Sharkey has been discussing the potential legislation in more moderate terms than the Senate leaders. He said this week that if bipartisan consensus can't be reached on provisions of the emergency bill to be passed in mid-March, he would set aside a day or two in May for House consideration of additional provisions that Democrats want to approve by the normal, non-emergency process.
But Williams, with unusual bluntness in relation to a fellow Democratic leader, called that a bad idea: "For us to pass a weak bill, and then say that maybe we'll get around [in May] to doing the things that we should have done now … I think would be a disaster for the state of Connecticut."
Asked for a reaction to Williams' comment and Friday's letter, Sharkey's staff spokesman, Larry Perosino, said that the speaker's position hadn't changed: He will sign on to an emergency-certified bill only with provisions approved by the bipartisan task force. "Speaker Sharkey has been committed to the work of the bipartisan task force, and will only sign an e-certified bill that meets the consensus of the task force. And that consensus means there has to be some level of support from each caucus."
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There are four legislative caucuses: House and Senate Democrats, and House and Senate Republicans.
The separation of Williams and Sharkey on the gun issue during the week was not lost on political observers. One veteran Democratic political operative noted that Looney, one of the Friday letter's co-authors, is co-chairman of the task force's key committee on gun violence — the one that probably has irked Williams the most with the slowness of its deliberations.
"I find it interesting that Senator Looney is sending that letter, because he is in effect telling himself to get off the dime," the Democrat said.
Meanwhile, a prominent group of gun control activists in the state is calling on Sharkey to join with Williams and help break the deadlock on Malloy's gun proposals.
"House Speaker Sharkey has been patient in trying to reach a consensus with the Task Force, but it is becoming apparent that a consensus on comprehensive reforms cannot be reached," said Ron Pinciaro, executive director of Connecticut Against Gun Violence.
"Too much time has passed. The three-month anniversary of the Newtown incident is coming up on March 14," he said. "That date should be an absolute deadline for action in the form of a floor vote of the full membership on the Governor's proposals."
Pinciaro said the eyes of the nation are on the state.
"Speaker Sharkey must join with Senator Williams and Governor Malloy for action now," he said.