The revival Thursday of a legislative commission on regional issues is not going to quicken the political pulse, but it says a few things about the new speaker of the House, Rep. J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden.
Unlike the House Democratic version created by his predecessor, this panel is bipartisan and bicameral, involving Republicans and senators. Sharkey says it is a signal of how he intends to run the House.
And then there is the topic itself.
Even in Sharkey’s view, regionalism is a bit wonkish, as most politicians shy away from the decidedly unsexy goal of efficiency, especially when it bumps up against the ingrained New England tradition of local independence.
“In some regards, regionalization can bring savings, but it also is a tough discussion to have on a local level, when so many people want to protect what they have,” said Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford.
In other words, this is a topic that’s boring – until someone gets mad.
But Sharkey has been a voice for regional planning and government efficiency for years, going back to his time as co-chairman of the legislature’s Planning and Development Committee, an important if low-profile committee.
He wants the bipartisan commission to explore new municipal taxing authority, the functions of local school boards, regional entities and state mandates on local government. The taxing authority, by the way, will not include local options, such as allowing towns to adopt their own unique levies.
Rep. Tim Larson, D-East Hartford, a former mayor, will be chairman.
In 2010, Sharkey oversaw the original M.O.R.E. Commission, which stands for Municipal Opportunities & Regional Efficiencies. He says he is open to calling the new version the Even M.O.R.E. Commission.