HARTFORD, CT — Gov. Ned Lamont called a press conference Wednesday afternoon to tell reporters he would veto the Paid Family and Medical Leave bill the Senate planned to run Wednesday night. Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said they’re running the bill regardless of the veto threat.
The Senate is debating the bill now on CT-N.
“I want to do big, bold progressive things, but sometimes I do them in a conservative way,” Lamont said. “In a way that gives the taxpayers a high degree of confidence that we know what we’re doing.”
Lamont’s staff has been negotiating with Democratic legislative leadership for a long time over the legislation, but “I don’t think we’re there,” Lamont said.
He said he was surprised to learn the Senate would be running the bill Wednesday.
“To me we are starting up a $400 million company, a big new insurance program. The idea that it’s going to be led by this top heavy bureaucracy … just looks like it’s not a recipe for success to me.”
Asked if there was some miscommunication during negotiations, “I don’t know,” Lamont said.
“I was the one person early on who said I want to make sure a public or a private has the right to bid on this,” Lamont said.
He said he doesn’t believe the current board set up and rules would allow for such an open bidding process to manage the program. “I think somebody whose done it before has an advantage to being able to do that,” Lamont said.
Looney said if Lamont still has problems with the legislation then they can pass a separate bill to address the administration issues, but they are moving forward with SB 1.
“It’s the highest priority of the Democratic caucus,” Looney said.
He said they’re open to changes through another piece of legislation, but they are moving forward.
Looney said he was surprised Lamont has reservations about the bill because he did not express them during a meeting Tuesday. He also said they made it clear to the governor “a week ago” that they were going to vote on the bill today.
Sen. Julie Kushner, D-Danbury, said the creation of a quasi-public agency to manage the program was Lamont’s idea.
“We’ve spent hours and hours with the governor’s people working on the governance issues,” Kushner said. “And I believe we have accommodated them in many, many ways.”
Kushner said they’ve been negotiating this for five months and “we haven’t gotten anything from the governor in the last few days.”
She said there’s a whole year before employees would be asked to start contributing to the fund so there’s time to tweak the program if necessary. There’s two and half years before people could start benefiting from the program, “so we do have enough time to get this right.”
Under the current draft of the bill, Kushner said there is opportunities for requests for proposals to go out for claiming processing and database development.
“We want to make sure the process of bidding out that part of the program would have to be transparent and would have to live up to criteria to make it cost effective and good for the people of Connecticut,” Kushner said.
Looney said Democrats initially felt the program should be managed by the Department of Labor and Lamont wanted it to be run by a quasi-public agency.
Lamont made it clear he wanted private insurance companies an opportunity to bid.
“We accommodated that through the RFP process that’s included in the bill,” Looney said. “So there’s been a great deal of back and forth.”
Looney said those are “peripheral issues to the important core of the bill, which is to get the benefit to the people.”
If the bill passes the Senate, it would still have to pass the House before going to the governor.