Election adds to shake-up on Energy and Technology Committee

The touch of shake-up the election gave to the General Assembly is likely to have an outsized effect on the Energy and Technology Committee. But it's not clear yet -- and likely won't be until next year -- just what that effect will be.

Energy co-chairwoman Rep. Vickie Nardello, D-Prospect, was a surprise loser in her re-election bid. The logical replacement would be Rep. Lonnie Reed, D-Branford, currently the co-vice chairwoman, who has made no secret she'd like to lead the committee one day. All that will be up to the new speaker of the House, expected to be J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden.

But Nardello's loss also shifts a nettlesome dynamic on the committee -- the widely reported tension between her and the Senate co-chairman John Fonfara, D-Hartford. It reached maximum dysfunction last session when the committee's main legislative effort died on the last day of the session, and the chairs pointed fingers at each other more publicly than ever.

Reed, for her part, said at the time: "We cannot have a repeat of this year. We need a more organized approach with a couple of energy goals that everybody agrees to and then stick to that plan." She is also said to have a better relationship with Fonfara.

But it's also not clear that Fonfara will be back as co-chairman. He has not denied that he's interested in chairing the powerful Finance Committee -- he has been its vice chairman -- whose head has retired. But that was before Nardello's loss.

If Fonfara does go to finance, it's not clear who would replace him.

Adding to the musical chairs, committee member Rep. James Crawford, D-Westbrook, lost his race for the open Senate seat left by the retirement of Eileen Daily. And at the end of last year's session, Republican committee member Sen. Kevin Witkos of Canton, resigned from the committee because it posed a conflict with his new job with Northeast Utilities.

In recent years the committee has grown in stature as energy issues have become paramount in the state, especially following the formation of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection in 2011, and the various storms that have pointed out the state's energy vulnerabilities. Now the bottom line is: Its leadership could be vastly altered come January as it moves ahead with those efforts.

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