Both Republicans and Democrats were scrambling Tuesday to gather enough signatures to force a special session before Christmas in order to block Medicaid cuts for senior citizens and the disabled.
Aides were driving around the state to find legislators — who are not in Hartford when they are out of session — to get them to sign a petition to reach 76 signatures in the state House of Representatives. Others were signing in Hartford if they happened to be in the area.
Shortly after 5 p.m., chief House Republican legal counsel Sarah Fryxell delivered 54 signatures from House Republicans and one from a House Democrat, John Hampton of Simsbury. Insiders said later that they had reached the goal of 76 in the House, and more signatures could be accepted until midnight at the Secretary of the State’s office for the Senate.
The situation led to a dust-up with the governor’s office, and the matter remained unresolved Tuesday evening.
Senate Republican leader Len Fasano told Capitol Watch that legislative leaders agreed Monday to make $54 million in other budget cuts in order to restore an equivalent $54 million for low-income senior citizens in the popular Medicare Savings Program. The program provides subsidies for low-income seniors to pay for Medicare Part B premiums, along with deductibles and co-pays.
At the same time, Senate Democrats were also collecting signatures Tuesday to force a special session.
"The governor made it clear that he will not call the General Assembly in on December 19,’’ said Adam Joseph, a spokesman for the Seante Democrats. “Fortunately, the administration has rightly delayed any cuts to the Medicare Savings Program for two months.’’
Fasano and House Republican leader Themis Klarides issued a joint statement on their efforts to collect enough signatures to force a special session before Christmas.
“Because there are questions regarding whether or not legislative leaders can call us in to special session, we had to begin a petition process to call for a special session,’’ they said. “Both of our caucuses have been hard at work to get as many signatures as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, the petition process means that session cannot be called until at least 10 days after all petitions have been submitted. There are quicker ways to call a session, such as asking the governor to call us in to session, which is what we asked legislative leaders to do this morning.’’
They added, “Further delaying a fix by not asking the governor to call a special session continues unnecessary uncertainty and stress on many individuals and families.’’
Malloy’s chief spokeswoman, Kelly Donnelly, said the situation has become “absurd’’ as lawmakers seek the governor’s help for a session as early as Tuesday, December 19.
“Let’s get this straight,’’ Donnelly said. “Republican leaders have issued a statement to the press about a letter they sent to Democratic leaders regarding a proposed letter they may send to the governor in which they ask him to call them into session – and even if he does, they still won’t act to close the deficit in the bipartisan budget? And this all has to be done right away. Do we have that right?’’
She continued, “This is absurd. Republican leaders shouldn’t need the governor’s permission to come in and do the jobs they were elected to do. Especially when the administration has already delayed changes to the Medicare Savings Program that provide them with the luxury of time to thoughtfully address this particular issue well into the new year.
“If and when the legislature does in fact call themselves in, the governor strongly believes that they should address the full deficit facing the state.”
But Fasano responded that there is no reason why Malloy cannot call a special session.
“Give me a break,’’ Fasano told Capitol Watch. “You can’t just call us in? Just call us in! Do you have to be thorny on every issue? I guess it’s rhetorical in nature.’’
Fasano added, “All he has to do is sign a couple of pieces of paper. That’s all. It can’t be too hard to pick up a pen on his desk and sign something. … Just let it happen, gov. Just let it happen.’’
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