Today, a visitor to the state House of Representatives might have been surprised to see Rep. T.R. Rowe, R-Trumbull, presiding over a chamber where Democrats dominate, 99-51. But there was no coup.
Rowe was in the chair thanks to one of the enduring and endearing traditions of the House: No matter how partisan or heated the times, departing members take a turn presiding over the chamber in the final days of each session.
They all depart to a standing ovation from both sides of the aisle.
At least 13 of the 151 members of the House will not return next year. Six Republicans and seven Democrats have announced they are retiring from politics or seeking other offices. Others may yet announce departures.
Republicans John W. Hetherington of New Canaan, Clark J. Chapin of New Milford, Lile Gibbons of Greenwich previously took a turn. Christopher Coutu of Norwich and John B. Rigby of Winsted will be invited to the dais before midnight Wednesday.
Democrats to announce this is their last term include Jack Thompson of Manchester, Marie Kirkley-Bey of Hartford, Richard Roy of Milford, Gail Hamm of East Hampton, Melissa Olson of Norwich and Linda Schofield of Simsbury.
Rowe was followed by Rep. Gail K. Hamm, D-East Hampton, who initially declined her time wielding the speaker’s gavel.
House Majority Leader J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, thanked her for relenting.
“We love you very much, and we want to you know that,” Sharkey said.
One departing Democrat won’t need to be invited to wield the gavel: House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan of Meriden is leaving to run for Congress.