After declining to address the closing session of the General Assembly the previous night, Gov. M. Jodi Rell put a positive spin Thursday on what she and the Democratic legislature accomplished in 2010.
Rell praised the passage of a $19.01 billion budget unanimously opposed by fellow Republicans and described a bipartisan, $362 million plan to remake the University of Connecticut Health Center as a signal accomplishment.
Call her post-session press conference a first step toward creating a lasting impression as she prepares to leave office after 10 years as a legislator, 9½ years as lieutenant governor and six years as governor.
“A couple of times I was a little choked up during the day thinking about it,” Rell said of the last regular legislative session of her tenure as an elected official.
But not so choked up that she seized the opportunity to deliver a traditional closing-night speech to a joint session of the General Assembly.
“I knew everyone was tired and wanted to go home. I felt that the opportunity would avail itself again some time between now and the end of December,” said Rell, who leaves office in January. The legislature is expected to return for a special session to clean up some unfinished business.
It’s not that Rell left early on Wednesday. Hours after the midnight adjournment, Rell stopped by the annual post-session party in the corridors of the Capitol.
Standing outside her office Thursday afternoon at a press conference held with little notice, Rell told reporters she was proud of the bill that would make an expanded UConn Health Center part of a regional network, ending years of feuding with other hospitals.
“That bill was pretty much dead last year, and everybody was washing their hands” of it., she said. “I felt very strongly that we needed to bring the community together. If that bill was ever to pass, if we were ever to get the UConn Health Center and teaching facility that we all were looking for, this was the time to do it.”
The project is dependent on the state successfully competing for $100 million in federal funds that Sen. Christopher J. Dodd inserted in the federal health reform law to go with $262 million in state dollars, including $237 million in borrowing.
Rell declined to say if she would veto an energy bill passed on the last day of the session despite warnings that her administration considered the legislation to be flawed.
Like nearly every one else in the Capitol, Rell was effusive in her praise of legislation that will streamline permitting procedures at the Department of Environmental Protection. Legislators removed the elements most objected to by environmentalists, but the bill still was supported by business groups.
The governor described watching on CT-N for the Senate to add the permitting bill to a consent calendar as the clock moved towards the midnight adjournment deadline.
“This one was right down to the wire, I’ll have to admit. We were watching the last couple minutes of the debate last night, the consent calendar that should have gone a few minutes earlier, obviously,” Rell said.
She said she yelled at her television, rooting for the bill to be added to the calendar: ” ‘Come on, come on, come on. Get the bill up there!’ I felt like I was in a horse race,” she said. “Let’s get this bill passed.”
By clocks at the Capitol, the Senate vote on the consent calendar with the permitting bill and 50 other pieces of legislation took place a few minutes after midnight. In fact, on copies that Senate Democratic staff handed out of the last roll call, the time-stamp was blacked out.
Lt. Gov. Michael C. Fedele, the presiding officer, allowed the vote to proceed. No one objected, and it would be difficult to make an issue of the vote now.
A copy of the roll call obtained Thursday from the Senate clerk’s office showed a time-stamp of 11:59 p.m.