When the newly elected Governor takes office, one of their first orders of business will be to appoint commissioners of the State’s Agencies and Departments. The executive nominations process also applies to heads of quasi-public agencies such as the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA), and members of various boards and commissions. In this article we will detail the procedures for appointing and confirming these executive nominees.
The governor must appoint all department heads with the advice and consent of the legislature by February 1. If an appointment is not made by the deadline, the incumbent may serve until March 10. The statutory deadline for nominations to be submittedto the legislature is February 1. It is by this date that the governor must submit his nominations to either chamber of the General Assembly, and the receiving chamber must immediately refer the nominations to the Executive and Legislative Nominations Committee. The committee must then report by resolution within 15 calendar days of the referral. Then chamber that started with the nomination must confirm or reject the committee’s report within 10 calendar days of receiving it. So if the Governor refers a nomination to the House, after the Committee favorably reports the nominee then only House members vote to confirm (e.g. Commissioner of Veterans’ Affairs Thomas J. Saadi), if confirmed, the nominee takes office on March 1.
If the nomination is rejected before March 1, the governor must follow the procedure for filling department vacancies occurring while the legislature is in session. This procedure has different deadlines. The governor must submit his nomination to either house within 30 days of the vacancy occurring. The House must immediately refer the nomination to its committee on Executive Nominations, which must report within 10 legislative days. The house then has 30 calendar days to act on the committee's report. If a vacancy occurs before March 1 during the first session following the election of a new governor, the nominee may exercise the powers and duties of his office as a designate until the nomination is confirmed or rejected. If a vacancy occurs when the legislature is not in session, or if there are fewer than 30 calendar days left before the session's constitutional adjournment date, the governor fills the vacancy until the sixth Wednesday of the next session. At the start of that session he must submit the name to either house. That house must follow the procedure for filling vacancies occurring while it is in session. A nominee who has been rejected by either house may not serve in the office during the term of the house which rejected them.
Nominations for department head are made by letter sent by the governor to either chamber. If the nomination is sent to the Senate, the Senate clerk receives it and sends it to the committee on the same day. The committee also receives from the governor's office: the nominee's resume, responses to a questionnaire completed by the nominee, and a letter stating that the State Police conducted a background check and found no information indicating that the nominee is unsuitable.
The executive nominations of quasi-public agencies sometimes follow different procedures. For instance, the Commissioner of PURA is nominated by the Governor and requires confirmation from both houses of the General Assembly. However, utility commissioners after 2014 are appointed to serve terms of four years (Sec. 16-2 CGS). The Office of Consumer Counsel is appointed to five year terms, with the advice and consent of either chamber of the General Assembly. With the current consumer counsel having been appointed by Governor Malloy for a second term in 2017, the role won’t be open for a new appointee until 2022. Similarly, the Green Bank has an appointed board which serves as follows: “Two for two years who shall have experience in the finance of renewable energy; one for four years who shall be a representative of a labor organization; and one who shall have experience in research and development or manufacturing of clean energy” (Sec. 16-245 CGS). In the case of the Green Bank the legislature doesn’t have power of advice and consent, but instead has appointing power of their own over members of the agency. Similar structure in the appointment process applies to the Healthcare Advocate (Sec. 38a-1042 CGS), the Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority (Sec. 22a-261(b)), and the Connecticut Lottery (Sec. 12-802(b)(1) CGS).
There is an opportunity to weigh in on the nomination process, engaging with legislators when they have a preference in a particular agency’s leadership. Department heads serve a crucial role in impacting state policy, and understanding the nominees helps us advise our clients on potential regulations coming down the pike and possible changes that may occur within the agency. The Governor’s nominees will provide a lot of insight on policy changes we can expect, DNB will provide as much information as possible when these nominees are announced.
Fun Fact: In 1995 the Executive and Legislative Nominations Committee became a Statutory Committee, before that it was governed by the joint rules adopted at the onset of each Legislative Session. The earliest reference of an appointment process appears to date back to 1849. However, statutory language varied depending on the executive officer being appointed. For example, in 1849 the “commissioners of turnpike roads” were appointed annually by the Senate. In contrast, during this same period the “school fund commissioner” was appointed by the General Assembly. The governor was allowed to fill a vacancy temporarily if the General Assembly was in recess. Read more about the history of executive nominees in this recent report from the Office of Legislative Research.
- Duffy, Daniel J. (1994, December 20). Committee Procedures for Executive Nominations (94-R-1123). Connecticut General Assembly, Office of Legislative Research.