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Faced with no good option, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy picked an OK one Monday, signing an executive order creating an Office of Early Childhood Education, an agency the legislature almost assuredly would have created if not for some last-minute game playing that was asinine even by the General Assembly's low standards.
The General Assembly allocated $127 million in the first year of its two-year budget and $232 million in the second year to fund the new office. The philosophy behind creating the office is a solid one. Its intent is to improve coordination among the various agencies that are involved in providing education services for at-risk youngsters. These include the Department of Education, Social Services, Children and Families, Public Health and the Office of Policy and Management. The state will fund the new office in large part by transferring personnel and resources from those agencies.
The problem came when, in the closing hours of the recently completed legislative session, the Senate, having funded the new office, failed to act on the bill creating the Office of Early Childhood Education, already approved by the House. The new fiscal year begins July 1 and if the governor wanted to access the funds approved by lawmakers to pay salaries and non-profit providers, he needed the office. So Gov. Malloy created it through the executive order.
Whether the move faces any legal challenge remains to be seen. At the very least it buys time for the state to meet its obligations. The alternative would be a special session, but the governor is shrewd not to go down that unpredictable road unless he has to.
As for the inanity that resulted in no action as the session ended this month, both major parties share the blame. Sen. President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, should have pushed the vote sooner rather than leave the new office vulnerable to Republican mischief as time ran short. The Office of Early Childhood Education got hung up when Republicans stalled things, House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero particularly frustrated about the Senate's failure to take a vote on lifting a ban prohibiting bow hunting on Sundays.
Of course the bills had absolutely nothing to do with each other. Only in the bizarre world of the Connecticut legislature could they have ended up intertwined.