Disclosure: I interned for Representative Spallone in 2007.
I had the opportunity to interview Representative Jamie Spallone, the Co-Chair of the GAE Committee, last week and will be presenting the results of the interview here, in two parts. In today’s segment, we talked about the interesting Election-related bills raised out of GAE. Part two will appear here tomorrow.
The first bill we talked about was HB 6435 An Act Concerning Election Day Registration. EDR has come close to passage twice before, once vetoed by then-Governor Rowland (citing a lack of a centralized voter database, an issue that has since been rectified in the wake of the passage of HAVA) and once passing the Senate but running out of time in the House.
This time around there has been a strong effort to work with the Registrars (who have expressed reservations about EDR in the past) to find a workable compromise. This iteration of EDR, as opposed to past proposals, would require one site in each town, the office of the Registrars, to be used to register unregistered voters on registration day. The ballots would then be filled out at that site. Some of the details, such as where those ballots will be counted, still need to be determined, but this compromise would simplify the process for implementing EDR.
The compromise would also reduce costs compared to an every polling place rollout of EDR. In the past, the fiscal note attached to EDR bills has noted a significant potential for increased costs, while this proposal has only the potential for increased costs (in the form of additional election day workers in the EDR site). Passage would also largely eliminate the need for provisional ballots and curtail the need for Presidential ballots (ask a Town Clerk how happy that makes them).
Representative Spallone has indicated that he will push for passage this term, and would like to implement EDR this year in time for the municipal elections, as adry run before a statewide and congressional election year. The EDR bill is currently in Planning and Development and still has to go to Appropriations. As in the past, the votes for passage are expected to be there in both the Senate and the House, and there has been no indication either way on whether Governor Rell will sign or veto, or whether there will be enough votes for a potential veto override.
National Popular Vote
As Genghis noted, HB 6437 An Act Concerning An Agreement Among The States To Elect The President Of The United States By National Popular Vote is likely to make it to a vote on the floor this session. Representative Spallone was confident that it has the votes to pass in the House. Were it to pass, and be signed into law, Connecticut would likely become the sixth state (Washington’s legislature sent the bill to the Governor who has not yet signed it, but has expressed support for it in the past) to pass the bill, representing 68 of the 270 electoral votes necessary to make the compact operative.
More information on the National Popular Vote can be found here.
Early Voting/No Excuse Absentee Balloting
Both of these proposals would require a Constitutional Amendment, SJ 43 Resolution Proposing An Amendment To The State Constitution Concerning Voting By Absentee Ballot and HJ 113 Resolution Proposing An Amendment To The State Constitution To Allow Early Voting. As such, they need to pass both chambers of the GA with a 3/4 majority in order to be in front of the voters in 2010 and be implemented in 2011. If they pass with a simple majority, they must pass again after the 2010 election, go to the voters in 2012, and be implemented in 2013.
SB 913 An Act Concerning United States Senate Vacancies is a priority of the GAE Committee, and is currently on the Senate calendar. The bill would require a special election within 160 days of a Senate vacancy rather than an appointment by the Governor for up to two years before a special election. This one likely has the votes to pass both houses, and then will likely be vetoed by the Governor. The question is regarding the 2/3 necessary to override the veto. In the House, this likely will not be an issue, given the wide Democratic Majority. The Senate, where the Democrats control exactly the 2/3 necessary, is, and will likely remain, up in the air until the last moment.
Municipal Ethics Package
HB 5827 An Act Concerning The Removal Of Municipal Elected Or Appointed Officials, HB 6690 An Act Concerning Municipal Lobbying, and HB 6696 An Act Concerning Municipal Ethics would require towns to adopt a streamlined version of the ethics code that applies to state government (streamlined to have a limited fiscal impact), require municipal lobbyists to register as such and display badges, and would allow the Chief State’s Attorney, the local State’s Attorney, or the Attorney General to petition to empanel a three judge panel to determine whether to remove a municipal official. The removal statute, modeled after existing laws in Michigan, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, is a reaction to the situation in most towns where municipal officials cannot be removed.
Thus concludes the rundown of the interesting GAE bills up this session. Check back tomorrow for more from my interview with Representative Jamie Spallone.