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Legislature kicks off 2013 session today

By Johanna Somers

Publication: The Day

Published January 09. 2013 4:00AM   Updated January 09. 2013 1:04PM
New members will be sworn in; Malloy gives State of State

Hartford - The 2013 legislative session will begin today with the swearing in of 187 state representatives and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's "State of the State" speech.

"I am sure he will discuss all of the challenges in front of us, including what we all recognize we have to do - address in some way the Newtown tragedy - and we have a difficult budget season in front of us," incoming Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, said.

The opening day primarily will be ceremonial, but the governor will address issues faced by the state during the previous two years as well as the Newtown tragedy, said Andrew Doba, communications director for the governor. For the most part, the $1.1 billion budget deficit will not be addressed until February, when the governor puts forth his budget proposal.

Southeastern Connecticut will have three new representatives and two new state senators at today's ceremonies.

Governor's speech

Malloy is expected to speak about the deficit, high unemployment and huge energy costs faced by state residents during the past two years, Doba said.

The administration plans to help encourage job growth by improving the energy sector, he said. For example, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection will continue to develop the Comprehensive Energy Strategy, which aims to improve access to natural gas and efficient energy sources.

Malloy also will speak about how major storms, Hurricane Irene in August 2011, and Hurricane Sandy and a nor'easter in October 2012, affected the state, Doba said.

The Newtown tragedy and the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission also are on the agenda. The commission was charged with developing public safety recommendations by March 15, focusing on school safety, mental health and gun-violence prevention measures. Scott Jackson, mayor of Hamden, will lead the commission and 15 other members with experience in fields ranging from psychiatry to at-risk juveniles to criminal justice will serve on the commission.

Logistics

The swearing-in will begin at 10 a.m. In the Senate, 22 Democrats and 14 Republicans will assume office. In the House, 99 Democrats and 52 Republicans will be sworn in. Leadership in the House and Senate will be elected. After these formalities, both groups will come together for the governor's speech at noon in the hall of the House of Representatives.

Because this session falls in an odd-numbered year, the session will last five months and end on June 5. In even-numbered years, the session runs from February to May.

During this longer session, individual legislators and committees may propose bills. In the short session, only committee bills are considered.

This year's bills will focus on economic growth, jobs, spending cuts, gun control, access to mental health and school safety, legislators say.

Southeastern Connecticut

Newly elected legislators from the region include Sen.-elect Cathy Osten, D-Sprague; Sen.-elect Art Linares, R-Westbrook; Rep.-elect Tim Bowles, D-Ledyard; Rep.-elect Brian Sear, D-Canterbury; and Rep.-elect Emmett Riley, D-Norwich.

Linares, 24, will be one of the youngest state senators in decades and one of the first two state senators of Hispanic descent. He credits much of his success to learning from his father's entrepreneurial spirit and work ethic.

"My father was always working when I was younger and never had the chance to teach me how to speak Spanish fluently, but what he did teach me was that no matter who you are or where you come from, if you work hard you can achieve anything in this country," Linares said. "And I believe in the American dream, and I believe in upward mobility."

Linares' family history is one of tragedy and triumph. His father and grandparents immigrated to the United States after the attempt to rid Cuba of Fidel Castro failed, Linares said. Before they fled, his grandfather was imprisoned for opposing communism, he said.

During Linares' campaign he, family members and friends knocked on more than 10,000 doors in six months, he said. He will be celebrating with about 100 of these supporters after the ceremony, he said.

"Unfortunately, I couldn't bring them all into the Senate chamber," he said. "But I am very excited; I can't tell you how honored and humbled I am."

j.somers@theday.com

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