Committee Assignments a Mixed Bag for Latino Legislators


By Wayne Jebian
State Rep. Robert Sanchez
In addition to a growing Latino caucus on the Democratic side of the state House of Representatives, the State Senate begins 2013 with a historical first-ever Latino freshman in each party: Andres Ayala (D-23, Bridgeport) and Art Linares (R-33, Middletown).
Probably the most influential Latino Democrat in terms of committee assignment is state Rep. Robert Sanchez (D-25 New Britain). In just his second term, he has been tapped to be one of two House vice-chairs of the powerful tax-writing Finance, Revenue & Bonding committee.
On the Democratic side of the Senate, the buck stopped with Senate President Pro Tempore Donald Williams (D-29 Brooklyn-Windham) on committee assignments. “This year we had more openings than usual due to retirement,” said WIlliams. “I interviewed each senator and try and accommodate their preferences to the greatest extent possible.”
Andres Ayala secured chairmanship of the committees on Aging and of Regulations Review, vice chair of Public Safety & Security, and a seat on Finance Revenue & and Bonding. Regarding specific assignments, Ayala commented, “I’m very appreciative of the fact that I will be able to chair the Aging committee and be able to make some significant contributions to the seniors that I represent. With Public Safety, we’re going to be front and center as a result of the tragedy in Newtown, working with a lot of these bills that deal with public safety in our school system.”
Ayala conceded that the overall results did not exactly match his Christmas-wish list. He was a bit more pointed than Williams–one might say, disappointed–about the process, stating candidly,  “Understand that a lot of things here at the Capitol tend to be top down, and seniority is kind of a prerequisite for the work that you do up here.” The full list of Democratic Senate assignments can be found at the caucus website.
Looking at committee assignments among Latino House Democrats, the most conspicuous grouping is three out of six House Democrat seats on the Committee on Children going to freshman state Reps. Edwin Vargas (D-6 Hartford), and Christina Ayala (D-128 Bridgeport), as well as Juan Candelaria (D-95 New Haven). Robert Sanchez (D-25 New Britain), starting his second term, acted pleasantly surprised to be tapped for assistant majority leader and vice chairman of Finance, Revenue & Bonding (the latter being the more influential role). Candelaria was named deputy majority leader, Minnie Gonzalez (D-3 Hartford) as majority whip at large, and Ezequel Santiago (D-84 Meriden) will be deputy majority whip.
The person responsible for House assignments is Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey (D-88, Hamden). “The only ones that I don’t pick are the deputy majority leaders who work with Joe Aresimowicz, the majority leader,” he said. “I think I’ve struck a good balance in maintaining the knowledge base that we currently have, plus giving new opportunities for new folks to step up, so I’m very excited about the team we’ve put together.”
Here are the Latino House Democrat assignments:

  • Angel Arce (D-4 Hartford) landed seats on Finance Revenue & Bonding, Housing, and Regulations Review.
  • Christina Ayala was assigned seats on Appropriations, Children, and Housing.
  • Juan Candelaria is now on Appropriations, Children, Higher Education & Employment Advancement, and the Joint Committee on Legislative Management.
  • Victor Cuevas (D-75, Waterbury) will sit on Commerce, Finance Revenue & Bonding, and Insurance & Real Estate.
  • Minnie Gonzalez has seats on Appropriations, Judiciary, and Public Safety & Security.
  • Jason Rojas (D-9, East Hartford) landed the chairmanship of Planning & Development, plus seats on Education, and Finance Revenue & Bonding.
  • Robert Sanchez now a vice chair of Finance Revenue & Bonding, and holds seats on Education and Higher Education & Employment Advancement.
  • Ezequiel Santiago (D-130 Bridgeport) is now vice chair of Labor & Public Employees and a member of the Appropriations and Transportation committees.
  • Freshman Hilda Santiago (D-84, Meriden) will sit on Human Services, Insurance & Real Estate, and Finance Revenue & Bonding.
  • Freshman Edwin Vargas (D-6, Hartford) will serve on Appropriations, Children, and Commerce.

A lone House Republican, Rosa Rebimbas (R-70 Naugatuck) was named a ranking member of the Judiciary committee, and seated on the Government Administration & Elections and Finance, Revenue & Bonding committees.
In the Senate Republican caucus, Linares received seats on the Banks and the Commerce committees, probably a good fit given his business background. With the committees on Education and Children rounding out his assignments, the young senator will have a high profile for a freshman given how active the legislature will likely be in these areas. A full list of the Senate Republican assignments can be viewed at the Republican caucus website.
There are other legislators of interest to Connecticut Latinos because of the districts they represent and the positions they hold, some of whom are listed here: State Sen. John Fonfara (D-1, Hartford) will be the Chair of Finance, Revenue and Bonding, vice chair of General Law, and ranking member of Program Review & Investigations. State Sen. Martin Looney (New Haven, North Haven and Hamden) continues in his long-term role as Senate Majority Leader and is in charge of Executive & Legislative Nominations as well as serving as vice-chair of Legislative Management.
State Rep. Susan Johnson, whose 49th District includes the Latino enclave of Willimantic, is now the chair of Public Health and a member of Finance Revenue & Bonding, Education, and Insurance & Real Estate. State Rep. Patricia Miller (D-45, Stamford) sits on Education and Government Administration & Elections. State Rep. Rick Lopes (D-24 New Britain) is vice chair of Executive & Legislative Nominations and sits on Transportation as well as Finance Revenue & Bonding.