Green Amendment Taking More of Our Green
The Environment Committee held a public hearing on Feb. 27, on a proposed amendment that would provide new “inherent, inalienable, and indefeasible” environmental rights to the state constitution.
While the concept of environmental rights is commendable, the proposed resolution is too broadly written and will open the state and municipalities up to costly lawsuits.
What’s more, the amendment has serious implications for the state’s “equity” agenda. It allows Connecticut residents to advocate against projects — including housing projects — on the grounds they infringe upon their rights to a clean environment and enables them to sue for environmental damages if a public entity fails to comply with emissions and other pollution standards. Under the terms of the amendment, it seems that “each person” conceivably impacted would have standing to bring such a lawsuit.
New York adopted a similar environmental amendment in 2021; lawsuits have already begun. In an effort to halt the construction of two housing projects, community groups insist their environmental rights will be violated. In another lawsuit over a landfill in upstate New York, filed against the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, a court ruled not only that private citizens could bring “a Green Amendment case” based on alleged environmental rights violations, but also that the court could compel the state to address the alleged impacts.
The Connecticut Constitution provides two paths for the legislature to refer constitutional amendments to the ballot. First, a 75% vote in each chamber of the legislature during one legislative session can refer an amendment. Second, a simple majority vote (50%+1) in each chamber of the legislature during two legislative sessions can refer an amendment. Amendments do not require the governor’s signature to be referred to the ballot.
“What is the Difference Between a Taxidermist and a Tax Collector? The Taxidermist Takes Only Your Skin.” —Mark Twain
Gov. Ned Lamont kicked off the 2023 legislative session by telling the state he has “no interest in raising taxes.” Yet this did not stop lawmakers on Monday from having a public hearing on a litany of bills doing the opposite. The Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee heard testimony on bills that create a state-wide property tax, increases in personal income taxes and increases taxes on certain investments.
Big Labor, who loves to spend other people’s money, is in favor of these increases. Ed Hawthorne, President of Connecticut AFL-CIO, stated in written testimony that the proposed increases do “not vilify wealth or the wealthy but makes sure those who benefitted for decades from our inequitable tax structure provide relief to those who have been shouldering the majority of the burden.” He failed to mention that overall, the top two percent of tax filers pay most of the state’s bills.
Coincidentally, Connecticut Comptroller Sean Scanlon said on Wednesday (March 1) that the state is looking at a $1.35 billion budget surplus for fiscal year 2023, which ends June 30.
Who Needs a Union When You Have a Labor and Public Employees Committee?
The Labor and Public Employees Committee had a public hearing on Thursday on a bill “protecting warehouse workers.” The legislation will protect workers against unreasonable quotas. Proponent of the bill, Sen. Martin Looney (D-New Haven), wrote in his testimony, “Some large corporations have warehouses in our state that routinely put workers’ safety at risk by requiring them to work at unrealistic speed.”
Yankee Institute Labor Fellow Frank Ricci countered this statement in his testimony noting that “it is important for Connecticut’s workforce to be well-protected. But working conditions are already heavily regulated through wage and hour regulations and state and federal labor law.”
Mr. Ricci went on to say, “Businesses are already incentivized to keep workers safe. An injured worker results in lost time, decreasing productivity and increasing insurance rates.”
Being Dead Last in the Nation is No Way to Go Through Life
“A Better Way to a Prosperous Connecticut” will require high schools to promote the benefits of attending a trade school alongside any discussions of enrolling in a traditional two- or four-year college. It also re-establishes a vo-tech ambassador program making middle school students aware of future opportunities.
To address the shortage of healthcare workers the proposal develops a curriculum for high school “Health Care Academies” that will provide training and certification for high school graduates to work in high demand health care occupations.
The plan also calls for the development of a reciprocity certification pathway for out-of-state teachers.
It also requires the Connecticut Department of Labor to develop a program to reach out to high school grads who have not enrolled in higher education or are not working in a trade within three months of graduation to inform them of alternative career pathways.
Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly (R-Stratford) said, “Connecticut is dead last in the nation in job growth and income growth. We want to support our young people, develop our workforce, and address the growing demand for trades people, teachers and healthcare workers. This plan represents a pathway to opportunity and prosperity for Connecticut families.”
Aid in Dying Bill Resurrected
The Public Health Committee heard 10 hours of testimony on Monday from more than 122 supporters and opponents of “aid-in-dying” legislation that would let physicians prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill residents. Similar legislation has been proposed more than a dozen times in recent years but never made its way to the House or Senate for a vote.
Mark Your Calendar
On Monday (March 6) the Government Administration and Elections Committee will be holding a public hearing on various voting bills.
SB 389 An Act Concerning Ranked-Choice Voting
HB 5087 An Act Concerning Ranked-Choice Voting for State and Federal Offices
HB 5133 An Act Concerning Ranked-Choice Voting for Municipal Offices
HB 5701 An Act Instituting Ranked-Choice Voting for Municipal, State and Federal Elections
Listen to our podcast featuring Yankee Institute president Carol Platt Liebau discussing the topic with RCV expert Jason Sneed, executive director of Honest Elections Project.
Also, if your obsession with pizza rivals that of our state government. The committee will also be hearing from constituents on an Act Designating Pizza as the State Food.