Yes, I know. There's a special session still waiting, but I think we can put that in, well, a special category.
So how did the legislature do this year? Naturally, the miserable failure of campaign finance reform is looming large in our minds right now, and in most other sessions a failure of that magnitude would doom the entire session. But this General Assembly accomplished so much else of note that it's very difficult to dismiss them out of hand. Let's take a quick look back and see what was accomplished:
Some Notable Accomplishments
Probably the most important bill from a national standpoint. Connecticut is the fourth state to recognize some sort of legal arrangement for same-sex couples, and the first to do so without being compelled by the judiciary. Following pressure from Catholic groups and the governor, a legal "definition of marriage" as being between a man and a woman was placed into the bill despite AG Blumenthal's assurances that the bill would not, in fact, make gay marriage legal.
It was a huge step forward, socially, and it passed without too much of a fuss. Not bad at all.
Minimum Wage Increase
This was a sensible and pragmatic move by the legislature, and (again) it came with the full blessing of the governor. A lot of fiscal conservatives feel that the minimum wage hike will hurt businesses, but I haven't seen any data to back that up from previous hikes. If someone can show me that the negative effect on jobs and the small businesses is greater than the positive effect on poor families, I'll reconsider my stand on the minimum wage, but for now I think it's going to help much more than it will hurt.
Here's something where everyone gets a little something, and no one gets everything they want. Great! The budget increased aid to cities and towns, funded HUSKY and taxed the rich a bit more (but didn't include the millionaire's tax). It came in mostly under the spending cap. It left some issues poorly addressed, like Fairfield County's transportation problems, and it really didn't fix the troubles in nursing homes. But it's a lot better than the last couple of budgets, that's for sure.
Campaign Finance Reform
This was the governor's number one priority, and it failed. It may come back in the special session... but if it doesn't, we've lost a golden opportunity to overhaul the system.
No gas tax=no big transportation plan... I-95 is still a parking lot.
No FOI on email
A bill passed late in the session (with about a minute to go) exempted legislators' email from FOI requests. That by itself doesn't seem fishy... but the way it was done, at the end of the session... that's fishy. The governor vetoed it.
It was an acrimonious session, full of partisan rancor and cross-Capitol sneering, but by and large the legislature accomplished more than it failed to accomplish.
Gov. Rell: She defined herself as a tough moderate who could get things done. Not a bad image for someone facing a mob of Democrats who want her job next year. Despite all the controversy, Rell emerged from the session barely scratched. Yes, she did alienate some of the hard right and the social conservatives, and yes, those on the extreme left will never trust a Republican... but she's going to find a lot of support from just about everybody else.
Democrats: The Democrats in the GA got a lot of their agenda enacted, for once. Good for them! Can't hurt, going into an election year. The leadership, now...
Connecticut's Image: Hey, it really couldn't get any worse. Better to be known for civil unions than John Rowland.
Republicans: By bypassing the GOP caucus to negotiate directly with the Democratic leadership, Governor Rell showed us just how unimportant the tiny GOP minority is, and how fragile the state Republican Party has become. There's a good chance that the Republicans won't pick up more than a few seats next year (if any), and lose two of three Congressional races (Simmons and Shays are some of the most vulnerable Republicans in Congress). If they're really unlucky, they'll lose Jodi Rell, too. But let's face it: the GOP isn't going to have a majority in the General Assembly for the foreseeable future. Maybe they should think about why that is.
Democratic Leadership: Speaker James Amann really looked like an idiot during the budget fight, and he looked even worse when he kept campaign finance reform off the special session agenda. Senate President Pro Tempore Donald Williams, who refused to compromise or even meet with Amann or Rell more than once or twice in the final days of the session, is getting a lot of the blame for campaign finance reform's failure. Both were played by Rell at some point during the session. Neither endeared himself to the public.
So that's it, at least for now. Feel free to add your own ideas about who the winners and losers were this session, and what you think is important that I left off this list.