CTNJ file photo
Sen. Gayle Slossberg (CTNJ file photo)

Advocates were disappointed Thursday that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy vetoed a bill that would give their clients a fair hearing with the Department of Social Services.

Currently, a DSS hearing officer can consult attorneys inside the agency, but they don’t have to give the individual appealing an opportunity to respond.

“Prohibiting hearing officers from consulting with counsel or with agency subject-matter experts would impair DSS’s ability to fulfill its mission of making accurate eligibility determinations in an efficient and timely manner,” Malloy wrote in his veto message.

However, that’s a misrepresentation of what the bill does because the bill doesn’t prohibit those communications. It simply gives the opposing side a chance to respond, according Sen. Gayle Slossberg, a proponent of the bill.

“We are disappointed,” Jane McNichol, of the Legal Assistance Resource Center of Connecticut, said Thursday. “It was not completely unexpected, but we’re hopeful the task force comes up with a solution that’s fair and effective.”

In the veto message, Malloy created a working group to try to resolve the issue. The working group will be convened by Malloy’s general counsel and will include three representatives of the state, three attorneys who represent clients at these types of hearings, and one administrative law expert. The group is expected to present its recommendations to Malloy by Dec. 1, 2014.

The Department of Social Services testified in March that giving the other side a chance to respond to communications would increase the time their 20 hearing officers, who aren’t attorneys, may have to spend on the more than 25,000 hearing requests the agency receives each year.

“While I fully support a collaborative effort to identify any and all reasonable improvements to the DSS hearings process, I am not comfortable signing the bill in its current form,” Malloy said.

Malloy vetoed another bill, which would have raised the cap on a tax credit for businesses that invest in community projects approved by a town government. The legislation raised the cap for the Neighborhood Assistance Act Program from $5 million to $10 million.

In his veto message, the governor said the legislature failed to budget the extra $5 million into the state budget, which he has already signed into law.

“This is a good bill, and I deeply regret being unable to sign it. However, while I support this program and would welcome an opportunity to expand it, the $5 million potential revenue loss was not contemplated in this year’s budget adjustments and will put the budget out of balance,” he wrote.

Malloy urged the legislature to appropriate enough money to pay for the expansion in next year’s budget. He said he would “unreservedly” sign such a bill.

“Every budget process involves difficult choices. This year’s budget adjustments were no exception and unfortunately, the expansion of the Neighborhood Assistance Act program was not included in the final budget that I signed,” he said.

In addition to the fair hearing and neighborhood assistance bills above, Malloy vetoed a bill that would have banned chocolate milk sales in schools based on its sodium content.

To date Malloy has signed 216 bills and vetoed seven.