HARTFORD, CT — Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, will undergo kidney transplant surgery today before being able to reach an agreement with Senate Republicans over how the now evenly divided upper chamber is organized.
Looney and Fasano met Friday and continued those discussions through the weekend and Monday.
“Marty and I had a fruitful conversation yesterday,” Fasano said Tuesday morning. “It was gracious of him considering his pending surgery.”
The Senate, which had been held by a 21-15 Democratic majority, will be split 18-18 between the parties when the 2017 session opens.
Fasano said he expects they will resume those discussions when Looney returns home following surgery. If all goes as planned Looney is expected to be released from the hospital by Christmas and said he expects to be at the state Capitol on opening day, Jan. 4.
Meanwhile, there’s still a disagreement about whether Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman should be able to break a tie vote when it comes to re-electing Looney president pro tem of the Senate on opening day.
Democrats insist that Wyman has the ability to break a tie vote on leadership, but Republicans are willing to challenge that notion, possibly in court, if they don’t get any say in what legislation is debated in the chamber.
The question for Republicans has been who is able to control the agenda on the floor of the Senate and decide which bills are raised for a vote.
“The conversations are moving in the right direction,” Fasano said. “I suspect we’ll have an agreement sooner rather than later.”
A spokesman for the Democratic Senate caucus declined comment.
In the meantime, the lack of an agreement in the Senate has, according to some, held up committee assignments.
There are currently 27 legislative committees, but leadership in both the House and Senate could reach an agreement to reduce the number of committees.
Fasano said he doesn’t believe the power sharing agreement he’s been working out with Looney should interfere with the committee process.
“Whatever we decide it’s not playing a role on who you put on the committees,” Fasano said.
But House leadership has privately expressed concern about naming committees before knowing exactly how many committees there will be.
Aside from foreshadowing what policies may be debated in the new year, there are financial considerations.
Committee chairmen are paid slightly more than rank-and-file lawmakers, so naming someone to a committee and then eliminating that committee would impact more than their ego — it would mean a difference in their legislative pay.
The base pay for lawmakers in Connecticut’s part-time legislature is $28,000 a year. However, if they chair a committee that pay increases by more than $4,000. All the committees are joint committees with chairmen from the House and the Senate.
“There are a couple of outstanding committee questions that require a comprehensive agreement,” House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said Tuesday. Aresimowicz is expected to be named Speaker of the House on opening day. Rep. Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, will replace Aresimowicz as majority leader.
Other leadership assignments, which also come with additional pay, have yet to be announced.
Traditionally, committee chairmanships and leadership positions in both parties are announced by the end of the year following a November election.
This year those who make a living influencing lawmakers may have to wait until opening day for more information.