A man who gave muscles to the Connecticut General Assembly — from his perch at Rutgers

Alan Rosenthal, 81, the Rutgers political scientist who died Wednesday at his home in Princeton, N.J., was hardly a familiar name in Connecticut political circles, but he influenced the dramatic remaking of the Connecticut General Assembly in 1970 from government’s poor stepchild to an equal branch of government.

Connecticut was among the many states that followed his advice in the late 1960s and early 1970s to reform its legislature, which had little staff or independent sources of information and met regularly only in odd-numbered years. Beginning in 1971, the General Assembly has met in annual sessions.

(And yes, some wags will debate whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, especially the growth of partisan staffs.)

But Rosenthal advocated the creation of nonpartisan, professional staffs that could help the legislature provide a degree of oversight to the executive branch.

In Connecticut, reforms inspired by Rosenthal include the nonpartisan Program Review and Investigations Committee and the offices of Legislative Research and Fiscal Analysis. 

His obituary in the New York Times described him fittingly as the man “who reshaped legislatures.”