2019 Legislative Session - Session Update (5/6/19) - By Amy Blaymore Paterson, Executive Director
** Additional Updates as of 5/25/19
April was a busy month at the Capitol. Bills that have made it out of committee now move on for action by the House or Senate. Bills not voted on by committee deadlines are dead; but proposals may still be resurrected as amendments to other bills that have moved on to either chamber.
During the week of April 30, the Appropriations Committee voted on a proposed biennial budget. The Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee also voted on a bond package and proposals for taxes and other revenues for the next two fiscal years. In addition to advocating for protection of the Community Investment Act, Passport to Parks, and funding for other important conservation programs, with your strong support, we opposed several bills which would have required land trusts and other nonprofits to pay local and state taxes, despite their tax-exempt status.
The following are updates and suggested action steps you can take with respect some of CLCC’s conservation priorities.
Good News (with a caveat)
CLCC's Position: Oppose Sections 6-9 and 18 of SB 872 (a bill to implement the Governor's budget) which transferred the Community Investment Act (CIA) account from a dedicated off-budget account to the General Fund
Status: The Appropriations Committee Budget released on April 30 restored the CIA to its current status as a dedicated off-budget account.
CLCC's Position: Oppose Section 6 of HB 7408 which allowed municipalities to require nonprofits (including land trusts and other non-profit land holding organizations) to pay a "public safety and infrastructure benefit charge" for police, fire, emergency services, and road maintenance.
Status: Section 6 has been removed. View Joint Favorable Substitute Language >>
** CLCC is working with The Nature Conservancy and leaders of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee to amend Section 1 (previously Section 7) so that owners of open space, forest land and farmland (including land trusts) are exempt from fees assessed to fund a municipal stormwater authority. View Joint Favorable Substitute Language, specifically Section 1 (c), which we are seeking to change >>
Legislation: SB 1137, An Act Concerning Deposits in Lieu of Taxes (Section 1) and SB 1138, An Act Concerning Community Restoration (Section 5)
CLCC's Position: Oppose Section 1, SB 1137 and Section 5, SB 1138 which would require nonprofits, including land trusts, with "significant" savings accounts, endowments or pension funds to pay into a state "community development account" the equivalent of 25% property tax.
Status: SB 1137 was not acted upon by the committee (i.e. the bill is dead) and Section 5 of SB 1138 was replaced in its entirety with new language which would make any payments by nonprofits, towns, and the state into the community development account voluntary. Joint Favorable Substitute Language will be posted when available.
CLCC's Position Support bonding for land conservation and water programs
Status: The Finance, Bonding and Revenue Committee approved a bond package which included $4 Million for the Recreation and Natural Heritage Trust Fund (DEEP's funding source for its recreation and open space lands purchases); $3 Million for the CT Recreational Trails and Greenways Account, and $75 Million (FY 20) and $84 Million (FY21) for the Clean Water Fund.
The Appropriations Committee Budget includes a raid of Passport to the Parks Program
The Governor's Budget was supportive of the Passport to the Parks Program - proposing to utilize the funding as intended to support state park maintenance as well as the Council on Environmental Quality, the Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and the Environmental Review Team. However, the Appropriations Committee Budget released on April 30 includes diversion of $300,000 in funds from the Passport to Parks Program for non-state park purposes - a proposal we oppose.
Keep up the good work ... and don't let up, conservation advocates!
Your advocacy on these and other bills thus far this session has been extraordinary. Your efforts -- including submission of an unprecedented volume of testimony -- absolutely made a difference in defeating proposals which would have undermined your conservation work.
Keep up the good work! With just weeks left in the legislative session, continued communications with your legislators is critical to ensuring that good bills are passed and harmful proposals are defeated!
Caveat! While this news is good, we will need to watch carefully to make sure the proposals we opposed do not get tacked on to other bills that have moved on to the House or Senate. Stay tuned for action alerts and other news from the Capitol, and please contact me anytime with questions, comments and suggestions.
Thank you for continuing to be vocal, strong and relentless in your advocacy on legislation and policies that will protect our land, water, and other natural resources.
Amy Blaymore Paterson, Executive Director