Connecticut has historically been a nationwide leader on environmental protection and public health issues, and activists in Hartford are working to make this another important year for our state. The 2015 Connecticut legislative session has been underway for just over a month and state legislators have already raised a over a dozen important pro-environment bills to be debated and considered for passage this year. In addition, legislators now in leadership positions in the House and Senate (as well as in several key committees) have made environmental issues a priority in the past, and many have promised to stay true to their commitments in 2015. Advocates are encouraged and hopeful to see a strong showing of bi-partisan support for legislation designed to protect public health and enrich our quality of life in the Nutmeg State.
Some highlights of legislation being considered this year include:
Protecting our waterways by eliminating plastic microbeads from personal care products;
Expanding Connecticut's Child-Safe Playing fields law to eliminate toxic pesticides on public parks and high school athletic fields;
Putting a 10-cent fee on single-use paper and plastic shopping bags at the checkout counter;
Expanding CT's bottle-deposit law to include single serving juices, teas, sports and energy drinks; and
Lifting the cap on using federal funds to purchase open space.
Another highlight is the recent announcement that Governor Malloy has formally endorsed legislation that would create a Long Island Sound Blue Plan and Inventory. The Blue Plan would be a master planning document that would allow the state to map out all of the various features and existing infrastructure in the Sound, to ensure that new development proposals are consistent with the values and existing uses of the Sound. The bill is similar to legislation that was introduced in 2014, but did not pass as time ran out on the session before this bill could be called for a vote in the House of Representatives. By designating it as a Governor's bill, Gov. Malloy will help elevate the likelihood that this bill will get voted on in a timely manner. CCE is pleased to see this legislation being re-introduced and applauds Governor Malloy for making it a priority of his administration.
Of course, not all of these forward-thinking environmental and public health initiatives will pass this year. Many will face vigorous opposition from industry groups that view these proposals merely as burdensome and unnecessary regulations that will cut into corporate profits, despite the fact that they will provide significant environmental, health, and economic benefits to Connecticut.
In addition, environmental groups frequently find themselves working to advance legislation aimed at protecting the environment, while simultaneously having to remain on guard for legislative proposals that would be decidedly less "eco-friendly." Every year, dozens of bad bill and rats (dangerously worded amendments that are added onto bills, often at the last minute, to weaken them or repeal parts of existing laws) emerge in the legislature in an attempt to limit or eliminate environmental protections. CCE continues to remain vigilant in monitoring the House and Senate for environmentally harmful legislation, and will be sure to notify policy makers and the public if this occurs.
For now, there is much to be hopeful for in the realm of environmental protection in our State. CCE is hard at work at the state house, organizing around any number of initiatives that would make Connecticut a cleaner, healthier place to live. But with months remaining in the 2015 legislative session, only time will tell what kind of advancements the environmental community will be able to accomplish in Connecticut this year.