The General Assembly will strain to look productive during the three months of its regular session this year. By their own design, the Democrats who run the House and Senate will not be required to make difficult spending decisions. Last year they gave Democrat and Working Families Gov. Dannel P. Malloy the authority to make sweeping budget cuts if revenue, spending and employee benefit savings do not reach their targets.
The legislature will be out of session when the the budget year ends on June 30, allowing legislators to avoid becoming collateral damage if some of the cushion built into the two-year $40 billion feast of spending isn't enough to cover shortfalls. Nevertheless, it's the nature of politicians to want to look busy. They will take up Malloy's proposal to change public school teacher tenure. Whatever they do, and it probably won't be much, they will hail their own courage and wisdom.
When Malloy set up the straw man of his own bravery for taking up tenure in his State of the State address, he slipped in a fact that undermined his own high regard. To reassure nervous legislators, he mentioned that 31 states, including neighboring ones, have made changes to the system that essentially guarantees a teacher a job after a few years of employment. Malloy does not want to be left out of a public policy fashion that has his bete noir, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ahead of him in the reform sweepstakes.
The legislature will cobble something together, cover it with praise and declare victory. This will pose a dilemma for Speaker of the House Christopher Donovan. He's running for the 5th District Congressional seat being vacated by incumbent and U.S. Senate hopeful Christopher Murphy. Donovan lives on the far left of the political spectrum. Teachers active in their union constitute an important interest group in Democratic politics. Plenty of them will be delegates to the Democratic nominating convention in the spring, where Donovan will face one-term former state Rep. Elizabeth Esty and Kent Democrat Daniel Roberti.
This is a perilous time for Donovan. He is nearing the end of his tenure as speaker. His ability to keep squeezing lobbyists and their clients for donations will disappear after the session ends in May. Persistent calls from his staff members seeking campaign donations have caused growing resentment among the contributing class. Even its members have their limits for shakedowns.
Donovan was a loud supporter of banning lobbyist contributions and forcing the public to pay for state political campaigns. He pilloried special interests and claimed a historic day had arrived when the legislation passed in 2005. The law does not cover congressional campaigns. The siren call of special interest dough is louder than the pull of what he once declared were his guiding principles.
The solicitations will continue, but the responses will ebb. Each bill that moves through the process through defeat or passage frees special interests and members of the permanent government from fear of retribution for failure to raise more money for Donovan.
Neither Esty nor Roberti is as well known as Donovan, but they are competitive in the money sweepstakes. Chilly Esty had $576,541 on hand at the end of 2011, the last reporting period. Roberti had $533,284. Donovan was third with $491,000. Donovan may have trouble matching his opponents in fundraising in an August primary contest.
Esty will continue to benefit from her husband's connections. He's Daniel Esty, the bumbling commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Elizabeth Esty, who's enjoying support from public utility executives, was dangerously coy when WFSB's Dennis House asked her on "Face the State" about her husband's role in the campaign.
As supportive as any other spouse was her reply, suggesting the Estys may lose their ethical way in this race. He's not any other spouse. He's a powerful state official and she should be precise in assuring the public of the limits of his involvement.
Roberti may be Donovan's unhappy surprise. Donovan's gossamer intellect makes young Roberti, who recently moved to Connecticut from a tony Manhattan address, sound almost seasoned. Donovan's that bad on the trail. Substance is his kryptonite. No amount of money can stop word of his non-sequiturs and incomprehensible answers to simple questions from spreading.
Kevin Rennie is a lawyer and a former Republican state legislator. He can be reached at email@example.com.Copyright © 2015, CT Now