Democrats list pri­or­i­ties af­ter gains

Lead­ers cite min­i­mum wage, tolls and other is­sues

Stamford Advocate - - News/From The Front Page - By Keith M. Pha­neuf and Clarice Sil­ber

Tra­di­tion­ally, most leg­isla­tive com­mit­tees have two co-chairs, one from the ma­jor­ity party of each cham­ber. But for the past two years, with Democrats con­trol­ling the House and the Se­nate dead­locked, each panel fea­tured three chair­men: a House Demo­crat, a Se­nate Demo­crat and a Se­nate Repub­li­can.

Start­ing with the 2019 ses­sion and the new Demo­cratic ma­jori­ties in both cham­bers, the GOP will lose those chair­men posts — and the abil­ity to help set com­mit­tee agen­das and sched­ule bills for pub­lic hear­ings and votes.

And be­cause the en­tire leg­is­la­ture has been so nar­rowly di­vided along par­ti­san lines, so have the com­mit­tees’ mem­ber­ships, lead­ing to fre­quently dead­locked pan­els un­able to adopt many bills.

Looney said ad­vanc­ing paid fam­ily med­i­cal leave and in­creas­ing the state’s min­i­mum wage will be pri­or­i­ties for Se­nate Democrats, is­sues he be­lieves the party will be able to ad­vance.

Those are two is­sues sev­eral Demo­cratic can­di­dates cam­paigned on in the run up to the elec­tion, but which have typ­i­cally been op­posed by Repub­li­cans.

House Speaker Joe Ares­i­mow­icz, D-Ber­lin, said he wants to wait and see what is brought up by his cham­ber’s Demo­cratic cau­cus, but ac­knowl­edged the over­all ma­jor­ity “sets a lot of things in mo­tion for me and there are a lot is­sues that the cau­cus talked about in­di­vid­u­ally.” Ares­i­mow­icz said paid fam­ily med­i­cal leave was a big is­sue can­di­dates heard about on the cam­paign trail.

“I do want to raise the min­i­mum wage. I’m very hon­est about that,” said House Ma­jor­ity Leader Matt Rit­ter of Har­ford. Rit­ter said he would like to do that within a pack­age that re­peals the state’s es- tate tax.

The three Democrats also agreed that tolls will likely be dis­cussed in the up­com­ing ses­sion, voic­ing sup­port for La­mont’s idea to im­pose tolls on large trucks from out of state.

But Ares­i­mow­icz and Rit­ter also stressed that de­spite their ma­jor­ity, Democrats still plan to work with Repub­li­cans in a bi­par­ti­san fash­ion. Ares­i­mow­icz said law­mak­ers need to fo­cus on fix­ing Con­necti­cut’s prob­lems, which can only hap­pen if they work to­gether.

“Repub­li­cans still have good ideas,” Rit­ter said. “And my guess is we will con­tinue to pass 90 to 95 per­cent of things on a bi­par­ti­san ba­sis and peo­ple are will­ing to work to­gether.”

Repub­li­cans also lost some vet­eran lead­er­ship on key bud­get com­mit­tees.

Sen. L. Scott Frantz, of Greenwich, a mem­ber of the Fi­nance, Rev­enue and Bond­ing Com­mit­tee for the past eight years and one of its three chair­men for the last two, lost his bid for re-elec­tion in the 36th District.

Rep. Melissa Zio­bron, of East Had­dam, the top House Repub­li­can on the Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee for the past four years, was the fa­vorite to be­come Se­nate chair­woman of the panel in 2019. Repub­li­cans not only failed to win con­trol of the Se­nate, but Zio­bron lost her bid to cap­ture the va­cant 33rd Se­nate District seat.

And while leg­isla­tive lead­ers looked for­ward to a new ses­sion, Mal­loy, who is not seek­ing re-elec­tion, looked back Wed­nes­day on a cam­paign that yielded his­toric re­sults.

“Over­whelm­ingly I be­lieve that our vot­ers choose fair­ness in the coun­try,” Mal­loy said dur­ing a midafter­noon con­ver­sa­tion with re­porters in his Capi­tol of­fice. “They chose de­cency and they chose hon­esty in the face of some very empty promises, both within our state and within our na­tional pol­i­tics.”

The gover­nor said Tues­day’s voter turnout, which ex­ceeded lev­els seen in sev­eral decades, an “un­be­liev­able ac­com­plish­ment” that was the foun­da­tion of so many oth­ers.

Con­necti­cut elected its first African-Amer­i­can con­gress­woman in choos­ing Wol­cott Demo­crat Ja­hana Hayes to rep­re­sent the 5th District.

More than 100 women were elected to the new Con­gress na­tion­ally and the num­ber of women win­ning seats in the Gen­eral Assem­bly rose from 50 to 61.

And, in se­lect­ing Stam­ford Demo­crat Wil­liam Tong, Con­necti­cut elected its first Asian-Amer­i­can at­tor­ney gen­eral.

Mal­loy dug deep into ob­scure his­tory for one more note: Ned La­mont’s elec­tion as gover­nor marked the first time since 1877 that Con­necti­cut elected a Demo­crat to suc­ceed a re­tir­ing Demo­crat as its chief ex­ec­u­tive.

And all of that hap­pened fol­low­ing a cam­paign dur­ing which Repub­li­cans — and GOP gu­ber­na­to­rial nom­i­nee Bob Ste­fanowski in par­tic­u­lar — blis­tered Mal­loy’s eight-year ten­ure with crit­i­cism.

“If peo­ple are as un­hope­ful about Con­necti­cut’s fu­ture as Repub­li­cans say they are, then we should have lost a lot of seats,” the gover­nor said. “In­stead we gained a lot of seats. I think the peo­ple of Con­necti­cut are smarter than we some­times give them credit for.”

And while Mal­loy was the GOP’s tar­get, Con­necti­cut Democrats took aim at Trump, who also is un­pop­u­lar in the polls in this state.

“Hav­ing a strat­egy that we’re go­ing to run against a guy who’s not run­ning for re-elec­tion while the other team is run­ning against a guy who’s re­main­ing in of­fice, didn’t make a whole lot of sense,” Mal­loy said. He added that which­ever Repub­li­can strate­gist crafted that plan, “should raise their hand so that they’re never hired to do any­thing again.”

The gover­nor said he also be­lieves vot­ers were en­er­gized in part by the “de­struc­tive poli­cies and pol­i­tics” of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion — and a Con­necti­cut GOP that didn’t speak out against them.

“If you marginal­ize gay, les­bian, trans­gen­dered, queer peo­ple, if you marginal­ize black and brown peo­ple, if you marginal­ize im­mi­grants, don’t be sur­prised that they re­act to that,” Mal­loy said.

GOP state Chair­man J.R. Ro­mano said Mal­loy was fair game be­cause he was one of the worst gov­er­nors in Con­necti­cut his­tory.

“Hey, he doesn’t want to ad­mit it, but even Ned La­mont ran against him,” said Ro­mano, re­fer­ring to La­mont tele­vi­sion spots that men­tioned he chal­lenged Mal­loy for the 2010 gu­ber­na­to­rial nom­i­na­tion.

Chris­tian Abra­ham / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Above, state Se­nate Pres­i­dent Pro Tem Mar­tin M. Looney, D-New Haven, speaks at a rally in Au­gust. Looney said this week that Demo­cratic gains in both cham­bers of the state Leg­is­la­ture rep­re­sented a man­date for Demo­cratic poli­cies. Be­low, leg­is­la­tors lis­ten to the State of the State ad­dress at the Capi­tol in Fe­bru­ary.

Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

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