Lawmakers from region increase clout in new roles

Southeastern Connecticut state representatives will wield more power in the upcoming legislative session.

In the House of Representatives, the region’s delegation will hold four of the seven deputy speaker positions, the chairmanship of two of 27 committees, one vice chairmanship position on the committees and one ranking member position.

State Reps. Ernest Hewett, D-New London, and Betsy Ritter, D-Waterford, will join Linda Orange, D-Colchester, and Kevin Ryan, D-Montville, as deputy speakers from the region.

“We have more influence, the higher up in leadership we are,” Ritter said.

Ritter had a choice between remaining the co-chairman of the Public Health Committee or becoming a deputy speaker in the House.

“This is a new challenge for me, and I had a choice, and I was very excited to be able to take it,” she said.

Hewett said he kind of knew it was coming, but didn’t believe it until he saw it in writing.

“You never know what is going to happen in Hartford,” Hewett said.

He was thankful that state Rep. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, who is moving from House Majority Leader to Speaker of the House, brought him along from deputy majority leader to deputy speaker, he said.

“I am on top of the world,” Hewett said. “For me, my main goal when I got elected as a representative was to serve New London to the best of my ability.”

As someone who never had the chance to go to college, he said, rising to this level was a “major feat.”

Rep. Ed Jutila, D-East Lyme, was newly appointed as co-chairman of the Government Administration and Elections Committee.

The committee has oversight over the Department of Administrative Services, the public works department, election laws and any constitutional amendments.

He said he wasn’t expecting this committee but was pleased to have been asked.

“It covers a pretty broad range, and it will be an exciting challenge for me personally,” Jutila said.

Rep. Elissa Wright will be the new ranking member for the Democrats on the Regulations Review Committee. As one of the nonpartisan committees, the co-chairman positions alternate between Republicans and Democrats.

The committee essentially makes sure that agencies, developing administrative law to implement statues passed by the General Assembly, do not exceed their authority.

“It’s another check and balance,” Wright said.

Rep. Diana Urban, D-North Stonington, will continue to serve as co-chairwoman the Children Committee, and Rep. Steven Mikutel, D-Griswold, will continue to serve as vice chairman of the Transportation Committee.

Senate members from southeastern Connecticut increased their influence as well.

Sen. Andrea Stillman will be the chairwoman of the bonding subcommittee, which is under the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee.

“We bring together a budget that the legislature will approve,” Stillman said. “It (the bonding subcommittee) sort of sets the agenda for the bonding action by the bond committee in the course of the next two years.”

She will also serve as the vice chairwoman of the Transportation Committee and continue to serve as the co-chairwoman of the Education Committee.

Sen. Andrew Maynard will continue to be the chairman of the Transportation Committee and will be the vice-chairman of the Environment Committee.

“If you look at the way we have come out this time it puts us in a position to do more. I am pleased,” Ritter said.

j.somers@theday.com

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