The Capitol Beat: December 8-12, 2014

May you and yours enjoy the blessings of the season throughout the year. – Your friends at Gaffney, Bennett


This week has been punctuated by more major changes in staffing and personnel in state government and legislative circles. All these individuals bring fresh perspectives, ideas and, we hope, some bipartisan solutions to the state’s vexing economic, social and educational problems.

Staying power

  • Ben Barnes, Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management.
  • Mark Ojakian, Chief of Staff to Governor Malloy.
  • Catherine Smith, Commissioner of the Department of Community and Economic Development.
  • Kevin Sullivan, Commissioner of the Department of Revenue Services.
  • Roderick Bremby, Commissioner of the Department of Social Services.

Bon voyage

Governor Dannel P. Malloy announced Friday that Department of Administrative Services (DAS) Commissioner Donald DeFronzo has informed him that he plans to retire in January. The Governor said he intends to appoint current DMV Commissioner Melody Currey to serve as commissioner of DAS when his second term begins on January 7. Commissioners Thomas Leonardi (Dept. of Insurance) and Stefan Pryor (Dept. of Education) have also announced plans to move on. Searches are underway and announcements should be forthcoming.


In addition, this week two more legislative caucuses came out with committee assignments for the 2015 session, which begins January 7. The Senate Democratic leadership released the names of their committee chairs and leadership team on Tuesday, and the Senate Republican caucus followed suit on Thursday.

Senate Democrats

The Senate Democrats will have 16 new committee chairs in the upcoming session, more than double the number of new House co-chairs (7).

Following are the new Senate co-chairs (those not listed remain the same): Aging (Sen.-elect. Mae Flexer, D-Danielson); Commerce (Sen. Joan Hartley, D-Waterbury); Education (Sen. Gayle Slossberg, D-Milford); Environment (Sen.-elect Ted Kennedy, Jr., D-Branford); Energy & Technology (Sen. Paul Doyle, D-Wethersfield); Executive/Legislative Nominations (Sen.Bob Duff, D-Norwalk); General Law (Sen. Andres Ayala, D-Bridgeport); GAE (Sen. Steve Cassano, D-Manchester); Higher Ed (Sen. Bartolomeo, D-Meriden); Housing (Sen. Gary Holder-Winfied, D-New Haven); Human Services (Sen.-elect Marilyn Moore, D-Bridgeport); Internship (Sen.-elect Ted Kennedy, Jr.,D-Branford); Legislative Management (Sen. Marty Looney, D-New Haven); Program Review (Sen. John Fonfara, D-Hartford); Public Safety (Sen.-elect Tim Larson, D-E. Hartford); Veterans’ Affairs (Sen.-elect Mae Flexer, D-Danielson).

Senate Republicans

Meanwhile, the Senate Republicans, who will have two veteran lawmakers as new leaders in 2015– incoming Minority Leader Len Fasano of North Haven and incoming Minority Leader Pro Tem Kevin Witkos of Canton – also announced numerous new ranking members in the aftermath of the election (see below). Senate Republicans picked up one seat in the election.

New Senate ranking members include: Banks (Sen.-elect Henri Martin, R-Bristol); Children (Sen.-elect Martin); Energy & Technology (Sen.-elect Paul Formica, R-Niantic); Executive and Legislative Nominations (Sen. Rob Kane, R-Watertown); Higher Education (Sen. Kevin Witkos, R-Canton); Housing (Sen.-elect Tony Hwang, R-Fairfield); Internship (Sen. Witkos); Labor (Sen.-elect Hwang); Legislative Management (Sen. Fasano); Planning & Development (Sen. Art Linares, R-Westbrook); Program Review (Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield); Public Health (Sen. Joe Markley, R-Plantsville); Regulations Review (Sen. Clark Chapin, R-New Milford); and Veterans (Sen.-elect Martin).

While most of the new chairs on both the House and Senate side are seasoned members of the Legislature, there still will be a significant learning curve when they begin their new assignments. The substantial budget deficits the Legislature faces over the next two years ($1 billion-plus each year) will also dictate policy to some degree. Any proposed legislation that has budget ramifications, and that does not have the blessing of leadership and the Governor’s office, will likely be dead on arrival.

Note: See last week’s Capitol Beat for the newly appointed House Democratic committee chairs. House Republicans are expected to announce their committee assignments next week.

You Can Check Out but You Can Never Leave…

It also came to our attention this week that former House Minority Leader Brian Flaherty of Watertown will be returning to the Capitol this session wearing a new hat…and a badge! Brian will succeed Joe Brennan as CBIA’s Senior Vice President of Public Affairs. Since Brian left the Legislature almost 12 years ago, he has headed up public policy and external affairs for Nestle Waters North America in Stamford.


Connecticut employers will be hit with the highest unemployment insurance tax in the nation in January as the state continues to repay interest on federal loans taken out five years ago to cover jobless benefits, a Department of Labor (DOL) official confirmed in a recent article in the Hartford Business Journal.

As the Journal article explained, the increase, referred to as a benefit-cost ratio add-on, applies to any state that has had an outstanding balance owed to the federal government for five years. Connecticut has a $432 million balance and falls into that category. The so-called add-on, when combined with an interest rate increase of .3 percent on the outstanding balance, will cost employers $161 per worker – the highest in the nation, according to DOL.

The state says it plans to pay off the outstanding balance by 2017 or, more accurately, it plans for employers to pay off the debt by then.

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