Joe Aresimowicz

Position
State Representative and Speaker of the House
District
30th District: Berlin, Southington
Social media
Committees
Legislative Management (vice chair)
Previous Positions
Berlin Town Council
Education
National Labor College
Occupation
Union representative, AFSCME Council 4
Public Financing
Yes
Joe Aresimowicz is the Democratic majority's choice to become House speaker on Jan. 4, the opening day of the 2017 session, succeeding J. Brendan Sharkey. He will have the unhappy distinction of governing with a 79-72 majority that is smallest working majority in the history of the House. In a secret ballot after the November 2012 election, he was chosen over the more conservative Rep. Jeffrey Berger of Waterbury as majority leader. He had no Democratic opposition for speaker.

Aresimowicz is a union employee, a former union president and one of the biggest allies of organized labor and its offshoot, the Working Families Party. But his support for an austerity budget in 2016, which cut union jobs, created a tension with his union allies that is likely to continue in 2017 as legislators struggle to overcome a projected budget shortfall of more than $1 billion in the coming fiscal year.

His dual roles as speaker and an employee AFSCME Council 4 were explored by CT Mirror in May 2016 and are likely to be a continuing element of his tenure. The Connecticut Republican Party has suggested he make a choice: the union or the speakership. House GOP Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, says Aresimowicz’s dual roles as speaker and a union employee would be awkward at times, but he was within his rights staying with his long-time employer.

“Each speaker has had different issues based on what you do for a living,” said Klarides, a lawyer in private practice. “As long as you have a part-time legislature, you’re going to have those issues.”

Aresimowicz says he intends to remain with AFSCME, which represents state and municipal employees. He was given the job of education coordinator to keep him clear of collective bargaining and to allow him the flexibility of teaching classes on organizing and bargaining at nights and weekends.

As coordinator, his union pay has jumped by nearly $26,000 in the three years since he became a leader in the House, rising from $71,128 in 2012 to $79,947 in 2013, $88,742 in 2014 and $97,112 in 2015, according to reports the union files with the U.S. Department of Labor.

Aresimowicz, who like other AFSCME employees has wages and benefits negotiated by a union, said his boss at Council 4, Sal Luciano, has respected his independence as a legislator. “He’s been very understanding. He’s never once questioned me about my voting record. He never once lobbied me prior to a vote on anything,” Aresimowicz said. “I think I am lucky in that respect.”

In 2007, Aresimowicz was one of only five House members to vote against the budget, complaining it was balanced on one-time revenues and was not sustainable. In 2010 he joined seven other House Democrats to vote against a sweeping energy bill that some lawmakers feared might disadvantage consumers.

With a Democrat, Dannel P. Malloy, in the governor's office, the lawmaker known as "Joe A-to-Z" was back in the fold in 2011. He supported a budget that relied in part on labor concessions and savings backed by the leadership of the union that employs him, AFSCME Council 4. Aresimowicz is the education coordinator for AFSCME, which paid him $97,000 in 2015, more double his $43,000 compensation as one of the highest-ranking members of the part-time Connecticut General Assembly. He mostly works with municipal unions to avoid conflicts with his new leadership duties. He does not negotiate contracts, but he does represent some state employees in grievances.

In 2013, Aresimowicz played an unwelcome role in a federal corruption trial. Ray Soucy, a former union official and self-described political fixer, was recorded bragging to Aresimowicz in a phone call about the money his friends, who then were trying to kill tobacco legislation affecting their business, had raised for the congressional campaign of Chris Donovan, then the House speaker. Aresimowicz was not accused of any wrongdoing.

Aresimowicz came to the legislature after three terms on the Berlin Town Council, and he has an important hometown identity apart from politics: He coaches the football team at Berlin High School, a football powerhouse.

He is the father of three children and lives in Berlin.
Election history
Aresimowicz was first elected in 2004, unseating Republican Robert Peters. He is regularly cross-endorsed by the Working Families Party.
Most recent election
Joe Aresimowicz D 6215
Joe Aresimowicz WF 671
Christopher D Morelli R 6389
Financial disclosure
In a Statement of Financial Interest filed, Aresimowicz reported outside wages from AFSCME and the Berlin public schools and investments in several mutual funds.
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