Two Newest Latino Legislators: End of Session Tiring But Rewarding

Rep. Aundre Bumgardner (R) New London
Rep. Aundre Bumgardner (R) New London

Rep. Christopher Rosario (D) Bridgeport
Rep. Christopher Rosario (D) Bridgeport

Bill Sarno

Having endured a 48-hour marathon of debate, caucuses, filibustering and hardball negotiations over a state budget and other bills that ended when the Legislature closed shop at its midnight deadline Wednesday June 3, many legislators looked forward to sleeping late Thursday.
This was not the case, however, for the two first-year Latino members of the House, Christopher Rosario (D-128) and Aundre Bumgardner (R-41). Both welcomed the re-entry into the routine of family life early Thursday morning, even though it came after only a couple of hours sleep.
Bumgardner, the 20-year-old representative from the New London-Groton area, did something he does every morning at 8:30 on weekdays; he took his 11-year-old brother Benjamin to school. He said he had never missed doing this during the current legislative session, except for Wednesday when he did not get home in time.
Legislators had pulled an all-nighter in the Capitol before finally getting to vote on the budget at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. Rosario said veteran legislators told him that they recalled sessions that ended 2 or 3 a.m. but the all-nighter at which some members slept at their desks, even on the floor, was not part of recent memory.
Rosario, who had been called to Hartford for a caucus 10:30 a.m. Tuesday had gotten home for a few hours Wednesday but had to be back by 3:30 p.m. for the sprint to the midnight adjournment. He finally got home around 3:15 a.m. Thursday, spent about a half-hour of family time in the wee hours then got some sleep.
Around 7 a.m., the wake up call came thanks, to his 5-year-old daughter Isabella. Taking care of the youngest of his three children in the morning is something Rosario cherishes. “We are like two peas and a pod,” Rosario said of their relationship with Bella. With his wife Katherine going to work earlier, he handles his daughter’s breakfast and getting her to daycare before he goes to his city job or Hartford.
During the last days of the recent legislative session, this morning quality time was something Rosario had to forego on a couple of occasions.  There also were nights he used the guest room at his mother-in-law’s home in Waterbury, particularly after late sessions when he was due back early in the morning for a caucus or other matters. This stop cut a half-hour off his 55-mile commute from Bridgeport to Hartford, he said.
It is practically a given. especially during the even number years when the two-year budget is on the table, that most state  senators and representatives will have to sacrifice some  time from family, jobs and other interests.
For Bumgardner, who will not be 21 until July, the first year in the House meant temporarily putting his college education on hold. However, the young legislator, who is of Panamanian and African-American descent, says serving in the House is well worth this delay. “I feel very blessed to do what I am doing,” he said Thursday morning.
Serving in Hartford also meant time away from Rosario’s occupation. He is the anti-blight director in Bridgeport’s Office of Planning and Economic Development. Rosario said the city was fairly flexible in terms of his need to be in Hartford some days. “I also put in some early hours and kept in close communication with my staff,” he said, crediting them with doing a good job of covering for him.
Rosario, who is of Puerto Rican descent, takes pride in representing his hometown’s interests. In  a recent Facebook status,  he said: “Everyday I am hustling…. Fighting for Bridgeport.”
The two legislators, who are both members of the Black and Latino Caucus, will return to the Capitol in a couple of weeks to consider a limited agenda of items such as the governor’s Second Chance Society crime reclassification bill, some budget-related items and the transportation package.
Rosario, a member of the legislature’s Transportation Committee is especially eager to get back to work in Hartford because his bill renaming East Street in Bridgeport for the 65th Regiment of Puerto Rico, the Borinqueneers, will be attached to the transportation bill.
The freshman legislator credited transportation committee chair Tony Guerra (D-29) and vice chair Angel Arce (D-4) for not only making sure the Borinqueneer bill advances, but for mentoring him. “They did not say ‘freshman be quiet,’ which often happens, they let me get my feet wet, to get involved.”
Bumgardner said he was especially proud that one of the bills he sponsored, an Act Concerning Anaerobic Digestion, passed both the House and Senate without any opposition and awaits the governor’s signature. This bill supports a program that would allow businesses and farms to send organic waste to anaerobic digestion facilities to generate electricity, heat and compost.
For New London, this program will  open the door for recycling about 5,000 tons of organic waste each year, reducing the cost of using the Preston incinerator where the city is charged by the ton.
Bumgardner said this bill will open up financing for these projects from the Connecticut Green Bank and ultimately this process can be privatized as it has been in California.
As for the $40 billion  battle and its accompanying tax increases, Bumgardner and Rosario came down on different sides in the 73-70 final vote.
“It was an easy No vote,” Bumgardner said. “My district did not support tax increases and voted for Governor Malloy because he said there would not be tax increases.”
Rosario was part of the Democratic majority that passed the budget in the House. He said it was not an easy vote but he “looked at the greater good.”
Aside for the upcoming special session, both legislators plan to resume normal life again.  Bumgardner said that is the first time in a year he has some free time. He intends to spend some of this hiatus taking his brother to the park and even doing some door-to-door work to review what his district is thinking.
Rosario has his city job to resume, but plans to take some vacation time at a resort with his family. He also is catching up with hours of television he missed and recorded, shows like The Flash, Modern Family and Game of Thrones.
Both legislators, recalling the final days of the session and the overnighter, commented that it is nice to sleep in their own bed again.