It was hard to sit through yesterday’s hearing on the AIG bonuses and not be reminded of the controversy surrounding a bill from earlier this month to change financial oversight within Catholic parishes.
In the case of the latter, Republicans on the legislature’s Judiciary Committee were angry with their co-chairs – Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford and Rep. Michael Lawlor, D-East Haven – for having the bill drafted and a public hearing scheduled without a heads up.
Some Democrats weren’t all that pleased with McDonald and Lawlor, either.
The sometimes confusing and rushed legislative process basically caused the Judiciary Committee to vote in January to have several bills drafted without most members KNOWING they were backing that specific Catholic parish bill. So they were angry when news broke about the public hearing and they ALL started getting phonecalls and e-mails from furious Catholics and other constituents.
Ultimately Republicans on the Judiciary Committee confronted McDonald and Lawlor during a meeting a week ago, all asking the same question – “Why keep us in the dark?”
A similar situation played out yesterday, with Republicans on the Banks Committee attempting to grill co-chairs Sen. Bob Duff, D-Norwalk and Rep. Ryan Barry, D-Manchester, on why they went ahead and subpoened 14 AIG employees, including the company’s CEO, without speaking to the minority party.
Many complained they first learned of the subpoenas through the media and were frustrated the stories portrayed it as a decision by the full Banks Committee and not just the co-chairs.
“I was wondering why we weren’t notified to what was happening and had to read about it in the paper?” Rep. John Harkins, R-Stratford, asked Duff and Barry. “I just found myself at a loss.”
It was an uncomfortable few minutes, with Duff and Barry finding parliamentary procedures to avoid talking about the matter while at the same time stating how they believe there has always been good, bi-partisan communication on the Banks Committee.
Just as McDonald and Lawlor technically had the power to draft the Catholic bill, Duff and Barry had the right as co-chairs to issue subpoenas without consulting their colleagues.
But was that the best way to go about it?
I asked Duff and he said there wasn’t time to schedule a full Banks Committee meeting to discuss the issue.
But how about sending out an e-mail or making a phonecall, if not to ALL committee members, then the two ranking Senate and House Republicans? I can’t imagine it would have stopped the subpoenas from going out. It might not have convinced the GOP to support the move, but it would have avoided some of the back-and-forth that occurred yesterday over who knew what when and why.
What I suspect is there is just a lot of distrust at the capitol between the two parties.
The Democrats instinctively believe that if they share anything before hand with the other side, the Republicans will try to sabotage whatever they’re working on or at least make a public fuss early on to try and suck the wind out of it.
And there’s nothing to say if the Republicans were in the driver’s seat they wouldn’t be pulling the same maneuvers. That’s the chess game of politics.
And certainly the Democrats have reason to feel like they can do whatever the heck they please. Voters have not only returned them to power over the years but increased their numbers in the General Assembly on Election Day despite having popular Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell at the top of the GOP ticket.
But you have to wonder if the average resident who is not involved in and doesn’t care about the insider-baseball and political intrigue at the capitol has been reading over the past few weeks about these communication skirmishes and wondering “what’s wrong with these people?”