Voters in Connecticut elected a new General Assembly last November, but the legislature’s makeup is already changing before the start of the next session on Jan. 5.

Governor-elect Dannel Malloy has appointed some key lawmakers to his new administration, creating vacancies in the legislature and necessitating special elections to fill open positions.

The 2011 session of the General Assembly starts on Wednesday, Jan. 5, and will run no later than midnight on Wednesday, June 8.

Lawmakers’ main order of business over those five months will be to create a new, two-year state budget; if that is not accomplished by June 8, summertime special sessions are likely.

Malloy is Connecticut’s first Democratic governor in 20 years, and he will work with a legislature that has been changed fairly significantly by the elections.

With the retirement or defeat at the polls of many sitting legislators, there will be 31 new lawmakers coming to the Capitol this year, with two former members returning for new terms and one House member, Beth Bye (D-West Hartford) moving into the Senate.

On Election Day, Republicans picked up 14 seats in the House and one more Senate seat for a revised tally of 23 Democrats and 13 Republicans in the Senate and 100 Democrats and 51 Republicans in the House. Special elections, however, will be held in early 2011 to fill the seats of:

  • Sen. Andrew McDonald (D-Stamford), co-chair of the Judiciary Committee, will become the governor’s chief legal counsel
  • Rep. Michael Lawlor (D-East Haven), co-chair of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee, will be undersecretary for Criminal Justice Policy and Planning in the Office of Policy and Management.
  • Sen. Don DeFronzo (D-New Britain), co-chair of the Transportation Committee, will become commissioner of the Department of Administrative Services.
  • Rep. Jamie Spallone (D-Essex), co-chair of the Government Administration and Elections Committee (GAE), is moving from the legislature to become deputy to Denise Merrill, the incoming secretary of the state.
  • Rep. John Geragosian (D-New Britain) , co-chair of the Appropriations Committee, has been nominated by Malloy to be state auditor.
  • Rep. David McCluskey (D-West Hartford) was tapped by Malloy to serve on the state's Board of Pardons and Parole.

Staying mostly the same is the legislative leadership lineup. Democrats reelected Sen. Don Williams (D-Brooklyn) as senate president pro tem, and Sen. Martin Looney (D-New Haven) as majority leader. In the House, Rep. Chris Donovan (D-Meriden) was reelected speaker and Rep. Brendan Sharkey (D-Hamden) was elected the new majority leader, replacing Secretary of the State-elect Denise Merrill (D-Mansfield Center).

Republicans reelected Rep. Larry Cafero (R-Norwalk) as House minority leader, and the Senate minority leader will once again be Sen. John McKinney (R-Southport). The influx of new members and exit of many sitting lawmakers means much of the legislature will have a lot to learn, quickly, about the numerous issues facing Connecticut.

To add to this challenge, selections for the legislative committees, where the legislature does its most significant work in the first few months, are still being made. In some cases, committee chairs will change; in the Judiciary, Transportation, Appropriations and GAE committees, as noted, and in the Finance Committee, where Rep. Cam Staples (D-New Haven), for example, who chose not to seek reelection and will leave his position as chair.

When everything is settled, the new General Assembly has a big mission—working with a new administration to fix a $3.5 billion budget deficit in each of the next two years, restore fiscal responsibility to Connecticut, and recharge a slowly recovering economy.

Gaining the confidence of the state’s business community is key to accomplishing those goals, says John Rathgeber, CBIA president and CEO. "We're at a crisis point in this state. A lot of businesses have lost confidence in Connecticut as a place to invest in and create opportunities," said Rathgeber at a recent statewide conference.

"We can't solve our fiscal problems without a growing economy. We can't solve our social problems and our education problems without getting our economy back on track."

For more information about the legislature, contact CBIA’s Bonnie Stewart at 860.244.1925 or bonnie.stewart@cbia.com.