Welcoming the New Session

February 15, 2012
Senator Witkos speaks with host Jeff Zeiner of Cablevision's "Meet the Leaders" on the opening day of session.

Senator Witkos speaks with host Jeff Zeiner of Cablevision’s “Meet the Leaders” on the opening day of session.

With the arrival of spring just over one month away, recent temperatures have had everyone feeling as if winter never really happened. Spring is a festive season, full of flowers and singing birds. It is also a chance for nature to renew itself, with plants sprouting new leaves and animals returning from southern migrations. Much in the same manner, the General Assembly has an opportunity each year to renew state laws that affect everyone living in Connecticut. Last week, the state legislature reconvened for another legislative session during which senators and representatives propose new possible laws.

On Wednesday, February 8th, legislators from every part of the state traveled near and far to celebrate the first day of session at the State Capitol in Hartford. They were also joined by commissioners, reporters, lobbyists, activists and constituents looking to meet and talk with their legislators or simply revel in the festive atmosphere. Television cameras from many different networks stationed themselves throughout the Capitol to interview as many legislators as possible.

Joining my caucus members for breakfast, I discussed my hopes for the session and caught up with old friends. At 10 a.m., the Senate convened with a prayer and the pledge of allegiance. We then remembered the longtime service of Thomas P. Sheriden, who served as both House and Senate Clerk for many years. We will all miss his distinct voice over the loudspeakers. Next, senators were allowed points of personal privilege to speak about anything they would like to share, usually welcoming guests to the chamber. At noon, Governor Dannel P. Malloy gave the “State of the State” address in which he shared the current condition of state government and his proposals for the legislature to consider during the session.

In reaction to the Governor’s speech, I had a few thoughts and concerns. From education to economic issues, I agree that we must focus on solving these important matters. To accomplish education reform, we must prioritize failing school districts and learn from the successful ones. While rewarding the best teachers, we must also improve the tenure system. During this time of economic uncertainty, we simply cannot continue to raise taxes and increase spending. It was announced today that this year’s budget will see a spending increase of $329 million. Despite the largest tax increase in state history, the non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis currently projects a budget deficit of $144.5 million. You can be sure that I will continue to vote in favor of smart fiscal policies.

Next week, I will be on vacation and my intern will write a column about his background and what he hopes to accomplish during the session. Among the numerous roles that I play in Hartford, I am also chairman of the Internship Committee that oversees the Legislative Internship Program. The General Assembly accepts applications in the fall for internships during the legislative session. We interview and choose the brightest students from all over the state to come and work for a semester with senators, representatives and other staff. In recent years, Director Steve Marcelynas has rejuvenated the internship program and made it a serious educational opportunity. During the session, students work on bill analysis and tracking, spot and in-depth research, drafting news releases and speeches, liaison work and constituent casework. The building really comes alive with the many interns gaining practical experience. It is a learning experience that promises to forge useful skills for students wishing to pursue a career in public service. If you are interested in becoming a legislative intern in the future, please visit the website at www.cga.ct.gov/ISC.