HARTFORD, Conn. - Republican members of the Connecticut General Assembly have a sense of power they haven’t felt for years, if ever.
After November’s election, the GOP won enough seats to create the first Senate with an equal number of Democrats and Republicans since 1893. And in the House of Representatives, Republicans pared the Democrats’ majority to just six votes from a recent high of 77 in 2009. It was originally seven, but one Democrat resigned this week to take another job.
“The whole thing feels different. The tone from certain people is different, the conciliatory tone versus the aggressive tone,” said House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby. “Because in this business numbers matter.”
Those numbers will likely have an impact on the public policies that make their way out of the state Capitol this year, whether it’s taxes, the minimum wage, jobs or how best to address the state’s continued budget deficit problems. North Haven Sen. Len Fasano, the Republican co-leader of the Senate, said the new numbers means everyone’s ideas will now be up for consideration.
“Before, those doors were closed and you couldn’t get your ideas on the table because they had a one-party-rule system. Now they actually have to listen and see if using our ideas makes sense,” said Fasano, adding how he hopes to help “move this state in a different direction.”
Joe Brennan, president and chief executive officer of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, said he believes more Republicans in a traditionally Democratic-heavy General Assembly will stymie efforts of some Democrats who perennially propose policies like mandatory paid family medical leave or a higher minimum wage - bills CBIA and other groups have claimed will hurt business and the state’s reputation as a business-friendly state.
“I think with the makeup in the legislature, it’s going to be challenging getting that type of legislature through,” he said.
Brennan hopes the new partisan makeup will lead to policies that ultimately encourage companies to grow jobs. The Association pushed that message in the last election. It marked the first time the nonpartisan organization had made independent expenditures in legislative races, supporting mostly Republicans. Of the 14 candidates the organization supported, 10 won.