New administration puts legislative organization on hold

Nine of the two dozen legislative committees have vacancies for co-chairmen as a result of retirements, defeats or promotion, but House and Senate leaders are unlikely to name successors until mid-December.

One reason: They are waiting to see if Governor-elect Dan Malloy creates more vacancies by reaching into the ranks of legislators to populate his administration.

Malloy doesn’t take office until Jan. 5, but he cannot wait that long if he is interested in hiring a legislator who was re-elected in November.

Lawmakers are barred from taking a post in the executive or judicial branches during their legislative terms. Any legislator who takes the oath of office on Jan. 5, the first day of the session, is off-limits to Malloy for two years.

Malloy and his allies have been tight-lipped about potential candidates. His only appointments are Timothy F. Bannon as chief of staff and Colleen Flanagan as the transition press secretary.

Several lawmakers contacted in recent days refused to comment about their interest in joining the Malloy administration. One laughed when told his silence could be taken as an expression of interest.

“No one wants to blow it,” one Malloy adviser said.

But that hasn’t stopped speculation at the State Capitol about who might get picked for jobs from the ranks of current and former legislators.

Republicans say they already have started to think about special elections for seats now held by legislators who close to Malloy or played a key role in his campaign.

One potential target is the seat now held by Sen. Donald J. DeFronzo, D-New Britain, who led a policy group for Malloy during the campaign. He is co-chairman of the transportation committee.

Sen. Andrew J. McDonald, D-Stamford, the co-chairman of the judiciary committee, is a close friend and adviser to Malloy, but he has not signaled to friends at the Capitol that he is inclined to jump branches.

One senior lawmaker said he expects House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan, D-Meriden, and Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, to press Malloy for a sense of his interest in legislators before they settle on committee assignments.

The legislature has joint committees, co-chaired by a senator and state representative.

There are seven House and three Senate co-chairmanships vacant due to retirements, losses or, in the case of J. Brendan Sharkey, a promotion. Sharkey is giving up his control of the planning and development committee to become House majority leader.

The vacancies involve nine committees.

The only committee to lose both co-chairs is the general law committee, which handles legislation relating to many consumer issues. Sen. Thomas A. Colapietro, D-Bristol, lost his race. Rep. Jim Shapiro, D-Stamford, did not seek re-election.

The highest-profile vacancy is the House co-chairmanship of the finance, revenue and bonding committee held by Rep. Cameron Staples of New Haven, who did not seek re-election. Rep. Ryan Barry of Manchester, the banks co-chair, also did not run.

Three others lost elections: Kenneth Green of Hartford, housing; Steve Fontana of North Haven, insurance and real estate; and Ted C. Grazniani of Ellington, veterans affairs.

In the Senate, two Democrats did not seek re-election: Mary Ann Handley of Manchester and Jonathan Harris of West Hartford. Handley is co-chair of the higher education committee; Harris, public health.

Two plum jobs that fall within the purview of legislative leaders also are coming vacant: Kevin Johnston and Robert Jaekle, the Democratic and Republican auditors of public accounts, have filed for retirement and will leave once successors are named.

The governor’s election is likely to change the composition of the pool of candidates for the auditors’ posts.

The end of a GOP administration expands the pool of potential Republican successors, while Malloy’s victory means the post is only one of many that could be available to Democrats.