Gov. Dannel Malloy delivered his annual State of the State address in Hartford, where he discussed everything from the Newtown school shooting to economic development to energy costs on Wednesday afternoon as state lawmakers headed back for the new legislative session.
The General Assembly convened Wednesday morning. At that time, members of the State House of Representatives and Senate took the oath of office.
"We've come a long way in two years, and we've done it together," Malloy said. "In 2013, let us honor our renewed community and let us honor those we've lost. We have a great deal of work to do."
Malloy addressed a joint session of the Legislature and then delivered his State of the State for the third time since he was elected in 2011.
"It won't surprise anyone that this speech is very different from the one I had first envisioned giving," Malloy said.
Malloy discussed the tragedy that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on Dec. 14. Adam Lanza, 20, shot and killed his mother while she slept at her home before he went to the school and killed 20 children and six adults. He killed himself as police made their way into the building.
"And yet, in the midst of one of the worst days in our history, we also saw the best of our state," said Malloy, who became visibly upset and cried.
During the speech, Malloy thanked all the teachers, parents, law enforcement and town leaders for "bringing comfort and stability to Newtown."
"We can and will affect real change," Malloy said.
In attendance were Newtown First Selectwoman Pat Llodra and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Janet Robinson, who Malloy called some of the town's "finest" leaders.
"It's an honor to have you with us today," he said. "Tested by unimaginable tragedy, your compassion and leadership over the past month has been an inspiration."
Llodra told Eyewitness News that the governor's words were heartwarming, and his call to prevent this tragedy from happening again was encouraging.
"For us to know that people care enough to carry this flag forward in our name is very helpful to us," she said.
Malloy breached the topic of gun control. However, he did not go into specifics about gun control and school safety.
"When it comes to preventing future acts of violence, more guns are not the answer," he said, which was met with a round of applause.
He added that a handgun on the "hip of every teacher" was not the answer, and his goal is to keep the families of Connecticut safe.
Legislators are expected to discuss assault weapons, limiting large magazine clips, better background checks and improving services for those with mental illness.
"The incidents that led to Sandy Hook as we are learning had far more to do than just the weaponry," said Republican Minority Leader Larry Cafero. "It had to do with mental health and a myriad of factors."
Gun activists have fought hard to stop restrictions, however Robert Crook of the Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen said he's willing to listen.
"We have some of the strongest gun laws in the nation with that being said, not saying something can't be done," he said.
"Why should people think things are going to be different," said Senate President Don Williams. "People are galvanized in their effort now to make communities safer and take weapons away from those who harm us."
Following the address, Malloy spoke with Vice President Joe Biden along with other governors about gun violence prevention.
"Washington will be watching closely what Connecticut does because this legislature will be a testing ground for whether meaningful gun legislation is possible," said U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal.
Malloy told those in attendance that two years ago, Connecticut faced the "single largest per-capita deficit in the nation," and the budget passed fixed "more than 90 percent of the problem."
"I know that many of you cast hard votes to fix those problems," he said. "That's the kind of resolve and leadership that we're bringing back to Connecticut."
Lawmakers are forced to grapple with a projected deficit of about $1.2 billion in next fiscal year's $20 billion budget. Malloy said legislators have restructured payments "to reverse years of chronic underfunding."
"We're avoiding our own fiscal cliff," he said. "We didn't kick the can down the road. We picked it up."
Later in his speech, Malloy said that the state government has to "tighten its own belt," which includes cutting some jobs on the state level.
"We've all had to buckle down and make tough choices," he said. "We're going to make more of them in the weeks and months ahead."
Malloy said there is a national conversation on economic development and creating jobs.
"I believe that each one of us in this chamber must approach this session with a core guiding principle," he said. "Until every person in our state who wants a job can find one, we have more work to do."
Malloy also addressed Tropical Storm Irene and October 2011's nor'easter and how they left thousands of Connecticut residents without power for days. He said the emergency response was addressed through two storm panels.
The panel helped get laws passed to hold utility companies accountable and lead to changes in "energy reliability in critical areas."
"These weren't quick fixes or window dressing," Malloy said.
When Hurricane Sandy hit Connecticut, Malloy said utility companies were "more prepared" and the "response was better and faster."
"Once again, we saw a problem and together we addressed it," Malloy said.
In his speech, Malloy said he planned to address electric rates, which are the highest in the continental United States. He said that the electric rates dropped 12 percent.
"We can't stop now," Malloy said.
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