The top two legislative leaders in what is now a split state Senate agree on one thing: there’s no agreement yet on how the upper chamber will be organized.
Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney, D-New Haven, and Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, met last week to see if they could figure out how the chamber will be organized when they reconvene in January.
“We had a very entertaining discussion about whether Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman can break a tie with respect to leadership,” Fasano said.
Looney and Wyman have maintained that Wyman, who presides over the state Senate, would be the deciding vote on making Looney the leader of the chamber, essentially acting as a 19th vote to give the Democrats the majority.
“There’s no indication that she can’t break a tie,” Looney said.
But Fasano doesn’t believe the answer is cut and dried as such and is trying to work out some sort of power sharing agreement.
Fasano said he and Looney have known each other for a long time and have been working out various disagreements among their parties for years.
Looney said there are several states where chambers have been evenly split that Connecticut can look at for guidance.
He said there’s Virginia, where the lieutenant governor’s party maintains the majority and that party continues to hold the chairmanships on the committees, but a member of the other party is added to each committee. There are also another options where each party would have equal representation on every committee with a co-chair from each party. Or there’s an option to divide the chairmanships of the 27 legislative committees between the parties and allow Republicans to chair half.
Looney said he’s not in favor of the later option.
Fasano and Looney both said it’s their goal to avoid a floor fight on Jan. 4 by working out a solution.
The tougher question may be about what happens with the role of Senate Majority Leader under a new power sharing agreement.
Senate Rule 18 says, “The majority leader shall be elected by the members of the majority party in the Senate.”
Right now there is no “majority” in a chamber that’s evenly divided.
However, Looney was quick to point out that the rules for the 2017 session have yet to be adopted and he believes the state constitution is the only document they can rely upon for legal guidance.
Kevin Rennie, a former Republican senator turned blogger, suggested there could be a power sharing agreement where Fasano would share control of the Senate calendar with Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk.
Looney dismissed the suggestion.
He said the Senate rules are adopted before the start of the new session so in his mind Senate Rule 18 does not apply.
Both men said they plan to meet again after the Thanksgiving holiday.