The Connecticut General Assembly was sworn in Wednesday during a brief, chilly outdoor ceremony. It begins the first legislative session that will largely be held remotely.
Due to COVID-19, for the first time in Connecticut’s history lawmakers were sworn in outside and televised their speeches from inside the Capitol.
“COVID-19 has taken away some many things from so many people. If you're fortunate, all you’ve missed is soccer games and basketball games or dance recitals or graduations. If you’re not so fortunate you’ve missed funerals. But I do know this: brighter days are coming in this country and the state of Connecticut,” Speaker of the House Matt Ritter said.
Ritter was sworn in as House speaker by his father Tom Ritter, who served in that role in the 1990s.
Republican Vincent Candelora was sworn in as minority leader. He said he will work with Ritter to make sure the new virtual session is open to the public even if the state Capitol building is not.
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“Everything is going to be recorded on the Internet so people may have more access but at the same time they don’t have the human interaction, that’s lost. That we need to sort of maintain in a different way,” Candelora said.
Around 250 protesters, according to Capitol Police, made their presence known during the ceremony.
They came to object to public health orders enacted by Gov. Ned Lamont and vaccine requirements to attend public school.
“I think I have the right to decide what’s in the best interest of my children. I don’t think it’s right to not be able to go to a public school that I’m paying taxes for it -- it’s just not right,” Dr. Ken Peterson of Groton said.
“We just want to fight for pro-choice and for no mandatory vaccines,” Amy Mrowka of East Hampton said.
Eliminating the religious exemptions to vaccines is one of the many issues lawmakers will debate this year.
“Given where we are in this country and state with this pandemic it’s really appropriate I think to have more of a solemn swearing in because it's leading us up to the heavy task that we have before us,” Candelora said.
The Senate held its ceremony on the south side and voted to election Senate President Martin Looney to a historic fourth term.
“We look forward to all the good work we will do together in the 2021 and 2022 term,” Looney says.
Most of the work will be done remotely.
“Moving forward now we found a way to open up our session, it’s not ideal but it’s a virtual platform and with that platform we need to now start reasserting ourselves as a co-equal branch of government,” Candelora said.