The Senate overrode Republican Gov. M Jodi Rell’s veto of the public campaign finance fix Thursday afternoon by a 24 to 10 vote.
In a more controversial move, the House will vote on an override on August 13, three days after the August 10 primary. The move calls into question the House Democratic caucus’ ability to override the veto.
Senate President Donald Williams feels hopeful the House will override Rell’s veto.
“Hopefully we provided the momentum the House needs to pass this next week,” he said.
Rell called the legislature back into special session Wednesday to pass a campaign finance fix without a “trigger mechanism” to increase grants for gubernatorial candidates from $3 million to $6 million. The bill Rell proposed also addressed her concerns regarding lobbyist contributions.
Instead the Senate overrode her veto which included the increased gubernatorial grants and lobbyist provisions.
“The Senate vote is not unexpected,” Rell said. “Whether the House of Representatives will muster sufficient votes to do the same remains an open question.”
“It is my hope that the Legislature, instead of using this opportunity to turn a reform measure into a political welfare program, will instead make the necessary changes and preserve the great improvements we achieved together in 2005,” she said.
Some Senate members addressed concerns over timing with the looming primary vote in less than a week.
“Timing is critical,” Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney said. “We must act and we must act now.”
He said Rell called a session in December to help fix campaign finance law and that the legislature kept pushing the job off.
“If you believe this is critical with the timing, you have no one to blame but yourself,” he said while addressing the Senate.
McKinney also said he does not like the House’s “wait and see” approach over public campaign financing. He said if a publicly-funded Republican candidate is running against a wealthy, self-funded Democrat, it is possible the House may not have enough votes.
Both he and House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero estimate the House needs five out of 18 Democratic members to change their votes from a “No” to a “Yes” to get the 101 votes for an override.
Gubernatorial candidates Dan Malloy and Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele will have to find out after the August 10 primary if they will receive $3 or $6 million.
After Thursday’s vote Fedele said he went into this knowing that the rules could change if the federal appeals court rendered a decision.
“I committed to play by the rules,” Fedele said. “I would hope that politics would be out of it.”
“The idea of public financing in Connecticut is something we’re all deservedly proud of,” said Sen. Majority Leader Martin Looney. “We have model legislation out here in Connecticut, adjusted with the guidance of the courts.”
Cafero argued that the Senate should have, in addition to the override, passed similar legislation that maintains the program without the increased gubernatorial grants. He reasoned that if the House fails to override the veto then both chambers will have to return if they want to save the program.
The 30-day clock the legislature has to save the public campaign system started ticking Wednesday when the Second Circuit remanded the case to U.S. District Judge Stefan Underhill.
“Once again it’s poor planning and a waste of taxpayer dollars,” Cafero said.
He said he will enjoy listening to the five Democrats explain why they had to change their votes in an election year to their constituents.