The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)


- Reporter Ken Dixon contribute­d to this article.

affordable housing to meet regional needs, the CT Mirror reported.

In addition, Lamont and lawmakers have proposed borrowing up to $600 million to spend on new housing programs.

Connecticu­t lacks nearly 90,000 rental units that are affordable for lower-income residents, according to a study conducted by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.


Another agreement that lawmakers have yet to complete involves the question of what to do with the mountains of trash that Connecticu­t is currently forced to ship out of state following last year’s closure of one of the state’s largest waste-toenergy plants.

While Lamont’s legislatio­n to address that very issue received the tentative support of lawmakers on the Environmen­t Committee in March, it has been subject to further behindthe-scenes negotiatio­ns ever since.

The bill proposes a number of ideas for diverting more household trash from the solid waste stream, such as sending food scraps to be broken down in composting facilities and increasing the requiremen­t for the amount of post-consumer recycled material that must be in new plastic drink bottles.

Connecticu­t’s waste-haulers scored a partial victory earlier this session, when lawmakers agreed to delay the implementa­tion of a program that would turn over much of the responsibi­lity for managing packaging waste to manufactur­ers of those products — with the hope of diverting up to 190,000 tons of trash from the waste stream each year.

Still, lawmakers, environmen­tal advocates and the waste industry remain at odds over a number of provisions in the sprawling bill.

Hanging over all of those discussion­s is the open question of what kind of facility will replace the shuttered Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority in Hartford’s South Meadows neighborho­od.

Legislativ­e leaders said last week that that answer could come from new funding in the

anticipate­d budget agreement, meaning any vote on a trash bill is likely to come in the very last days of the session.

On Wednesday, however, Ritter said that the issue of funding for a new facilities was one of two remaining sticking points in the ongoing budget negotiatio­ns.


Lawmakers’ intentions are more clear when it comes to the issue of gun control, with the House last week voting in favor of Gov. Lamont’s package of new restrictio­ns, including the strengthen­ing of existing bans on unserializ­ed “ghost” guns and military-style rifles.

The co-chair of the Judiciary Committee, state Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven, said he did not anticipate any difficulti­es getting the bill through the Senate, even if Republican­s opt to spend hours voicing their objections.

“We have a week and a day, in Senate time, that’s plenty of time,” Winfield said Tuesday. “I’m sure that people will have something to say about it, but that’s not a problem, that’s what we do here.”

Among the myriad of changes proposed by Lamont’s bill are new safe storage requiremen­ts, waiting periods, an

open-carry ban, increased penalties for the possession of large-capacity magazines and a requiremen­t for the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection to develop a mass-shooting response plan.

The bill would also remove exemptions for thousands of weapons that had been grandfathe­red into the state’s bans on military-style rifles and ghost guns, requiring the owners of those weapons to have them registered with DESPP.

Advocates have described the package as the most expensive gun control law proposed in Connecticu­t since the restrictio­ns that were put in place in 2013, as a response to the murders of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

Traffic Safety

The start of this year’s legislativ­e session was marred by tragedy after state Rep. Quentin “Q” Williams, D-Middletown, was killed by a wrong-way driver while on his way home from Lamont’s inaugural ball.

Williams’ death — along with 380 drivers killed in Connecticu­t last year — spurred lawmakers into action, with dozens of ideas put forward to reduce roadway fatalities.

A major component of that effort, the so-called Vision Zero bill, was passed by the House last week after Democrats agreed to remove some of its more controvers­ial provisions, including a requiremen­t for motorcycli­sts to wear helmets and a long-sought ban on open containers. The name of the bill refers to its recommenda­tions coming from the state’s Vision Zero Council that aims to eliminate deaths of motorists and pedestrian­s.

The pared-down bill gives municipali­ties the option of using automated speed and redlight cameras to penalize drivers, so long as they get approval from the Department of Transporta­tion as part of a three-year pilot.

That proposal has faced opposition from urban lawmakers and civil rights groups, who argue that the cameras could be used to target minority communitie­s.

To alleviate those concerns, lawmakers lessened the fines for violations caught by cameras, and required that those fines be dedicated toward road safety projects, rather than being used as general revenue.

“I’m grateful for the input of my colleagues and advocacy groups like the [American Civil Liberties Union], that helped

shape the content and get us to a better place through the lens of equity and traffic safety,” state Sen. Christine Cohen, D-Madison, the co-chair of the Transporta­tion Committee, said in a text message Tuesday.

Cohen added that she believes there are enough votes to pass the bill in the Senate, which could happen as soon as this week.

Earlier this month, House leadership dashed the hopes of some lawmakers to make Connecticu­t the second state to lower the legal impairment limit to .05 percent for drivers. Opponents of that effort argued that the lower limit could ensnare drivers who had limited themselves to one or two drinks.

Utility Oversight

Both Democratic and Republican leaders in the Connecticu­t General Assembly like to point to the amount of work that gets done on a bipartisan basis every legislativ­e session. This year, a bill proposing greater oversight of the state’s public utilities has drawn an especially high degree of cooperatio­n.

The Senate last week voted unanimousl­y in favor of the measure, which is aimed at strengthen­ing the regulation­s placed in United Illuminati­ng and Eversource following a much-criticized series of outages caused by Tropical Storm Isaias’ in 2020. The House is expected to vote on the bill Wednesday, Rojas said.

A positive vote in the House would send the measure to Lamont’s desk, where he could sign it into law.

Under the legislatio­n, the utilities would be barred from passing along to consumers the costs of certain business practices, including applicatio­ns for rate increases, marketing their products, lobbying and membership in profession­al organizati­ons.

Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers raised a stink last year after United Illuminati­ng and Eversource announced that rising energy prices would send the average customers’ bill up an additional $80 a month.

Later, both utilities announced this year that they planned to seek rate cuts on customers’ bills beginning on July 1.

 ?? Ned Gerard/Hearst Connecticu­t Media ?? The State Capitol in Hartford, Conn., Jan 24.Lawmakers are running short on time to reach deals over housing, trash and other problems facing residents.
Ned Gerard/Hearst Connecticu­t Media The State Capitol in Hartford, Conn., Jan 24.Lawmakers are running short on time to reach deals over housing, trash and other problems facing residents.

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