By JEN CARDINES
Southington’s Republican state legislators held a public meeting in the John Weichsel Municipal Center on Jan. 18 as part of their Town Hall Meeting tour. Sen. Joe Markley, Rep. Rob Sampson, and Rep. John Fusco used the event to introduce themselves to their constituents and update them on the new legislative session.
As a senator, Markley has a larger district than the state representatives, because there are only 36 senators to the 151 representatives in Connecticut. His district covers all of Southington, Wolcott, and Prospect, along with the east end of Waterbury and the northern side of Cheshire.
“Both of my colleagues’ districts fall entirely in my senatorial district,” Markley said about Sampson and Fusco. As such, they have joined in a united form for the 2017 General Assembly session.
Markley said that the current session could prove to be much different now that the Democrats have a slim majority in the House of Representatives and a tie in the Senate. This year marks the first time in years that state committees are chaired by a Republican and Democrat senator because of the 18-18 tie along party lines.
Markley was appointed co-chair of the Human Services Committee, where he is a veteran member, and vice chair of the Planning and Development committee where he will serve for the first time. He was also appointed to the Appropriations, Public Health, and the Judiciary Committees.
Fusco, who represents only Southington in the 81st assembly district, just began his first term. “I am waist deep, if not chest deep, in freshman orientation,” he told the crowd. Fusco reported that he was assigned to the Aging, Public Safety, and Human Services committees.
“The majority of residents in my district are either seniors or certainly eligible for AARP, so if you look at those three committees, it certainly gives me an opportunity to serve them for good causes,” Fusco said.
In the 80th district, Sampson represents all of Wolcott and the western part of Southington. He was reappointed as the ranking member of the Insurance & Real Estate Committee, where he holds a background as a realtor and insurance agent. Sampson is also serving on the Judiciary committee as well as the Government Administration and Elections committee.
The legislators took questions from the audience and answered questions regarding Connecticut’s current financial crisis.
While discussing budgets, Sampson told the audience that the projections were “right there in the document” during the 2015 budget adoption, so the legislature knew that they were passing a budget that would be in deficit. He said that if people want to see change, they need to put different people in office.
“Sen. Markley and I have promised since the first day we were elected that we would never vote for a tax or spending increase, and we have kept that promise,” Sampson said. “We will continue to do so, so you have allies, and there are a number of us.”
The thin margin between party lines was another popular topic that evening.
Markley talked about the tie in the Senate, saying that “everyday is going to be like Groundhog Day.”
“Everyday you wake up, and it’s the same thing but a different situation,” he said. “Some days there will be great bi-partisanship and everyone will go home and pat themselves on the back. Other days there will be bitter arguments.”
Fusco highlighted the numbers in the state House of Representatives, where Democrats enjoy a majority of fewer than 10 seats.
“Our attitude from our leadership is that we don’t even view that as a majority, we view that as a tie,” the freshman representative said. “We have an opportunity now to push out our agendas in these committees and that’s where it all happens.”
Southington editor John Goralski contributed. For a recording of the forum, visit SouthingtonObserver.com.