Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, was named Wednesday as the co-chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, succeeding the long-serving Sen. Toni Harp, D-New Haven, on the eve of an election-year General Assembly session likely to be dominated by fiscal issues.
Harp was elected mayor of New Haven last month, ending the city’s hold on both the House and Senate co-chairmanships of the Appropriations Committee.
Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, announced his appointment Wednesday. He did not name a new co-chair of the legislature’s higher-education committee, a post held by Bye for three eventful years.
“Beth brings passion and an incredible work ethic to the position,” Williams said. “She’s also committed to a collaborative approach. Succeeding Toni Harp is no easy task, but I know that Beth will do a terrific job.”
Fiscal analysts for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the legislature each project a small surplus for the current fiscal year, but a shortfall of as much as $1.1 billion – or 6 percent of annual operating expenses – looms after the next state election.
“I am honored that Sen. Williams has placed his trust in me to oversee this incredibly important position,” Bye said. “The state budget is really a statement of public policy priorities. Toni Harp leaves a great legacy as co-chair of Appropriations, and I’m excited to meet this challenge and follow in her footsteps.”
Bye was elected to the General Assembly as a state representative in 2006, succeeding 13-term Republican Robert Farr, who ran for attorney general. She has easily won all four of her elections. She was elected to the Senate in 2010 and assigned as co-chairwoman of the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee.
Bye is an early childhood educator who formerly served on the West Hartford Board of Education. She has been the director of early childhood education at the Capitol Regional Education Council and the director of the St. Joseph College School for Young Children. She has also taught at Trinity and St. Joseph.
Bye and her wife were the first to be married once Connecticut legalized same-sex marriage in 2008.
Besides West Hartford, Bye represents Bloomfield, Burlington and Farmington in the 36-seat Senate.
As co-chairwoman of higher education, Bye has shepherded legislation that limits how many remedial, non-credit, college courses students can be required to take and pay for before they can start taking courses that count toward their degrees.
She was a key supporter in Malloy’s controversial plans to merge the state’s community colleges, Connecticut State Universities and online Charter Oak College into one system. Last year, amid a trio of controversies at that new system, she called for the resignation of the system’s president. She also helped pass a law that allows undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition at the state’s public colleges.
Malloy praised her selection Wednesday.
“I want to commend Sen. Williams on his selection of Sen. Bye to chair the Appropriations Committee,” Malloy said in an emailed statement. “I have an immense amount of respect for the knowledge and passion with which Beth carries out her work in the Senate – a respect I know many of her colleagues in the General Assembly also share. Beth is a great choice to co-chair this important committee and I look forward to continuing our work together.”