Wednesday, December 28, 2005

2005: Political Year in Review

2005 has been a very full year in the Nutmeg State. Let's take a quick look back at the major political events of the past year:

January

The year began on a somber note. Gov. Rell, who had been governor for less than six months, had been diagnosed with breast cancer in December of 2004, and underwent a mastectomy just before the New Year. Fears that Rell would suffer the same fate as her predecessor, Ella Grasso, were soon put to rest as the governor made a fast recovery.

Rell was well enough to deliver her first State of the State address, which focused on the smooth transfer of power following John Rowland's resignation. She would later propose what would be the signature piece of legislation for the year: a comprehensive campaign finance reform package.

Serial killer Michael Ross was slated to be executed in late January, but a stay of execution was granted as the death penalty was re-evaluated. The Ross saga would wear on for months before he was finally executed.

The federal investigation of Sen. Ernest Newton was made public.

February

Rell submitted her first state budget to the General Assembly. Among the highlights were an increase in train fare on Metro North to be spent on improvements to the New Haven Line, an increase in cigarette an alcohol taxes and an increase in the gas tax for other transportation improvements.

Democrats called (once again) for the "Millionaire's Tax" to be implemented. Kevin Sullivan criticized the governor's plans as stingy. Several other Democrats followed suit.

March

Democrat Christine Abercrombie won a special election to fill a vacant House seat in Meriden and Berlin.

Rell was criticized for missing a meeting of the Governor's Association, which included the possibility of meeting President Bush. This would be a theme for Rell in days to come: she has often shunned meetings with national figures and other Republicans.

John Orman of Trumbull, a professor at Fairfield University, announced that he would primary Joe Lieberman. He dropped out of the race later in 2005.

John Rowland's sentencing hearing approached while Rowland blamed everybody else for his troubles.

The big news of the month was the legislature's decision to uphold the death penalty. The debate over the proposed repeal inevitably turned to the horrible deeds of Michael Ross, who was scheduled to be executed May 11th.

April

On April 5th, the AP reported that the state would be filing a lawsuit arguing that the No Child Left Behind act of 2002 was illegal.

Rep. Shays admonished Tom DeLay and urged him to step down on April 10th.

On April 11th, Paul Vance of Waterbury announced his candidacy for the 5th District congressional seat currently occupied by Nancy Johnson. Chris Murphy entered not long after that.

However, the most historic event of April took place on the 20th, when Gov. Rell signed civil unions into law. It was the first time that any state legislature had passed this kind of legislation without being compelled by the courts.

May

Municpial elections were held in several Connecticut towns.

The minimum wage was slightly increased.

The Newton investigation plowed onward towards its inevitable conclusion.

Dan Malloy renewed his candidacy for governor following a long, voluntary haitus, during which he was under investigation for corruption. He was exonerated of all charges.

Michael Ross was finally put to death on Friday, May 13th, but the news of the Groton Sub Base's presence on the base closure list overshadowed his execution. Work began immediately to convince the BRAC committee to reverse the DoD's decision.

June

Rell surprised people by proposing full public financing of state elections just days before the end of the legislative session. However, the House and Senate couldn't agree on a final bill, and campaign finance reform stalled.

Rell also signed into law a bill funding stem cell research in Connecticut.

A compromise was reached on the budget, which implemented, among other things, a version of the "millionaire's tax." Republicans were shut out of budget negotiations, much to their dismay.

The Supreme Court decided, in the landmark Kelo v. New London case, that New London could take private land for private development through eminent domain. Almost everyone was horrified by the decision.

July

The General Assembly passed a transportation bill in special session, but didn't address campaign finance reform.

John DeStefano handily outraised his rivals, Dan Malloy and Susan Bysiewicz, and released a campaign DVD that caused some controversy around here.

Diane Farrell announced that she would run against Shays again in 2006.

August

The AP reported that Ernest Newton was offered a bribe by the head of a job training agency.

Rell released an Annual Report that looked suspiciously like a campaign brochure, drawing fire from Democrats.

Connecticut cheered on August 24th, when BRAC decided to keep the sub base open.

September

Connecticut residents pulled together to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Susan Bysiewicz dropped out of the governor's race, citing lackluster fundraising numbers. In response, all of the candidates hoping to suceed her as Secretary of the State jumped out of that race.

Primaries were held across Connecticut. The big news of the night was Waterbury mayor Michael Jarjura's stunning loss to Karen Mulcahy. Jarjura pledged to run as a write-in candidate.

Sen. Ernest Newton resigned his seat on September 15th. He would later plead guilty to three felony charges.

October

New Haven Mayor John DeStefano's office caused a flap over immigration by releasing a plan that would give ID cards to illegal immigrants. The plan was later rescinded.

Both Jodi Rell and Richard Blumenthal did what everyone was expecting them to do: She got in while he stayed out.

A special session of the legislature convened in October, and quickly passed heating assistance and contracting reform. The contracting reform bill would later be vetoed by the governor.

November

Municipal elections were held in November. The biggest story of the night was again in Waterbury, where Michael Jarjura won re-election as a write-in candidate.

Upsets also happened in Torrington, Norwalk and Middletown.

Ed Gomes was elected to replace Ernest Newton in Bridgeport.

December

In another historic first, a comprehensive campaign finance reform package, which included public financing for all state elections starting in 2007, passed and was signed. This was the first time such a system had been enacted by a state legislature instead of a referendum.

Lowell Weicker was rumored to be interested in running against Lieberman, a rumor he later (sort of) confirmed. Lieberman, an outspoken supporter of the administration's war policies, was rumored to be headed for the Pentagon.

Lisa Moody, Rell's chief of staff, found herself in hot water following the revelation of possible violations of state ethics laws. The matter is currently under investigation, and Moody has been suspended for two weeks.

...

Whew. That's the 2005 political year in review for Connecticut! It has absolutely been an action-packed year. Feel free to add in important stories you think should be on this list.

20 comments:

DeanFan84 said...

I thought you said posting was going to be light this week! I can barely keep up...

Genghis Conn said...

This is what happens when I have time on my hands, I'm afraid.

Chris MC said...

Year's not over yet. Now the Lieutenant Governor is weighing in with a stiff jab at Rell. My god, can you imagine Kevin Sullivan just across the lobby, watching this mess and holding press conferences? No wonder she spends so much time hiding out in Brookfield.

Anonymous said...

Genghis: fantastic review and I'd agree it's been an action packed year in terms of news events and happenings but I'd argue it's not been an action packed year to reverse all the bad many of us think Rowland's policies, which were tacitly endorsed by the Democrats in the General Assembly, brought to CT. DeStefano seems to understand much of this but he hasn't really been able to articulate it any better than Curry nor has he really proposed any solutions other than for us to elect him to replace Rell.

Oops and ChrisMc just weighed in on report from the man of the hour, L.G. Kevin Sullivan. Really wish he'd get back in the race if nothing else he'd push the issues. He received national attention on pushing the impeachment and he was a gentleman every step of the way.

johnnyrainbow said...

Great rundown of what happened this year. I was particularly happy about civil unions, campaign finance, and the crack/cocaine disparity compromise.

I'm actually hoping 2006 proves to be a little more calm. But with the elections heating up, I doubt it.

David said...

Another major news story for this month is that Governor Rell showed leadership and vison in addressing the 22% increase in CL&P's electric rates by issuing a press release saying she is "extremely disappointed that the DPUC (3 of the 5 Commissioners are long-time Republican operatives) approved CL&P's largest-ever rate increase so easily... and that the rate increase is "simply outrageous...".

I am still waiting for more than press releases and taskforces to address problems on her watch.

Anonymous said...

Well, David, we can't all provide the concrete and childishly simple solution to the problem of global energy prices that you have articulated ... That is, I mean, you have articulated your solution, haven't you? You know, the one that has eluded great minds everywhere except, evidently, the Connecticut General Assembly?

Guess we'll have to turn to Dick Blumenthal (who says in a press release that the increases are "savage and unprecedented") for bold leadership in the mean time.

Wolcottboy said...

Leadership and vision?! That's not leadership and vision! That's called whining. A hallmark of Rell's governership - we'll take action after you do something I don't like. Blumenthal has emboldened his office long ago and has more leadership. Sue sue sue!

In The Mood(ie) said...

The LG is right--how can M. Lisa Moody come back to the gov's office when she is under such suspicion? MJR needs to direct she stay at home for a few more weeks while the investigation continues. Has anyone heard that MLM "lawyered up" and isn't cooperating with Morano's inquiry?

Anonymous said...

There is no differsence on this one between Dick 'sue first and ask questions later' Blumenthal and Jodi 'I'm shocked to hear this' Rell. It's a different mix but over on Long Island where LILCO (our equivalent of litlle CL&P + UI) screwed around so long that the distinguished US Senator Patrick Monyhan and others bailed it out with LIPA (an authority) that just last week announced that rates would be flat for the next year and possibly more. The head of LIPA who is a dynamc guy is also talking about some innoative stuff in finding power supply and - aghast - eventually trying to consolidate ( a dirty word on CT) LIPA with New York's other privately run power comapanies as part of a long range plan (another dirty word for CT) to stabilize rates.

David said...

To Anonymous, no I don't have the solution, but I will list some options I'd consider: 1) Ask for the resignations of all the DPUC commissioners because I think it's time for a change, 2) Propose reorganizing the electric rate approval process, 3) Ask the DPUC to give me some options to reduce electric prices within 30 days, 4) propose re-regulating the electric market, 5) Get the State and Municipalities into the power generating businss 6) Buy fuel cells from UTC and other CT fuel cell companies 7) Ask companies/hospitals, that have power generators etc. to start up the plants and ask for an EPA waiver if necessary, 8) Buy oil/natural gas from Venezuela like Massachusetts and NYC, 9) Accelerate uses of biowaste power generation - trash to energy, tires, landfill gas, food oil waste (which her DEP is requiring restaurants, hospitals, schools to remove from the waste stream ASAP).

Anonymous said...

To David from Anon 12:48 and not the one that criticized you, social engineering doesn't lower costs but the private sector when not supported artificially by the govt. as CL&P have been for years will. Blumenthal is constantly blocking free market solutions to energy, insurance, health and you name it. He's running his office like an arm of Ralph Nader instead of doing his job

Anonymous said...

Ask for the resignations of all the DPUC commissioners because I think it's time for a change

By all means, fire them all – off with their heads! That’ll fix the free market system.

Propose reorganizing the electric rate approval process

Perhaps afterward you can fashion the deck chairs on RMS Titanic into a more aesthetically appealing arrangement. Not sure how this addresses global energy prices – responsive though they are to the machinations of the Connecticut regulatory process – but let’s try it.

Ask the DPUC to give me some options to reduce electric prices within 30 days

Because hell, if Dick and Jodi don’t have magic wands surely somebody out there does.

propose re-regulating the electric market

My personal favorite, because nothing makes up for the ham-handed work of the Connecticut General Assembly better than more ham-handed work by the Connecticut General Assembly.

Get the State and Municipalities into the power generating businss

Let’s assume you aren’t suggesting that the state and cities build new power plants – which, I regret to inform you, the Power Plant Fairy does not leave whole, sited and ready to come on line under the pillows of Do-Bee legislators. So that would leave it to the state and cities to buy existing power plants from private companies … How exactly do we pay for this modest investment, assuming they were selling?

Buy fuel cells from UTC and other CT fuel cell companies

This is worth considering, at least for some limited purposes – though the cost issue is, again, unaddressed.

Ask companies/hospitals, that have power generators etc. to start up the plants and ask for an EPA waiver if necessary

Riiiight … instead of the Sooty Six, wait ‘til Connecticut has the Sooty Sixty or Sooty Six-Hundred. And how would these plants be fueled? By good thoughts?

Buy oil/natural gas from Venezuela like Massachusetts and NYC

Let's assume you mean refined product … which we would store where? Distribute how? Pay for with what?

Accelerate uses of biowaste power generation - trash to energy, tires, landfill gas, food oil waste (which her DEP is requiring restaurants, hospitals, schools to remove from the waste stream ASAP).

Apart from the biowaste coming out of the Connecticut General Assembly, you mean? How does this accomplish anything without (again) massive, time-consuming investment?


The point here is not that all but one of these ideas are predictably woolly-headed – they are, but that’s not the point. The point is that politicians bitching about empty rhetoric from politicians - from either side - live in a glass subdivision.

David said...

Boy Anonymous you have anger-management issues - trying hugging a cat. The point really is a leader should LEAD, make a DECISION - not just issue a press release. In my capacity as a legislator I do make decisions all the time. And if I was a full-time Executive with an entire bureaucracy at my command, I could at least make an attempt at a solution to this problem - beyond the old saw let the invisible hand of Adam Smith set the price.

Anonymous said...

That's not anger, David, that's good old fashioned refusing to suffer fools gladly.

Adam Smith didn't have much patience with them either. There's a reason his theories are still around ...

Anyway, until such exalted time as you are a full-time Executive with an entire bureaucracy at your command, you might want to just be still. You do know the "old saw" about being silent and thought a fool rather than opening your mouth and removing all doubt, right?

Anonymous said...

I find it amusing the same liberals who oppose every energy project to increase supply in the state are shocked and dismayed and blame some commissioners when electric rates go up.

CL&P warned years ago this would happen. Evidently the Left simply was deaf

Anonymous said...

If the legislature was interested in reducing rates they would follow the lead of other states and allow municipalities to arrange for the purchase of electricty for their constituents. This wuold automatically reduce rates by the acquisition charge that CL&P collects now ($40 million per annum) and actually create competition in the market. So long as CL&P has a strangle hold on the legislature it won't happen. They might also consider taking back the $20 million they gave NU, for doing absolutely nothing, in last year's Energy Independence bill. I wish I could get that kind of gift from the legislature!

Anonymous said...

letting the City of LA have a municipal electic company didn;t prevent the California power crisis some years ago

hey, how about having CRRA buy some fuel cells from Enron?

Tired of Anonymous Spammers said...

I've had no problem with anonymous posters, but this obnoxious spammer, who has to take up four consecutive posts to make a single point, is making me into an advocate for compulsory registration.

Gene Parmesean said...

Very impressive Genghis. Here's to another good year here on what is probably the best Connecticut political blog.