Attorney General: Alan S. Plofsky, State Ethics Commission, 1997-010 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal

April 8, 1997

Alan S. Plofsky
Executive Director and General Counsel
State Ethics Commission
20 Trinity St.
Hartford, CT 06106-1660

Dear Mr. Plofsky:

This letter is in response to your February 6, 1997 inquiry regarding the Legislative Regulations Review Committee's rejection without prejudice of your agency's proposed regulations implementing amendments to the lobbyist registration laws set forth in Public Act 96-11.

Initially, I should point out to you that my Office's approval of your proposed regulations is not necessarily relevant to the independent action that the Regulations Review Committee takes on them. Pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat.  4-169, this Office reviews proposed regulations only for "legal sufficiency," defined as "(1) the absence of conflict with any general statute or regulation, federal law or regulation of the Constitution of this state or of the United States and (2) compliance with the notice and hearing requirements of section 4-168." Pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat.  4-170, the Regulations Review Committee's review is not limited in that or any other fashion when it rejects proposed regulations "without prejudice" under Conn. Gen. Stat.  4-170(e).

Therefore, to the extent that your question merely involves competing questions of interpreting Public Act 96-11, so long as either of the interpretations would be "legally sufficient," it is not my function to choose between them. To the extent that the Committee is of the opinion that the regulations should provide for a one year registration in the first year of a biennium, that interpretation would appear to be legally sufficient under the standards of Conn. Gen. Stat. 4-169, and so further discussion is inappropriate.

Regarding the proposal of offering a refund to those lobbyists who do not lobby in the second year of a two year registration period, I would note that the paying out of state funds may be done only as directed by law. See, e.g., Eielson v. Parker, 179 Conn. 552, 561 (1980). More particularly, when the legislature has sought to give an agency the authority to provide a refund of a fee, or to permit application to the comptroller for a refund of a fee, it has provided so specifically. See Conn. Gen. Stat.  10-145b (teaching certificates); Conn. Gen. Stat.  10a-22v (higher education tuition) ; Conn. Gen. Stat.  12-480(a) (motor carrier road tax credit); Conn. Gen. Stat.  14-23 (auto registrations issued to those in the armed forces); Conn. Gen. Stat.  14-31 (motor vehicles with commercial registration unfit for use). The legislature has not included such a provision in the Ethics Commission's statutes. In addition, Public Act 96-11 specifies the circumstances under which a one year registration fee may be made. There is no provision for payment of less than the statutory fee in any other circumstances.

I hope this responds to your question.

Very truly yours,

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
ATTORNEY GENERAL

RB/GTD


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