“We have an impressive one-two punch of experience and new energy on this team,” Speaker-elect Chris Donovan, D-Meriden, said Thursday morning as he introduced his new leadership team.
The new team doesn’t look too much different than the old team, but there were a few significant changes.
State Rep. Chris Caruso, D-Bridgeport, will no longer chair the General Administrations and Elections Committee, instead he will chair the Regulations Review Committee and become Deputy Majority Caucus Chair.
“I made some changes. Chris certainly was, is a pioneer. He made some terrific changes in terms of campaign finance reform and ethics,” Donovan said.
Rep. Steve Fontana, D-North Haven, will no longer chair the Energy and Technology Committee and will instead chair the Insurance and Real Estate Committee.
It was well known that Fontana and Sen. John Fonfara, D-Hartford, the senate chair of that committee did not get along, but Donovan danced around questions about whether that relationship colored his appointment.
Rep. John Geragosian, D-New Britain, was appointed chair of the Appropriations Committee, which controls the legislature’s spending agenda. The position was left empty when Rep. Denise Merrill, D-Mansfield was elected to the position of Majority Leader.
Donovan said Geragosian served as a member of that committee for 14 years and has the experience to get the job done. And even in the face of a more than $2 billion deficit in fiscal year 2010, Geragosian said he was happy to be able to take on the role as chairman.
Rep. Cameron Staples, D-New Haven, will remain chair of the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee, which controls the legislature’s revenue and tax agenda. After the press conference, Staples said that his committee will be looking at reducing some of the state’s tax credits and exemptions during the first few months of the legislative session which starts in January.
“I don’t think we’re going to be talking about raising taxes anytime soon,” he said.
Capitol insiders have said Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven, had sought the Appropriations chairmanship, but that she may not have been appointed because the Senate Appropriations Co-Chairwoman Sen. Toni Harp, is another New Haven lawmaker. Having two New Haven lawmakers in charge of one of the two most important committees in the legislature may not be considered fair, however, Donovan said a number of considerations came into play as he was making his appointments.
“Geography was one, but also different skills people had,” he said.
Walker was appointed to the chairmanship of the Human Services Committee, replacing Rep. Peter Villano, D-Hamden.
Donovan has not yet finished hiring all his staff members and Merrill is expected to announce her deputies next week.