Who Changed The Text Of The Elections Enforcement Bill?

The State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) recently proposed legislation to make some technical changes to state campaign finance laws. When Michael Brandi, the SEEC Executive Director, appeared at a public hearing before the Government Administration and Elections (GAE) committee to discuss the proposed legislation, he informed lawmakers that, unbeknownst to him, additional language had been added to the SEEC proposal, which changed the definition of a “party committee” under state law.

Brandi explained that the definitional change could allow political parties to circumvent the state’s landmark campaign finance law. He also noted that the change appeared related to pending litigation between the SEEC and the State Democratic Party concerning Governor Malloy’s 2014 reelection campaign.

When Brandi asked GAE committee members, including the House and Senate co-chairs, how and why the additional language was in the bill his agency had proposed, the answer was, “We don’t know.”

Of course, someone knows.  It’s just that no one wants to say on the record.

How does such “orphan language” find its way into proposed legislation? As I have discussed elsewhere, the Legislative Commissioners’ Office supports the General  Assembly by, among other things, drafting legislation. LCO staff members, however, only draft legislation at the request of a member of the General Assembly. So, someone must have told a LCO staff member responsible for turning the original SEEC proposal into draft legislation to add additional language to the proposal concerning party committees.

Why can’t the LCO divulge the identity of the public official who requested the addition on the language in question? LCO staff members are attorneys and legislators are considered their clients. The General Assembly has long taken the position that the attorney-client privilege precludes LCO staff members from discussing their interactions with legislators.

I do not know whether this legal position has ever been tested in court, and it is not the purpose of this post to challenge that position. Whether the attorney-client privilege applies or not, however, the rules of the House and Senate should not allow any language to appear in the text of a proposed bill or amendment without one or more legislators taking responsibility for the language.

One thought on “Who Changed The Text Of The Elections Enforcement Bill?

  1. Current software, especially Microsoft Word, is capable of ‘tracking’ all changes and indicating the name of the user that made those changes. This software is required by the government for many – if not all – of the pharmaceutical giants when documenting and submitting new drug protocols to the government for review and approval.

    A complete and thorough ‘chain of ownership’ is adhered to during the process, in order to more easily and accurately identify any and all changes made to drugs, the procedures, the tests and their results, etc. This is necessary to maintain high standards and accountability without confusion, and without the need to re-read every single word on every single page whenever another truckload of these documents are submitted to the regulating authorities.

    Government should be mandated to follow the same policies and procedures they demand from businesses. Anything less obscures the process in ways that are harmful to the transparency that is necessary for open and honest government. There is a long history of ‘additional language’ being added to lengthy and important bills, for the sole purpose of slipping poor or unpopular legislation that would not stand on its own, into the process and so it can ‘ride’ along and become law when the primary legislation is voted on and passed. This intentional deception has no place in honest government and needs to be halted as a matter of priority.

    Of course, changing this process would impede the agendas’ of many politicians and therefore will receive an amount of attention – or lack thereof – similar to other unpopular voter demands such as term limits and pay raises for public entities and officials. Wouldn’t we all like to vote ourselves and our supporters, increases in pay and percs without taxpayer input or oversite?

    Like

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