Though they won’t have a budget by the time the regular legislative session comes to an end Wednesday night, Connecticut legislators have debated bills ranging from economic development to highway tolls.
Here’s a roundup:
Leaders of the state’s two federally-recognized tribal nations have welcomed the final passage of a bill that allows them to build a jointly run casino in East Windsor. All of the budget proposals currently on the table for the special session rely on expanded gaming revenue in some way. The bill just passed by the House requires the tribes to pay a $30 million exclusivity fee. The East Windsor facility will also pay 25 percent of its slots and its table game revenues to the state. The chairmen of the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes issued a statement welcoming the legislation, calling it "one of the most significant jobs initiatives of the legislative session."
Meanwhile, the House also passed a separate piece of legislation that would allow the expansion of off track betting facilities in the state. The number of approved facilities would increase from 18 to 24. The bill would also require the state Department of Consumer Protection to figure out a regulatory framework for sports betting in the state, in case federal rules are changed in the future. The bill now has to go to the Senate.
Proponents of legislation that could lead to tolls on Connecticut's highways conceded Tuesday they don't have enough votes to pass the bill. There was significant debate before the bill was eventually pulled.
Rep. Tony Guerrera, the Democrat who co-chairs the transportation committee, mounted a passionate defense of highway tolls, saying they’re essential to raise revenue.
“You know it needs to be done, and every day that we wait, it’s gonna be on our backs,” he told his fellow lawmakers. “I don’t want to wait any longer. And I know this is difficult, but Jesus guys -- we got elected to make some tough decisions here.”
But many Republicans were skeptical. Rep. Devin Carney, the ranking member on the committee, said he didn’t believe it’s an effective way to get money from out-of-state drivers. “All this bill will do is lead to more funds coming out of hard working people’s pockets because this state can’t function,” he said. “They can’t spend their money right, and they just want more and more and more from the residents of this state. Sixty-five percent of this will come from the residents of this state at least.”
Analysts have warned the state’s special transportation fund may become insolvent in just a few years.
A bill which would change the way the state’s nuclear power plant sells its power appears to have been revived in the state Senate. The legislation had been abandoned by the House at the weekend, but the Senate passed a measure that would require the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to carry out an appraisal of whether a competitive procurement process is needed for Millstone. Republicans led the charge to revive the measure -- some Democrats accused Millstone’s owner, Dominion, of bullying lawmakers.