Climatepocalypse Emergency Downgraded to Crisis
A bill declaring that climate change in Connecticut as a public health and environmental justice emergency — for the purposes of increasing access to federal funds — has been demoted to a crisis with an amendment Wed. (May 24).
It charges the Commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) — within available appropriations — to produce a ‘Decarbonization Roadmap.’ The roadmap will identify regulations, programs and policies “necessary” to ensure the state reduces greenhouse emissions to at least 80 percent below the level emitted in 2001.
Massachusetts released their own roadmap in December 2020, which includes strategies to transition to all electric vehicles, reducing growth in total vehicle miles traveled, adding offshore wind, solar and storage and converting building heating systems to utilize heat pumps.
To achieve decarbonization, states like New York and California are banning gas stoves by changing building codes to ban gas hookups in new buildings.
The fiscal note on the amendment states there will be a “potential cost” which could force the bill to be sent back to the Appropriations Committee for approval before it is taken up for a vote.
Cornucopia of Randomness Bills
With less than two weeks left of the 2023 legislative session, lawmakers are scrambling to get their agendas across the finish line.
Instead of addressing policies individually, the proposed approach, according to Katherine Lutz, a consultant for the Capitol Region Council of Government (CRCOG) Transportation Committee, is to consolidate multiple issues into comprehensive bills. Lutz, who is also a partner at Rome Smith Lutz & Kowalski, provided updates on transportation-related bills during Monday’s (May 22) CRCOG’s meeting. As an independent consultant on legislation and regulation impacting CRCOG’s goals, she emphasized the intention to merge various matters into main bills that are relevant and substantial.
During a conversation with Lutz, Senator Christine Cohen (D-12th), co-chair of the General Assembly Transportation Committee, acknowledged the plan to combine related issues into comprehensive bills during the final week of the session. Lutz added that there is anticipation among everyone to see the contents of these significant bills, often referred to as “aircraft carrier bills.”
“Aircraft bills” or omnibus packages are legislative measures that consolidate unrelated provisions into a single bill, typically used when time is limited. However, similar to national-level practices, these omnibus packages raise concerns regarding transparency. They are often criticized for being lengthy, complex, and challenging for both legislators and the public to fully understand. This lack of clarity hinders the public’s ability to provide meaningful input, potentially leading to important concerns and objections being overlooked or disregarded.
Furthermore, when numerous unrelated provisions are bundled together, it becomes difficult to hold legislators accountable for their voting decisions. Lawmakers may feel compelled to support or oppose the entire bill, even if they disagree with specific provisions. This compromises representation and limits oversight.
The Art of Deception Because Transparency is Overrated
On Wednesday (May 24), the House introduced an amendment that substituted the language of a bill with content completely unrelated to its original purpose.
The amendment, put forth by Rep. Josh Elliot (D-88th), magically transforms a bill originally addressing how town clerks handle situations where candidates withdraw from an election after ballots have been printed. Instead, the amendment proposes the implementation of ranked-choice voting (RCV) for presidential primaries. Conspicuously, the title of the bill, “An Act Concerning the Appearance of Unfilled Vacancies in Candidacies on the Ballot,” remains unchanged.
Unlike a system based on a plurality vote, where the candidate with the most votes wins, RCV allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference on their ballots. To be declared a winner, a candidate must secure more than 50 percent of the first-place votes. If no candidate achieves a majority of first-place votes, a new counting process is initiated. The candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. If a voter had ranked the eliminated candidate as their first choice, their second-ranked candidate replaces the first choice. This process continues until a candidate receives a majority of votes.
The public hearing on the original bill, when it accurately reflected its title, was held on March 6 and only received four written testimonies — mostly in favor.
There is no clear reason why Rep. Josh Elliot is playing a shell game with legislation. Three separate bills — SB 389, HB 5087 and HB 5701 — regarding RCV were put forth this session by the General Administration and Election Committee. All three had a public hearing on the same day as the ‘bait and switch’ bill. In other words, there were three separate opportunities to be transparent with the public when moving this issue forward.
During the debate, Rep. Hilda E. Santiago (D-84) opposed the amendment, voicing her concerns that the average person would find RCV too complicated. She also worried about the “detriment” to women and minority candidates.
Regardless, the bill was passed temporarily — meaning that the debate was suspended, and the bill may need further review or revisions before or if it is brought to a vote.
Slow Down Now or Pay Later
After a five-hour debate on Tuesday (May 23), the House passed (104-46) a roadway safety bill that will allow municipalities to use speed and red-light cameras.
Under the bill, cities and towns will be permitted to install automated traffic enforcement devices once they adopt an ordinance and get a camera plan approved by the Department of Transportation (DOT) every three years. Currently, speed cameras are already in use at certain DOT work zones through a pilot program that started Jan. 1, 2022.
Municipalities are required to hold public hearings on camera usage plans and submit them for a vote of the legislative body or board of selectman. If approved, they must notify the public through a “public awareness campaign” at least 30 days before they start snapping pictures.
Fines are capped at $50 for the first offense and go up to $75 for subsequent violations. Municipalities may also tack on a $15 electronic payment processing fee.
To protect privacy, all personally identifiable information will be destroyed within 30 days after the ticket is paid or you are lucky enough to have it resolved in a hearing.
The bill also requires the DOT to perform a study on outlawing right on red turns and allowing bicyclists to operate under a set of different laws like treating stop signs as yield signs and red lights as a stop sign.
Meanwhile, the DOT will also conduct a public awareness campaign — for those motorists who haven’t learned — about the dangers driving under the influence of over-the counter- and prescription drugs, emphasizing opioids and cannabis. Drivers will be forced to watch a safety video every other license renewal or when transferring a license from another state.
Policies that vanished from the original bill are the requirement of helmets to be worn by all motorcycle operators, banning any open alcohol containers in a moving car and giving the DOT the ability to use eminent domain to seize private land for bike paths.
This Week on Yankee Institute’s Podcast Y CT Matters
Did you get free Covid-19 test kits from the U.S. Postal Service?
If so, you may have been one of 68 million citizens whose private information was given to labor unions. Elisabeth Kines Messenger, CEO of Americans for Fair Treatment explains.
Click HERE to listen.
You Still Have Time for Your Voice to Be Heard
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Let us Remember and Honor our Fallen Heroes
On this Memorial Day, let us come together to honor and remember the brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our nation. It is a day to reflect upon the selflessness and courage displayed by those who gave their lives in defense of freedom and the values we hold dear.