HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — There are only days left in the legislative session in Hartford as of Wednesday and lawmakers still have a number of major pieces of legislation that have not been voted on.
Time is not on their side. State lawmakers are trying to find compromise and votes for major policy changes. Like modernizing the bottle bill passed nearly 50 years ago.
State Sen. Christine Cohen of Guilford says the trash crisis is real: “We have our Mira plant shutting down. We have tipping fees skyrocketing.”
Environmental advocates say a watered-down bill would now put a five-cent redemption on juices, teas, and sports drinks. More redemption centers would be put around the state. But because of heavy lobbying by the spirit industry – small liquor bottles or nips will not be redeemable. Instead, they will cost more.
State Rep. Christine Palm, co-chair of the Environment Committee admits it’s a compromise: “That money will be used by the municipality for promoting recycling and possibly hiring a recycling coordinator – that is the hope.”
But Republican leaders are not convinced. State Sen. Kevin Kelly, Senate Minority Leader, knows a tax when he sees one.
“When you have a surcharge you are now looking at a tax. And it’s a tax on cities. The people who live in cities and one of the big issues is whether they’re going to have redemption centers in cities because in many cities don’t have your basic supermarket.”
The two-year $46-billion state budget is also still being negotiated. Though sources tell News 8 a deal is very close.
The Democratic House Speaker Matt Ritter says the parameters of the deal have been laid out pretty well.
“Outside of gaming and some smaller things I don’t think you’ll see any broad base tax increases no,” he said.
No broad base tax increases would be a major win according to Republicans who have not been in on the negotiations.
Early on, the Democratic majority was proposing $3-billion in taxes. Even Governor Ned Lamont – of their own party – was adamantly against the plan.
Sen. Kelly will be scanning the eventual budget bill for any taxes: “Until we see them gone we’re going to continue to be the voice of the middle class to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
The Republican House Minority Leader State Representative Vincent Candelora is hopeful the budget will not hit residents in their wallets. Especially when Connecticut is receiving an unprecedented amount of federal aid from Washington D.C.
“For the next two years, Connecticut shouldn’t be putting more cost onto taxpayers,” added Candelora.
News 8 has also learned a massive policy shift to legalize weed in our state is nearly ready for a vote. But opponents say a 300-page bill at this late juncture is going to be very difficult to pass and could just go up in smoke.
“I could foresee a controversial bill taking well over 24 hours in each chamber and so we are close to running out of time on that issue,” remarked Candelora.
Majority leader in the House, Jason Rojas, says attorneys are writing as fast as they can.
“It’s a matter of kind of the logistics of getting it drafted correctly before we can release it to the public.”
If a budget deal can be announced in the next 24 hours, leaders will take a vote on Saturday. The session ends next Wednesday.