Connecticut House elects new leadership

Come January, the Connecticut House of Representatives will have a new speaker of the house after the state Democrats held elections last week.

J. Brendan Sharkey, the former House majority leader was nominated and elected for speaker during a meeting of the newly elected House Democrats, but he awaits confirmation by the House at the start of the next session in 2013. But since the Democrats hold a 99-52 house majority, Sharkey will most likely win the nomination, taking the helm from former speaker Christopher Donovan, who left his post during his unsuccessful run for the seat vacated by U.S. Senator-elect Chris Murphy.

As speaker, Sharkey will be responsible for coordinating debate on the House floor, controlling what is discussed and setting the agenda for the majority party and the House. Sharkey also enters his sixth term as a State Representative from Hamden, Conn.

This year’s House will be tasked with assembling the budget and voting on the new energy plan proposed earlier this year by Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, said Gabe Rosenberg, Sharkey’s spokesman. Rosenberg added that Sharkey will continue his advocacy for  growth and attention to issues that matter to different regions of the state following his appointment.

Pat O’Neil, spokesman for the Connecticut House Republicans, also highlighted the importance of the budget within the House agenda this year.

“The deficit that we are facing for the current fiscal year is $365 million, according to the latest report from the Governor, despite the denials of more fiscal problems ahead, that’s the number one priority,” O’Neil said.

The House’s discussion of Malloy’s energy plan and alternative energy, O’Neil said, will happen within the context of repairing the state’s “fiscal health” following several years of a recession. O’Neil described Sharkey as a “very capable and bright” guy, adding that Sharkey was a good House majority leader.

Sharkey was elected majority leader by the Democratic caucus for the 2011-’12 legislative term, serving only two years before his election to speaker last week. He described the 2012 session of the House as “truly historic” in a May press statement, citing progress made with policies related to education reform, natural disaster responsiveness, racial profiling and domestic violence.

He highlighted, in particular, the efforts of the House to deal with the budget deficit.

“A year ago, we dealt with a shortfall in excess of $3 billion — 15 percent of our total budget,” Sharkey said. “This year, the House passed a budget adjustment that keeps appropriations under the state’s constitutionally-mandated spending cap and continues our investments in education and job growth.”

Malloy, though, will need to work with the new Democratic leadership to make his legislative agenda a reality. House Democrats also elected Joe Aresimowicz, a former union president, to fill Sharkey’s role as House majority leader, while Democrats in the Senate re-elected their leadership of Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr. and Majority Leader Martin Looney of New Haven.

“I want to congratulate Brendan Sharkey and Joe Aresimowicz on their new leadership positions,” Malloy said in a press release last week. “From our work to balance the state’s finances to the historic Jobs Bill, we’ve worked together to affect positive changes for state residents. I look forward to working with them and the entire caucus next year.”

Elections for Speaker of the Connecticut House occur every two years.

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