Legislature's Upcoming Veto Session Not Expected To Turn Into Tolls Debate | Connecticut Public Radio

Legislature's Upcoming Veto Session Not Expected To Turn Into Tolls Debate

Jul 17, 2019

Lawmakers will meet up in Hartford Monday to discuss bills vetoed by Governor Ned Lamont. Lamont recently vetoed three bills. One – an act requiring a study of workforce training needs in the state – includes a proposal related to wages for restaurant wait staff.

Currently in Connecticut, wait staff who are tipped receive a lower minimum wage. They can get the regular minimum wage if they do another type of chore and their employer properly recognizes that time. When management doesn’t keep track of the time, state law allows the worker to make the higher minimum wage.

House Minority Leader Themis Klarides (R-Derby, Orange, Woodbridge) said that’s not consistent with what she and her fellow lawmakers want to see. She expects the governor’s veto to be overridden.

“We want the Department of Labor to work -- in developing those regulations -- to consult with representatives of the restaurant industry and the federal regulations and make them work better together,” Klarides said. “Right now, it’s very much of a gray area and businesses are being hurt by it.”

But, her Democratic colleagues may find themselves going against the opinion of unions if they override the veto. Lamont's action was praised by the local chapter of the Service Employees International Union.

“The complex changes in restaurant worker wage law tacked onto this workforce training bill could have potentially hurt low-wage restaurant employees,” said Juan Hernandez, the vice president for 32BJ SEIU in a written statement. “As the governor and others have noted, these changes were rushed through the legislature without any public input from stakeholders, though they could have cut into restaurant workers’ modest earnings and seriously limited their ability to claim lost wages."

House Majority Leader Matt Ritter (D-Hartford) wouldn’t predict the outcome for Monday's session -- he said he’s not sure how many lawmakers will show up to the Capitol – but he does personally support going forward with an override.

“I voted for House Bill 5001 the first time, so I would be probably consistent with my vote on Monday,” Ritter said. “Having said that though, I do agree [with the governor] that we may need to revisit some aspects of the language next session – it wouldn’t be the first time we did that. But, the workforce stuff is very important to me and so, the importance of that may trump the hesitation with the other provision.”

An override requires 101 votes in the House of Representatives and 24 in the Senate. The other two bills vetoed by Lamont have to do with penalties for the theft of cooking oil waste from restaurants and disclosure of representation by real estate agents.

Before the veto session, there will be a special session regarding a general bonding package and bonding for local school construction. Ritter said it’s not likely they’d take up tolls on Monday – not without an agreement or even a bill in place, but maybe the legislature could set up a future date to call themselves in for a special session on tolls.

“We’re looking at different concepts,” Ritter said. “One of the things we’ve looked at more recently is, could you toll bridges and which ones, which is what a lot of states do also: more project-specific type tolling. But, we’ve reached no deal and no consensus so until we do, we’re not going to go in and call ourselves in and sit there idly.”

Klarides doesn’t see anything happening regarding tolls anytime soon.

“We just can’t go in on Monday and do the school construction bill and then they say, ‘hey, let’s vote on tolls.” And, if they don’t have the votes to pass tolls, they’re not going to call us into special session because then, it’s a waste of a day.”

Ritter said it’s possible a special session encompassing tolls could take place after Labor Day.

“I’m confident that by the time the fall rolls around, we’ll have a new updated transportation plan to share with our Democratic and Republican colleagues,” he said.