The Legislative Session Is Over, But The Work Goes On

June 2, 2010

Summer at the State Capitol is not as exciting as the months when the General Assembly meets in session, but the work does continue. For example, Governor M. Jodi Rell has been busy reviewing and deciding how to respond to all of the bills passed this year. Later this summer, it will be the legislature’s turn to decide whether to attempt to override any of the bills she vetoes.

This year, we passed 200 bills – 191 classified as public acts and nine as special acts. Of those, Governor Rell had signed 70 into law at the end of last week, and vetoed six. Now that the regular legislative session has concluded, Governor Rell has 15 days from when a bill reaches her desk to decide whether to sign it, veto it, or allow it to become law without her signature. This year, the Governor will have received all the bills by May 30th, giving her until June 14th to act. Assuming that Governor Rell acts on the last bill on June 14th, the General Assembly will have until June 28th to hold its veto session. Overriding a gubernatorial veto requires a two-thirds vote of each chamber of the legislature.

Not surprisingly, the news out of the Governor’s office has been fast paced, and interesting. The 2010 Legislative Session ended at midnight on May 5th. On May 7th, Governor Rell announced that she had signed the newly revised state budget for Fiscal Year 2011. This was not a surprise even though, as I have previously stated, I voted “no” for many reasons, including that this budget relies on federal revenues that will most likely not be available next year, fiscal gimmicks and better-than-anticipated tax collections instead of spending cuts.

On May 12, Governor Rell announced that she had signed a comprehensive, pro-business, pro-jobs legislation that passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. Like Governor Rell, I view passing this initiative as being among the most important accomplishments of the 2010 Legislative Session. Various provisions of this new law take effect at different times. Basically, it authorizes programs and policies for establishing or expanding businesses and creating jobs; tax credits for investing in new and expanding businesses; and pre-seed capital for businesses developing new concepts. Furthermore, this initiative includes provisions designed to help today’s students who are preparing themselves for tomorrow’s jobs. Like other champions of this legislation, I am hopeful that this initiative will help Connecticut prepare for a prosperous future.

Among the bills vetoed by Governor Rell is one that would have taxed bonuses paid to individuals who work for financial companies that received federal bailout funds. In her May 19th veto message regarding the so-called “TARP Tax” bill, the Governor explained that certain provisions of the bill would have triggered an automatic deficit and, equally harmful, could have led to a costly legal battle that Connecticut may not be able to win. I voted against this legislation.

Also, Governor Rell vetoed far-reaching energy reform legislation that she stated “is not in the best interests of the ratepayers or taxpayers of our state.” Like many of us who opposed this bill, Governor Rell noted in her May 24th veto message that passing this legislation in the final hours of the session denied lawmakers and the public enough time to carefully consider the possible consequences of this initiative. While this bill is intended to lower energy costs, the reality is that far too many questions about the potential effects on taxpayers and ratepayers remain unanswered. In her veto message, Governor Rell wrote: “I believe in the legislative process. As disjointed as the legislative process can sometimes appear, public comment and open analysis and debate are critical to producing well-crafted, workable law. The proponents of this bill would have been well served by following that process.”

Late last week, Governor Rell signed comprehensive education reform legislation that I supported, though many other Republican legislators did not. Among other things, this initiative begins the process of making sweeping changes in public education. For example, beginning with the Class of 2018, the minimum number of credits required for high school graduation will increase from 20 to 25. Certain other provisions of the new law are designed to increase parental involvement; authorize the state Board of Education to reconstitute local or regional school boards in low-achieving districts; make changes to laws regarding charter schools; allow flexibility in curriculums for schools deemed to have the greatest academic needs; require high schools to offer advanced placement courses for students to earn college credit; allow out-of-school suspensions of students with a history of disciplinary problems; encourage high school completion; and certain other changes in policies regarding teachers and administrators. This new law is intended to help Connecticut secure competitive “Race To The Top” federal grants intended to reward states that make bold education reforms.

As always, I urge constituents to contact me with their questions and concerns, or to discuss issues that are important to Connecticut. I can be reached at my legislative office in Hartford at 1-800-842-1421 or via e-mail to [email protected].

Senator Rob Kane represents the 32nd Senatorial District, which includes the communities of Bethlehem, Bridgewater, Middlebury, Oxford, Seymour, Southbury, Thomaston, Roxbury, Watertown and Woodbury.