Democrats sustain Malloy’s vetoes, frustrating Republican leaders
The General Assembly sustained all seven vetoes Monday that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy issued following this year’s legislative session.
Among the measures the governor rejected were bills that would have limited the fiscal bailout of Hartford, created a new student suspension process, limited the Executive Branch’s authority to reduce municipal education grants, established a new business tax credit, and created a new oversight panel for the Department of Children and Families.
Republicans overwhelmingly cast ballots to override Malloy’s vetoes of the five bills that were brought to a vote Monday.
But the governor — who isn’t seeking re-election — found strong support among his fellow Democrats in the evenly divided Senate, who ensured there wouldn’t be the two-third’s margin required to override a veto.
“The outcome of today’s session is positive for the state, and we commend the legislators who took a thoughtful approach to the questions before them,” Malloy spokesman Leigh Appleby said. “While we may have disagreed on various aspects of specific policies, the reality is that the governor signed 207 bills into law this session and vetoed only seven. We’re glad these vetoes were upheld, and we remain committed to trying to seek compromise and working through our differences on these important topics.”
Republicans, however, questioned why Democrats, who supported these bills by wide margins during the legislative session, wouldn’t maintain that support Monday.
“I am disappointed in the Senate from top to bottom for not passing anything,” House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said.
She called the Senate’s failure to override the bill adjusting the Hartford bailout “a complete lack of responsibility.”
“I think the Senate Democrats are lock-step with the most unpopular governor in the country,” said Senate Republican leader Len Fasano of North Haven.
Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, rejected a suggestion that his caucus was in “lock-step” with Malloy.
“I think in many cases the governor had a compelling message in his veto message,” he said.
The Malloy administration also offered to negotiate with the legislature, Looney said, to reach compromise on bills involving school suspension and the business tax credit. “Those were, I think, the ones we had most concern on and we expect that those two will be addressed as part of what we expect will be a special session later on,” he added.
Five of the seven vetoed measures had originated in the 36-member Senate, which meant any veto override would have to start there as well. The chamber is split 18-18 along party lines and any override would require 24 affirmative votes.
Republicans proposed overrides on four of the five measures:
- A new, legislature-controlled, oversight council for the Department of Children and Families failed 16-15.
- The measure creating a new school suspension process failed 14 to 17.
- A bill effectively limiting emergency debt assistance for Hartford failed 17-14.
- And a measure extending a corporate tax credit for apprentices to so-called “pass-through entities” such as S corporations, partnerships and limited liability failed 18-13.
The school suspension bill attracted the most debate.
The bill would have created a new process for removing students from classrooms after a child or a teacher has been injured. Malloy asserted in his veto message that the measure would affect minority students the most, an argument also made by several members of the legislature’s Black and Puerto Rican Caucus.
But it enjoyed strong support from the state’s teachers unions, who argued their members need more protection.
Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven, said that while he supported the original bill, he would not support an override. Winfield said the measure should receive further review given the level of concern voiced by parents and other groups since the legislature adjourned in May.
“I don’t think you just pass a bill like this and ignore those concerns,” he said.
“It is truly disheartening that legislators and the governor denied protections for the safety of students and teachers, and proactive supports for students who cause physical injury to others,” said Connecticut Education Association President Sheila Cohen. “The only way to end the school-to-prison pipeline is to take actions that hold administrators accountable for ensuring students receive the resources they need. We are disappointed that legislators, who previously passed this bill with overwhelming bipartisan support, failed to override the governor’s veto and enact this bill into law.”
A spokesman for the Connecticut chapter of the American Federation of Teachers could not be reached for comment.
But the executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public Schools Superintendents, Fran Rabinowitz, praised the legislature for sustaining the veto, saying that children with disabilities, as well as minority students, might be disadvantaged were this measure to become law.
“I come from an urban district where there were 38 social workers for 22,000 children,” Rabinowitz said. “When you remove that child, where are you putting that child and what kind of help is the child getting? I felt strongly that we should be looking at how to resource that issue and take care of that child.”
The Senate did not attempt an override vote on a fifth bill, which would have created a public registry of persons convicted of abusing animals.
The House did not attempt a vote on one of the two vetoed bills on its calendar. This measure would have allowed a town or city clerk to designate where voters could register on election day — a task normally assigned to the registrars of voters — in the event those officials could not agree on a location at least 31 days beforehand.
The 151-member House did achieve a two-third’s margin, 103-33, to override Malloy’s veto of a bill that would limit the governor’s authority to scale back Education Cost Sharing grants once the fiscal year is underway to meet savings targets mandated by the legislature.
Lawmakers routinely build savings targets into each annual budget to cut the bottom line. The governor and the rest of the executive branch achieve these savings — dubbed “lapses” since the unspent dollars lapse back into the General Fund — by leaving positions vacant, deferring equipment and other purchases, scaling back programs, and achieving other efficiencies.
The governor, who was tasked by legislators this past fiscal year with finding an unprecedented $881 million in General Fund cost savings once the fiscal year is underway, lopped $91 million off town aid — nearly half of which came from education grants.
Rep. Andrew M. Fleischmann, D-West Hartford, House chair of the Education Committee, said that prior to 2016, no governor had ever reduced an ECS grant once the state budget was in force.
Klarides urged lawmakers to back the override “if you believe we owe our towns and cities that predictability,” adding that it makes no sense “to cut off their legs midstream, for something as important as children’s education.”
But the Senate again opted not to override the governor, falling five votes short of the two-third’s requirement.
After Monday’s votes, other leaders were not as confident as Looney that the legislature would take up some of the bills in a special session.
“I’ve never seen us come into (special) session to do a bill unless it was some urgent need, some deadline, some constitutional question, some federal case that caused something to be illegal in the state of Connecticut,” Fasano said. “I’ve never seen us come into session to work on a bill that was vetoed and didn’t override the veto.”
“It all becomes very hard,” Aresimowicz said, adding he was instead considering forming a panel to study the school suspension issue. “I know I am prepared. It may require more of a formal process. I believe the issue is something we need to act upon, sooner rather than later.”
Aresimowicz also expressed disappointment that the Senate didn’t attempt to resurrect the business tax credit bill, a measure he had helped to develop.
“Given everything we’ve been able to accomplish in manufacturing, I think that bill took another step necessary to help our small and medium manufacturers around the state of Connecticut,” he said. “I will be personally introducing it again next year. I think it was a good bill and we should have done it. I will try harder again next year.”
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