Martin M. Looney

Senate President Pro Tempore

Martin M. Looney

An Advocate for Us

January 28, 2022

Democrats Announce Rules for Increased Public Access to General Assembly

HARTFORD – Today, Senate President Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven), House Speaker Matt Ritter (D-Hartford), and Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk) announced the remote access rules for the beginning of the 2022 legislative session of the General Assembly beginning Wednesday, February 9. The remote rules will be revisited throughout the session.
Public Hearings and committee meetings that are held for organizational purposes, raising bills or voting on resolutions will be held remotely during the month of February. This policy will be reviewed in late February.

  • A decision on committee meetings that vote on (Joint Favorable) bills, will also be made towards the end of February.
  • During Zoom public hearings, members of the public will once again be able to testify remotely from the safety and convenience of their home.

“The General Assembly’s pandemic response has resulted in more ease of access over the past two years,” said Sen. Looney. “As elected representatives of the people we are always sensitive to the need for transparency and accessibility.”

“We fully expect to revisit this as more data comes in toward the end of the February and into March. It’s important to be flexible and follow the numbers. Data will drive our decisions,” Speaker Ritter said.

“The past two years have presented unimaginable challenges for the people of Connecticut,” said Sen. Duff. “Democrats adapted our rules and procedures to ensure people still have the unprecedented access to members of the General Assembly that has been the bedrock of Connecticut politics for generations. This year will be no different and will allow for the record-breaking public participation to continue as we begin the 2022 legislative session.”

  • Thanks to the option for members of the public to testify about proposed bills via Zoom from the comfort of their home, car, or office, the amount of public hearing testimony submitted to the Judiciary Committee increased by 44% from 2017 to 2021, from 1,500 pieces of pre-pandemic, in-person public bill testimony submitted in 2017 to 2,162 pieces of remote-only public bill testimony submitted in 2021 during the pandemic.
  • The number of public hearings held by legislative committees in pre-pandemic 2019 and pandemic 2021 remained essentially unchanged: 163 in-person public hearings in 2019, and 157 online public hearings in 2021. Public hearings for the legislature’s three most important committees – Judiciary, Appropriations and Finance – actually increased by 10% from 2019 to 2021. Public Health Committee public hearings increased 25% from 2019 to 2021.

“I’ve received calls from constituents informing me that with the remote public hearings they have been able to testify for their first time in their lives on proposed legislation,” Sen. Looney said. “The only complaints I have heard come from Republicans and others who want to make some sort of public spectacle out of their testimony, usually for partisan political reasons.”

“With remote testimony, from my experience on the Finance Committee, people have been able to call in from their cars, from their place of work, to testify on a bill,” said Senator John Fonfara (D-Hartford), who is Senate Chair of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee. “People who have never even been in this building before have suddenly had the chance, thanks to the remote option, to testify and make a difference.”

  • “Like my colleagues in the Senate Democratic Caucus I welcome the ability for the public to provide remote testimony,” said Senator Gary Winfield (D-New Haven), Senate Chair of the Judiciary Committee. “The process could be intense prior to the rules change allowing for remote public hearings, particularly for legislators and the staff of the Judiciary Committee as hearings in that committee are frequent and long in duration. Remote access has increased hearing length but we see that as a good thing. It means that people who would testify but don’t have the luxury of taking a whole day to do so now can. It means those who would testify but don’t have transportation may do so. Remote hearings increased access to participate in our democracy. So we view it as leaning into what we believe in: a fairer, more transparent and more democratic process.”
  • The number of votes taken in state Senate increased in 2021, or remained essentially unchanged, from previous, non-pandemic years. The Senate took 481 votes in 2021 (the “long session”) compared with 444 votes in 2019, 472 votes in 2017 and 485 votes in 2015.
    The number of bills passed in the state Senate in 2021 remained essentially unchanged from the pre-pandemic long session of 2019: 286 bills passed in 2021, compared to 296 bills passed in 2019.