Wilton legislators: Partisan politics drive veto session debacle

Gov. Dannel Malloy vetoed nine bills passed by the Connecticut legislature this year.
A veto session to consider overriding any of those vetoes was called for Monday, July 20, but it never got off the ground because only 93 of the 151 House members were in attendance. That is far short of the two-thirds majority — 101 of the 151 representatives — required by the state Constitution to support an override effort for it to be successful.
Most of the bills vetoed by Malloy had to do with education, including one that would require the education commissioner to have a background in education.
Wilton state Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) pointed out that of the vetoed bills, four had passed both the House and Senate unanimously or almost unanimously.
“Particularly when support for a bill has been that overwhelming, the public deserves, even if there are not enough votes for an override, to hear an open debate on why the veto should or should not stand,” she said in a press release. “In the case of all but one of the vetoed bills, the public was denied that opportunity.”
Senator Toni Boucher (R-26) said the failure of the legislature to address these vetoes was a matter of politics, not policy.
“The State Constitution clearly says the Secretary of the State shall call the legislature in for a veto session,” she said in a statement Monday. “Today, we traveled to the state Capitol in Hartford to try and do the people’s business. What we saw, however,  was politics over policy by the majority party.
She agreed the bills vetoed by Malloy had “overwhelming support of members on both sides of the aisle.”
The House did debate one of the bills — HB 6977 — which defined the education-related qualifications for a state commissioner of education.
As I said during the debate, I felt the bill set sound public policy,” Lavielle said. “It struck a good balance between leaving the door open to a wide variety of candidates with diverse backgrounds in fields like management and policy, while still requiring basic qualifications that would ensure that every commissioner could work effectively with educators.
“As ranking member of the Education Committee, I had worked closely with the co-chairs on drafting the language, and they had been vocal supporters of the bill, which passed out of the committee unanimously,” Lavielle continued. “It was very disappointing to see that outspoken support disappear, for reasons that seemed related far more to politics than to the substance of the bill and the policy behind it.”
According to Lavielle, 18 Democrats and 44 Republicans voted to override.
Boucher was most disappointed in the legislature’s failure to override the veto on the bill concerning the education commissioner.
“As a ranking member of the committee, I am disappointed that my colleagues across the aisle let this carefully crafted piece of legislation die because politics got in the way,” she said.
“In the Senate we did not even get to consider any of these bills because the Democrats shut down the debate outright.  We tried to open the floor to debate and were denied within 30 seconds!”
Partisan politics
Both Lavielle and Boucher said partisan politics are impeding efforts to move forward.
“Essentially, the decision not to override eight of the nine vetoes was made by the majority party behind closed doors,” Lavielle said. “This is not the way representative government should work, and it is unacceptable. The people of Connecticut need to know that their legislators are being heard on their behalf, and what they are doing to represent them and why. This can happen only with an open and transparent legislative process and fair, bipartisan consideration of all points of view, whatever the final outcome.”
“The unprecedented partisanship that has characterized the legislative body’s deliberations during the last month is outrageous,” Boucher said. “From shutting down debate, to negotiating the state budget behind closed doors to forcing monumental policy shifts onto the businesses and the people in the state with no chance for public comment. It is shameful.
“The people deserve representation,” she continued. “Today, they were denied. This polarized and politicized and closed-door style of government does not develop trust and unite us for the benefit of the people. This has to change for the good of the state.”
Editor's note: This story was edited from the original to include comments from Gail Lavielle, which were received after the story was put online.