photo courtesy of waterbury hospital
Waterbury Hospital (photo courtesy of waterbury hospital)

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed a handful of bills Tuesday, including legislation to ease the for-profit takeover of nonprofit hospitals, to create new requirements for third-party electricity suppliers and pet shops, and to ban the sale of electronic cigarettes to children.

Malloy signed 23 bills Tuesday, bringing the total number of new laws passed during the 2014 session up to 100. As of Tuesday, the governor had vetoed two bills.

The so-called hospital conversion bill was negotiated and passed during the final days of the legislative session and will help for-profit hospitals, like Texas-based Tenet Healthcare Corporation, come into Connecticut and acquire physician practices without being in violation of current law.

Vin Petrini, senior vice president of public affairs at Yale New Haven Hospital, and Trip Pilgrim, senior vice president of development for Tenet, said in a joint statement following passage of the bill on May 7 that it would make it “extremely difficult for us to partner with hospitals in Connecticut to provide quality patient care.” Two hours after sending that email, which infuriated lawmakers who gave the companies a seat at the table, Petrini and Pilgrim, sent out a more congratulatory statement regarding passage of the bill.

“We appreciate all the hard work the governor’s office and legislators put into resolving this extremely complex issue,” Petrini and Pilgrim said. “We look forward to working closely with the state’s leadership to ensure adequate protections are in place for patients and their communities.”

Tenet Healthcare Corporation is in negotiations with four Connecticut hospitals, including Waterbury Hospital.

“With this law in place, Waterbury Hospital can now move forward on our proposed Joint Venture with Tenet Healthcare,” Darlene Stromstad, president and CEO of the Greater Waterbury Health Network, said. “This is a critical time in the history of healthcare, both nationally and here in Connecticut. While it’s been a long year, we all understand the need to be thorough and mindful of the long-term implications of the changes we are facing.”

Last year, Malloy vetoed similar legislation and sided with the labor union representing health care employees, which had opposed the 2013 version of the bill.

Another new law prohibits the sale of electronic cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery devices to minors in Connecticut. The products are not currently regulated by the federal government and, prior to the legislation signed today, children could legally purchase them.

Manufacturers of the products have drawn criticisms from Malloy and members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation for appearing to market their products to children with offerings like candy flavored nicotine products. Although the Food and Drug Administration has recently proposed regulations for e-cigarettes, more than half of all states have enacted their own laws.

“By prohibiting the sale of e-cigs and other vapor products to minors, we are preventing our youth from engaging in behaviors that may lead to addiction to nicotine, or use of other more conventional tobacco products,” Malloy said when the bill passed.

The legislation aimed at third-party electric suppliers attempts to reduce deceptive marketing practices in the industry. It requires suppliers to maintain their initial sign-on electric rates for at least three months.

It also requires that electric bills include the standard rate, so consumers can compare it with the rate they’re paying. The legislation gives customers greater flexibility to drop their electric supplier and forces suppliers to give more frequent notice about variable rates.

Deceptive marketing in the energy industry was a top priority this year for AARP Connecticut. However, the group panned the final bill as not doing enough to protect consumers, including the state’s older residents. Specifically, AARP wanted legislation to cap variable electric rates and define how those rates were calculated.

Malloy signed another piece of legislation, which seeks to reduce the sale of dogs bred in “puppy mills,” or larger commercial breeding centers with inhumane living conditions.

The bill stops pet shops from selling animals purchased from breeders that have been cited for direct violations by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It contains other provisions which increase reimbursements consumers can get if they buy sick animals and enables state regulators to fine pet stores for violations.

The bill stems from the recommendations of a legislative task force that initially proposed to prohibit the sale of commercially bred puppies from all future pet stores in Connecticut. That idea was opposed by state pet shop owners, and lawmakers settled on a compromise. Animal advocates nonetheless praised the legislation as a first-of-its-kind step.

“It will be the first law of this nature, as far as I know, that a legislature has passed that makes this kind of inroads on this issue,” Debora Bresch, a lawyer with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said last month.

Malloy signed another bill that requires the cross-reporting of animal cruelty and child abuse. The bill broadens the circumstances under which an animal control officer must file an abuse report with the Department of Agriculture and requires that the Agriculture Commissioner files monthly reports with the Department of Children and Families.

Christine Stuart contributed to this story.