ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AGENCIES TO GO FROM THREE TO ONE?

As state legislators desperately try to find ways to plug the $500 million hole in the current state budget, representatives from the quasi-public Connecticut Development Authority and Connecticut Innovations, as well the state Department of Economic and Community Development, will make a presentation to the Commerce Committee on Thursday. The agencies are expected to testify to the committee on their efforts to help businesses in the current economic climate.

There is talk at the Capitol of combining the three groups into one. The Commerce Committee is co-chaired by state Senator Gary LeBeau (D-East Hartford).

Every agency and commission is waiting to see what will happen to them under any budget deficit mitigation plan. Some have already been whacked with nearly 50% budget reductions. Hopefully, legislators will look to areas of actual waste before gutting the commissions that make a real difference to the people they serve.

Speaking of Sen. LeBeau, he ended his quixotic bid for governor this morning. He gave no particular reason for getting out of the race other than saying he was successful in bringing “jobs” into the debate, “You know, last year I started this campaign with the idea that jobs and Connecticut’s economic future are the most important challenges facing our state,” Lebeau said. “At that time, I, — drawing on my many years of experience chairing the legislative Commerce Committee — was virtually the only one saying this. Now, every candidate has recognized the importance of this issue. I will continue to fight for a more competitive and prosperous Connecticut, most likely by seeking reelection as state senator.”
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This whole issue of funding for the judicial branch v. hiring new judges (patronage appointments) won’t go away anytime soon and is putting some lawmakers, the Rell administration and members of the judicial branch in some very awkward positions.

Just yesterday, the Hartford Courant’s Jon Lender, who writes a column on Sundays, brought us all closer to the situation. He wrote about the Jan. 19 Judiciary Committee hearing (on the effects of the lack of funding for the judicial branch). At that hearing, Rell’s budget chief, Robert Genuario painted a very gloomy picture as far as hiring and other spending by the judicial branch.

Lender, quoting sources, wrote that the very next day, Genuario was deemed qualified by the Judicial Selection Commission. That means he can be hired as a judge. Genuario, a former legislator, is admired and respected on both sides of the aisle. But this puts him squarely in the middle of the controversy. The lack of funding could mean the closing of courthouses, law libraries and possible layoffs.

While this goes on, there are 12 vacancies for judges. They are generally used by the governor and legislative leaders to reward long-time supporters (they have to be deemed qualified by the Judicial Selection Commission). It has been reported in several outlets that judicial officials have said they don’t need 12 new judges, particularly when the branch is being hit hard by the governor’s deficit mitigation plans. Stay tuned.