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:
- Bonding for open space and trails
- Saving the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ)
- Saving DEEP!
- Funding mechanisms for State Parks, Conservation Districts, and other programs that protect public health and the environment.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Status of Other Bills of Interest
View additional CLCC 2017 testimony related to the following:
State Budget, State Parks and DEEP funding:
Status: Referred to the Transportation Committee and a public hearing was held on 01/30. No further action taken.
Status: Passed the Environment Committee and was referred to the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee. No further action taken.
Status: Passed the Environment Committee. No further action taken.
Status: Passed the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee. No further action.
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
Status: Passed the Environment Committee. No further action taken.
Status: Referred to Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee. No further action taken.
Siting large scale energy infrastructure projects on farm and forest land:
Status: No Action
Status: Passed the House and Senate, to Governor for signature.
Status: Passed the House. No action in the Senate.
Status: Passed the House and Senate, to the Governor for signature.
Property Tax and Sales Tax Exemptions
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.
Status: Referred to Environment Committee and a public hearing on the bill was held on 03/06. No further action taken.
Status: Passed the Environment Committee and referred to Appropriations Committee. No further action taken.
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.
Support appropriations for critical federal conservation programs, including: Land & Water Conservation Fund, USDA Farm Bill and Conservation Title Programs, USDA 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):
- Farm Bill Programs
- Conservation Funding Programs
- Federal Tax Matters
- A primer for Congress: Working with Land Trusts