A bi-partisan group of lawmakers from the General Law Committee announced Monday that it was pulling a piece of legislation, at least in part because of the chilling effect a lawsuit filed by one of the measure’s supporters had on the dialogue.
Lawmakers said the decision to hold the bill, which would have set new rules regarding the buying and reselling of entertainment tickets, was in the interest of doing what’s best for the consumer. But Sen. Paul Doyle, D-Wethersfield, said a lawsuit filed over comments made during a legislative hearing on the measure had an impact.
“A lawsuit was filed a few weeks ago that really changed the whole game on this piece of legislation. For the first time, clearly in the history of Connecticut and maybe nationwide, a lawsuit was filed during session about comments made at a public hearing, where legislatures look for open and free-flowing comments about bills,” Doyle said.
The suit was filed by Vernon-based company Ticketnetwork, against David Fay, the CEO of the Horace Bushnell Memorial Hall Corp., for comments he made during the committee’s public hearing.
Following the press conference, Ticketnetwork’s CEO Don Vaccaro, who supported the legislation, said killing the bill was the last response he expected from the General Law Committee. Instead he was hoping the committee would try to ascertain whether Fay had lied in front of the committee.
Instead, Vaccaro said the General Law Committee sent two messages by pulling the bill.
“For one, if someone lies or defames you, we want you not to bring it up or ask the courts,” he said.
What is the point of a public hearing if you are not required to tell the truth, he asked, adding that some states require those testifying to swear to tell the truth.
Vaccaro said the committee also offered a valuable lesson to anyone with an interest in stopping a piece of legislation.
“They gave a great strategy for anyone who wants to kill a bill—just file a lawsuit. It’ll become too hot a potato to handle. It’s practically a blueprint on how to kill legislation,” he said.
But Doyle said that the lawsuit silenced one side of the debate as the committee was working through the issue. The opponents of the bill essentially stopped talking at the advice of their lawyers, he said.
When the bill was initially voted out of committee, there was an agreement that they set up a meeting with both sides of the issue in the same room to reach a fair compromise, Doyle said. But during that meeting one side stayed “muted” the entire time, he said. As a result, that meeting “wasn’t fruitful at all,” Rep. Joseph Taborsak, D-Danbury, said.
“It’s our duty to do what’s best for the process and the citizens and we felt we could no longer do it because there was not a free flowing discussion of ideas,” he said.
Despite Vaccaro’s claims about the committee’s bill-killing blueprint, lawmakers said the suit was more of the straw that broke the law’s back. The lawsuit didn’t completely kill it, but it certainly didn’t help it, Taborsak said.
The legislators present tried to put a positive spin on the bill’s premature end. The committee will now enlist the help of the Department of Consumer Protection to get some objective data on how average consumers feel about ticket laws. Using that data they can get a better feel for what consumer complaints tend to be and decide the fairest way to improve the system, they said.
Sometimes the best legislation is only achieved after a few years of work, Doyle said.