Port Authority Confusion Compounded By Veto Override

HB 6649, the omnibus transportation legislation  including exciting items such as naming bridges and overpasses, was among the bills overridden by majority Democrats yesterday. The veto was a gift to Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, who’s involved in a drama with the City Council over the fate of the city’s Port Authority, which has become less relevant after the departure of the banana boats. The bill would have protected the port authority from termination.

 Here are some excerpts from the Senate debate. That fact that Finch wanted the veto seemed lost among some Democratic lawmakers who voiced criticism again Gov. Jodi Rell.

Sen. Don DeFronzo, D-New Britain, co-chairman of the Transportation Committee: Mr. President, the governor’s veto of this bill is very disappointing to us, in that the governor and the commissioner of Transportation at no time during the long legislative process indicated that any provision of this bill was so contentious as to warrant a gubernatorial veto…

Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield: … I take Sen. DeFronzo at his word that this was a bipartisan product in that no one from the administration came forward to object to any provision. What happened was, a former colleague of ours and now the mayor of Bridgeport requested that the governor veto this bill because of a controversy regarding a port authority in the city of Bridgeport. And the governor agreed and if you read the governor’s veto message, she talks about the ability to let the city do away with the port authority and that the original provision in this bill should not have been left to stand. After this bill originally passed the City Council in Bridgeport said we’re going to do away with the port authority before this bill can take into effect. And then the mayor and the City Council tried to work out their differences and they’re still trying to work out those differences. And even as we sit here today we’re told that there will still be attempt after this bill is overridden to work with the city of Bridgeport and their delegation to get this worked out and we should do that. But to hear representations made today and to read what I’ve read from some of my colleagues in the paper that how dare the governor veto this bill when she was asked to veto it by the mayor of the largest city of the state, a former Democratic state senator and to hear the comments that are made, are a little ridiculous. A little ridiculous. I think the people of the city of Bridgeport and the mayor should thank the governor for listening. How many times have we heard our big cities come up and say you don’t listen to us in Hartford?….What’s at stake here? A couple of names. A couple of signs. We’re naming some roads and bridges. We love to do that. It’s all good. But the governor’s veto was right on to help the people of the city of Bridgeport. ….

DeFronzo, then rose to address McKiiney’s criticism, noting that the Transportation commissioner was in the Senate the night the bill was approved.

Then Lt. Gov. Mike Fedele, presiding over the session banged the gavel: I would ask the chamber to be very careful with names and titles and directions toward individuals. I understand there’s some dialogue here but we also have the decorum and rules of the Senate.

DeFronzo: My point is that this issue was fully vetted through the legislative process. The DOT had complete knowledge of it…Presumably the governor’s staff was aware of it….

Sen. Ed Gomes, D-Bridgeport: Some of the things I have just heard spoken here, I think they need a clarification of….The whole delegation of the city of Bridgeport stands in favor of the override of this veto, for the simple reason that we feel that the transportartion bill is more important than the city of Bridgeport alone. Anything that they have done down in the city of Bridgeport they have got into under their own duress and that’s how it should be settled…

McKinney: If the delegation of the city of Bridgeport thinks this is good for the city that’s great. I have no quarrel with that…The timing is my issue… It was in Sen. Defronzo’s e-mail, which he copied us all on, to Nancy Hadley, the former economic development director in Bridgeport, pointed this very fact out that the city of Bridgeport and the administration was aware of this language…It was after the bill passed that the City Council took action and it is at that point that the mayor of the city said wait, stop, pull back the language so I can work this out with the city council….I have no quarrel if people want to override. I have no quarrel with the good senators from Bridgeport doing what’s best for their city, I just have a quarrel with representations that were made and I think the record should be clear that it was after the bill passed there was an objection raised by the mayor to the governor. The governor, correctly or incorrectly trying to help him out and the city out, did what she did.”

After the successful override late Monday afternoon , the Blogster called Finch for a reaction and instead got a statement from Tyrone McClain, the mayor’s director of legislative affairs:“We are working hand in hand with our Bridgeport legislative delegation and legislative leadership to address our concerns with this legislation through the upcoming special legislative session. We are confident that this issue will be resolved in the best interest of the City of Bridgeport.”