Jeffrey Berger
Jeffrey Berger CT MIRROR

House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, changed the leadership of a half-dozen committees Friday as he named Rep. Jeffrey J. Berger of Waterbury as the new co-chair of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee and Rep. William Tong of Stamford to lead the Judiciary Committee.

Lobbyists, legislators and other insiders were closely watching for whom Sharkey would entrust with those two crucial assignments: Finance is the committee that sets tax policy, while Judiciary has perhaps the legislature’s farthest-reaching portfolio.

Tong was competing with Rep. Matthew Ritter of Hartford, currently the vice chairman of Judiciary, to succeed Rep. Gerald M. Fox III of Stamford, who did not seek re-election. Rep. Lonnie Reed of Branford, who leads the Energy and Technology Committee, was widely believed to be under consideration with Berger for Finance.

William Tong
William Tong

Ritter’s consolation prize is that Sharkey named him as the co-chair of the Public Health Committee, a post now held by Susan Johnson of Willimantic. She becomes a deputy majority leader. At Finance, Berger will succeed Rep. Patricia Widlitz of Guilford, who did not seek re-election.

“Our chairs bring invaluable experience to their leadership responsibilities, and the necessary enthusiasm and interest for the issues that come before them, that will help ensure their committees are prepared to act in a judicious and timely manner,” Sharkey said in a statement.

Sharkey, who will begin his second term as speaker next year, will have seven deputies, even as his caucus shrinks from 97 to 87 members next year, when Democrats will hold an 87-64 advantage in the 151-member House.

James Albis
James Albis

All the appointments take effect Jan. 7, when the General Assembly convenes its 2015 session.

Unlike Congress, which has House and Senate committees, the Connecticut General Assembly has as a system of joint committees, each with a Senate and House co-chair. The Senate co-chairs have not been announced.

All committees are controlled by Democrats, who hold majorities in both chambers, with the exception of two bipartisan committees: Regulations Review and Program Review and Investigations. Those committees alternate leadership by party.

The new Democratic House co-chairs are: Matt Lesser of Middletown, Banks Committee; James Albis of East Haven, Environment Committee; Berger, Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee; Theresa Conroy of Seymour, Internship Committee; Tong, Judiciary Committee; Auden Grogins of Bridgeport, Planning and Development; and Brian Becker of West Hartford, Regulations Review.

Matthew Ritter
Matthew Ritter

At Banks, Lesser succeeds Tong, who moves to Judiciary. At Environment, Albis succeeds Linda Gentile of Ansonia, who becomes a deputy speaker. At Planning and Development, Grogins succeeds Jason Rojas of East Hartford, who becomes a deputy majority leader. Becker succeeds Elissa Wright as the top Democrat on Regulations Review. She lost re-election.

Sharkey named seven deputy speakers. As recently as 2006, there were only four.

House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, also named seven deputy majority leaders.

House members are paid a minimum of $32,500 annually: $28,000 in salary and $4,500 in additional compensation for expenses, whether they are incurred or not. Legislative salaries have not increased in 13 years.

Committee co-chairs get additional pay of $4,241, while deputy speakers and majority leaders get an extra $6,446. The top-paid House member is the speaker, whose total compensation is $43,189.

The General Assembly has joint committees with a co-chair from the Senate and House. The Democratic majority controls every chairmanship with two exceptions: Regulation Review and Program Review and Investigations are bipartisan panels.

House and Senate Co-Chairs 2015
Democrats control every committee except two bipartisan panels, Program Review and Regulations Review. The House co-chair of Program Review and Senate co-chair of Regulation Review will be named by Republicans. *Mushinsky and Ayala will be ranking Democrats.
Committee House Co-chair Senate Co-chair
Aging Joseph Serra Mae Flexer
Appropriations Toni Walker Beth Bye
Banks Matt Lesser Carlos Leone
Children Diana Urban Dante Bartolomeo
Commerce Chris Perone Joan Hartley
Education Andrew Fleischmann Gayle Slossberg
Energy & Technology Lonnie Reed Paul Doyle
Environment James Albis Ted Kennedy Jr.
Executive & Legislative Nominations Claire Janowski Bob Duff
Finance, Revenue and Bonding Jeffrey Berger John Fonfara
General Law David Baram Andres Ayala Jr.
Government Administration and Elections Ed Jutila Steve Cassano
Higher Education & Employment Advancement Roberta Willis Dante Bartolomeo
Housing Larry Butler Gary Holder-Winfield
Human Services Cathy Abercrombie Marilyn Moore
Insurance & Real Estate Robert Megna Joe Crisco
Internship Theresa Conroy Ted Kennedy Jr.
Judiciary William Tong Eric Coleman
Labor & Public Employees Peter Tercyak Gary Holder-Winfield
Legislative Management Brendan Sharkey Martin Looney
Planning & Development Auden Grogins Cathy Osten
Program Review & Investigations Mary Mushinsky* John Fonfara
Public Health Matthew Ritter Terry Gerratana
Public Safety & Security Stephen Dargan Tim Larson
Regulation Review Brian Becker Andres Ayala Jr.*
Transportation Antonio Guerrera Andrew Maynard
Veterans’ Affairs Jack Hennessy Mae Flexer

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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