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Dems not a friend of marijuana or education

By Hempology | July 28, 2007

New Haven Register, CT
24 Jul 2007
Gregory B. Hladky


HARTFORD — Democratic lawmakers made no effort Monday to use their “super majorities” to override Republican Gov.  M.  Jodi Rell’s vetoes of bills that included medical use of marijuana and tuition breaks for illegal immigrants.  The only time the Democrats managed to muster the votes needed for an override came in May and involved an obscure measure that would give the legislature a say in state requests for waivers from federal social service requirements.

Rell used her veto power six times this year, including one rare line-item veto.

Senate Majority Leader Martin M.  Looney, D-New Haven, said the vetoes up for possible action Monday didn’t involve highly partisan bills where a two-thirds vote in each chamber seemed possible. 

“There were not the kinds of party-line issues that you’d expect to have for a veto override,” Looney said.  He added that none of the measures were approved by both the House and Senate with veto-proof majorities.

The Senate’s top Democrat, Donald E.  Williams Jr.  of Brooklyn, agreed.  “The hot button issue …  really didn’t break down along party lines,” Williams said.

Williams insisted Democratic leaders never really expected their super majorities in the House and Senate would allow them to push through whatever they wanted over Rell’s objections.

The two highest profile measures vetoed by Rell concerned medical use of marijuana and offering children of illegal immigrants in-state tuition rates at Connecticut colleges and universities.

In May, House lawmakers voted 89-53 to approve the medical marijuana measure and the Senate approved the bill 23-13 June 1.

The legislation would have permitted people suffering from major, long-term diseases such as cancer to possess or grow small amounts of marijuana for personal medical use.

But Rell said that, while she sympathized with the intent of the measure, the medical profession hasn’t recognized it as medically useful, and that the bill would send the wrong message about drug use in general.

The other major veto killed a bill that would have allowed children of illegal immigrants who graduate from Connecticut high schools to qualify for lower in-state college tuition rates.

Rell said the legislation, which would have required those students to apply for legal immigration status, could have backfired by calling federal attention to their current illegal status.

She also said she didn’t want to encourage people to try to circumvent federal immigration laws, which she also said needed to be reformed.

The other bills vetoed by Rell this year included legislation to:

.  Require the state comptroller to change accounting procedures for state finances, a move Rell said could cause serious budget difficulties.

.  Enact a Democratic tax package that would have increased state income tax rates on the wealthy to provide tax breaks for middle-class and working-class families.

Rell said there was no need for significant tax increases when the state had major budget surpluses.  Rell announced Saturday that the final estimate for the fiscal 2007 surplus is about $1.04 billion.

.  Provide funding for two energy programs.

Rell said she used a line-item veto on the money sections of the overall energy legislation because lawmakers hadn’t at that point passed a comprehensive two-year budget plan.

Virtually all of the funding involved was restored when the General Assembly passed a bipartisan budget several weeks later.

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