Attorney General: Honorable Lorraine M. Aronson, Commissioner, Department of Income Maintenance, 1990-029 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal

August 30, 1990

The Honorable Lorraine M. Aronson
Department of Income Maintenance
110 Bartholomew Avenue
Hartford, Connecticut 06106

Dear Commissioner Aronson:

We are responding to your request for the opinion of this office as to whether your department is legally authorized to renew an existing special two year general assistance contract with one municipality in light of the facts that the authorization of the original enabling legislation has expired and the most recent session of the General Assembly failed to enact Proposed Bill No. 5301 which would have extended such enabling legislation. For the reasons which follow, we respond in the negative.

Conn. Gen. Stat. 17-492, which was enacted into law by Public Act. No. 87-516 3,5, provides:

Demonstration work, education and training program. The department of income maintenance shall develop a two-year supported work, education and training program in one municipality in the state for persons receiving general assistance under chapter 308. The commissioner of income maintenance may contract for the development of such program in the city of Hartford. The requirements of section 17-281a shall be waived for general assistance recipients who participate in such program. The state shall provide: (1) One hundred per cent benefit reimbursement to the municipality for each recipient who participates in the program and (2) a monthly payment to the municipality for each recipient who participates in the program, for administrative costs, including the cost to the municipality of workers' compensation insurance for each such participant, at the rate established pursuant to subsection (e) of said section 17-281a. For purposes of this section, each participant in the program shall be considered to be an employee of the participating municipality. The department shall report on the program to the joint standing committees of the general assembly having cognizance of matters relating to appropriations and human services on a quarterly basis. (emphasis added)

You have advised us that your agency acted upon this two-year statutory authorization to enter into a contract with the City of Hartford on June 7, 1988. The City of Hartford commenced its special program pursuant to the contract in July, 1988. It concludes in July, 1990.

The provisions of Conn. Gen. Stat. 17-492 limit the contract to a two year period and to one municipality only and, most importantly, waive the requirements of Conn. Gen. Stat. 17-281a for general assistance recipients who participate in such special contractual program.

Thus, the failure of the General Assembly to enact Proposed Bill No. 5301 which would have extended the statutory authorization for such special contract means that your agency is without statutory authority to enter into a new contract with the City of Hartford and is now subject to all the requirements of Conn. Gen. Stat. 17-281a.

It is axiomatic that an administrative agency is of limited jurisdiction, and must act strictly within its statutory authority. Stern v. Connecticut Medical Examining Board, 208 Conn. 492, 498, 545 A.2d 1080, 1083 (1988); Castro v. Viera, 207 Conn. 420, 428, 541 A.2d 1216 (1988); Waterbury v. Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, 160 Conn. 226, 230, 278 A.2d 771 (1971).

As the express wording of Conn. Gen. Stat. 17-492 is clear and unambiguous, it is unnecessary to review its legislative history. "When the language of a statute is plain and unambiguous, we need look no further for interpretive guidance because it is assumed that the language itself reflects the legislative intent. Rhodes v. Hartford, 201 Conn. 89, 513 A.2d 124 (1986); Johnson v. Manson, 196 Conn. 309, 316, 493 A.2d 846 (1985), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 1063, 106 S.Ct. 813, 88 L.Ed.2d 787, reh. denied, 475 U.S. 1061, 106 S.Ct. 1290, 89 L.Ed.2d 597 (1986)." Commissioner v. Freedom of Information Commission, 204 Conn. 609, 620, 529 A.2d 692 (1987).

Even though it is unnecessary to review the legislative history of Conn. Gen. Stat. 17-492, the history of that statute directly supports its plain wording. Representative Favreau described this statute as addressing "a Model Work Preparation Program, [which] will be located in the City of Hartford." 30 H. Proc., Part 33, p. 12112 (6-1-87) (Remarks of Rep. Favreau) (emphasis added). Senator Harper explained this law as "dealing with the pilot job training program for general assistance recipients ... in the city of Hartford." 30 S. Proc., Part 12, p. 4289 (5-26-87) (Remarks of Sen. Harper) (emphasis added). Subsequently Senator Harper reiterated that this statute "deals with the establishment of a pilot job training program for general assistance recipients ... [which] is the first such pilot for general assistance recipients ... [and] if the pilot proves it is cost effective ... then perhaps the pilot will serve as a model for duplication." 30 S. Proc., Part 12, p. 4291-4292 (5-26-87) (Remarks of Sen. Harper) (emphasis added). These repeated references to a pilot program serve to reinforce the express wording of the statute that the program was a singular, two year program.

Likewise, the oral indication provided to your agency by the Office of Fiscal Analysis that the program has been refunded is legally insufficient to authorize contract renewal in view of the failure of the General Assembly to enact Proposed Bill No. 5301. Further the Appropriations Act itself fails to contain any specific language to confirm the oral statement.

Of course, your agency and the City of Hartford remain able to provide general assistance to all eligible beneficiaries of the special contract through the regular statutory General Assistance Program in compliance with the requirements of Chapter 308 of the General Statutes of Connecticut.

Very truly yours


Kenneth A. Graham
Assistant Attorney General

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