Lawmakers look forward to committee assignments
GREENWICH — With just over a week until they are sworn in, the legislators in the Greenwich delegation are forming a better idea of the work they will be doing when they arrive in Hartford for the new legislative session.
After breaking a lengthy Republican lock on Greenwich’s seats in Hartford, Sen.-elect Alexandra Bergstein, D-36, and Rep.-Elect Stephen Meskers, D-150, will be joining longtime incumbent Reps. Livvy Floren, R-149, and Fred Camillo, R-151, for the next two-year term, which begins Jan. 9.
Last week, Bergstein, Floren and Camillo received their committee assignments in the Capitol.
Bergstein, who ousted longtime Republican Sen. L. Scott Frantz, was named chair of the Banking Committee and vice chair of the Judiciary Committee. The attorney said her background in law will come into play in her new roles.
“Being vice chair of judiciary, one of the most important committees, gives me the opportunity to shape critical policy on gun safety, which is an issue that is a priority for me and for our district. And our country, too,” Bergstein said.
The Banking Committee assignment will allow her to “influence other critical issues such as infrastructure financing and student loan policy,” she said.
Bergstein, who campaigned as a “different kind of Democrat,” said that approach will still apply when she gets to Hartford.
“Labels don’t readily apply to me,” she said. “People may make assumptions about me, but I’m generally not what they expect and that’s a good thing. It’s not where we’re from or what we have that matters. Our conduct and character reveal who we really are.”
In preparation for her first session, Bergstein has met with state Sen. Gary Winfield (D-10), chair of the Judiciary Committee, and began reaching out to colleagues across the aisle to establish common ground.
“I’ve had a warm reception from everyone,” she said. “Legislators in both parties understand we need to restore the fiscal health of our state because that helps everyone, in all corners of Connecticut. And if everyone acts for the best interest of the state, not their party or special interest, we can steer this ship in the right direction.”
Meskers, the first Democrat elected to the 150th District in over a century, said Friday the House Democrats have yet to release their committee assignments. He expects to find out which committees he will sit on in the next week.
Floren, who ran unopposed for her 10th term this fall, is the longest-serving member of the Greenwich delegation.
She has served on of the legislature’s powerful Bonding Subcommittee, which crafts the state’s bonding bill every year that serves as a blueprint for the governor. Rep. Themis Klarides, R-114, the Republican Caucus leader, reappointed Floren to that subcommittee.
Floren will also serve on the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee and to the Insurance and Real Estate Committee.
Her priorities in state spending will remain education, housing as well as community- and school-based health centers, she said. But Floren promised to focus on the state’s bottom line with her work on the Bonding Subcommittee.
Fixed costs, including debt service payments and Medicaid and retirement benefits, make up more than half of the state’s $40 billion budget, which makes the budget work difficult, she said.
“My primary responsibility as ranking member of Bonding is to craft a bipartisan bill that remains under the $1.9 billion bond cap and funds needs, not wants, and must haves, not nice to haves,” Floren said.
On Thursday, Floren expressed optimism that her goal of staying under the cap could be accomplished. The process, she said, will include four days of interviews with every state agency commissioner to determine priorities.
Camillo, who was re-elected to his sixth term in November, was reappointed by Klarides to the Commerce Committee as well as to the Public Safety Committee and Veterans Committee.
The public safety appointment pleased Camillo, who said he has worked in the past on legislation on distracted driving, indemnification for volunteer firefighters and others to provide protection from lawsuits and a good Samaritan law that allows people to help children or animals locked in cars during extreme heat.
Calling the assignment to the Veterans Committee an honor, Camillo pledged to be a “strong voice in support of the men and women who served us in the military.” And he said he was happy to return to the Commerce Committee, which he called one of the most productive groups in the legislature.
“I am always inspired and energized by the truly bipartisan approach we take to each bill we consider, and hope we can make an even greater effort next year to encourage new employers to invest in our state,” Camillo said.
He will also remain on the Higher Education Committee.
Both Floren and Camillo will return as assistant Republican leaders in the legislature, which gives them seniority in the caucus.