The state capitol reopened for the special session on Thursday, July 23. Yehyun Kim / CT Mirror
The new leaders, Rep. Vincent Candelora, left, and Rep. Matt Ritter. MARK PAZNIOKAS / CTMIRROR.ORG

When Thomas D. Ritter became speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives in January 1993, there was grumbling that he had named three deputy speakers while his predecessor got by with two.

His son, Rep. Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, will become speaker in January with 16 other lawmakers ready to preside in his absence: a deputy speaker pro tempore, an assistant deputy speaker pro tempore, 11 deputy speakers and three assistant deputy speakers.

That is four more deputies than his predecessor, Rep. Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin.

Rep. Jason Rojas, D-East Hartford, the new majority leader, will have nine deputy majority leaders, an increase of one. He also will have 15 assistant majority leaders and 10 others with titles like chief majority whip, majority whip at large, deputy majority whip at large and assistant majority whip.

The title inflation did not begin with the younger Ritter or Rojas, who announced their leadership teams Thursday. It’s been creeping up since the 1980s, eventually getting to where there are more leaders than rank and file. The number of House Democrats with leadership titles in the current term is 52. That’s in a caucus of 91.

Ritter is keeping the overall number at 52 by eliminating assistant slots in favor of deputies, a higher rank that acknowledges seniority — and offers another perk.

“What also drives this is the money,” said Rep. Vincent J. Candelora, R-North Branford, the new House minority leader, who has yet to name his team.

Yes, nearly all the leadership titles come with a stipend, and a deputy makes $2,205 more than an assistant.

The extra pay ranges from $4,241 for assistant leaders to $10,688 for the two top leadership positions, House speaker and Senate president pro tem. And that’s the only way to get a raise in a General Assembly where the compensation has not been increased in 20 years. 

Compensation for rank-and-file members is $32,500 in the House and $33,500 in the Senate. (The compensation is $28,000 in salary, plus $4,500 for expenses in the House, $5,500 in the Senate. The expense stipend is paid in full, regardless of actual expenses.)

The speaker, majority leader and minority leader have discretion under House rules over how many deputies can be named. But the numbers of whips, assistant majority and assistant minority leaders are capped under the rules at no more than 33% of caucus members.

The list released Thursday does not include the co-chairs of 22 standing committees, duty that pays the same as an assistant majority leader. All told, about 70 of the House Democrats, whose numbers will increase from 91 to 97 in the upcoming session, will be getting some extra pay.

 Until Republicans won a House majority in 1984, there was one deputy speaker and one deputy majority leader, plus assistant leaders. The GOP added a second deputy majority leader. 

When Democrats regained control two years later, they added a second deputy speaker to balance things. And they kept going.

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.

Leave a comment