By JEN CARDINES
HARTFORD—After the ballot was officially cast, a crowd of state representatives chanted, “Joe, Joe, Joe!” as the new Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz entered the House Chambers on Wednesday, Jan. 4.
Even though he knew prior to Election Day that if re-elected, he would be the new speaker, the official nomination and election had to take place during the opening day of the General Assembly session. One of Southington’s representatives is now officially the highest title holder in the House of Representatives.
During his acceptance speech, the family man took a moment to call his young daughter to the podium, saying he could really use a hug, just before championing his loved ones for their support. While he showed his compassionate side, Aresimowicz also stood before the crowd and spoke clearly about his goals for the House this session.
“As I traveled the state this year—although it was an election year, and we’re supposed to be extremely partisan, but I said the only way we’re going to solve the problems in this state this coming legislative session is to put our political parties aside and do what’s best for the State of Connecticut,” Aresimowicz said.
Then, the new Speaker turned to the Republican leaders. “Minority leader, I make that pledge to you, I will do that. We will do what’s best for the State of Connecticut,” he said.
This followed Minority Leader Themis Klarides’s statements on behalf of the Republican caucus for the election of Aresimowicz.
House Republicans have voiced concern about Aresimowicz’s job title with labor unions, but gave their endorsement for his new position. Prior to the election, he sought an ethical opinion regarding any conflict of interest between his full-time career and his role with the legislature.
“That gentleman followed the rules,” Klarides said. “He got opinions, did what we are all asked to do, and because of that there is no apparent conflict in the job he is doing and being Speaker of the House.”
Southington also saw two newcomers Liz Linehan (D-103) and John Fusco (R-81) get sworn into office. “It was an exciting day,” Fusco said. “With so many new legislators this year, there was a tremendous amount of enthusiasm in the air. Every veteran legislator I spoke to has a sense that this will be one of the most challenging sessions in recent times, some even labeling it as historic.”
Fusco was appointed to the Human Services, Public Safety, and Aging committees for the 2017-2019 legislative term. He echoed the Speaker’s theme about bi-partisanship.
“I have no doubt that Connecticut’s elected officials, myself included, are ready to meet that challenge and work together to meet the changing needs of our state,” he said.
Linehan was appointed to the Commerce and Environment committees, the Committee on Children, and Vice Chair of the Veterans Committee.
“To be given a Vice Chairmanship as a freshman legislator is an absolute honor, and I couldn’t be more proud to serve my veterans in this regard,” she said.
The two freshman representatives are prepared for their first term.
“I couldn’t be happier with my assignments,” said Linehan, “and I’m looking forward to diving right in and getting to work.”
The ceremony marked the start of the session.
Photos by JEN CARDINES