The House needed 101 votes to override Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s veto of a bill that outlined qualifications for a state Education Commissioner, but only 62 lawmakers voted in favor of an override Monday.
At least 21 representatives voted not to override the bill and a whopping 68 representatives did not attend Monday’s constitutional veto session. And even though House Speaker Brendan Sharkey allowed a vote on one of Malloy’s vetoes, the outcome was a foregone conclusion.
Sharkey said there were members of the Democratic caucus who felt strongly about the Education Commissioner bill to turn out Monday and vote to override it. There were 18 Democratic lawmakers who voted in favor of overriding Malloy’s veto.
One of those was Rep. Robyn Porter, D-New Haven. She said she thought the legislation, which specified that education commissioners must have at least five years’ experience as a teacher and three years as an administrator, was “good public policy.”
The bill originally passed the House 138-5 and got unanimous support in the Senate before being squelched by Malloy.
“I’m big on experience,” Porter said. “Experience changes your perspective.”
West Hartford Democratic Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, who voted not to override the veto, said there was interest from the governor’s office to address the issue of Education Commissioner qualifications in the future. He said there will be an ongoing dialogue and it’s likely the bill will come up again next year.
“The administration is always open to discussion,” Fleischmann said.
In his veto message on the bill, Malloy argued that “open-mindedness and flexiability are paramount in a search for the right candidate who can best respond to the edcational challenges that face our state.”
Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said he’s been told by the teacher unions that there’s no intention to have a conversation about the Education Commissioner’s qualifications.
“This is politics over policy,” Fasano said. “The legislature has spoken. The governor has every right to veto it, but when the majority party follows the politics and not the policy that makes this building very scary to me.”
Meanwhile, the Senate, which convened after the House adjourned, and voted 18-12, along party lines, not to reconsider any of the governor’s vetoes.
Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said once the House adjourned, there was no point “in us doing anything at all” because the House would not be able to act on the bill.
Looney said that while some of his members found Malloy’s veto messages persuasive, others were content to work on the issues in the future with the administration, and some were “reluctant to take a vote that would depend on Republican votes in order to secure the override.”
He said the reasons on each bill differed.
Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, said Monday’s veto session was “complete theater by the Republicans.”
He said it was “an attempt to embarrass the governor and I wasn’t going to stand for that.”
Fasano said that argument is “illogical.”
He said that means every time Democratic leadership voted to override former Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell they were just doing it to embarrass her. Rell’s vetoes were overridden 15 times.
“Using that argument every time I disagree with Gov. Malloy, I’m out to embarrass him. Really?” Fasano said. “I’m protecting his caucuses’ votes as much as I’m protecting my caucuses’ votes. But the bottom line is I’m putting policy ahead of politics.”
Most, if not all Senators, in many cases, previously voted in favor of the bills up for reconsideration Monday.
Fasano said it was “shameful” of the Senate to adjourn before reconsidering any of the vetoed legislation Monday.
Duff said Republicans have been on a “bad news tour” for the past month and have taken “rooting for failure to a new level.”
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said the attempt to override the veto was “not personal.” She said it was a bill that passed unanimously out of the Education Committee, unanimously out of the Senate, and almost unanimously out of the House.
“That means there is large and wide support for that bill,” she said.
Klarides said the governor just didn’t like the fact that lawmakers wanted to override the bill.
“It is our job to vote for things that are the will of the people of the state,” Klarides said.
She said she understands the “vote will be the vote at the end of the day, but the way we get there is the important part.”