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Legislatively Speaking
Legislature to make tough decisions
 

By Gordon Gibson, State Legislative Director

  APRIL 2009 --

The public hearings are mostly over and the General Assembly will soon start meeting in full sessions to debate the many bills that have been reported on favorably by the committees.  This is similar to Friday afternoon and Saturday at our annual State Grange session when the sessions committees report on the resolutions and the delegate body acts on them.  The big difference is that at State Grange we act on every resolution presented, but at the General Assembly there are so many bills that there is not enough time for action on all of them, so many die for lack of action when the General Assembly adjourns in June.  As this year’s deadline of midnight on June 3 approaches, the lobbying efforts to get everyone’s important bills on the floor for action will become more and more intense.
   
The Grange is lobbying for bills to help the dairy farmers who are losing money on all the milk they produce.  The price the farmers receive for their milk as it leaves the farm is set by the federal government, but the prices the farmers must pay for grain, hay and energy are set by the market.  Bills have been introduced to subsidize the farmers so they can at least break even on the milk they sell.  Without these subsidies our dairy farmers will be forced to sell their herds and go out of business.
   
The Department of Agriculture sponsored the annual Ag Day at the Capitol March 18.  All of the major agricultural organizations had displays in the Capitol to acquaint the legislators and their staffs with Connecticut’s agriculture industry.  The Grange was well represented with a display on Grange programs and activities.  Adding to the day this year was a rally by the dairy farmers outside the Capitol including a live cow.  Many legislators are sympathetic to the farmers’ plight, but there is always the question of where the money will come from to do anything to help them.
   
The coalition that supports the community investment act took advantage of the day to hold a press conference and meetings with many legislators in an effort to prevent the funds generated for this program by the $30 dollar surcharge on every deed and mortgage recorded in Connecticut from being diverted to the State’s general fund.  There has much talk lately about economic stimulus programs.  Grants made from the community investment act funds stimulate much economic activity while enabling many organizations to qualify for matching federal grants.  If the community investment act money is diverted to the general fund, many federal dollars would be lost to Connecticut.  Farmland preservation and community development are not always compatible.  Open level land with few wetland problems is the easiest to farm, but it is also the least expensive land to develop, whether the development is for housing, stores or industry.  The Grange is working with other groups concerned with preserving our farmland in support of bills that will require the State to preserve the farmland it already owns and require the towns to have a local program in place to preserve farmland before using any State grant money for projects that would result in the loss of prime farmland.  Underlying all of these bills and the efforts to pass them is the problem of money.  Like many households, the State’s income is down while its costs are up.  Everyone agrees something needs to be done to bring expenses in line with income, but no one has an answer that will work.  Every bill considered by the General Assembly that has an additional cost to it will have to be reviewed to see if the necessary funds can be included in the State budget. 
   
Many good programs will not pass in this year’s General Assembly because there will be no money to fund them.  Some of you may think I have rambled on several topics in this article, but that’s the way it is at the Capitol.  There are a lot of problems and a lot of solutions that would work if the money was available.  The biggest problem of all is that the funds just are not there.  In many ways, running the State is just like running our households.  If only we had the money we need.

 
 
 

 
     
     
       
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