Chris Donovan and James Amann (CTNJ FILE PHOTO)

Speaker of the House Chris Donovan has hired former Speaker James A. Amann as his “senior adviser” at a salary of $120,000. Donovan spokesman Doug Whiting said the new speaker has opted not to hire a chief of staff and instead decided to create a team of advisers, each with their own specialty.

Amann, Whiting said, will advise Donovan on “legislative and administrative matters.” Whiting added that Amann will report directly to Laura Jordan, Donovan’s senior adviser on legal matters.

Amann announced in April that he would not run for re-election, instead, focusing his efforts on a gubernatorial campaign in 2010. The announcement came as surprise to many who wondered how he would maintain his place in the spotlight for a statewide campaign if he no longer held an elected office.

Republican leaders were quick to criticize the decision, which came only a few days after the legislature was forced to cut $123 million from this year’s budget in the face of a deficit that may have grown to $1 billion.

Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, speaking on Dan Lovallo’s radio show on WDRC AM 1360 this afternoon, said that Democrats had turned down a Republican proposal to save $17 million by furloughing state workers.

McKinney (CGA PHOTO)

“We were turned down by the Democrat majority,” McKinney said. “So Speaker Donovan, just as I do, has the ability to hire people to work for our caucuses. The issue is, are we willing, as Republican and Democrat legislators, willing to step up and sacrifice ourselves just as the people are doing right now. And to date the Democrats have said ‘no, we’re not willing to sacrifice’ and the Republicans have been willing to lead on that issue.”

However, Republicans have also hired some former legislative colleagues.

Former state Sen. David Cappiello, who lost his race for Congress in November, recently was hired as a senior policy adviser by the Republican minority. Cappiello will make $103,000 a year in his new position.

The release from Donovan’s office, below, arrived by email at about 2:30 today.
January 16, 2009                                                    
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                            

James A. Amann Named Senior Advisor to Speaker Donovan

House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan (D-Meriden) announced today that James A. Amann, recently retired Speaker of the House and longtime state representative from Milford, has been named Senior Advisor to the Speaker.

In his new role, Amann will provide assistance and advice to Speaker Donovan on legislative and administrative matters, and will assist the Speaker with work groups that focus on key legislative initiatives. In addition, he will help extend the community outreach initiatives of the Office of the Speaker, organizing regional meetings and events with business and advocacy groups across the State.

“Jim Amann has served the State of Connecticut with distinction for more than two decades,” Speaker Donovan said. “His skills at negotiation and consensus building will be particularly welcome at a time when we in state government need a cooperative approach to solving the daunting challenges before us.”

Speaker Donovan, who served as Majority Leader during Amann’s two terms as Speaker, added, “Jim and I worked extremely well together to advance an ambitious House Democratic agenda. I am fortunate that he has agreed to bring his talents and wisdom to my office as we navigate the uncertainty of the economic crisis and address the needs of the people of Connecticut.”

Amann was first elected to office in 1990 and served as Speaker of the House from 2005-2008. Previously, he had served as House Majority Leader during the 2003-2004 Legislative Session and the House Chair of the Insurance and Real Estate Committee from 1993-2000.