Another victory for government secrecy in Connecticut?

The CT Mirror headline reads; Fate of legislature’s investigative arm hangs on budget battle.

As background, in 1992 I served as the House Chairman of the Connecticut General Assembly Program Review and Investigation Committee.  In many respects it is one of the most important committees in the legislative branch of government.  The bi-partisan committee and its professional staff are tasked with providing the legislature with the ability to review and investigate administrative agencies, programs and policies and the committee serves as a unique mechanism to counter the power of the Governor and his control over all state activities.

But as a result of their disastrous budget agreement, Malloy and Democratic leaders took a major step toward undermining, even destroying, this important vehicle of transparency.

As the CT Mirror explains;

The fate of the legislature’s chief investigative arm probably will be determined in the next few weeks as top leaders decide whether to impose a cut that would chop the nonpartisan agency in half.

Meanwhile, the House’s longest-serving current member, Rep. Mary Mushinsky, D-Wallingford, insists House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey’s office assured her the planned reduction to the Program Review and Investigation Committee staff would be significantly muted — in exchange for her support for the new state budget.

But the speaker, who is retiring after this year, said last week his office never made that pledge. And while he said he would try, nonetheless, to ease the fiscal pain, it is doubtful that several of the 12 positions in the investigative office won’t be eliminated.

In the short term, undermining the Program Review and Investigation Committee would derail important legislative reviews including studies into the State’s school desegregation programs; long-term care services; substance abuse prevention services and the state’s handling of discrimination complaints.

But the far more serious issue is that by decimating the Program Review Committee’s staffing and mission, the legislature would be taking another giant leap backwards in its duty to monitor and investigate the actions of the administrative branch of government.

But less executive branch oversight and less independence for the state’s clean government agencies appears to be one of Governor Dannel Malloy’s prime objectives. Unfortunately Democratic leaders have done little to subdue Malloy’s unprecedented attack on open and honest government.

As for the Program Review and Investigations Committee, according to the CT Mirror’s latest coverage,

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the legislature struggled to eliminate a nearly $1 billion hole in the 2016-17 fiscal year without raising taxes. And the $19.76 billion budget they enacted funds most departments and agencies below the level originally promised for that fiscal year.

When Sharkey and Looney announced a tentative budget agreement with the Malloy administration during the waning hours of the regular legislative session in early May, one of the cuts they announced was $750,000 to be achieved by eliminating half of the program review office’s 12 jobs.

Both Sharkey and Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, said they highly value program review’s work.

But they also felt the legislative branch’s portion of the budget — albeit a small one — should sacrifice in the same way the rest of state government was.

However, rather than cut out more of the top heavy political operation within the House and Senate Democratic and Republican caucuses, the legislative leaders, apparently with Republican leadership support, are seeking to preserve the money spent of guaranteeing the power of incumbency and achieving the savings incorporated in the new state budget by going after the Program Review and Investigations Committee.

You can read the complete CT Mirror article at: http://ctmirror.org/2016/07/11/fate-of-legislatures-investigative-arm-hangs-on-budget-battle/