This is a Brief Orientation to the Connecticut Legislature (aka Connecticut General Assembly, or CGA)
The Legislature meets for five months (early Jan. to early June) in odd numbered years, three months(early Feb. to early May) in even numbered. It is considered a part-time legislature so many legislators have other jobs. Special sessions can be convened by leadership at other times to take up specific legislation.
There are 36 senators. Sessions are presided over by the Lt. Governor. The head of the majority party is the President Pro Tempore. The Majority Leader is in charge of managing legislation. Senate bills are those with bill numbers less then 5000. Travel through the committees is controlled by the Senate Screening Committee. These bills will be voted on in the senate first then the house.
There are 151 representatives in the House. House sessions are presided over by the Speaker of the House. The House Majority Leader and the House Screening Committee control the flow of legislation. House bills are those numbered 5000 and higher.
Each committee has a co-chair from the Senate a co-chair from the House and a Vice-chair from each chamber. These four are all from the majority party. There is a ranking member from the minority party from both the House and Senate. These six legislators form the screening committee, and control the legislation in that committee. Committees will have a total of 10-60 legislators. Each legislator will typically sit on 3-4 committees.
Flow of Bills
Bills start out in a single committee. They can be introduced by a single legislator, or raised by the committee as a whole. A bill can be fully fleshed out when it appears, or can be just a concept bill, with only a title and statement of purpose.
Committees hold Public Hearings, where testimony from public officials, agency staff, and the general public is heard on one or more bills according to the published agenda. Speakers are theoretically limited to three minutes, but, in practice, may testify for much longer, especially if interested legislators ask questions. The committee where the bill first appears (the Committee of Origin) holds the hearing. There will be no other hearings on the bill. Typically no action is taken the day of the hearing.
Committees hold Committee Meetings to take action on bills which have had their public hearing. They can vote to approve the bill as first published (Joint Favorable), or can vote to approve it with amendments (Joint Favorable Substitute). They can direct that the bill go next to a specific committee or to the House or Senate floor. They can also vote to disapprove, in which case the bill dies. All votes are by simple majority.
A bill can be voted on by one or more committees after leaving the committee of origin. Theoretically, a bill must go to each committee which has some jurisdiction over the subject matter, but in many cases this is a very subjective determination. A bill must pass every committee it is referred to, or it dies. When the House or Senate Screening Committee decides a bill has been to each relevant committee, it is ready for a full vote by the chamber. A Senate bill is voted on first by the Senate, then the House, and vice versa. Amendments can be (and frequently are) attached to change the bill at any point. A “strike all” amendment can delete the entire text of a bill, and replace it with something entirely new.
After a bill passes both chambers it goes to the governor for his signature, a veto, or no action in which case it automatically becomes law.
Legislature Website (cga.ct.gov)This website contains a wealth of information about the legislature. Use it to:
-find out the status of a bill
-read the text of a bill
-search for bills by title, content, committee, legislative sponsor, etc.
-search CT state law (Ct General Statutes)
-find agendas for committees
-find information on legislators
-set up bill tracking: automatic notice everytime something changes about a bill
-find reference documents explaining the process
The Legislative Office Building (LOB) at 300 Capitol Avenue contains hearing rooms, offices for Committees, offices for most legislators, offices for legislative staff, and a library open to the public. A cafeteria is open to the public for breakfast, lunch, and afternoon snacks.
The LOB parking garage, behind the LOB, is open to the public. Park on the first floor unless otherwise directed by Capitol Police. The garage is always open. If it fills, you will be directed to a lot about a mile away, with frequent shuttle bus service to the LOB. Either walk outside between the buildings, or take the walkway accessible from the 3rd floor of either building.
The ornate and historic Capitol Building (220 Capitol Ave.) is a 2 minute walk from the LOB. It contains the House and Senate chambers, legislator and staff offices, offices for the Governor, and several large meeting rooms. The entrance at the colonnade facing Capitol Ave. is the only one open. An underground passageway connects the Capitol and the LOB, as does an outside walkway accessible from the 3rd floor of the LOB. There are only a few parking spaces for the public at the Capitol–park in the LOB garage instead.
It is unlikely you will interact with these offices, but its helpful to understand them.
Office of Fiscal Analysis (OFA); writes explanations of the fiscal impact of every bill on the state and towns, plays a key role in developing the state budget, and monitoring our fiscal health
Legislative Commissioner’s Office(LCO); drafts the language of the bills, ensures they are written properly, and conform to existing statutes; provides legal counsel to committees on drafting bills; incorporates the language of bills which pass (Public Acts) into statute
Office of Legislative Research(OLR); researches laws, regulations, etc., and writes research reports on request of a legislator, staffs committees, prepares analyses of every non-fiscal bill, operates the library
Legislative Library: help with the website, finding reference materials, compile a legislative history of a bill or a topic; open to the public.