CT lawmakers pass election security bill in final hours of 2024 session

Connecticut lawmakers scramble to pass hundreds of bills before the 2024 General Assembly session ends on Wednesday.

John Craven

May 8, 2024, 9:28 PM

Updated 12 days ago

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Connecticut lawmakers passed legislation addressing the Bridgeport ballot stuffing scandal less than two hours before their midnight deadline Wednesday night.
But other key bills died – including those addressing climate change, “street takeovers” and the Connecticut State Police false ticket probe – as legislators scrambled to pass legislation before the end of the 2024 General Assembly session.
ELECTION SECURITY BILL
The election security bill adds live surveillance cameras to every absentee ballot drop box in Connecticut, as well as speeds up state investigations of fraud and limit absentee ballot distributions.
Lawmakers already abandoned separate bills requiring a one year prison sentence for election fraud and another that would allow a state takeover of local elections in severe cases.
Republicans, who ultimately supported the measure, said it will do little to stop campaigns from “harvesting” thousands of absentee ballot applications, which led to an election re-do in the recent race for Bridgeport mayor.
PENCILS DOWN
In Hartford, the legislative session’s final hours are a mad dash to get bills over the finish line. Just like the exams you took in high school, pencils go down at midnight.
Several major bills didn’t make it, including Gov. Ned Lamont’s proposal to make falsifying police records a crime. It came after an audit flagged at least 26,000 potentially false tickets at Connecticut State Police. An independent review cleared most troopers of wrongdoing, but Lamont’s new public safety commissioner vowed to make changes.
“The Connecticut State Police is committed to continuous improvement,” said Ronnell Higgins, who just took over as Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection commissioner in November. “We will get better. We will improve.”
The state Senate also failed to call legislation cracking down on dangerous “street takeovers” in multiple Connecticut communities, as well as a massive proposal to accelerate Connecticut’s carbon emissions goals.
LATE START
Top leaders said many bills got a late start this year.
“What do you expect in a 90 day session?” House Speaker Matt Ritter (D-Hartford) told reporters on Wednesday.
“Bills weren’t ready. We couldn’t even do session says because bills weren't ready.”
FINAL DAY ACTION
On the final day, lawmakers gave final approval to a bill creating new incentives for towns to allow affordable housing.
“We have over 100,000 job openings across the state of Connecticut,” said state Sen. Bob Duff (D-Norwalk), the Senate majority leader. “We can’t fill those jobs if people don't have a place to live.”
Even Republicans who voted for the legislation worry that it could erode local zoning control.
“I think the beauty of neighborhoods – the design of neighborhoods and buildings in those neighborhoods – is an important component of what makes Connecticut a beautiful place to live,” said state Sen. Ryan Fazio (R-Greenwich).
Housing advocates pushed for a wider-ranging “Work Live Ride” bill to expand affordable housing near transit stations. The bill passed the House, but never got a vote in the upper chamber.
Following the housing vote, senators approved Lamont’s proposed nursing home overhaul, including a two bed per room limit for new patients starting in 2026.
Meantime in the Connecticut House, Democrats abandoned a controversial proposal to increase the default employee contribution to MyCTSavings, a relatively new retirement program for workers whose employers don’t offer it, after Republicans staged an all-day filibuster.
“The crux of this bill talks about taking money from employees who may not have any idea it’s coming out,” said state Rep. Steve Weir (R-Hebron).
Employees are automatically enrolled – unless they specifically opt-out – with 3% of their paycheck diverted into the plan. The bill would raise the default contribution to 5%.
Democrats also tabled a controversial proposal to eventually ban police departments from owning Chinese and Russian-made drones.
In the final hour, House lawmakers did pass “Broko’s Bill,” which requires restitution for police dogs killed or injured in the line of duty.
SPENDING PLAN
The most urgent item is already on its way to Lamont – a plan to spend at least $360 million in federal American Rescue Plan dollars on colleges and nonprofits. It’s unclear if the money is enough to prevent another round of tuition increases.
“Working and all those tuitions and fees are extremely high for me to pay out of pocket,” said Natalie Valentin, a freshman at CT State Community College’s Norwalk campus.
In an unusual move, lawmakers opted to use federal dollars instead of adjusting the state budget. Republicans warned that Lamont will have sole discretion to make cuts on his own if state agencies hit red ink.
“The governor now is going to have to be that adult over the next couple of months, to make these cuts and balance the budget,” said state Rep. Vin Candelora (R-North Branford), the Connecticut House GOP leader. “And the children around him can’t cry about it.”


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