Category Archives: Donald Williams

Highly Unusual: House Speaker Calls Bill, Votes Against It, And Measure Fails

by Categorized: Brendan Sharkey, Donald Williams, Martin Looney Date:

In an unusual move, the Democratic-controlled state House of Representatives strongly rejected a controversial that had been passed the previous day by the Democratic-controlled Senate.

It is rare that the House ever calls a bill and votes it down on the House floor. Instead, the normal way is that the bill is not called at all – to avoid any embarrassment of a bill going down in flames.

That did not happen Thursday as a bill to ban the sale of genetically modified lawn seed was rejected by 103 to 37 on a bipartisan basis.

House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey said it was the first time that he had called a bill as the speaker, voted against it, and watched it voted down on the House floor. He also never spoke once to the bill’s chief proponent, Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams.

“I’ve never, ever been consulted about this bill by anyone in the Senate,’’ Sharkey told reporters after the vote. “The advocates wanted a vote on the bill, so I felt it was most important to have the vote and avoid the distraction that was going to inevitably occur if we kept it on our calendar for days or weeks. … Rather than prolong that, we felt it was important to just go ahead and have the vote, get it done, and move on to the important things we have to do this session.’’

When asked if he was concerned that any of his bills will get bottled up now in the Senate, Sharkey said, “I’m not worried about that at all – just as I believe the Senate is not worried about their bills getting through the House. We work cooperatively together.’’ Continue reading

Anti-Tobacco Activist Not Happy With Pre-K Funding Scheme

by Categorized: Beth Bye, Donald Williams, smoking Date:

A plan by Democratic legislative leaders to fund an expansion of pre-kindergarten programs with money from the Tobacco and Health Trust Fund is drawing blistering criticism from a leading anti-smoking activist.

Pat Checko, a member of the fund’s board of directors, said the money is “not a cookie jar for when [lawmakers] want to do something nice for someone.”

The early childhood education plan calls for the state to spend $200 million over ten years to provide pre-kindergarten classes for as many as 50,000 children. In addition to $10 million a year from the tobacco trust fund, the proposal also requires $10 million annually in bonding costs to pay for new classrooms and other capital improvements.

Checko, who leads the coalition Mobilizing Against Tobacco for Connecticut’s Health, or MATCH, said she supports the concept of expanded early-childhood education for the state’s children. But “raiding” the tobacco trust fund is not the way to do it, she said.

“It flies in the face for what this was intended to be,” Checko said Wednesday afternoon.

At a press conference outlining the pre-kindergarten plan, Senate President Donald Williams said it will yield incalculable benefits for a new generation for children. “We’re doing things that will be consequential not only in the short term but in the long term [and] will touch tens of thousands of lives,” he said.

He also defended the use of the tobacco settlement money.

“I don’t think there’s any greater investment in the health of our children, whether you’re talking about their intellectual and educational health or in fact their physical health than early childhood education,” said Williams, D-Brooklyn.

Sen. Toni Boucher, the ranking Republican on the legislature’s education committee, said she backs the goals outlined by Democrats. But she, too, questioned the funding scheme.

“I’m highly supportive of the concept,” said Boucher, R-Wilton. But she expressed concerns about both the use of the tobacco trust money and the notion of bonding to fund the proposal.

The Tobacco and Health Trust Fund was established after Connecticut and 45 other states sued the tobacco companies for billions of dollars as part of an effort to recoup the smoking-related medical costs of incurred by Medicaid patients. A settlement with Big Tobacco generated an income stream of more $100 million annually. The bulk of the money goes into the general fund, but roughly $10-$12 million is placed in the tobacco trust fund.

Checko said the trust fund money is supposed to be used for smoking cessation and other health-related programs. But under the plan put forth by Democratic lawmakers, $10 million a year will be used to fund operating expenses for the early childhood initiative.

At a press conference Wednesday, lawmakers touted the plan, saying it would help bridge the achievement gap between rich and poor students.

“We believe that this will improve the lives of thousands of children,” state Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford and co-chairwoman of the legislature’s appropriations committee.



Senate President Don Williams Not Seeking Reelection This Fall

by Categorized: 2014 Election, Donald Williams, Gov. Dannel Malloy, Hartford, John McKinney, John Rowland, Larry Cafero, Lowell Weicker, M. Jodi Rell Date:

Donald Williams, the longest-serving Senate president pro tem in state history, surprised his caucus today by announcing that he is not seeking reelection this fall.

Williams, 56, has served in the highest-ranking position in the state Senate for 10 years – surpassing all others in a position that dates back in the legislature to 1845.

At the center of the biggest issues of the day, Williams negotiated state budgets and crafted laws with the past three governors and the past four House Speakers – covering the biggest issues from the death penalty to gun control to improving education.

“It’s been a very difficult decision because I love the institution of the legislature and the Senate,’’ Williams said Wednesday in an exclusive interview with The Hartford Courant. “For a lot of reasons, I feel that this is the right time to move on to other challenges. There’s a little anxiety in that, on the one hand, but I also find that exciting.’’

After declining several times to say exactly what he will be doing, Williams flatly said “no’’ when asked if he would become a lobbyist like other previous lawmakers.

When asked if he would run for higher office, Williams said, “You should never rule something out for the future. I certainly will not be a candidate this fall’’ for any office.

“I’m not leaving this job to take a specific assignment,’’ Williams said. “I plan on exploring thoroughly what my next step will be.’’ Continue reading

Sen. Williams Takes Marrakesh Express

by Categorized: Donald Williams Date:

\"williams-head\"What do politicians do in the off season? Some take junkets to Morocco to \”capture the beauty and vibrancy\” of an \”extraordinary nation.\”

In this case, state Sen. Don Williams, the president of the Senate, is bound for Marrakesh and Casablanca tomorrow, courtesy of \”the high patronage of his majesty the king Mohammed VI.\”

\"kingAccording to the State Legislative Leaders Foundation, which is organizing the trip that Sen. Williams is joining, the group:

will include 23 state legislative leaders and a comparable number of Advisory Council members, spouses and guests will depart for Marrakech and Casablanca, Morocco for SLLF’s first program in Africa. The government of the Kingdom of Morocco, represented by its Ambassador to the United States H.E. Rachad Bouhlal, is planning a program that will capture the beauty and vibrancy of this extraordinary nation in the region known as the Maghreb.

In the kingdom, the New York Times recently noted, \”most politicians are compromised\” and remain subservient to the crown in a country where \”the country’s independent press has been systematically harassed.\”


Malloy on MMA: \”I Don\’t Like the Stuff\”

by Categorized: Brendan Sharkey, Donald Williams, Gov. Dannel Malloy, Uncategorized Date:

Connecticut lawmakers voted on a measure that would legalize and regulate mixed martial arts matches in the state but they didn\’t exactly roll out the welcome wagon.
Top Democrats in the Senate made their distaste for the intense and fast-growing sport abundantly clear, as did Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who is still deciding whether to sign the bill into law.
\"UFClogo\"And about seven hours after the Senate approved the bill, lawmakers voted on language in an unrelated budget bill that could hamper efforts to bring MMA to Connecticut. The measure requires firms promoting MMA matches to pay the healthcare costs of athletes injured during a competition.
\”The language may prohibit the promoters from coming here, we don\’t know yet,\’\’ said Sen. Andres Ayala, D-Bridgeport, a leading champion of MMA in the legislature. \”They\’re going to have to look at this and see if it\’s something they can live with.\”

Continue reading

Lawmakers Announce Suprise Agreement on GMO Labeling Bill

by Categorized: Brendan Sharkey, Donald Williams, Gov. Dannel Malloy, John McKinney Date:

Just a week ago, the drive to require labels on food with genetically modified organisms appeared unlikely win legislative approval this year.

But with just four days left in the legislative session, Senate leaders announced they had reached a compromise on a GMO labeling bill that they hope will be a catalyst for similar laws in other states.

The latest version of the bill, approved unanimously by the Senate on Saturday, requires food manufacturers to label products with GMOs sold in Connecticut as long as four other states anywhere in the U.S. pass similar legislation. The measure now heads to the House, where it has the support of Speaker Brendan Sharkey.

“We…can lead the way in helping moms and dads across Connecticut but I think this will catch on across the nation,” said Republican leader in the Senate, John McKinney of Fairfield. “Somebody has to go first and say to the other states ‘it’s OK.\’ This gives great momentum for advocates in Pennsylvania and New York to push for GMO labeling.”

  Continue reading

Controversial Bill On Legal Notices In Newspapers Still Alive At State Capitol

by Categorized: Donald Williams, General Assembly, Gov. Dannel Malloy Date:

\"newsrack\"A highly controversial bill that threatened to remove municipal legal notices from newspapers suffered a blow Tuesday, but the bill was still alive Thursday at the Capitol.

The bill was placed on the \”foot\’\’ of the Senate calendar, which means that the Senate will not be voting on the measure in the immediate future and possibly will not vote at all. Traditionally, a bill placed on the \”foot\’\’ of the calendar lacks the necessary support for passage. Continue reading

Dems, GOP Squabble Over the Budget

by Categorized: Donald Williams, John McKinney, Larry Cafero Date:
Democrats say the legislature\’s Republican leaders have failed to offer a constructive budget proposal.
Republicans say Democrats are trying to distract the public from the fact that their numbers don\’t add up.
And both sides are accusing the other of \”playing politics.\”
On Thursday, officials with the state Democratic party came to the Capitol. (They had planned to deliver chicken wings to GOP leaders, but their publicity stunt was rebuffed by Capitol police.)

House Approves Bill Legalizing Mixed Martial Arts; Status Unclear In State Senate

by Categorized: Brendan Sharkey, Democrats, Donald Williams Date:

The state House of Representatives voted Tuesday to legalize mixed martial arts, despite some concerns from lawmakers that the sport is particularly brutal.

The bill passed on a bipartisan basis by 117 to 26 with seven members absent.

\”Personally, I\’m not a fan of the sport, but I think the argument regarding the brutality of the sport is precisely the reason why we should be regulating it,\’\’ House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey told reporters after the vote.

\”We\’re one of only two states in the country that does not regulate the sport, so I think we\’re very much out of step where the rest of the country is on this. As the minority leader pointed out, I think we should be erring to the side of regulation as opposed to having a free-for-all on this sport.\’\’ Continue reading

Senate Unanimously Approves Edith Prague As New State Commissioner On Aging

by Categorized: Donald Williams, Martin Looney Date:

\"LastThe state Senate voted unanimously Thursday to approve the nomination of Democrat Edith Prague as the commissioner of the newly created Department on Aging.

The department\’s creation has been part of a 20-year odyssey that has been closely tied to Prague. A former potential candidate for lieutenant governor, Prague had previously held the same position two decades ago under then-Gov. Lowell P. Weicker, Jr.

When Weicker was trying to merge Prague\’s department into the much-larger Department of Social Services at a time of a huge state budget deficit, she objected. When Prague refused to cut her budget, Weicker fired her in a public clash. Continue reading