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Religious exemptions, marijuana, deposits, among issues in regular General Assembly session

Politics

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)– While Governor Lamont’s plans to impose highway tolls on trucks still remains stalled, state lawmakers have been busy preparing other issues for the upcoming legislative session.

The regular General Assembly session starts in just three weeks and a large number of controversial issues will be back up for debate.

One of the very first issues expected to be addressed in the new Session will be school immunization requirements. Both the Governor and the Public Health Commissioner have endorsed eliminating the religious exemption.

The first big public hearing in February has already been scheduled for this topic.

“I think what changed people’s minds was seeing the number of kids in kindergarten who are not vaccinated any more for non medical reasons,” said Rep. Matt Ritter (D-Hartford), the House Majority Leader.

The push for legal, recreational marijuana is also back. Massachusetts is generating more revenue than expected. There’s a push to legalize in New York so it will soon be all around us.

Last year, three legislative committees approved bills on the issue.

A major advocate is the Senate President Pro tem, Sen. Martin Looney (D-New Haven) who says, “We’re very well prepared to enact the legalization bill because we have the statutory framework already drafted. It’s absolutely essential I think that we move on this front, we need the revenue.”

Another issue that was discussed last year but never came to a final vote was increasing bottle and can deposits and expanding the number of beverages where deposits are required.

Sen. Christine Cohen (D-Guilford) is co-chair of the Environment Committee, and says, “We would increase the bottle deposit from 5 cents to 10 cents. We would increase the breadth of items that are inclusive of the bottle bill, so including teas, sports drinks and juices.”

Sports betting and the expansion of casino gambling are also still on the front burner with Bridgeport still in play for the Mashantucket and Mohegan tribes.

An expanded e-cigarette flavor ban is also expected to be considered to include menthol cartridges. There is also talk of expanding the locations where e-cigarette use is prohibited.

That will be among several health initiatives, in fact the very first Senate bill is expected to be a proposal to address the skyrocketing cost of insulin and require that a monthly dose not
cost more than $100.

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