Once there were six. Then there were two. Now, there is a last-minute proposal – included in the massive 500-page budget bill – to condense even further into just one, by merging the two surviving commissions into a lone Commission on Women, Children, Seniors, Equity and Opportunity.
The bill merges the two remaining legislative commissions after a 2016 consolidation – the Commission on Equity and Opportunity (CEO) and the Commission on Women, Children and Seniors (CWCS) into a single entity, according to a bill analysis prepared by the Office of Legislative Research.
The merger would take place in a few weeks, as of July 1, 2019.
Under the bill, the new commission must focus its efforts on issues affecting the two current commissions’ constituencies of underrepresented and underserved populations: African Americans, Asian Pacific-Americans, and Latinos and Puerto Ricans (CEO’s current constituencies), and women, children and the family, and elderly individuals (CWCS’s current constituencies).
The new commission’s advisory board would consist of 44 members who serve two-year terms: 42 appointed by the legislative leaders and two appointed by the Legislative Management Committee. The bill requires that the advisory board include six subcommissions, one for each of the commission’s constituencies.
All current CEO and CWCS members’ terms would be terminated as of June 30, 2019, except for the commissions’ current chairpersons. Initial appointments to the newly merged advisory board would be made by July 31, 2019.
The longstanding six legislative commissions were eliminated just three years ago, in the midst of the state’s 2016 budget crisis. The Permanent Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW), one of those commissions, had been in existence for 43 years before being subsumed in the merger.
The Commission on Equity and Opportunity was created through in 2016 with the mandate to focus its efforts on the quality of life for members of the African-American, Asian Pacific American and the Latino and Puerto Rican populations in the state of Connecticut. The Commission on Children, Commission on Aging, and PCSW became the Commission on Women, Children and Seniors.
Three years ago, Judy Tabar, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, was among those voicing opposition to the merger of six commissions into two: “These commissions were created decades ago, precisely to guarantee that the voices of disenfranchised individuals and communities were not only heard at the State Capitol, but were also recognized as critical to preserving the equitable, tolerant society we value in Connecticut,” she said. “The savings seen as a result of merging the commissions would be minimal, while the lost voices of these increasingly important constituencies would be immeasurable.”
Mui Mui Hin-McCormick, in 2016 the Executive Director of the state’s Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission, described that move as "disheartening." She said "Connecticut has really been seen as one of the leading states to be able to welcome and accept and provide those resources. Now I think this really puts us backwards."
Elimination of the legislative commissions had been proposed repeatedly for many years. In 2009, then-Governor M. Jodi Rell called for elimination as part of a broader streamlining of government, saying “These task forces and commissions have served many useful purposes — but they were created in better fiscal times and now more than ever, Connecticut needs a smaller and less intrusive government.”