- Associated Press - Thursday, December 22, 2016

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The two top leaders of the incoming Connecticut state Senate announced Thursday they have reached an agreement on how to manage the chamber, which will have 18 Democrats and 18 Republicans as of January.

The agreement avoids a lawsuit from being filed by the GOP. Already written, the suit questioned whether Democratic Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman had the ability to break a tie vote when it came to leadership appointments.

“It would have been painful, debilitating and not a good way to get started if the whole process started with litigation,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney, D-New Haven. Looney, who underwent successful kidney transplant surgery on Tuesday, was able to finalize the deal over the telephone on Wednesday and Thursday with Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, who will now be known as the Senate Republican President Pro Tempore.

“We didn’t have to do it and that’s a good thing,” Fasano said of the litigation.

Lawmakers return to the state Capitol on Jan. 4 for the new legislative session. It will mark the first time since 1893 the Senate will be equally divided. Democrats still control the House of Representatives.

Under this arrangement, there will be an equal number of Democratic and Republicans senators on legislative committees and each committee will be led by a Democratic and Republican Senate co-chair. The House will continue to have its Democratic co-chair.

The deal allows both Democrats and Republicans to bring out bills for debate on the Senate floor. Members from each party, however, can object to a bill being called.

Fasano acknowledged that Looney will have some more power under the agreement than he will have. But Fasano said he is fine with that, adding how various state laws would have had to have been changed, which would be a time-consuming and complicated process.

“I think that the deal struck by Senator Looney and myself does do a lot in terms of sharing power,” Fasano said.

Norwalk Sen. Bob Duff, a Democrat, will remain the Senate Majority Leader while Canton Republican Sen. Kevin Witkos will serve as Deputy Senate Republican President Pro Tempore.

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