HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut lawmakers returned to the Capitol on Wednesday for the second special legislative session during the pandemic to vote on a series of bills, including a proposal that could allow local election officials to begin processing the anticipated large numbers of absentee ballots for the presidential election a little earlier.
Other bills address the regulation of public utilities, funding for school construction projects, loans for homeowners with crumbling foundations, and public notification in economically distressed communities about power plants, landfills and other facilities, among other issues.
Only the House of Representatives was meeting on Wednesday, with most members sequestered in their legislative offices and voting by computer to help promote social distancing. Only lawmakers, staffers and the media were allowed inside the Capitol. The Senate was expected to vote on the same proposals Thursday or Friday.
Gov. Ned Lamont, a Democrat, last week called the General Assembly back into special session, contending the 10 bills and four judicial nominations were important state matters that needed to be addressed now.
But Republicans, the minority party in the legislature, questioned the need to convene another special session, criticizing the package of bills for not addressing the pandemic.
Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano said many of the proposals could have waited until the regular session and accused the Democrats of being partisan, wanting to pass legislation before the Nov. 3 election, when state lawmakers are on the ballot.
“It’s about politics and power,” he said.
Lamont, however, said it’s important to make sure legislation is passed to ensure the November election runs smoothly, given the massive number of absentee ballots that are expected to be submitted. In the last special session, the General Assembly voted to allow concerns about contracting COVID-19 as a valid excuse for requesting an absentee ballot.
Under this latest proposal, Lamont said legislators will consider allowing local election officials to begin processing absentee ballots on the Friday before Election Day, including checking signatures and making sure the ballots ready to be counted.