Cell tower and insurance measures draw Malloy's first vetoes
On Tuesday Gov. Dannel P. Malloy disappointed those who want greater regulations placed on big telecommunications and insurance companies.
Even as his office announced his anticipated signing of a first-in-the-nation bill requiring certain employers provide workers paid sick leave, it also issued his first vetoes targeting bills aimed at cellular towers and insurance rate hikes.
The cellular tower measure had been viewed as a small victory in the war against cellular tower proliferation. It encouraged the Connecticut Siting Council, the appointed body in charge of approving telecommunications applications that critics feel is too industry-friendly, to keep construction of towers at least 250 feet from schools and day-care centers.
And cities and towns, while having no approval authority, would have had 90 days notice rather than 60 and would have been given more detailed information about the need for a tower.
Malloy in his veto letter said he generally supported the bill and attributed his concerns to a possible drafting error. He wrote that the legislation required the Siting Council to conclude that a tower "is necessary for the reliability of the electric power supply of the state or for the development of a competitive market for electricity before it could be approved."
"This makes the siting of such towers in the state essentially impossible because television and cell phone towers do not impact the reliability of electricity or the competitive markets for electricity," Malloy wrote.
Rep. Fred Camillo, R-Greenwich, who along with the rest of that town's delegation has for a few years sought to expand the municipal role in determining tower locations, said he had been unaware of that language in the bill.
"This passed overwhelmingly. The administration's seen something no one else saw," Camillo said. "If there is a drafting error, we should get back to work and take care of it."
June Lee of Easton, who has been fighting cellular towers in that area, was stunned by the governor's veto. "You have to be kidding," she said. "Legislators are going to be very upset because there was a round of applause when this passed in the House (of Representatives)."
Malloy's veto of a bill requiring symposiums on health insurance rate hikes of more than 10 percent was perhaps less of a surprise, but still upsetting to backers.
The proposal grew out of frustration that the Department of Insurance under ex-Commissioner Thomas Sullivan was not providing enough transparency and not seeking enough public input when weighing rate hikes. The governor in February said he had asked Thomas Leonardi, his new commissioner of insurance, to consider the idea, noting not every rate request warrants a hearing.
"We would tie the industry in knots," Malloy said at the time.
Leonardi subsequently came out against the bill, and Malloy in his veto statement expressed support for the Insurance Department's current process of conducting "an objective actuarial analysis of each and every rate increase request" that exceeds new federal standards.
"The current process fully protects Connecticut's residents from excessive and discriminatory rate increases," Malloy wrote. He said the symposiums, estimated to cost around $181,800 over two years, would burden the already cash-strapped department and eventually be passed on to consumers.
Staff Writer Brian Lockhart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org