- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 9, 2018

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy finally turned to humor as he closed out the legislative session for the last time in his gubernatorial career.

Making light of his complicated relationship with the General Assembly during his time in office, the two-term Democrat self-deprecatingly joked he would “spend the next few hours airing some of the grievances” he didn’t get to over the last eight years. He also kidded about how he helped lawmakers reach a bipartisan deal on next fiscal year’s budget, despite not being invited to participate in the talks. Lawmakers approved the budget bill less than an hour before Malloy’s address.

“I’m just so happy that I was able to bring you all together to get a bipartisan budget done two years in a row,” he said, as the surprised legislators laughed, cheered and applauded.

He also made light of his low polling numbers as he prepares to leave office at the end of the year, teasing critics in the room that he looked forward to “coming to your districts and campaigning for you.”

For Malloy, who announced earlier this year that he would not seek a third term, Thursday’s light-hearted approach to his final address contrasted with his often businesslike and sometimes critical demeanor toward lawmakers. While he’s been able to work with the General Assembly to pass measures like the bipartisan gun control bill following the deadly mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, he also has clashed at times with lawmakers over how best to handle the state’s long-running budget problems, which are expected to continue after he leaves office in January.

“It’s very hard to change his mind when he thinks he’s right. But he does care deeply,” said Democratic House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, of Berlin, who said it was “important that (Malloy) closes out his career, talking to us in the Legislature.”

Aresimowicz credited Malloy with making structural changes to state government, noting how none were “all that politically popular” but will put the state on better fiscal footing in the future.

“Having that job is not easy for anybody, regardless of their political party and what they tried to do,” Aresimowicz said.

Malloy’s final session-closing address comes days before Republicans and Democrats will meet over the next two weekends to endorse candidates who might replace him in January. It also comes as GOP contenders already have begun referencing Malloy in campaign advertising and speeches, capitalizing on his low public approval ratings.

Despite his lame-duck status, Malloy proposed a range of legislation this session that touched on everything from criminal justice to clean energy. The House of Representatives on Wednesday, for example, passed a bill that will refocus the use of special parole on high-risk, violent and sexual offenders instead of non-violent ones. The House also gave final legislative approval to a measure Malloy supported that will implement a plan to reduce greenhouse gases by 45 percent by 2030 and require more planning for rising sea levels due to climate change.

Malloy noted in his address how he and the Legislature have accomplished a lot together over the years, including this past session. He pointed to labor agreements that are predicted to save billions over dollars over the next two decades, a budget reserve fund that’s now projected to be more than $1 billion, and a smaller state government.

“He’s a very hardworking man,” said House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby. “He believes passionately in the things he believes in, but unfortunately those things aren’t necessarily things we believe in and the approach of how he does it may not be the most effective. And I think that that’s probably what the biggest issue was (with the Legislature).”

Malloy thanked legislative leaders for their collaboration and candor, adding how being the state’s 88th governor “has truly been the honor of my lifetime.”

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