After legislative fumble, governor to assert authority to pay day care centers

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Friday his legal staff has devised a “workaround” to correct a legislative oversight that could leave the state unable to pay providers of early childhood services, including day care. It was unclear if Republicans will object to the use of his executive authority.

Political bickering on the last night of the legislative session blocked passage of a bill creating the Office of Early Childhood, a popular concept whose passage had been deemed so routine that $127 million in state funds for childcare already had been earmarked in the adopted state budget for the new office.

The legislature’s inaction led childcare providers to worry that the money they currently receive from the state to care for thousands of children will stop flowing July 1, when the new fiscal year begins.

Malloy told reporters Friday that isn’t going to happen.

“We are going to do a workaround. Having said that, it is my sincere hope that the legislature when they come in next will take up the legislative package,” Malloy said. “We have a whole bunch of people who have to be paid, and we have a whole bunch of providers who have to get checks, so we have to do a workaround.”

Malloy’s office has invited Republican lawmakers to attend the signing of an executive order Monday, a spokesman for House Republicans said Friday.

While providing the funding for the childcare is not controversial — the money is budgeted — it was unclear Friday if the administration’s “workaround” would provoke a debate over whether the governor was stretching the limits of executive power.

Malloy offered no details on his order, and a GOP spokesman was uncertain if leaders would comment on the order before they can review it.

Some of the money the office would administer goes to childcare providers directly, while other funds go to low-income parents, who use it to pay for day care.

Maggie Adair, executive director of the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance, called the executive order a necessary step.

“It’s a great relief. We see this as an interim bridge,” she said.

The lack of legislative action on the last night of the session became a blame game.

Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, faulted House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk, for holding the bill hostage in the final hours of the legislative session in an attempt to get a bill legalizing bow hunting on Sundays passed.

But several Democrats involved in the last-night scramble, some in the House and some associated with the administration, did not blame Cafero for enforcing what he thought was one of the routine agreements that ensure a flow of business on the last night.

Williams, who controls the Senate agenda, refused to allow a vote on a bill providing limited Sunday hunting, long a controversial issue in the General Assembly.

Only bow hunting of deer on private property would have been allowed as a part of a deal that would also would have resulted in passage of anti-animal cruelty measure. It also fell victim to the Senate-House conflict.

Each year dozens of bills are passed as the clock runs down before the legislature adjourns, with deals commonly cut to keep business moving. Hundreds of other bills die from inaction.

The new early childhood office was to coordinate the hodge-podge of childcare programs in the state.

As proposed by the governor, it would have been staffed by 71 current state employees in the various state agencies that are responsible for administering programs like Care 4 KidsBirth to Three and School Readiness in various state agencies.

This initiative comes after child advocates have been expressing concerns for years about the lack of coordination and strategy for early childhood.

Connecticut Voices for Children last year reported “there is no method to the madness,” when it pointed out that the state insufficiently monitors early child care programs, and therefore doesn’t know what it’s getting for its annual investment.

Malloy said the fact that the office is built into the budget proves there is legislative intent that would enable him to issue an executive order.

 

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