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Dems Continue To Play Second Fiddle To Malloy

by Hugh McQuaid | Feb 6, 2012 6:30am
(2) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: State Capitol

Christine Stuart file photo

Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, and Sen. Donald Williams, following the signing of the bipartisan jobs bill in October 2011

When Republican M. Jodi Rell was governor, Senate Minority Leader John McKinney said Republican lawmakers showed a willingness to vote against her when they disagreed with her position. It’s something he said Democrats didn’t do enough of last year.

“I think there were a lot of members who would privately say, ‘well I don’t like this or I’m upset about this’ but would still continue to follow and support the governor’s proposals,” he said Friday.

McKinney speculated it might be due to the fact that, while Democrats have been the majority party in the legislature for years, they haven’t had a one of their own in the governor’s office for 20 years. He said he thinks Democrats may part ways with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy over time.

“This is a very new world for them as well,” he said after leaving a meeting with Malloy and legislative leaders.

However, in the lead up to Malloy’s second regular session as governor, he has largely been driving the agenda, laying out a series of proposals centered around education reform. He’s also been taking positions on things such as Sunday liquor sales, a fight he watched from the sidelines last year.

Following a closed-door meeting with the governor and other legislative leaders, House Speaker Chris Donovan said he thought Malloy’s priorities closely aligned with those of his caucus. He didn’t think the governor was necessarily the driver.

“Our caucus feels very strongly about education and the governor does too. That’s great,” Donovan said. “... Gov. Rell thought she was driving the agenda too. We’re working together.”

Donovan said House Democrats have a lot of the same ideas as Malloy but other proposals may come out of the committee process this session. But he didn’t anticipate any areas of disagreement between the Executive Branch and his caucus.

Senate President Donald Williams said while there was a lot of common ground between Malloy and Senate Democrats, their priorities will be different this session. While Malloy has made education reform his top priority for the session, they will be focused on jobs and the economy.

“Of course we’ll have time for other issues like education, energy, consumer protection, but the over riding concern for us is to continue the momentum that we started in the last regular session, the jobs special session, and to do more to help revive the economy,” Williams said.

They outlined their jobs agenda two weeks ago at a Manchester manufacturer. Even if their focus is different this session, Williams said it was nice to have a fellow Democrat in the governor’s office.

“It certainly makes it a lot easier to move priorities across the goal line. When Gov. Malloy comes out and says, ‘I’d like to focus on education reform,’ we know that we’re going to find a significant degree of common ground within his proposals,” Williams said.

“I think the Governor enjoys driving a jobs-focused, progressive agenda,” Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s senior communications adviser, said. “ If you look at some of the things he’s accomplished since taking office, they’re many of the same things Democrats spent years fighting for.  But they were up against Republican governors.”

Still, McKinney recalled some drawbacks to the governor being a member of his own party. He said sometimes it felt as if Republican lawmakers had to “stand on top of a building and scream ‘Fire,’” to get the attention of the press.

“Look, the governor of the state of Connecticut has the largest platform and the biggest, loudest megaphone. That’s the way it is,” he said.

So when the governor takes a position, it’s often seen as the position of his party as well, McKinney said. Democrats in the legislature used that to their advantage, he said.

“If Gov. Rell signed a bill that they liked and we didn’t they said it was bipartisan,” he said.

But if there are any of Malloy’s plans for the year that Democrats don’t like, they haven’t said so yet. The governor hasn’t been entirely supportive of everything they have proposed though.

Malloy seemed lukewarm on Donovan’s proposal on Tuesday to raise the state’s minimum wage. A statement from his office said he “supports the ideals behind this legislation” but “must be mindful of the needs of businesses.”

Later he clarified he wasn’t “slamming any doors. I’m not saying ‘No’ but I’ll watch the debate and perhaps reach a conclusion subsequently.”

On Friday, Donovan characterized Malloy’s position on the issue as “generally supportive.”

There will be at least one area of contention between Williams and Malloy in the coming days, Williams said.

“For me it would be Giants and Patriots this weekend. He’s a Giants fan and I’m a Patriots fan,” he said.

Christine Stuart contributed to this report.

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(2) Comments

posted by: Disgruntled | February 6, 2012  9:37am

Party members may “part ways” after the damage is done but probably not. Dan will blame others for his failings,shout that they are in fact successes,and contiune his scorched earth approach to state government.He is on his own fast track to the next big thing and will pander to the 99% and their “needs”,blather on about hot button issues ,such as childhood education,but his main concern will be the needs of business because he needs their money. An example—CLP customers get $140 and a massive advertising campaign (check right).CLP gets to stay the course…
This tiny,polarized state needs leadership that is concerned about Nutmeggers. It does not need a globetrotting absolutist “big thinker” who might leave a footprint on the state that crushes what little vitality and prosperity that is left.
He is doing on a state level what he got away with in Stamford for thirteen years,only bigger. Santayana and Burke had it right…Nutmeggers are in for an endless GroundHogDay because they seem to “forget” their past…

posted by: Reasonable | February 6, 2012  12:48pm

Gov.Dannel p. Malloy and the Democratic Connecticut General Assembly—continue to BLEED THE STATE DRY! Unfortunately, there isn’t anyone to stop them. So, our “blood bath” will continue.
What else is new?