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
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.”
According 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.”
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.
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.”
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
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.”
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
The 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
About 36 hours after the women’s basketball team won the national championship, University of Connecticut’s leaders came to the state Capitol on Thursday to tout a proposed major expansion of the university that includes dormitories at the Stamford campus.
They held a press conference to announce growing support for Next Generation Connecticut, a plan pushed by Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy that would spend $2 billion over 10 years in state and university funds to expand programs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
UConn provost Mun Choi told the crowd in the packed Old Judiciary Room that the university was “the home of the national women’s basketball championship.”
He quickly added, “We’re not here to talk about basketball or athletics. We’re here to talk about an investment” in the university’s future.
That plan includes increasing the enrollment of the state’s flagship university by one third, expanding the number of engineering graduates by 70 percent, hiring more faculty, new research laboratories, and moving the West Hartford campus to downtown Hartford.
The plan is virtually assured of approval because it has the support of Malloy, Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams, House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, and numerous members of the legislature. Continue reading
The liberal Connecticut Working Families Party and the conservative Independent Party of Connecticut probably don’t share a lot of ideological common ground.
But they agree on one issue: ending the practice of cross-endorsements would be a bad idea. The two parties were part of a loose coalition of disparate political groups that spoke out at a public hearing at the legislative office building Monday on Senate Bill 1146, which would ban the practice.
“We think the cross-endorsement process is good for democracy and good for the voters,’’ said Karen Hobart Flynn, senior vice president for strategy and programs at Common Cause.
Connecticut is one of just a handful of states that permits cross-endorsements, also known as fusion voting. Under the system, major party candidates can appear on more than one ballot line. Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s endorsement by the Working Families party was widely believed to have provided the edge he needed to win in the closely contested 2010 gubernatorial election.