state legislature

Freshman Lawmakers Ready for 2021 Session

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After campaigning during the COVID-19 pandemic, 20 freshman lawmakers in the House and two in the Senate will be sworn in Wednesday in a chilly outdoor ceremony. 

“When you get into the chamber it really is just so inspiring you really feel the weight of the responsibility we all have,” Jennifer Leeper, a Democrat from Fairfield, said. 

Leeper, who was elected in November, said she hasn’t seen her office yet, but the new legislators had orientation in the House chamber and will get their laptops Wednesday. 

Leeper said leadership has also been great about understanding the challenges of the pandemic on lawmakers like her with young children. Leeper has a 4- and a 6-year-old. 

“There’s more newly elected representatives with young families than ever before whose children are in a myriad of homeschooling vs. in-school learning scenarios,” Leeper said. 

Incoming Speaker of the House Matt Ritter and Majority Leader Jason Rojas also have young families with school-age children. 

“Like so many things in covid this is unprecedented and it will look totally new and different than any swearing in before, but I also think you have to lean into that and find the uniqueness a little exciting and take it for what it is,” Leeper said.

The shift from candidate to elected official is never easy. 

“It’s been a limbo period from Nov. 3 to midnight tonight where I’m not the representative but folks are reaching out to me so I’m in that limbo period which is an uncomfortable place for me to be,” Greg Howard, a Republican from Stonington, said. 

Howard is a police officer and he's one of five new Republican members in the House this year. 

“Walking in there blind tomorrow is somewhat unusual for me and unnerving, but I’ve been talking with other colleagues and some staff up there and I’m pretty confident that tomorrow’s going to go just fine,” Howard said. 

Howard will be allowed to bring his wife and two sons to the ceremony tomorrow. 

“They’re going to skip out of virtual learning tomorrow and get a hands on civics lesson,” Howard said.              

Following the 2020 election, Democrats hold a 97 to 54 advantage over Republicans in the House of Representatives and a veto-proof majority of 24 to 12 in the Senate. 

“I think it’s important to let the public know the legislature is back in session. We understand how difficult this has been for a lot of residents of our state, businesses and we’ve got work to do,” Ritter said. 

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