The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)
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.
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.
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.