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Bipartisanship is a priority for leaders in Connecticut's 2023 legislative session

Jessica Hill

Leaders in the Connecticut General Assembly set the tone for their 2023 legislative session on opening day Wednesday — and one word was used in almost every speech: bipartisanship.

House Majority Leader Jason Rojas said lawmakers cannot let disagreements about big issues keep them from working together.

“I try to take every opportunity to remind the public that a lot of good work comes out of us working together as Democrats and Republicans with different political views, but all with the shared goal of working on behalf of our communities,” Rojas said.

House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora echoed his Democratic colleague.

“We share a lot of the concerns that the majority leader had referenced, and we certainly look forward to working with you where we can on a bipartisan basis on those issues,” Candelora said. “And it's not to say that we won't have disagreements moving forward. But again, I think the process is important.”

Rojas said he plans to expand funding for education and to support mental health and addiction services this session. He also wants to address the cost of energy and the effects of climate change.

Senate leaders brought similar sentiments, saying they hope to work together to cut healthcare, energy and housing costs.

Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly said he is hoping to put more money in residents' pockets by cutting state income taxes.

“I know that the governor has proposed this,” Kelly said. “And it would also give people at the lower end a tax break, but maybe not necessarily at the higher end. You can target it to families under $150,000 or $200,000.”

Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff agreed, "but also making sure that we continue to pay down our pension debt, and we fund services in a way that [they] need to be funded to keep our state moving.”

Duff also said every town should build housing affordable for the lower middle class to keep people in Connecticut.

“We will lose people and our economy will stagnate at our own peril if we don't address affordable housing,” Duff said.

Kelly wants the state to use the housing stock it already has before building more, meaning possibly redefining what affordable housing is and improving existing structures to create additional housing.

Last year, several communities blasted similar measures that sought to change language around local zoning in an effort to create accessory apartments.

"One size, top-down, state-mandated zoning policy does not fit all and Fairfield County zoning boards and their local municipal legislative bodies have overwhelmingly and resoundingly voted, on a bipartisan basis, to preserve their local zoning decision-making rights," Alex Harrison, of the advocacy group CT169Strong, in a statement.

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities also released six proposals for the legislative session.

They include addressing the paraprofessional shortage, increasing school funding, increasing payment in lieu of taxes reimbursement (PILOT), allowing municipalities to publish legal notices on town websites, increasing prevailing wage thresholds and supporting firefighter recruitment and retention.

“These proposals are critical, common-sense initiatives to make life better and more affordable for Connecticut families and residents,” Tom Dunn, the mayor of Wolcott and president of the conference, said in a statement. “After careful consideration and input by leaders from towns across Connecticut, we urge the General Assembly to pass these proposals in the 2023 legislative session.”

Democrats outnumber Republicans 98 to 53 in the state House of Representatives, and 24 to 12 in the Senate.

The session will run until June 7, with the Capitol fully open to the public for the first time since March 2020.

Molly is a reporter covering Connecticut. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.