(Updated 2:03 pm) Gov. Dannel P. Malloy squashed controversial legislation lifting a fishing ban on Glass eels in one of two vetoes Friday. The governor also signed the $18.9 billion state budget plan approved by lawmakers earlier this month.
Malloy vetoed HB 5417, An Act Establishing A Season For The Taking Of Glass Eels, over environmental concerns that the juvenile, translucent American eels could be considered a vulnerable species. The bill would have eliminated a state ban on fishing for the eels but would not have immediately allowed fishermen to begin taking the eels. That would require approval from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.
The Democratic-controlled legislature approved the bill on the final night of the legislative session in an agreement with Republicans to assure passage of another environmental bill, which put a three-year moratorium on the storage and disposal of hydraulic fracturing waste in the state.
Following a State Bond Commission meeting Friday, Malloy said the eel fishing bill is premature and would send “mixed messages” because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is in the process of determining whether American eels are a threatened species.
“I believe we must be good stewards of the environment and while I realize this passed both chambers, I’ve heard from a number of legislators and other activists including environmentalists who have serious concerns about the bill,” the governor said.
Rep. Craig Miner, the Environment Committee’s ranking Republican, said Friday he was disappointed by Malloy’s veto. Miner said the eel fisheries could have been established without a negative environmental impact on the creatures by only taking them from areas in Connecticut where they are already unlikely to survive.
“There are certain waterways were these young eels are fairly well doomed anyway,” he said. “…To take out some small quantity of that population doesn’t actually show up as a negative on the kind of the eel balance sheet.”
With the eels bringing in between $800 and $2,500 a pound, Miner said it would not take much to help out the state’s fishing industry. Other states have already signalled to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission they are interested in some allocation of eels. Miner said by vetoing the bill, Malloy has sent the message that Connecticut is not interested.
“There is reason to say that if there is a fishery, our fishermen should be as entitled to a portion of that allocation as anyone else. The governor doesn’t see it that way,” Miner said.
On the budget, Malloy said he was proud that the plan makes investments in education, infrastructure, and job creation programs without raising taxes this year.
The governor vetoed another bill, which was based on the recommendations of the legislature’s Program Review and Investigations Committee. The bill would have required health insurance companies and managed-care organizations to report information on substance abuse treatment to the state Insurance Department.
Malloy said he supported the bill’s goal of providing policy makers and residents more information on the availability of substance abuse treatment. But he said he was worried the reporting would lead to inaccuracies in the reported data.
“There are a significant number of people who seek substance abuse treatment but are reported to carriers as being treated for other issues such as depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues,” Malloy said. “Inaccuracies in reporting could lead to policy decisions or consumer decisions that will not help achieve the ultimate goal of reducing the number of people who fall victim to substance abuse.”
The six-page bill notification Malloy’s office released Friday afternoon announced that the governor had signed more than three dozen bills in the past few days. Among them was legislation he proposed early in the session specifying that horses are not a naturally mischievous or vicious species.
The bill was prompted by the Supreme Court’s decision to hear a lawsuit stemming from the 2006 incident, during which a horse named Scuppy bit a toddler at a farm in Milford. In March, the court ruled in favor of the young boy who was bitten, and decided that horse owners have a responsibility to prevent injuries that are foreseeable. The case was sent back to a lower court for more consideration.
Horse owners feared that the case could result in higher insurance rates for horses.
Malloy signed another bill which will require about 154 for-profit nursing home companies to share more financial information with the state.
The bill was sought by SEIU 1199, one of the state’s largest healthcare employee unions, in response to labor disputes the union has had with at least two nursing home chains in the past decade. The bill was especially controversial in the House were Republicans forced a close to nine hour debate on the legislation.
The Glass eels fishing bill and the substance abuse reporting bill are the first pieces of legislation passed this session that Malloy has vetoed so far. Malloy had signed 77 bills as of Friday afternoon.