May 14th, 2021
In This Issue:
From Paddi's Desk
CT Agency Corner
Municipal Roundup
From Inside The Golden Dome
Behind the Scenes
This Day in CT History
Before we get into my weekly take on the week’s events at the Capitol, I’d be remiss if I didn’t share our thoughts on the passing of former House Republican Leader Bob Ward, who served Connecticut for over 30 years as a beloved member of the House of Representatives, Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles and then as one of Connecticut’s two State Auditors. After a kidney transplant a decade ago, Bob bravely faced other, more recent maladies with his characteristically quiet optimism. He spent the past several months were filled with family, political allies (and even some periodic foes) and longtime friends connecting and sharing memories with Bob of the “good times.” Many a tale has been told of both the shenanigans and the statesman-like achievements of this good leader as news of his death hit the Capitol community this week.

Bob will be most remembered as a compassionate, fair and caring leader who knew the importance of working together regardless of your political, philosophical or personal feelings to make the best decisions for the state of Connecticut and its residents. He truly understood that after the debates—sometimes heated—and the final vote, it was important to reach out, shake hands, share a beer, a trip to the Big East tournament or attend a causal after-session gathering to touch base and re-connect. Relationships mattered to the former Republican leader. He treasured them.

Bob was always an integral part of collaborations for many of the critical issues during the time he served, such as the remaking of UConn, the passage during a regular session of an annual state budget and the transition of power from former Governor John Rowland to former Governor Jodi Rell. As such, this minority leader often influenced and carried the majority opinion at the Capitol.

This week those who admired, cherished and respected the man from North Branford joined his wife Anita, their four children and eight grandchildren in celebrating his life and sending him off to the heavens above.

Knowing Bob, he’s already reaching out to others from his past life and orchestrating some kind of collegial solution to some chaos happening behind the pearly gates, and perhaps a friendly poker game, as well! Godspeed and peace to a truly good guy.

The troops are getting restless and rambunctious this week in Hartford.

With the session closing in on its final three weeks, the volume of work is finally catching up with the “chamber time keepers” in the House and Senate. It’s put more pressure on committee chairs to resolve recent committee standoffs and work with their ranking members to see if there is mutual ground to be found to move “the people’s business” forward.

With everyone still in seclusion, it’s creating glitches in the typical smooth orchestration of both Senate and House operations. Chairs are not as easily able to work with their caucus members, casually catch up with lobbyists to clarify or draft amendments to fix critical problems with the language of the approved committee bills, or negotiate with the Governor’s office in order to avoid a potential veto as they have been socially distancing on the House floor or voting from their offices. The lack of casual out-in-the hall opportunities to touch base is creating difficult times for all with time management and the ability to curtail lengthy debates by negotiating with the Republican caucuses in each chamber. The minority party’s leverage only grows as the clock ticks down, especially given Connecticut’s tradition of unlimited floor debate. 

A few chairs have figured out that the road to success is to look for the middle ground versus winner-take-all solutions, if they want a bill to move out of their chamber and stand a chance in the opposite chamber. Even the Senate, which is infamous for its ability to move business at warp speed, got bogged down this week with a session lasting over 12 hours and only moving nine bills and two resolutions.  

Not a surprise to many, the phrase “special session” was uttered this week by one of the “big six” leaders when asked by the media about the ability to pass their caucus’ priorities, the Governor’s priorities and resolve the next two-year spending and tax plan. With the Senate holding firm on a very progressive tax plan, the Governor promising a veto and the House majority party split between fiscal moderates and fiscal progressives, the next three weeks will be a do-or-die situation as they wrestle with each other to meet the final deadline of June 9th.  

The old saying among Capitol veterans that “three weeks in the Connecticut legislature is a lifetime,” still rings true, but many are thinking it will take two or maybe three lifetimes to resolve these philosophical differences and political opinions.

As they say, leadership is about doing the right thing, not doing the thing right. Now is the time to get started on “doing the right thing.”  
What to Remember as the State Reopens Next Wednesday

The state has kept its promise to inoculate the majority of the state in time way quicker than almost anymore could have expected. The vaccination rates have outpaced early estimates by over two months and Connecticut leads the nation getting "shots in the arm". That said, here are reminders as to how the state is allowing for the reopening of many businesses in the state:

Q: Is the State of Emergency over on Wednesday, May 19th?

A: Unfortunately, there are still those being infected by COVID-19 due to variants of the virus and a variety of other factors which mostly reflect on other state vaccinations rates trailing behind Connecticut's rate. The State Legislature this week approved an extension of the Governor's executive authority through July 2021 in an attempt to get our region closer to herd immunity.

Q: What regulations will be noticeably different after next Wednesday?

A: Business restrictions will be lifted (indoor and outdoor), no table or indoor gathering limits, no food requirements, no more curfews and tables can be spaced at the discretion of the establishment. Mask requirements will remain in effect except in businesses where they will also be in discretion of the business.

Q: How many have received the vaccine in the state?

A: As of today, over 1.7M people are considered fully vaccinated with over 70% having received their first vaccine dose.

Q: What other regulations could be extended through to July other than the mask mandate?

A: In addition to having flexibility on further restrictions if the rates spike, the Governor also is able to extend remote functions of government where it's not expressly allowed in statute to give the legislature and state agencies time to adopt changes. In addition, the state is also looking to offer more remote services for residents such as remote notarizations, approvals for permits and other streamlined services for professions that began under the pandemic and will need time for official rule changes.
In Groton, newly elected Mayor Keith Hedrick was sworn in this week after a come from behind write in win this month. An election in May you ask? Yes, there are still a few towns left in CT that have their local elections in May as opposed to the more traditional and wide spread election day of the first Tuesday of the month. There was a contentious primary for the Democratic nomination that Hedrick lost to council member Aundre Bumgardner. During the proceeding days, now Mayor Hedrick launched a write in campaign to get on the ballot and eventually beat Mr. Bumgardner. The last write in winner of a Mayoral race in CT was in Waterbury, where Mayor Jarjura won in 2005. There had never even been a write in candidate in Groton’s Mayoral race before and to have that write in candidate win is quite extraordinary. During Mayor Hedrick’s nomination speech he said that his focus will be continuing efforts dealing with the pandemic, economic development in the Five Corners area of the city, and increasing community policing endeavors.
 
Also, in case you were following at home, the House of Representatives voted this week naming Pizza as the Connecticut state food. It is now one step closer to becoming law as it heads to the Senate for their consideration. There was a robust debate on the floor of the house about which pizza place in the state was the best, but it was widely recognized that New Haven was the place to be.
Bill to End Prison Gerrymandering Passes in Concurrence

As the state gears up for its redistricting of house and senate districts this year, following the census count in 2020, the topic of whether to count incarcerated people where they are from instead of where they are currently imprisoned has received more and more attention. As it stands in current law, people who are incarcerated are counted in the town of their correctional facility. Advocates have argued that this practice is unfair, since most prisons are located in rural towns like Somers, Enfield and Suffield when data shows that the majority of incarcerated people are from cities including Hartford, Bridgeport, New Haven and Waterbury. Ultimately this could lead to underrepresentation for cities in the legislature and is a topic the Government Administration and Elections committee took on.

SB 753: An Act Concerning the Counting of Incarcerated Persons for Purposes of Determining Legislative Districts, which makes this very change, saw final action this week and now awaits the signature of Governor Lamont. The Senate took on the bill first, and passed it in a bipartisan way with only one no vote. This week, the House also took up the measure and approved it with a final vote of 95 yay to 49 nay. Before the final vote in the Senate, lawmakers compromised on an amendment that would exclude making this change for individuals serving life sentences.
Freshmen Legislator Profile: Corey P. Paris (D-Stamford)

Corey Paris was elected to represent the 145th House District just last month. He won a special election after his predecessor, Patricia Billie Miller, vacated the seat to move on to the State Senate. Rep. Paris was sworn in on May 4th, ten days ago, and has since jumped right in to the busiest time of the session.

Because he came in after committees had reached their deadlines, he missed out on the that portion of the work, but he hasn't wasted any time getting up to speed on the important bills in the Education, Finance, and Planning & Development committees which he is now a member of. Rep. Paris signed on to bills as a co-sponsor, and spoke in support of a bill on the floor of the House for the first time this week.

Representative Paris shared with me that he was initially inspired to run for office because of his upbringing, where his family instilled in him to always help where he could. He sees the role of a public servant as the best way for him to utilize his skill set to help people in his district connect with government, and break down barriers for his constituents. We also talked about being a young person in politics. He mentioned it wasn't until a reporter pointed out to him that he realized he is the youngest African American member of the legislature currently serving in the General Assembly. He shared that he is humbled by that fact, and takes this role seriously and is excited to offer a new perspective on things.

Rep. Paris also talked about his love of his district, particularly the Westover area where you can regularly see young families and children out playing and people outdoors being active. Additionally, he is glad to represent the Waterside area, where local businesses play such a large and visible role in the community.
May 14th 1752: A Very Busy, and Unusually Talented Minister

What didn’t he do? Today in 1752, Timothy Dwight IV, minister, scholar, theologian, war chaplain, songwriter, political leader, travel writer, college president, and one of a group of early American poets and writers known as the Hartford Wits, was born. The eldest of 13 children born into an influential family in Massachusetts, Dwight graduated from Yale College in 1769 and shortly thereafter decided to dedicate his life to ministry and education. He was possibly inspired to make this choice by his grandfather, the famous Great Awakening Puritan minister Jonathan Edwards.

After graduation, Dwight taught at the Hopkins School in New Haven and as a tutor at Yale. He then accepted appointment as the minister of Greenfield Hill Congregational Church in Fairfield, Connecticut. While leading that congregation, he also founded a prestigious academy for young boys. During the Revolutionary War, Dwight served with distinction as a chaplain for Samuel Holden Parson’s 1st Connecticut Brigade and was later appointed an honorary member of the Society of the Cincinnati in Connecticut.

Unable to engage in combat by virtue of his ministerial position, Dwight inspired his men to fight by composing patriotic songs, the most notable of which was the song Columbia.

Dwight is best remembered for his leadership of Yale College, where he served as president from 1795 – 1817. Under his tenure, the college experienced rapid expansion and became the largest institution of higher education in the United States. While transforming the college, Dwight also was a prolific author, producing literature, poetry, songs, and a multi-volume account of his various journeys through New York and New England. His 11-volume work The Conquest of Canaan is considered the first epic poem produced in America. Dwight was a member of the “Hartford Wits,” a group of young scholars including David Humphreys and John Trumbull (the poet, not the painter), who wrote a body of satirical verse during the 1770s and 1780s highlighting American virtues and touting Connecticut’s political system as a model of stability and order for the new nation.

Here is a link to the full article - Provided by CT Humanities Council.
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