In the final days of the election season, Connecticut Republicans are hoping to prevent the Democratic majority from gaining veto-proof control of the Connecticut General Assembly.
That’s why the GOP is trying to persuade voters who support popular Republican M. Jodi Rell to vote for Republican legislative candidates in order to help Rell promote her legislative agenda, should she win the election on Nov. 7.
“They’re not electing a governor with 60 percent-plus of the vote to have her positions ignored,” said House Minority Leader Robert Ward, R-North Branford.
“I think the public wants us to work in a bipartisan manner and find solutions to problems. If the House and Senate are both with veto-proof margins, effectively they can pass legislation without talking to the governor and that becomes one-party rule,” he said.
Two years ago, the Democrats won 24 of the 36 seats in the Senate. But they did not carry enough seats in the House of Representatives to be able to automatically override a gubernatorial veto. They held 99 of the 151 seats — just two shy of the necessary two-thirds.
A super-majority represents three-fifths of the legislature. One is needed to exceed the state’s constitutional cap on spending.
Democrats have an opportunity to gain some seats because of some retirements this year, said House Speaker James Amann, D-Milford.
“I just think we have great candidates and I really think there’s a possibility that we may get the (veto-proof) majority, but you never know,” he said. “It feels good. You’re doing everything right — great candidates. But we’ll see. We’ll see what happens.”
Senate President Donald Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, said he’s optimistic the Democrats will retain their veto-proof majority in the Senate.
Rell leads her Democratic opponent, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, by 26 percentage points, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll. Sacred Heart University political science professor Gary Rose said he still believes DeStefano is a long shot. But if Rell does win and the Democrats gain a veto-proof majority, her victory could be bittersweet.
“I think it would be a very difficult four years for Governor Rell,” Rose said. “It clearly puts the Democratic leadership in the state legislature in control of the budget and basically in control of the policy-making process.”
Without the threat of a veto that will stand, Rell could wind up implementing state policy set by the Democrats rather than being a strong legislative leader, Rose said.
Williams, who is hoping for a DeStefano victory, said a veto-proof majority in both chambers would be great to have. But he stressed that Rell has already worked with the majority Democrats to pass some major bills that many of her Republican colleagues in the legislature didn’t support, such as campaign finance reform and a bill banning sodas in public schools.
He said having a veto-proof majority would help the Democrats make their case should Rell win. But Williams stressed that “it doesn’t mean that all Democrats vote in lock step.”
Republicans are trying to persuade voters not to take that risk in this election.
“It really is about bringing balance to state government,” Rell said. “When one party controls everything, not too many people win from that scenario. And you need that checks and balances, whether it’s from the governor’s office, or also having legislators that can stand up and say no.”
Rose said voters in Connecticut, the Constitution State, may relate to that argument.
“In our culture, here in Connecticut, we seem to appreciate a government that is deliberative,” he said. “And one way of keeping it deliberative is to keep it divided.”
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