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.
Now, starting on Monday morning, Prague will return as the commissioner to the newly created department, which will include 30 employees who are currently working in Hartford for the aging services division at the Department of Social Services.
\”It\’s a long time coming – 20 years,\’\’ Prague told Capitol Watch in an interview after the Senate vote.
Despite suffering a stroke on Christmas Day 2011, Prague has recovered enough at the age of 87 to start working in a new, fulltime job.
\”God\’s been good to me,\’\’ Prague said. \”I\’ve made a full recovery. I\’m able to walk around, to drive my car, to function. I feel very blessed. And here I am. My colleagues did me proud.\’\’
When he nominated Prague, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said he was aware of her past clashes with Weicker.
\”Yeah, I don\’t fight with her,\’\’ Malloy said.
Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, a New Haven Democrat who served with Prague in both the House of Representatives and Senate at different times, said she was \”a leading advocate for working people\’\’ as the co-chairwoman of the legislature\’s labor committee before her retirement from the legislature.
Looney said Prague was \”an informal adviser to seniors\’\’ on purchasing long-term care insurance who had \”a historic role\’\’ as \”perhaps the preeminent advocate for seniors in the state.\’\’
Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams, the highest-ranking senator, said, \”We all know this nominee very well\’\’ from working for 18 years with her in the Senate.
Looney and Williams were the only speakers on the Senate floor before the 36 – 0 vote. A crowd of her supporters in the Senate gallery broke out into applause after the vote.