OP-ED | Winners and Losers—The Special Session Edition
Do you feel happy? I do. And it’s not just any old happiness I’m feeling, either, but the best kind there is: bipartisan joy.
The special session wrapped up, and we got a feel-good jobs bill out of it. We also got a dead-fish scented bundle of stomach-churning risk in the Jackson Labs deal, but the big news here is that everyone, or almost everyone, came together to pick all the low-hanging fruit on jobs. That’s why this edition of winners and losers has mostly winners: because in the new Connecticut, we all win.
· Excitable Gov. Dannel P. Malloy had a great special session. He comes out of it looking like a winner on the economy, and like a bipartisan kind of guy as well. It’s too bad his poll numbers are still terrible, since this is the kind of decisive leadership the public always says it wants. In any case, the president could take pointers on how to get out in front of the pack from this guy. To no one’s surprise, the “Malloy has national ambitions” whispers have already begun. He’s only been governor for ten months!
Our Governor Everything isn’t stopping at budget reform, passing paid sick days and other progressive legislation and bringing jobs to the state. We’ve been promised that 2012 will be all about education reform, which I’m guessing will be like the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object.
· The legislature is in rare form. They have looked, of all things, functional and proactive. If you’ve been following Connecticut politics at any point over the past decade, these are not words usually associated with the legislature. And yet, here we are. They even showed themselves willing to take what can be charitably called a wild risk on Jackson Labs. This is not the slow-as-molasses, risk-averse legislature we’ve seen in years past, and all it took was big majorities for Democrats in both houses and an activist Democratic governor. Why didn’t we think of that before?
· Businesses are finally a winner, in that a lot of the good stuff in the jobs bill was aimed at making Connecticut more business-friendly. From training for workers to matching grants for small businesses to airport economic development zones, this bill is intended to send the message that Connecticut is “open for business.” We’ll see if it does anything to put a dent in the persistent belief that Connecticut is hostile to businesses. It should be a good start, if nothing else.
· Bipartisanship is the word of the day. Republicans have been fighting Gov. Malloy on everything from paid sick days to tax hikes, but here at last was a beautiful moment of bipartisan accord. Of course, the vote on Jackson Labs was still generally partisan despite a few defections from party line here and there, and one of Republicans’ biggest objections was apparently that they weren’t consulted. Bipartisanship, hooray!
· We got a boost to our collective self-esteem this week now that we have a legislature and a governor who seem willing to work together to accomplish useful things, in stark contrast to what’s happening in Washington, D.C. I suspect that’s about to be annihilated by this weekend’s October snowfall, though. Ugh, this place.
· And lastly, wine festivals have been doubled, from one to two. You’re welcome.
· Rep. Chris Coutu (R-Norwich), who said after he was one of the only two legislators to vote against the jobs bill: “You know, the bipartisan thing, I don’t want to say too much, but I kind of laugh and mock that.” Look, I also think the bipartisan warm fuzzies we’re witnessing are basically a lovely piece of Kabuki that won’t translate to the regular session. But you aren’t supposed to say so, and you’re really not supposed to be kind of a jerk about it. On the bright side, if you get elected to Congress (Coutu is one of several Republicans challenging U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney), you’ll clearly fit right in.
· And lastly, we love the idea of divided government, but if nothing else the past few years have taught us that if we want things to actually get done in today’s political environment it’s preferable to have one party running the whole show. What this means for our democracy, I don’t know. But that’s reality as it stands.
Susan Bigelow is the former owner of CTLocalPolitics and an author. She lives in Enfield with her wife and cats.