HARTFORD — There was a rare debate in a veto session Monday, but as expected, the House of Representatives did not override Gov. Dannel Malloy’s veto of a bill that would have stipulated qualifications for candidates for state education commissioner.
The debate was unusual because the Democratic majority normally has enough votes to block any attempt to override vetoes by the Democratic governor. But some Democrats wanted to debate the issue, and 17 House Democrats voted to override the veto.
The bill called for setting qualifications for the education commissioner, an effort rooted in controversy around Malloy’s first pick for the job, Stefan Pryor. Pryor had a law degree from Yale University and a background in economic development, as well as experience as a deputy mayor in Newark, N.J. But he didn’t have a background in classroom teaching, which some educators said should be required for the state’s top education post. Pryor announced late last year that he was stepping down.
The legislature had passed a bill that called for the education commissioner to have five years of experience in the classroom, three years as an administrator and a master’s degree in an education-related field.
State Rep. David Alexander, an Enfield Democrat who voted to override the veto, said the proposed requirements were a common-sense measure that had overwhelming support in both the House and Senate.
“This seems like a logical prerequisite that got vetoed, which is wrong,” Alexander said. “I worked in the classroom as a substitute teacher when I was in law school, and I learned valuable insights about how students learn and how other teachers teach. … If it was a good idea, then let’s override the veto.”
The veto session Monday was required by the state constitution. To override a veto, there must be 101 votes in the House and 24 in the Senate. Monday’s vote on the education commissioner qualifications fell short, with 62 votes in favor and 21 against. Sixty-eight members were absent.
The 17 Democrats who voted to override Malloy’s education commissioner bill veto included Deputy Speaker Linda Orange of Colchester, Deputy Majority Leader Michelle Cook of Torrington, and Roberta Willis of Salisbury, co-chairwoman of the higher education committee.
The House adjourned soon after the education vote, and the members did not discuss any of Malloy’s eight other vetoes. As such, all nine of his vetoes were upheld. Later Monday, the Senate took no action on the vetoes.
Veto overrides are rare because they require a two-thirds vote in both chambers of the legislature. Since Malloy took office in 2011, none of his vetoes has been overturned.
The situation was different in the Senate Monday, where Democrats succeeded in avoiding a debate. Majority Leader Bob Duff said “there is no point” to debate because the House had already adjourned.
After several minutes of procedural confusion, the Senate cast a party line vote of 18-12 to adjourn their session without a debate, infuriating minority Republicans.
“I’m very disappointed the way this came out, and I’ll leave it at that,” Senate Republican leader Len Fasano of North Haven said on the Senate floor.
Courant staff writer Andrew M. Duehren contributed to this report.
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