Among the nonpartisan arms of the legislature are three permanent commissions designed to provide the Governor and the legislature with research, guidance, and advocacy within particular areas of policy. These commissions includeThe Connecticut Commission on Women, Children andSeniors (CWCS), The Commission on Equity and Opportunity (CEO), and Connecticut Law Revision Commission (CLRC). Unlike task forces or studies, which are usually commissioned for less than a year with much narrower areas of focus, these commissions are broader by nature and don’t just submit recommendations to a legislative committee. Instead, these commissions regularly review legislative proposals and engage in the legislative process in order to give input and guidance to state agencies, the General Assembly, and the Governor.
The Connecticut Commission on Women, Children andSeniors (CWCS)was formed under Public Act 16-3, which during the 2016 legislative session consolidated six legislative commissions into two. The CWCS operates with an expanded mandate that includes key elements of those of the former Permanent Commission on the Status of Women (1973), the Commission on Children (1985) and the Commission on Aging (1993). The Commission is tasked with researching the best practices and promoting policy that is in the best interest of Connecticut’s underserved and underrepresented women, children, and older adults.
The Commission, like its counterparts, regularly creates subcommittees and task forces to study narrower areas of policy within its scope. For instance, the Commission has convened the Senior Center Task Force to better shape policy related to seniors and elderly living facilities, as well as a task force to review issues around water safety and children. In addition, when the legislature orders a task force or study related to the CWCS mission, it’s common for the Commission to be appointed a member or members to sit on that task force. It’s also common to see CWCS staff testifying on various proposals throughout the legislative session.
Some of the Commission’s past and present advocacy work includes: supporting pay equity for women; the state’s Two-Generational initiative for children; preventing financial abuse and exploitation of seniors; studying and supporting legislation to prevent human trafficking; improving literacy rates among children; and ensuring access to long-term care for seniors.
The Commission on Equity and Opportunity (CEO) was also established by Public Act 16-3. It is the successor to the African-American Affairs Commission (1993), Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission (1994), and the Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission (2008). Since its inception, the CEO has focused its efforts on creating an agency that can adequately represent all three demographic groups within in the community and at the legislature. CEO’s mission is to inform and engage all policymakers about constituent needs for the African American, Asian American and Pacific Islanders, and Latino and Puerto Rican populations in Connecticut.
The CEO’s work aims to promote the economic development, education, health and political well-being of the populations it is mandated to represent. Like CWCS, the Commission can create sub-task forces and regularly engages in the legislative process. In fact, some CWCS members also sit on this Commission. In recent years the CEO has worked on the following policy issues: reforming solitary confinement; juvenile justice; prohibiting racial profiling; promoting the economic development of small and minority-owned businesses; assisting low-income families with access to higher education through scholarships and financial aid application assistance; the state’s Head Startprogram; and working to close racial and ethnic disparities in health care – whether in insurance coverage, access, or quality of care.
Connecticut Law Revision Commission (CLRC)The Connecticut Law Revision Commission assists the Judiciary Committee and other legislative and executive bodies by recommending revisions of Connecticut law to ensure its responsiveness to current needs and recent case law.
The Commission undertakes revisions at the request of the Judiciary Committee or other legislative committees, as well as legislative leaders, state agencies, the Judicial Department, the Connecticut Bar Association, law school professors, and private practitioners. The Commission solicits the expertise of numerous state legal authorities in arriving at its consensus on recommendations.
The Governor, Leadership of the General Assembly, and Judiciary Committee Co-Chairmen and Ranking Members each appoint members to the Commission, which presently consists of two senators, four representatives, one judge, one law school professor, and seven attorneys.
The Commission was first established in 1974. However, since 2003 the state budget has not included funding for commission staff. The commission has requested assistance in the performance of its responsibilities from the Legislative Commissioners’ Office. Assistance is also provided by other staff offices within the Connecticut General Assembly.
These commissions often act as advocates and liaisons for their mission and tend to operate year-round. You can go to their websites to search meeting dates and agendas, along with policy information. While these groups are nonpartisan, their message does come with an angle. As opposed to the Office of Legislative Research, which is supposed to release reports that are completely policy neutral.