6:13 PM EDT, June 6, 2013
It was late Wednesday night, and lobbyist Jack Kealey of Bethany was feeling good.
With just a few hours left in the legislative session, the state Senate had approved Kealey's signature bill, the one that allows alternatives to real-animal dissections in classrooms.
Kealey also had his eye on a bill that would allow Sunday bow hunting of deer. (He opposes that.) That one died in the Senate, despite having been part of some tricky deal between Republicans and Democrats down in the House. On the last night in the General Assembly, a legislator will tell you that, if people cannot shoot deer on Sunday, the House Republicans may pull their support for an Office of Early Childhood Education. And that will make perfect sense.
Kealey was beaming in the corridor outside the Senate. I asked him if he felt encouraged about the legislative process. "When a bill goes before the Senate and the House, people can identify the good points and the bad points," he enthused.
Kealey is 10.
I looked over at Annie Hornish, former legislator and state director of the Humane Society. She had encouraged Kealey's activities at the Capitol. "If his bills get overturned in the implementers and he spends the next three days crying and having nightmares, I hold you personally responsible," I told her.
"This place is like a porn theater," a Republican operative muttered to me. "They probably shouldn't let kids up here at night."
More like a theater that shows a certain type of horror movie. On the last night, the movie is always the same. It's called "Implementer," which actually does sound like some kind of slasher film.
By 10:45 p.m. Wednesday, there were rumors flying around about when the Implementer was coming, whether it was coming at all, what was in it, how many pages it was, and whether, after implementing itself, it would eat us.
For those of you who don't follow this stuff, implementers once upon a time had a relatively innocent function. They contained largely structural and technical language that actually made the budget happen. Somewhere along the line, by mutual consent, our lawmakers decided that implementers could contain almost anything. I mean really, almost anything — regardless of whether that thing has ever been discussed in any public meeting or hearing. A proposal to create, in Goshen, a 4,000-acre game preserve for homicidal clowns? Boom! Put it in the Implementer.
There are several implementers, each many hundreds of pages long. None of the people voting on them have read them. An average person trying to read one would encounter language like this (actually sampled from Wednesday's Final Implementer): "Notwithstanding the provisions of subparagraph (B) of subdivision (72) of section 12-81 of the general statutes, any person otherwise eligible for a 2010 grand list exemption pursuant to said subdivision (72) in the town of Bloomfield, except that such person failed to file the required exemption application …"
The implementer process is so bizarre and so estranged from good government that this session was brought to a screeching halt by language in one implementer that nobody would admit to having put there. It would have ordered the Department of Motor Vehicle to start issuing driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants on July 1 instead of in 2015. This was not only a violation of a whole bunch of negotiated agreements, but it was also probably physically impossible. How did it get in there? Nobody knew.
When the Final Implementer did show up, it did not appear to contain any true abominations, although everybody's grasp of this resembles one of those Amazon tribes with no written tradition. What's actually in there is more a matter of vague oral consensus.
The General Assembly is always like a toddler racing around Pottery Barn. This session, the toddler broke a few things and made a few messes (Keno, crazy budgeting). But the when the session ended, we all looked at the vases and knickknacks rocking and teetering on the shelves — the things the toddler almost smashed — and breathed a sigh of relief. It could have been so much worse. And maybe the toddler will someday grow up to be like that nice Jack Kealey.
Colin McEnroe appears from 1 to 2 p.m. weekdays on WNPR-FM (90.5) and blogs at http://courantblogs.com/colin-mcenroe/. He can be reached at Colin@wnpr.org.
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