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Wednesday, January 16 Politics

New General Assembly sworn in with “ambitious goals”

HARTFORD — In the crowded state Capitol, 149 state representatives and 33 senators took the oath of office Wednesday morning, promising to represent their constituents in the now Democrat-dominated General Assembly.

The General Assembly’s longest-serving member, Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said the new Legislature represented an opportunity for unprecedented change.

“More than anything with a new governor and a transformed General Assembly, we have an opportunity to achieve ambitious goals for our state,” he said.

Democrats now hold majorities in the state House and Senate, as well as the governor’s office, giving them an open door to turn their priorities into law.

The new lawmakers, who flooded the Capitol with their friends and families, reflect many ages, races, genders and backgrounds. Numerous legislators will be serving their first term, but 45 have been in the General Assembly for more than a decade.

Freshmen state senators James Maroney of Milford, Mary Abrams of Meriden and Christine Cohen of Guilford took oath of office side-by-side in the Senate Chamber. They are among 33 new Democrats and eight new Republicans who were sworn in.

“It’s so exciting,” said Rep. Steve Meskers, D-Greenwich, after he was sworn in for the first time. “I feel thrilled. I feel lucky. I feel privileged to sit in a chamber with so much history.”

U.S. Sen Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut could not leave D.C. to see his son Matt Blumenthal take the oath becoming one of Stamford’s state representatives. But the senator watched the ceremony on the Capitol’s TV network and texted his son.

General Assembly Quick Facts

Who was sworn in Wednesday? This is the new General Assembly by the numbers. Some numbers may change following upcoming special elections.

Party

Senate Democrats: 20

Senate Republicans: 13

House Democrats: 90

House Republicans: 59

Note: Connecticut’s General Assembly has 36 senators and 151 state representatives, but five Democratic legislators were not sworn in Wednesday because they are taking jobs in the Lamont administration.

Time in office

Total new legislators: 41

Democrats: 33

Republicans: 8

Total legislators serving for a decade or more: 45

Democrats: 31

Republicans: 14

Race

Total people of color: 30

Democrats: 28

Republicans: 2

Source: General Assembly caucus press secretaries

“He said I look good getting sworn in,” Matt Blumenthal said.

More women were sworn in Wednesday than in previous state legislatures. Following an election in which women pulled off key victories in Connecticut, 60 women were sworn in. That’s eight more than served in the General Assembly in the last term.

Sen. Alex Bergstein of Greenwich dressed in an all-white pantsuit and encouraged her supporters to wear the color associated with women’s suffrage.

Also, 30 people of color took the oath Wednesday. Now 16 percent of the state Legislature is non-white. About 20 percent of Connecticut residents are non-white, U.S. Census data shows.

At 22 years old, Sen. Will Haskell, D-Westport, was the youngest lawmaker sworn in. Looney joked that the tie he wore Wednesday — given to him on Jan. 6, 1993 by U.S. Rep. John Larson — was more than three years older than Haskell.

At least 10 veterans were sworn in, more than 20 attorneys and many teachers, union members and former municipal leaders.

Five Democratic legislators — two state representatives and three senators — who were elected in November did not take the oath of office Wednesday because they have been selected for positions in Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration. Now-former State Rep. James Albis of East Haven, Rep. Chris Soto of New London, Sen. Beth Bye of West Hartford, Sen. Terry Gerratana of New Britain and Sen. Tim Larson of East Hartford resigned their legislative offices Tuesday or Wednesday.

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Their departures will prompt special elections in East Haven, New London, New Britain, and West and East Hartford. Other towns may have special elections if their state representatives decide to run for the three open Senate seats.

On Wednesday, Sen. Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, was re-elected to a third term as Senate Majority Leader, and Sen. Len Fasano, R-North Haven, was again chosen as Minority Leader.

“In this room, we have talent, we have friendships, we have dedication, we have people who care,” said Fasano. “And that’s the combination we need to bring about a strong resolve and a continued pathway that will make Connecticut as strong as it can possibly be.”

Looney was re-elected Senate President Pro Tempore. The oath of office was administered to him by Superior Court Judge Brian Fischer, who gave Looney his kidney two years ago.

In the House, Rep. Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, was named Speaker, Rep. Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, named Majority Leader and Rep. Themis Klarides, R-Derby, named Minority Leader.

emunson@hearstmediact.com; Twitter: @emiliemunson

Emilie Munson|Capitol Reporter

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