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New General Assembly sworn in with “ambitious goals”

January 9, 2019

Under the gold dome of the state Capitol, 149 state representatives and 33 senators took the oath of office Wednesday morning, promising to represent their constituents and the state of Connecticut in the now Democrat-dominated General Assembly.

The General Assembly’s longest-serving member, Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said the new legislature represented an opportunity for unprecedented change.

“More than anything with a new governor and a transformed General Assembly we have an opportunity to achieve ambitious goals for our state,” he said.

Democrats now hold majorities in the state House and Senate, as well as the governor’s office, giving them an open door to turn their priorities into law.

The new General Assembly will reflect many ages, races, genders and professions. Many legislators will be serving their first term, but 45 have been in the General Assembly for more than a decade.

Freshmen state senators James Maroney of Milford, Mary Abrams of Meriden and Christine Cohen of Guilford took oath of office side-by-side in the Senate Chamber. They are among 33 new Democrats who were sworn in. Eight Republican freshmen joined the legislature Wednesday.

“It’s so exciting,” said Rep. Steve Meskers, D-Greenwich, after he was sworn in for the first time Wednesday. “I feel thrilled. I feel lucky. I feel privileged to sit in a chamber with so much history.”

U.S. Sen Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut could not leave D.C. to see his son Matt Blumenthal be sworn in as one of Stamford’s state representatives. But the senator watched the ceremony on the capitol’s tv network and texted his son.

“He said I look good getting sworn in,” Matt Blumenthal said.

More women were sworn in Wednesday than in previous state legislatures. Following an election in which women pulled off key victories in Connecticut, 60 women were sworn in. That’s eight more than are served in the General Assembly in the last term.

Some female Democratic senators wore white to the Capitol Wednesday, a color associated with women’s suffrage. Sen. Alex Bergstein of Greenwich dressed in an all-white pant suit.

Also, thirty people of color took the oath to join the legislature Wednesday. Now 16 percent of the state legislature is non-white. About 20 percent of Connecticut residents are non-white, U.S. Census data shows.

At 22 years old, Sen. Will Haskell, D-Westport, was the youngest lawmaker sworn in. Looney joked that the tie he wore Wednesday — featuring the seal of the state of Connecticut and given to him on Jan. 6, 1993 by Congressman John Larson of the 1st District — was more than three years older than Haskell.

Rep. Livvy Floren, R-Greenwich, was the oldest who took at oath. She is 76.

Five Democratic legislators — two state representatives and three senators — who were elected in November did not take the oath of office Wednesday because they have been selected for positions in the administration of the Governor Ned Lamont. Their seats are likely to remain blue, when filled.

Their departures will prompt special elections in East Haven, New London, New Britain, West Hartford and East Hartford, and perhaps other towns if elected state representatives decide to run for the three open Senate seats.

State Rep. James Albis of East Haven is now a senior adviser to Lamont’s new commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Katie Dykes. Rep. Chris Soto of New London is Lamont’s director of legislative affairs.

Sen. Terry Gerratana of New Britain will be an adviser in the Office of Health Strategy. Sen. Beth Bye of West Hartford was appointed commissioner of the Office of Early Childhood Education and Sen. Tim Larson of East Hartford was nominated to lead the Office of Higher Education. Bye and Larson must have their appointments confirmed by the General Assembly.

The leadership of the House and Senate will remain the same in the new term.

Sen. Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, was re-elected to a third term as Senate Majority Leader, and Sen. Len Fasano, R-North Haven, was again chosen as Minority Leader.

“In this room, we have talent, we have friendships, we have dedication, we have people who care,” said Fasano. “And that’s the combination we need to bring about a strong resolve and a continued pathway that will make Connecticut as strong as it can possibly be.”

Looney was re-elected Senate President Pro Tempore. The oath of office was administered to him by Superior Court Judge Brian Fischer, who gave Looney his kidney two years ago.

In the House, Rep. Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, was named Speaker, Rep. Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, named Majority Leader and Rep. Themis Klarides, R-Derby, named Minority Leader.

emunson@hearstmediact.com; Twitter: @emiliemunson

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