While partisan bickering in Washington continues to make headlines, Connecticut lawmakers opened the 2013 legislative session with a renewed sense of bipartisanship.
As former Speaker Chris Donovan handed the gavel over to Speaker Brendan Sharkey, he spoke about that renewed sense of optimism in the political process.
“The air in this chamber is crackling with excitement, ideas, and optimism and over the course of my legislative career I never lost that optimism,” said Donovan, whose Congressional bid failed last year after two decades as a state lawmaker. “We can make a difference in this room. We can make things better.”
He said the House of Representatives is at its best when it works together.
House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero agreed. He said he wants to continue the bipartisanship that helped get the Dec. 19 deficit mitigation bill passed.
The backdrop to those negotiations was the Sandy Hook School shooting that claimed 26 lives. Cafero maintains the two parties came together in the “spirit of Sandy Hook” and the Newtown community.
But facing a $2.3 billion deficit over the next two years, and with sometimes divisive gun-control legislation on the table, finding common ground could be even more difficult if either party excludes the other.
However, no one was willing to talk about what divides on a day dedicated mostly to pomp and circumstance.
“Whether it’s your first year or your 15th year, if you’re not in awe today maybe you’re in the wrong location,” Sharkey said.
He urged the 30 new representatives and their incumbent colleagues never to lose that sense of awe.
He described the legislature as “a unique place where doing the right thing usually trumps politics.”
Up in the Senate five new members took the oath of office Wednesday. The balance of power stayed the same in both chambers with Democrats 99 seats in the House and 22 seats in the Senate. Republicans have 52 members in the House and 14 in the Senate.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who was to address a joint session of the General Assembly later this afternoon, is expected to talk about how the state and the legislature can come together after the horrific shooting in Newtown.
He is expected to acknowledge that coming together to find common ground won’t be easy, but that everyone needs to be guided by their sense of community and common humanity.