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Legislatively Speaking
The 2012 Legislative Session

By Gordon Gibson, CT State Grange Legislative Liaison

  JUNE 4, 2012 --

The 2012 regular session of the General Assembly has come and gone.  Much time was spent debating bills where everyone knew what the final vote would be with the result that more bills than usual died on the Senate and House calendars when time ran out on May 9 when the General Assembly had to adjourn under the State Constitution.  Unlike our State Grange session where every resolution must be considered and voted on before the Grange adjourns, any bills that have not been brought to the floor for debate when the mandatory time for adjournment is reached are automatically defeated and are said to  “died on the calendar”.  However, the General Assembly must still come back for a special session to deal with any bills Governor Malloy may veto and also to consider any bills that are necessary to clarify conflicts in the bills that were passed in the last hours of the regular session

Among the bills that did pass in the 2012 General Assembly was a bond authorization for $10 million for the preservation of farmland.  This is exactly the right amount to keep the State’s farmland preservation program moving forward at its current pace for another year.  A bill also passed which requires every town to update their plan of land conservation and preservation at least once every five years with emphasis on preserving 21% of Connecticut’s land area for open space.  A third bill that passed will phase in on line filing of all State agency rules and regulations so everyone can access them through their computer. 

Under the present law the regulations must be published in the Connecticut Law Journal which is usually read only by attorneys and judges.  The so-called “Wood Furnace”  bill which, in its original form would have completely banned the use of outdoor wood burning furnaces from May 1 through September 30 each year did not pass The bill was amended to permit the use of wood burning furnaces used to provide hot water and would also have limited those who could file complaints to people who owned land abutting the property where the furnace was located.  This bill still needs some revisions and will probably be back in another form in the 2013 General Assembly.

Another bill which did not pass in the 2012 General Assembly but may be back next year concerned background checks for people working at summer youth camps such as Camp Berger.  In the original version every adult who set foot in a youth camp during the campong season would have been required to pass a background check, including delivery people, repairmen and those picking up the trash and garbage.  The bill was revised so that only the camp director or assistant director would be required to pass a background check, but excluded all the counselors and other camp staff.  The State Grange Board of Directors already requires all staff members at Camp Berger to pass a background check as proposed in this bill.

A bill that would have increased the liability of organizations that allow free use of their land for recreational purposes was defeated due to much lobbying by land trusts and other organizations that own land or hold conservation easements on land.  At present an owner of such land who allows the public to enter the property at no charge has a very limited liability if anyone gets hurt on their property.  The proposed bill would have removed the liability exemption from land and structures which the owner had created

A highly controversial bill to require very specific labeling of all genetically engineered foods did not pass but will probably be back in 2013.  This bill would have required detailed listing of the ingredients in all foods made from genetically modified plants and animals.  The problem is the amount of information that the bill required would have been impossible to include on many labels in a format large enough to be read by the average person.  One suggestion that was made was to develop a special symbol which could be placed on foods that did not contain any genetically engineered materials.  Perhaps this will form the basis of a new bill in 2013

Other bills of interest to Grange members which did not pass would have enabled towns to significantly reduce the taxes on historic barns in exchange for a preservation easement on the barn which could re renewed every ten years, authorized the inclusion of nurseries and greenhouses in farmland preservation programs, created a position UConn for an invasive plants coordinator and authorized an easement to preserve and protect farmland owned by the State at Southbury Training School

So what did pass in the 2012 General Assembly?  Much time was spent debating a bill to allow the growing, production and distribution of marijuana for medical purposes.  This bill did pass both the House and Senate, but the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency has already notified the State that everything in this bill is prohibited under Federal law.  According to DEA, anyone who obtains a permit for any of the activities permitted under the new State law will be subject to arrest and prosecution by the United States Government for violating federal laws concerning marijuana.  It was a very interesting session.


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