hire, let the public know how much they are paying and who they are buying. At the end of the case, require the attorney to submit time records that say what they did and how much they charged the state for it.
That is nothing spectacular in the world of defense lawyers. At least every day when I go home, I've got to fill out a time sheet.
It really is important because I've testified on similar legislation that passed in Kansas as part of a state ethics bill. They had a situation out there during the tobacco litigation that wasn't uncommon.
The Attorney General in Kansas, who was a Republican, she hired her former law firm, the place where she ran her campaign out of their offices. She hired her law firm to serve as local counsel. They received a fee of over $20 million.
The state subpoenaed the firm and said, what did you do for this amount of money? The law firm, I am not kidding, submitted stack of documents no bigger than this. They received over $2,000 per hour for their work for submitting a stack of documents like this. They largely served as local counsel.
So this legislation would stop that kind of abuse. The taxpayers would at least know if they're getting taken advantage of in a legal situation.
REP. CARUSO: Further questions? Representative Ferrari?
REP. FERRARI: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thanks for coming in to testify. How many other states have passed this legislation at this point?
MARK BEHRENS: Several states. It is a growing trend in the states. Texas was the first to act. Subsequently, in the past three or four years or so, Texas, North Dakota, Kansas, Colorado, and Virginia have all enacted the legislation. Like I said, where it has occurred, it has been done in a bipartisan manner.
This is not a tort reform bill. It has been done, generally, as part of good government packages in ethics legislation and the like.
Let me say, really, this is very moderate legislation. You know, somebody may come in here and propose banning attorney general type of lawsuits. This legislation doesn't do that in any way, shape or form.
And, you know, I think that it is important that the public has oversight in these proceedings because there is, very frequently, there can be times when the interests of the state are very different than the interests of the private lawyers hired by the state.
If I'm a private lawyer hired by the state, my mission, my sole mission is to go out and get as much money as possible. That is what the lawyers did in the tobacco litigation. That is what they wanted to do in this other litigation. That is not always in the state's best interest.
For example, let's say you bring in an environmental action. Whether it is to clean up a hazardous-waste site or whatever or power plant emissions, the issue is, do you screw the companies to require them to go in and clean up the environmental hazard or do you make them pay a big monetary fine and nothing gets cleaned up?
Now, it's in the attorney's interest to go for the money because they will get one-third of it. Whereas, it may be in the state's interest not to have money and have an environmental site, but to have that site cleaned up.
So, again, this is very moderate legislation. It allows the Attorney General to make those decisions about what is in the state's best interest. This is not legislation to shut down these types of lawsuits.
REP. FERRARI: Has experience in those states been developed yet as to whether it has actually changed the lay of the land, so to speak, that you know of?
MARK BEHRENS: There has not been any challenge to the legislation where it has passed. It has received favorable editorial and media coverage. You know, it would be very hard, and I would doubt anybody would stand up here and say that secrecy and nondisclosure in government is a good idea. You're not going to get that.
So wherever this has passed, people realize that abuses, extreme abuses have occurred in the past. There is a real likelihood that they could occur in the future. This type of litigation is going on and on.
We've seen it first in tobacco. We saw it in the gun lawsuits. The City of Bridgeport was the first, one of the first to bring gun lawsuits. Rhode Island is suing paint companies. Again, this state is pursuing litigation against other industries.
This is a type of litigation that, despite what people said during tobacco, that it was unique. It isn't unique. It's ongoing, and it's growing. The legislation, I think, is very important. Nowhere where it has passed has it received critical scrutiny; quite the opposite. It's been embraced, particularly by the local media.
REP. FERRARI: And not really a question, but a comment. Representative McCluskey mentioned that we are a part-time Legislature. Tobacco, the tobacco suits took five years, ten years. Would that be a fair assessment?
My point is that we're in session every six months, and in the view of many of my constituents, far too often. And I don't know that I see that as a problem, being a part-time Legislature.
We have time to look at these things. We have time to review lots of different types of agreements that our agencies make. It seems to me that it's probably a wise and long time in coming practice.
I'm certainly glad Attorney General Blumenthal has put that internal practice into place now. I think it makes a lot of sense. I don't see any reason why, I can't speak for him, but I don't see any reason why he would oppose codifying it, since he won't be there forever. We don't know who the next person is going to be.
MARK BEHRENS: Yeah. I would like to see the Attorney General's Office support this legislation. I did some research before I came here.
In my testimony, at a hearing very much like this one today, the Attorney General was before this committee last year. I have the full context of his remarks here, so I don't want to take anything out of context.
He did say, in general, the concept is a good one. I favor an open transparent process for all contracts. There is no reason that there should be a different treatment for contracts for relation to legal counsel.
He mentioned some technical issues. I hope that he would work with the sponsor and say exactly what those are. Certainly, he has indicated general support for this concept.
REP. FERRARI: Thank you. One final thought, I believe ALEC and NCSL, Council of Small Governments, and all of those groups, whenever there is a meeting somewhere in the country, you find a significant number of the same lobbyists at those events, pursuing their ideas, which they have every right to do.
So I don't know that ALEC is any different, except that you mention the unique relationship, which I agree with. I don't see it as any more sinister or as any other group that meets wherever they meet. I appreciate you coming all this way and talking to us about it.
MARK BEHRENS: Well, I appreciate the opportunity to be here. This is my first time in Connecticut. It's been a good experience.
REP. FERRARI: Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. CARUSO: Thank you, Sir. Thank you very much for coming. I appreciate it.
MARK BEHRENS: Thank you very much.
REP. CARUSO: The next speaker is Tom Swan followed by Rosario Rondinelli, Art Perry, and then Dennis O'Neil.
TOM SWAN: Good afternoon, Representative Caruso, Senator DeFronzo, members of the committee. My name is Tom Swan. I am the Executive Director of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group. I want to, again, today, commend this committee for your efforts to restore the public trust in our government.
Today, I'm going to focus most of my remarks on H.B. 5204, AN ACT CONCERNING POTENTIAL CONFLICTS OF INTERESTS FOR REGISTERED LOBBYISTS.
First, I must disclose, I am a lobbyist. I have been a lobbyist. Some of my best friends are lobbyists.
CCAG believes that lobbying plays an important role in representing a variety of interests before this body and governmental agency. However, the recent scandals have proven in Connecticut that we need greater restrictions on lobbyists, as Governor Rell has proposed in her own package of reform bills.
Contributions and fundraisers by lobbyists were a key part in John Rowland being able to raise more than his last two opponents by an average margin of approximately three to one.
In a recent report by the Center for Public Integrity, Connecticut had the eighth highest expenditure on lobbying, over $30 million in 2003, of any state in the country, despite ranking 29th in population. This results in a very high ranking on lobbyist spending per capita.
Furthermore, this does not include money spent on lobbyists at the municipal level and other fees that lobbying firms are able to charge clients, whether they be legal, strategic or media that our current law does not force them to disclose.
I have enough respect for people in the business community in Connecticut that I have to believe that they would not spend this money unless they thought it was a good investment for doing business in Connecticut. [Gap in testimony. Changing from Tape 1B to 2A.]
H.B. 5204 is a good start in limiting the potential for abuse. We would recommend that the number of board and commissions be expanded. It should include all boards that have a decision-making role in spending $1 million or more, appointment and licensing authority, and where their clients have any business.
While many lobbyists are very qualified to serve on these boards and commissions, Connecticut is fortunate to have many qualified residents for those boards and commissions. We need to limit the potential for abuse.
In addition, I'd like to speak briefly on a couple of other bills. Proposed S.B. 193, AN ACT CONCNERING INCENTIVE BONUSES PAID BY QUASI PUBLICS, is a good bill. I think we need to rethink the privatization of the lottery.
I think we should outlaw any incentives based upon encouraging more gambling within the State of Connecticut.
H.B. 5283, pertaining to voter education and a voter guide, is a bill that CCAG has supported in the past. S.B. 54, AN ACT PERTAINING TO VOTER REGISTRATION AND NATURALIZATION CEREMONIES, is only something that makes sense that we do to celebrate citizenship in people, the rights of citizenship.
In addition, we support S.B. 96. I'm done. Thank you very much.
REP. CARUSO: Thank you. Any questions? Representative Caron?
REP. CARON: Thanks. I just had a quick one. You mentioned, was it the bonuses, the issue of incentive bonuses? My understanding is that certain employees, some may be in quasi publics, reach a certain level of salary based on their grade and would no longer be eligible for any more raises for the rest of their career.
I'm not exactly sure what the timeframe is, whether it's five, six, eight, ten years. Even if they were still producing, still a valid member of the organization, there is no other mechanism to find them rewards, other than change their business card, so they can say they're the director of something.
I'm wondering, do you have this as total prohibition in terms of the bonuses?
TOM SWAN: I actually think that we should probably revisit the basic policy, if that is the case. I don't know whether it is or isn't. I believe you to be correct.
So if that is the case, that they can't get any more money, we should establish a process that is fair. There is the civil service system that we have as opposed to folks rewarded with bonuses.
I have some issues when we have such a problem with addictive gambling within the state. We're going to incentivize people's pay based upon getting more people to buy more lottery tickets. So there is a whole question of how you base the bonus.
I think people should be paid fairly for work. So your initial question, if there is a ceiling for some reason because of some policy that we've adopted, we should revisit that policy instead of allowing bonuses, which traditionally, we've seen they have been open to more abusive practices. It is why we created an entire civil service system to begin with.
REP. CARON: Certainly. Well, I'll leave it there. There is room to talk.
TOM SWAN: So, yes, I think there is definitely.
REP. CARUSO: Further questions? Yes, Representative Giannaros.
REP. GIANNAROS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Hi, Tom, nice to see you again. By the way, I am very much in favor of the bill that relates to immigrants become naturalized citizens and having access immediately to registration.
I just can't understand why we're not even doing it consistently. That is the best time to get them to register and become active citizens like the rest of us, hopefully.
So the issue relating to lobbyists serving on boards, I don't know if you were here when I asked a couple of questions earlier.
TOM SWAN: I wasn't, so I'm going to be blindsided.
REP. GIANNAROS: Yeah. I'm going to give you an example. I was chairing, a few years back, a taskforce relating to Project Concern, which is a group of the students that we take from the cities. We bring them into the suburbs, you know, for educational reasons, obviously.
The towns and cities that participate cover the cost, pretty much, of that group that comes into the towns. In any case, the point was, what would be wrong with you serving on that board, if you have no conflict of interest whatsoever, even though you wear the label, lobbyist? If I thought you were the best qualified--
TOM SWAN: I think that is true. There are situations where that could happen. My understanding that it is a taskforce. So what I'm trying to do is to think about what might be standards that we establish to really look into things.
The taskforce doesn't have budget-making authority. It doesn't determine budgets and expenditures. The task force does not have an appointing authority where they are able to name somebody or oversee the licensing of different types of professions.
So if it had real decision-making authority, and I was lobbying on that issue separately, you know, I may not serve officially on the taskforce, but I may be asked to served as an ex officio along with--
REP. GIANNAROS: Yeah.
TOM SWAN: --might be on the other side, in order to be able to be able to give an informed give and take to the members.
REP. GIANNAROS: I'm going to challenge you with another example. I'm trying to get to a point to see if you would agree with me. This would be a problem only if there is a conflict of interest.
You know that I'm a professor. I've served on the Education Committee for ten years as a Chairman. What if I'm done with the State Legislature, and I join your group, and I become a lobbyist for your group? Then I'm offered to sit on the Board of UCONN at the university because of my experience as an educator.
TOM SWAN: I will tell you, to give you an example, I think that at CCAG in the past, we've had board members and, or staff people that have chosen to think of running for office at the state level or something.
The minute that they begin to do that at a formal committee, our policy is that they need to take a leave from the board or from staff. So I think that is a personal decision that one would need to make. If it makes it clearer, why would a Legislator, even Tim O'Brien, want to necessarily be associated with all of the things that we do, right?
When we look at these things, it's a two-way street. We just think it's in the best interests of--
REP. GIANNAROS: But you see the point. It can be drawn too far to eliminate a lot of good citizens in the process who can serve and volunteer in government. I guess that is the only problem that I see.
TOM SWAN: I believe that most of us in the lobby choose to lobby. There is a choice there to be made. A lot of good people, both that are lobbyists and are not lobbyists, that are very well-qualified to serve on this range of board of commissions.
I think that many of the people who have had the title of lobbyist that have served on these boards of commissions have only had the best of intentions and the best interests of the state when they've done that, not necessarily all.
I think that while one is representing people and serving on a board that has these explicit powers in their hands, the state should not play in this type of a formal decision-making role.
REP. GIANNAROS: But you would not agree with me that only if there is a potential conflict of interest?
TOM SWAN: A potential conflict of interest, I mean, how do you determine a conflict of interest? If you are lobbying for us, let's step back.
If you are lobbying for a business interest, and within that business interest amongst your clients are construction folks that may or may not get a contract with UCONN. Or it could be a food-service vendor that may or may not get a contract at UCONN.
So within there, I think it is very difficult, the conflict of interest. I think we have so many qualified people within the State of Connecticut. Why are we setting up the potential for abuse?
REP. GIANNAROS: See, I am having a problem with this today because--
REP. CARUSO: Representative Giannaros, I think we've got the point on this. So could you just--
REP. GIANNAROS: Mr. Chairman, this is a committee that is holding a public hearing. I have the right to ask questions, Mr. Chairman.
REP. CARUSO: --Representative Giannaros--
REP. GIANNAROS: You cannot interrupt me every time I try to ask a question. Please.
REP. CARUSO: Representative Giannaros, if I could, I do have the right to limit that, but I'm not going to. However, he's been answering the same question about three times.
So what I'm asking you in fairness to every other person who has to come up and speak today, if you could just limit it and wrap up with a final question.
REP. GIANNAROS: You have to apply the same rules, Mr. Chairman, to everybody. Make an announcement, please.
REP. CARUSO: And I have. When Representative Caron, the other day, I did apply it to him. I've applied it to Representative Ferrari.
I think I've been fair in my application. So I'm asking if you would, proper decorum, if you could just wrap up with a question.
REP. GIANNAROS: My point, excuse me, Mr. Sauer, Tom, I'm sorry. I meant to say Swan. I got confused. See, this is exactly what happens when you get interrupted.
My point was going to be, and if I can get your reaction, every one of us is a lobbyist for a variety of things because we push what we think is best.
If we draw it to the extent that, you know, perhaps you were implying, technically, you can find a connection with any one of us in some form or another that may directly or indirectly be involved with business relating to the state. Thank you.
TOM SWAN: I believe with a part-time Legislature that is true. We have laws that say if you spend or are paid a certain amount over a certain level, then you have to register as a lobbyist.
I think that probably one of the ways, if this was to be passed this year, would be easiest is if I got appointed to the Judicial Selection Commission. I think it would build much broader support very quickly for this proposal.
REP. CARUSO: If you have any inside information, Tom, that we don't know about. Thank you, Representative Giannaros. The next speaker is Rosario Rondinelli. I probably have butchered that name, so, please, correct me when you come up.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Rondinelli.
REP. CARUSO: Rondinelli is it? Okay.
ART PERRY: Representative Caruso, is it okay if I sit with Rosario Rosario?
REP. CARUSO: Yeah, sure.
ROSARIO RONDENELLI: My name is Rosario Rondinelli. Good afternoon. I'm speaking for an act concerning the employment security of certain disabled and disadvantaged workers. Thank you, Senator DeFronzo, and, Representative Caruso, and members of the GAE Committee for having a hearing on this important issue.
I'm speaking today in favor of S.B. 96, AN ACT CONCERNING THE EMPLOYMENT SECURITY OF CERTAIN DISABLED AND DISADVANTAGED WORKERS. I am a member of the Janitors' Union Local 32BJ.
I know the workers that lost their jobs at 25 Sigourney Street and 165 Capitol Avenue when set-aside contractors were given the janitorial contract to provide vocational services to people with disabilities.
I support this bill because the disadvantaged and the disabled worker needs long-term employment opportunities, job protection, and a career ladder.
This bill is a good way to address these issues cooperatively. On behalf of my brothers and sisters that clean state buildings, thank you for addressing the problem, and, please, pass S.B. 96.
REP. CARUSO: Thank you, Rosario. I think you're right up next on the same subject, so why don't you speak? Then if there are questions, both you and Rosario can answer them.
ART PERRY: Thank you very much. My name is Art Perry, and I am the Political Director for the Service Employees National Union, Local 32BJ, also known as Justice for Janitors. We want to thank Senator DeFronzo, and Representative Caruso, and members of this committee for our opportunity to speak in support of S.B. 96.
This is an act about the employment opportunity security of disabled and disadvantaged workers, which we, on behalf of hundreds of janitors who clean state buildings, including this one, believe is a good start toward addressing the problems faced by disadvantaged and disabled service workers.
When state contracts that we work under are put out to bid, and a new contractor is awarded the contract, workers are faced with the problems of, one, being thrown out and, two, finding other meaningful employment.
It is shameful that these workers have to live with the fear of losing their jobs. They have to live with the discouragement of not having a career ladder or a supportive environment or other meaningful work that can enable them to move towards their dreams and potentials.
This bill can create policies to stop unnecessary worker-displacement problems that are caused by the state conducting business as usual, such as the bidding of janitorial service contracts without regard for those that are actually performing the work that is being put to bid.
A major part of this bill is that it calls for a moratorium on the bidding of these services for one year before the contract expiration. This moratorium or contract extension provides the foundation for a meaningful understanding of the problem of worker displacement.
It will allow for evaluation, analysis, and recommendations on how to improve the quality of work life for the disabled and the disadvantaged.
The moratorium is a good thing to do because without it, there will be no real cooperation or understanding or a will to create positive changes in the lives of these workers.
In the 2004 legislative session, the Legislature put a one-year bidding moratorium on these services in an acknowledgement of the problem of providing meaningful employment for people with disabilities and eliminating the constant churning in and out of the workforce of the disadvantaged worker.
The moratorium did more than that. It gave us time to cooperate and to brainstorm ways that workers can benefit from policy changes without one group suffering the employment needs of the other, which is what this bill is about.
In addition, we would like to see the scope of the moratorium expanded to cover contracts in the Department of Higher Education. Currently, the moratorium only addresses contracts awarded by the Department of Administrative Services.
As we sit here today, the janitorial services contracted at Capital Community College, for example, are up for bidding. The workers there are very concerned and afraid that their jobs will be lost, if an unscrupulous contractor wins the bid and throws them out only to replace them with a different group of disadvantaged or disabled workers.
We urge you to amend this bill to include contracts awarded by the Department of Higher Education and any other state department, so that all disabled and disadvantaged workers who perform work in connection with certain state-agency contracts will benefit. Thank you for your time.
REP. CARUSO: Thank you. Are there questions of Art or Rosario at this time?
SEN. DEFRONZO: Good morning, Art, and, Rosario, good to have you here. We've actually come quite a ways on this bill in the last year, haven't we?
ART PERRY: Yes.
SEN. DEFRONZO: Last year, we had dueling hearings and meetings long into the night as we were trying to work out a solution.
It is interesting today that both your organization and CCPA have come together, at least, to tentatively endorse the concept presented in the bill as a means by which we can all move forward to try and find a significant resolution to this issue of the disabled and the disadvantaged workers competing for the same work in state buildings.
I just wanted to ask you this. You've had an opportunity to see the potential list of participants in the committee.
ART PERRY: Yes.
SEN. DEFRONZO: Do you think that is an adequate list? Would you have any recommendations for additional inclusions?
ART PERRY: Currently, we could endorse that list with lukewarm enthusiasm. We're having internal discussions on how we can increase our effect on this legislation.
SEN. DEFRONZO: Obviously, if we extend it to higher education, it obviously needs to include a Representative from that sector as well.
ART PERRY: Yes, Sir. That is part of our lukewarm encouragement.
SEN. DEFRONZO: Okay. Well, I thank you for being part of this important debate. I look forward to working with you and CCPA over the next couple of weeks to try to put it together.
ART PERRY: Thank you.
REP. CARUSO: Thank you very much, Art. Thank you, Rosario, for coming up today. And all the folks there, thank you for coming today too. Our final speaker is Dennis O'Neil. Is Dennis here? Okay. Dennis is not here. Okay.
Then we'll call this public hearing to a close. Our next meeting is a public hearing on Monday morning at 11:00. Thank you all very much.
[Whereupon, the hearing was adjourned.]