With protests expected, CT lawmakers might skip a Saturday session
A sign of the unsettled times: House Speaker Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, consulted with his caucus Wednesday night about the possibility of the House canceling its Saturday session to avoid two protests.
“Our caucus was pretty confident that if we needed to come in, we would come in. We’re not going to kowtow,” Ritter said. “We also are not sure if we have to come in Saturday, because the budget may not be ready.”
Two coalitions on opposite ends of the political spectrum have scheduled rallies at the state Capitol on Saturday afternoon, prompting Capitol police to assess the potential security risk to the General Assembly.
Based on ads posted on social media, the scheduling of the rallies appears coincidental, not geared to each other.
Black Lives Matter, a shoreline church group and others have advertised a noon-time “end hate” march to protest the distribution of racist flyers that they fear signals the arrival in Connecticut of a national white supremacist group.
A rolling “freedom rally” organized by groups opposed to vaccine mandates, masks in schools and teachings influenced by critical race theory are supposed to arrive at the Capitol at 1 p.m.
Including Thursday, there are only six potential session days in the 2022 session, which must end by midnight next Wednesday. The Saturday before adjournment historically is the last day when a House speaker could reliably call a controversial bill for debate.
Come Monday, the balance of power will shift from the House Democratic majority to the Republican minority. In the final days, the calendar is the ally of the minority. The tradition is unlimited debate, and the minority can kill bills by running out the clock.
House Minority Leader Vincent J. Candelora, R-North Branford, said he and Ritter have negotiated a relatively smooth flow of business this year.
“If we’re able to accomplish what we need to do on Friday and avoid coming in on a Saturday, not just because of a rally but also because it avoids overtime and costs to the state, we might as well do it,” Candelora said.
The budget is the major piece of remaining business, though significant measures originating in the House or Senate now are awaiting final action in the other chamber.
Legislators and the Lamont administration struck a budget deal on Wednesday, but reducing the agreement to a legislative document typically takes 72 hours.
Chief Luiz Casanova of the Capitol police said the force was attempting to assess what could be expected on Saturday. Ritter said the chief had yet to make a recommendation.
The legislators and Capitol police are familiar with protests on the Capitol campus in Hartford, overlooking Bushnell Park to the north and east. In fact, the traditional Saturday session often is a draw for demonstrators.
Motorcyclists used to schedule a spring ride ending at the Capitol to remind lawmakers of their opposition to a helmet mandate. It was a show, if generally a good-natured one.