2017 Regular Legislative Session Re-Cap

Update as of June 13, 2017

The General Assembly adjourned its regular 2017 session on Wednesday, June 7 at midnight and immediately began taking action on the State Biennial Budget in a special session.  While their goal is to have a budget in place by June 30, most lobbyists, advocates and many legislators believe that is a not a realistic goal and that deliberations will continue over many months.

We will continue to keep you apprised of the news about the Community Investment Act (CIA) and other land conservation budget priorities, including:

Please note links to most current calls to action/talking points on each of these issues, watch for updates, and thank you in advance for taking action!

Regular Session Re-Cap:  Here is how our conservation priorities fared:

State Lands Protection

Priority:  Pursue a Constitutional Amendment to Better Protect Public Lands - Ensure the second passage of a Constitutional Amendment bill that protects public lands from being conveyed without appropriate public process and compensation. 

Final Status:  Despite tremendous support from members of the public and the legislature, the General Assembly failed to take action on legislation (SJ 39) before its mandatory closing of the regular session on June 7.  This inaction was a huge disappointment. 

 SJ 39 had 46 bi-partisan co-sponsors and the support of more than 130 advocacy organizations and businesses. SJ 39 was approved unanimously on consent by the Government Administration and Elections Committee and placed on the Senate calendar, where it sat for months without action. 

There is one more opportunity next year to get the question on the 2018 ballot. If approved by voters, the amendment would require a public hearing and a two-thirds supermajority vote before state-owned public lands such as state parks and forests could be sold, swapped, or given away.

CLCC will join the Connecticut Forest & Park Association (CFPA) and other supporters to push for approval and a vote in 2018.   For more information, please see CFPA’s statement.

CLCC Testimony on SJ 39 

 

HB7278: 2017 Conveyance Act:  CLCC opposed three sections of the 2017 Conveyance Act, which is the legislative mechanism for conveying by sale, swap or give-away, state lands.  All three of those sections were removed before the bill was approved by the General Assembly.  Two additional sections were added in the last days of the session, giving advocates little time to respond.  Fortunately, from what we were able to determine with little time and information available, those two sections did not appear to be of major concern.

CLCC Testimony on HB7278 

Priority:  Protection of Class I & II Watershed Lands - Support efforts to ensure that existing laws that protect Class I and II Watershed Lands are not weakened.

Final Status:  CLCC joined with a number of other organizations to oppose bills that broadened the enabling authority of the South Central Regional Water Authority, unless the language was amended to retain protections to Class I and II watershed lands. SB 945: An Act Concerning the South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority. The bill authorizes the South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority to invest in certain noncore businesses, including energy projects. Under this bill, “noncore business” means “an activity to be located on property other than class I or class II land owned by the authority that is related to water, environment, agriculture, or an energy project consisting of either a class I renewable energy source or a class III source, but excluding wind sources located within the district.”  We did not oppose the final version of the bill which included language that was acceptable to advocates in addressing concerns about protection of Class I and II lands.

CLCC testimony on SB 945.

Priority:  Support Project Green Space Enabling Legislation - Pursue legislation enabling municipalities to collect up to !% of real estate conveyance fee on buyers to support local open space and farmland acquisition as well as park, forest and trail management projects.

Final Status:  HB 6926 did not make it out of the Planning & Development Committee.  CLCC will continue to support this effort to enable a community funding option for land conservation and evaluate our role in pursuing legislation in 2018.

CLCC’s Testimony on HB6926 

Status of Other Bills of Interest

View additional CLCC 2017 testimony related to the following:

State Budget, State Parks and DEEP funding:

HB 5216: An Act Concerning the Issuance of a Number Plate to Commemorate State Parks Status

Status: Referred to the Transportation Committee and a public hearing was held on 01/30. No further action taken.

HB 631: An Act Establishing a Tax on Single-Use Plastic and Paper Bags

Status: Passed the Environment Committee and was referred to the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee.  No further action taken.

SB 994: AAC the Conservation Functions of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection 

Status: Passed the Environment Committee.  No further action taken.

SB 1054: An Act Concerning a Study of State Revenue Policies

Status: Passed the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee. No further action.

HB 7051: An Act Implementing the Governor's Budget Recommendations for General Government

Status: Passed the Government Administration and Elections Committee and was referred to the Appropriations Committee.  Biennial Budget will be taken up in Special Session. 

Community Investment Act

HB 5503: An Act Concerning Lake Authorities and Combating Invasive Plant and Animal Species

Status: Passed the Environment Committee.  No further action taken. 

HJ 99: Resolution Proposing an Amendment to the State Constitution to Protect the Funding of Programs Through the CIA 

Status: Referred to Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee.  No further action taken.

Siting large scale energy infrastructure projects on farm and forest land:

SB 412: An Act Restricting the Use of Incentives for the Development of Solar Arrays on Agricultural Land 

Status: No Action 

SB 943: An Act Concerning the Installation of Certain Solar Facilities on Productive Farmlands

Status: Passed the House and Senate, to Governor for signature. 

Tree Removal

HB 6123: An Act Concerning Tree Removal Along Limited Access Highways

Status: Passed the House. No action in the Senate. 

HB 6356: An Act Concerning public notice of tree removal on municipal property 

Status: Passed the House and Senate, to the Governor for signature.

 Property Tax and Sales Tax Exemptions

HB 6469: An Act Allowing Municipalities to Determine the Property Tax Treatment of Certain Properties

Status: Referred to the Committee on Finance, Revenue and Bonding. A public hearing on the bill was held on 03/03.  No further action taken.

HB 6122: An Act Concerning the Valuation and Taxation of Farmland

Status: Referred to Environment Committee and a public hearing on the bill was held on 03/06. No further action taken. 

Invasives Control

HB 5415: An Act Requiring the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to Prepare a Plan for the Rapid Detection and Eradication of Newly Discovered Terrestrial Invasive Species

Status: Passed the Environment Committee and referred to Appropriations Committee.  No further action taken. 

Conservation Districts

HB 5871: An Act Providing Funding for Soil and Water Conservation Districts

Status: Passed the Environment Committee.  No further action taken

To view any of the foregoing bills, go to the Connecticut General Assembly website and search by Bill No. at the bottom of the page.

View the Office of Legislative Research's full list of all 2017 bills passed during the session. 

Federal Priorities

Support appropriations for critical federal conservation programs, including:  Land & Water Conservation Fund, USDA Farm Bill and Conservation Title ProgramsUSDA Forest Service Programs (including Forest Legacy Program) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Programs (including State Wildlife Grants Program).

Status:  Congress approved an FY17 budget that will keep funding levels for land conservation programs relatively flat through September 2017.  That’s the good news.  However, proposed budget cuts for FY18 going forward are nothing short of devastating.  In particular, State say that the President's proposal to cut the federal Environmental Protection Agency budget by 31 percent would translate into a $6 million cut to Connecticut’s environmental budget.  Couple that news with continued rollbacks of regulations and programs that protect the environment, and the need to take action has never been more urgent. 

CLCC represented the state’s land trusts in D.C. for the Alliance’s Advocacy Days (May 1-3).  We met with all members and/or staff of our Congressional Delegation and asked that they continue to oppose the administrations’ proposed cuts which will impact all of the above programs.  Briefing papers are available as follows (click on program name):

 

 

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