State Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, has been named Deputy Minority Leader of the Senate when lawmakers return to session in January.
Formica will join new Minority Leader State Sen. Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford, as the new leadership of the Senate Republicans, who lost two seats to Democrats in the election on Tuesday and will go into the next session outnumbered 24-12 in the upper chamber.
“It’s an absolute, incredible honor,” Formica said of his new role. “I’m very excited about the position, and I look forward to the challenge. We have a great caucus with very good senators who work very hard, and I’m excited to be a bigger part of that.”
Formica defeated Democratic candidate and labor organizer Martha Marx by an unofficial tally of 25,677 to 24,502 in a re-match of their 2018 race. Formica, who earned the chance to represent the district that stretches from Old Saybrook to New London, and north to Bozrah for his fourth term, praised Marx for her hard work on her campaign.
“I’m coming up on my 30th year of being an elected official between my service in East Lyme and at the Capitol, and usually you get a sense or feel for what’s going to happen, but I really didn’t have one,” Formica said. “I was unsure moving into it, especially given the national conversation.”
Formica said his new leadership role would benefit the district because he’ll be closer to the pulse of what’s happening and more involved in conversations about the direction the caucus should go.
Formica served as the ranking minority member of the Appropriations Committee that has the most input in setting the state budget, and of the Energy and Technology committee, which has taken the lead in the legislature’s attempts to incentivize renewable energy and to hold electric distribution companies like Eversource accountable for their rates and storm response.
Formica said there will likely be some changes to committee assignments because the remaining Republican senators will have to take on the workload left by the two seats that flipped to Democrats.
“There are some new faces in our caucus, and we’re going to sit down and one of the first things we’ll do is ask the senators what committee they would like to serve on,” he said.
Formica said he wasn’t sure if he would remain on the Appropriations Committee, which he explained is almost a full-time job on its own. He was hopeful he would stay on the Energy and Technology Committee.
Formica listed energy policies among his top priorities in the new session – including incentivizing battery storage technology to help the move to the “next generation” of energy production like offshore wind. He also said there will have to be discussions around the regional wholesale energy market administered by ISO-New England that state officials have said doesn’t align with the state’s renewable energy goals.
Formica said there will likely be some fine-tuning to the bill passed in the September special session aimed at holding Eversource accountable for perceived failures in its storm response, and to make the process of setting its electric rates more representative of consumer needs.
“Energy is going to be a big push and an important push, with offshore wind and the pier in New London, and making sure all those issues move forward in the interest of the ratepayers and the people of the state of Connecticut,” he said.
The first priority for the legislature will be straightening out the budget, according to Formica. Projections of the state’s budget deficit have improved over recent months, but the Office of Policy and Management most recently estimated a $1.26 billion budget deficit in this fiscal year.
Formica said finding a resolution to differences over online gambling and sports betting is another priority. Formica has worked with State Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, for several years to promote the interests of the two tribal casinos in southeastern Connecticut in that debate in Hartford. Formica said he hoped lawmakers could reach a bipartisan resolution on the gambling issue, and said he would support the casinos, which he described as “great job creators.”