After the Connecticut state Senate voted to override three of Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell's vetoes, the House voted to override Rell and extend health insurance for private workers who clean state buildings that include the state Capitol. On a largely party line vote, the Democratic-dominated House voted 106 to 35 - exceeding the two-thirds level of 101 votes.

The House debate lasted about one hour regarding the standard wage law that governs health insurance for outside, private contractors who work in state buildings. If passed also by the Senate, the measure would extend health insurance coverage for about 500 children and their parents who currently work mostly as janitors but also as food-service workers. They work at the Capitol, the Legislative Office Building, and Bradley Airport, among others.

Rep. Kevin Ryan, a Montville Democrat who co-chairs the legislature's labor committee, said that the employees in question currently have health insurance coverage.

"Without this bill passing, they would lose their benefits by the end of this month, for sure,'' Ryan said.

If the janitors do not get health insurance, many of them would end up on the state-paid HUSKY health insurance program, anyway, Ryan said.

"One way or the other, the state will be paying for it,'' Ryan said on the House floor. "If this bill is not implemented, about 500 children and their parents will lose health benefits.''

In her veto message, Rell wrote, "This legislation creates an exception to current law and provides varying wages and benefits to certain employees of contractors at a potentially significant cost to the state. The law mandates that a select group of employees will be paid union contract wages and benefits, instead of the Department of Labor's determined standard wage rates, and creates two distinct classes of janitors - those hired before July 1, 2009 and those hired after such date. By removing the link of certain employees' wages and benefits to the Department of Labor's standard wage rates, we are exposing the state to an unknown and unmanageable level of cost.''

The bill originally passed by 112 to 35 on May 13 in the House and by 30 to 6 on June 2 in the Senate.

"We know their faces. We know their stories. We're friends with many. We see them every day,'' said House GOP leader Larry Cafero of Norwalk. "But they work for private companies.''

In a deepening recession, thousands of Connecticut residents have lost their jobs and their health insurance.

"Compassion. You bet, we have compassion,'' Cafero said. "But are we in a position as the state of Connecticut to say, 'If you can't pay the benefits, we'll pay them for you'?''

After the "justice for janitors'' bill was passed, the House started debating the SustiNet universal health care bill at about 2:30 p.m.

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