HARTFORD -- In recent years, Connecticut lawmakers have pursued groundbreaking public policy initiatives, such as repealing the death penalty, placing controversial new restrictions on gun owners and enacting the nation's first law mandating paid sick days.
But this year, with an abbreviated legislative calendar and the specter of gubernatorial politics hanging over the session, lawmakers are showing little appetite for the type of hot-button issues they have embraced in the past.
Click on the links below to learn more about some of the major issues facing Connecticut legislators when the General Assembly convenes on Feb. 5.
Democrats, who hold majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly, say they will focus on jobs, the economy and consumer issues that directly impact the citizens of the state.
In other words, expect a discussion on tighter rules for telemarketers, not a lengthy and passionate debate on marijuana legalization.
"Though the economy is recovering nationally and in the state, the impact of those improvements are not being felt yet by the average middle and lower income residents of the state,'' said House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, a Democrat from Hamden. "We're trying to focus on those things that can improve the quality of life for folks in those categories.''
On Friday, four days before the session is set to convene, Sharkey and other Democrats unveiled a series of consumer-focused legislative proposals, including new rate disclosure rules for electricity providers and medical privacy safeguards for customers who participate in pharmacy loyalty programs.
In some ways, the small-ball agenda of Connecticut Democrats mirrors the restrained tone set by President Obama in last week's State of the Union speech.
In this so-called short legislative session, which runs for about three months every other year, the focus is supposed to be strictly on budgetary matters. "But that doesn't typically happen and we wind up seeing all kinds of concepts raised,'' said Rep. Vincent Candelora, R- North Branford.
Candelora, a deputy minority leader in the House, predicted that Democrats will play to their base. "We'll see a lot of fingers to the wind on some of these controversial issues,'' he predicted.
One polarizing issue likely to emerge in 2014 is a measure that would permit physicians to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to certain terminally ill patients. A similar bill was raised last year but failed to win the approval of the public health committee.
Advocates are once again pursuing the bill, and Sharkey said he expects it will receive a public hearing and perhaps even receive the committee's endorsement. "Whether it will produce something we'll vote on on the floor I'm not sure, but we want to have the conversation,'' he said.
However a conversation on another potentially divisive issue -- the legalization of marijuana for recreational use -- is unlikely in 2014, legislative leaders say. While several states in the region are aggressively pursuing such a policy, Connecticut is unlikely to join them this year.
"Quite frankly I don't see a groundswell to take up issues like that when we really need to be focused on the meat and potatoes issues like jobs and the economy,'' Senate President Donald Williams said.
Still, lawmakers will devote significant time to a host of other business. "For a short session, it will be a busy one,'' Sharkey said.
One bill that's already on the fast-track is a proposal championed by the women lawmakers from both political parties to establish tighter reporting requirements for sexual assaults on college campuses.
The legislation, which comes in response to sexual assault allegations made by several former and current University of Connecticut students, has already been scheduled for a Feb. 11 public hearing, a signal that lawmakers are motivated to act.
Another proposal that has received bipartisan support is a measure that would crack down on so-called puppy mills, or substandard animal breeders and sellers. On Friday, a legislative task force hammered out a compromise that would require new pet shops to sell only rescue and shelter animals.
The 2013 session was dominated by passionate and divisive debates over guns in response to the Newtown school shootings. With the makeup of the legislature largely unchanged since the landmark gun control bill was approved, critics of the law have no hope of repealing it.
However, some tinkering with the law is likely because some gun owners failed in their last-minute attempts to register now-illegal assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines, as required is now required. Candelora said Republicans will push for a bill that would provide an amnesty period for people who missed the registration deadline.
Another post-Newtown discussion that will likely spill into the 2014 session is a debate over privacy and victims' rights. Last year, state lawmakers approved legislation that bars the public release of crime scene photos and other documents that could be viewed as an invasion of the victim's privacy. The legislature is expected to revisit the issue in coming months.
Lawmakers could also take up several key criminal justice measures, such as lengthy sentences for juvenile offenders and the elimination of drug-free zones around schools, daycare centers and public housing complexes.
In addition to those proposals, Sharkey said he expects lawmakers could start tackling some of the big-picture policies they may address in earnest in 2015, such as promoting regionalism among municipalities, changing the state's tax code and examining how to compensate cities and towns that host tax-exempt institutions such as colleges and hospitals.
"The committees are going to be raising a lot of these topics,'' Sharkey said. "Whether we're going to be able to build consensus on them is probably doubtful. But by starting the conversation this year, we'll be laying the foundation for next year.''Copyright © 2015, CT Now