CTNewsJunkie file photo
Sen. Martin Looney and Sen. Len Fasano (CTNewsJunkie file photo)

HARTFORD, CT — Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate announced Thursday that they have reached an agreement on how to operate an evenly divided chamber.

Senate President Martin Looney will keep his title of Senate President Pro Tempore and Sen. Len Fasano will have the title of Senate Republican President Pro Tempore. Sen. Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, will remain the Senate Majority Leader. Sen. Kevin Witkos, R-Canton, will serve as the Deputy Senate Republican President Pro Tempore.

But more important than titles, the power will be shared equally when it comes to which bills will be raised for a vote.

The agreement, which helps avoid a lawsuit, will give more power to Republicans than they’ve had in the past as the minority party. The recent election saw the Senate shift from a 21-15 majority held by Democrats to an even 18-18 split.

Democrats still hold a slight edge when it comes to debating and voting upon bills because Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, who presides over the Senate, will be able to break a tie vote, according to the state constitution.

Fasano said all four leaders will have to agree upon what bills will be marked “ready” and raised for a vote in the chamber. If there’s a disagreement about a bill, any one of the four leaders can challenge it and ask for a vote of the chamber on whether the bill should be debated.

Presumably, since Wyman is still able to break a tie vote on legislation, Democrats will be able to maintain some sway over the bills raised. However, it’s not a given that the members will vote along with their party every time.

“This agreement will have senators talking and conversing and I think that’s a good thing,” Fasano said.

There will also be an equal number of Democratic and Republican senators on legislative committees and each committee will be led by a Democratic and Republican Senate co-chair. Both Senate chairs will have the right to split a committee, thereby allowing each chair an equal influence over Senate bills and agendas.

Under the agreed upon rule changes, all budget and budget implementer bills presented through the emergency certification process will have to be released to the public at least 12 hours before the Senate takes up any such bill.

Looney, who underwent successful kidney transplant surgery on Tuesday, said in a press release that it was critical “Democrats and Republicans work together to reach a fair compromise to ensure that the Senate is able to conduct its business and move Connecticut forward.”

Fasano said the agreement really springs from the 35-year friendship he’s had with Looney.

He said Looney called him Wednesday from the hospital and they were able to work out one remaining part of the agreement.