The Democratic-controlled state legislature voted Monday to override six of Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell's vetoes, making her one of the most overridden governors of the past 70 years.
The six overrides — on top of seven last year and three in prior years — bring Rell's total to 16 overrides in six years as governor. That places her right behind Gov. Lowell P. Weicker, an independent who lacked an automatic base of party support and endured 17 veto overrides.
Rell now has surpassed all governors over the past 70 years, except Weicker, based on research from the Connecticut State Library.
In many years, overrides are rare. In fact, Gov. John G. Rowland and Gov. William A. O'Neill each served for 10 years and never had a bill overridden. Rell now has passed Republican Thomas Meskill, who had 11 vetoes overridden; Ella Grasso, with 10, and Democrats John Dempsey and Abraham Ribicoff, with nine each.
"Obviously I am disappointed with the overrides,'' Rell said in a statement. "When I veto a bill, it is after careful consideration and because I feel the legislation represents bad public policy, is too expensive or creates more bureaucracy."
In one override, lawmakers voted for the so-called "ban the box'' bill that will remove the check-off box on state-employee applications asking whether a person had ever been arrested. Instead, questions about criminal convictions can be raised after the person has been deemed qualified for the job. Lawmakers also overrode Rell to allow for a two-tier licensing system for social workers so that Connecticut would have the same system as 45 other states, including New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.
On another override, the legislature voted to establish a special commission to study criminal sentencing. A fifth override will allow improved parking at the main Stamford train station, and the final override will, among other things, establish guidelines governing the construction of waste facilities near aquifers.
Republican sources said GOP lawmakers did not feel politically bound to back Rell, partly because some felt she had abandoned them and was just going through the motions in her final, lame-duck year. One veteran GOP operative said some Republicans did not understand why Rell vetoed some of the bills.
One example was Rell's veto of a bill that allowed three more off-track betting establishments to open in Willimantic, New London and Manchester, a measure that lawmakers said was similar to one Rell signed last year to open two OTB parlors in Putnam and Milford. Lawmakers also noted that earlier this year Rell proposed raising about $60 million by establishing keno gambling games at as many as 1,000 restaurants and other outlets.
House Speaker Christopher Donovan, a Democrat, said a number of Rell's vetoes were "surprising." He mentioned the OTB bill as one, noting that the governor previously had supported similar legislation, and he also considered it unusual for her to try to block non-controversial measures that passed overwhelmingly in both chambers. He speculated that it could have been because she is "on her way out," and was receiving "last requests" for her to block certain bills, and was "accommodating them."
Senate Republican leader John McKinney of Fairfield said it was bad economic policy to try to improve the economy by allowing three restaurants to become OTB outlets.
Cash-strapped homeowners who are forced to sell their properties will gain some relief under a bill approved Monday in action separate from the overrides. Homeowners who are losing their homes to foreclosure or who are selling at a loss will no longer be forced to pay the municipal portion of the conveyance tax.
Currently, the municipal portion amounts to $420 on the sale of a $300,000 home.
The foreclosure provision was part of a larger bill that extended the municipal portion of the state's tax on real estate transfers for one year. Without the extension, the portion of the tax that is directed to cities and towns would expire as of July 1. The issue had prompted a battle over the past seven years between real estate agents and the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, which strongly favors the tax because it generates about $25 million a year for cities and towns.
Courant Staff Writer Jon Lender contributed to this report.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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